Luke the Historian: The Gospel of Luke

Study Guide Commentary Series, New Testament, Vol. 3A. See attached PDF (360 pages)

Biblical Topics: 
Passage: 
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Introduction to Luke

I. OPENING STATEMENTS

 

A. Luke is the longest Gospel. Luke-Acts contain the largest number of verses by any author in the New Testament (if one rejects Hebrews as Pauline). He is a Gentile and a second-generation Christian (someone who did not see or know Jesus during His earthly life).

B. Luke writes the most grammatically correct and polished Koine Greek of all the New Testament writers, with the possible exception of the author of Hebrews. Greek apparently was his mother tongue. He was also highly educated and a physician (cf. Col. 4:14).

C. Luke's Gospel emphasizes Jesus' love and care for those whom the Jewish leaders never even noticed

1. women (e.g. Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and Martha, etc.)

2. the poor (cf. Luke's Beatitudes, Luke 6:20-23 and teachings on wealth, cf. Luke 12:13-21; 16:9-13,19-31)

3. the socially, racially, and religiously ostracized

a. immoral women (cf. Luke 7:36-50)

b. Samaritans (cf. Luke 9:51-56; 10:29-37; 17:11-16)

c. lepers (cf. Luke 17:11-19)

d. tax collectors (cf. Luke 3:12-13; 15:1-2; 18:9-14;19:1-10)

e. criminals (cf. Luke 23:35-43)

f. rebellious family members (cf. Luke 15:11-32)

g. the poor (cf. Luke 6:20; 16:19-31)

h. Gentiles (cf. Luke 13:29; 14:23)

D. Luke records the eyewitness memories of Mary and also possibly her genealogy (i.e., Luke 3:23-38). His Gospel is based on interviews and research (cf. Luke 1:1-4).

 

II. AUTHOR

 

A. Unanimous early church tradition says Luke, Paul's missionary companion

1. Irenaeus (a.d. 175-195, Against Heresies, 3.1.1; 3.14.10) says specifically that Luke recorded in a book the gospel preached by Paul.

2. Anti-Marcion Prologue to Luke (a.d. 175) says Luke was the author of the Gospel.

3. Tertullian (a.d. 150/160-220/240 in Against Marcion 4.2,3; 4. 5,3) says Luke wrote a digest of Paul's gospel

4. Muratorian Fragment (a.d. 180-200) names Luke as the author and calls him a physician companion of Paul. Also it says that he wrote his account by hearsay (meaning he interviewed eyewitnesses).

5. Origen, quoted by Eusebius from his commentary on Matthew (Hist. Eccl. 6.25.6), asserts Luke's authorship of the Gospel.

6. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.4.2,6-7) also affirms Luke's authorship of both the Gospel of Luke and Acts.

B. Internal evidence for Luke's authorship

1. This Gospel, like so many biblical works, is anonymous.

2. If Luke-Acts is a two volume set, which seems true from the similar introduction, then the "we" sections of Acts (cf. Luke 16:10-17; 20:5-16; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16) imply an eyewitness account of Paul's missionary activity.

3. The introduction to Luke (cf. Luke 1:1-4) states that Luke interviewed and researched eye witness accounts in order to write a historical approach to Jesus' life, which shows he was a second-generation believer. The Introduction to Luke also covers Acts. Luke and Acts slightly overlap in time (i.e., post-resurrection events).

 

III. LUKE, THE MAN

 

A. Anti-Marcion Prologue to Luke (a.d. 175) says of him that he

1. was a native of Antioch of Syria

2. was a physician

3. was single

4. was a follower of Paul

5. wrote from Achaia

6. died at age 84 in Boeotia

B. Eusebius of Caesarea (a.d. 275-339) in Hist. Eccl. III.4.2 says of him that he

1. was from Antioch

2. was a missionary companion of Paul

3. wrote a Gospel and Acts

C. Jerome (a.d. 346-420 in Migna XXVI. 18) says of him that he

1. wrote from Achaia

2. died in Boeotia

D. He was a highly educated man who

1. used good Koine Greek grammar

2. had a large vocabulary (esp. medical and nautical)

3. knew and applied research methods (cf. Luke 1:1-4)

4. probably was a physician (cf. Col. 4:14). Luke used terms related to medicine, cures, diseases, etc. at least 300 times (cf. W. K. Hobart, The Medical Language of Luke, or better, A. Harnack, Luke the Physician). Also, Mark's negative comments about physicians in Mark 5:26 are omitted in the parallel in Luke 8:43.

E. He was a Gentile

1. Paul seems to make a distinction in his list of helpers in Col. 4:10-11 (i.e., "who are from the circumcision") and other helpers (i.e., Epaphras, Luke and Demas).

2. In Acts 1:19 Luke says "in their own language," referring to Aramaic, which implies it was not his language.

3. In his Gospel Luke omits all the controversies with Pharisees concerning the Jewish Oral Law.

F. Of all people to be the writer of the longest Gospel and Acts and thereby to have written more of the NT than any other author, it is surprising that a little-known, non-eyewitness (i.e., non-Apostle) Gentile would be chosen. Yet, this is the unanimous tradition of the early church.

 

IV. DATE OF WRITING

 

A. One never knows the exact relationship between

1. Luke's original research notes (probably done while Paul was in prison at Caesarea [cf. Acts 23-26 and specifically 24:27])

2. his final draft (i.e., the Gospel of Luke as we know it using Mark and "Q")

3. the circulation of Luke - Acts (to or for Theophilus)

B. It must be before a.d. 95 if I Clement has quotes or illusions from Acts and Acts is subsequent to the Gospel

1. Acts 13:22 – I Clement, 18:1

2. Acts 20:36 – I Clement, 2:1

C. Acts must be before the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) by the Roman general Titus.

1. no mention of the death of Paul the Apostle (a.d. 64-68)

2. Stephen's sermon in Acts 7 does not include the destruction of the Temple, which would powerfully illustrate God's judgment on Judaism

3. Paul visits Jerusalem in Acts 21 and Luke, if he wrote after a.d. 70, would probably have mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem in his Gospel

D. If Luke used the Gospel of Mark as an outline and/or Luke wrote close to the time of his research in Palestine, then the book probably dates to the late fifties and early sixties (with Acts written soon after while Paul was still in prison in Rome, a.d. 62-63).

 

V. RECIPIENTS

 

A. It is dedicated to Theophilus (cf. Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1). There are several theories as to his identity:

1. a Roman governmental official because Luke calls him "most excellent" in Luke 1:3, the same title he uses for Felix (cf. Acts 23:26; 24:3) and Festus (cf. Acts 26:25)

2. a wealthy patron (Theophilus was a common name among Jews and Greeks) who helped pay the expenses of writing, copying, and distributing Luke and Acts.

3. his name means "God loved," "lover of God," so it is possibly a cryptic reference to some Christian

B. Luke's Gospel is targeted to Gentiles

1. It explains Jewish customs.

2. The gospel is for all people (cf. Luke 2:10).

3. It quotes prophecies which refer to "all flesh" (cf. Luke 3:5-6 which is a quote from Isaiah 40).

4. The genealogy goes back to Adam (i.e., all humans, cf. Luke 3:38).

5. It has many examples of God's love for Gentiles (e.g., Luke extends the boundaries of those welcomed to the Messianic banquet, Luke 13:29).

6. It uses Old Testament examples that announce God's love for Gentiles (cf. Luke 2:32; 4:25-77).

7. Luke's Great Commission asserts that forgiveness must be preached to all nations (cf. Luke 24:47).

 

VI. PURPOSE(S) OF LUKE'S WRITINGS

 

A. All of the Gospels were written to target specific groups of people for the purpose of evangelism (cf. John 20:30-31)

1. Matthew to Jews

2. Mark to Romans

3. Luke to Gentiles

4. John to all peoples

Luke uniquely mentions the mission of the Seventy (cf. Luke 10:1-24). For the rabbis, 70 was the number denoting the languages of the world (cf. Genesis 10). By Jesus sending out 70 preachers of the good news would communicate that the gospel is for all people.

B. Other possible purposes

1. to deal with the delayed Second Coming

a. Luke 21 is similar to, but slightly different from, Matthew 24 and Mark 13, concerning the imminent return of Christ and the end of the world.

b. However, Luke speaks of world evangelization, which takes time for the church to accomplish (cf. Luke 24:47).

c. Also Luke (like Paul) emphasizes that the Kingdom of God is here now (cf. Luke 10:9, 11; 11:20; 17:21), as well as a future consummation.

d. The parable in Luke 19:11-27 uses a delayed return of a master in an eschatological setting.

e. A good summary of the opinions and discussions of biblical scholars can be seen in The Anchor Bible Commentary, vol. 28, pp. 231-235.

2. to explain that Christianity is not a threat to the Roman government (as does Acts)

a. title "most excellent" in introduction

b. Luke 23 has Pilate saying three times, "I find no fault in this man" (cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22)

c. the government officials in Acts are presented in a good light. Paul's addresses to Roman officials show respect to them and they in return respond positively to him (cf. Acts 26:31-32)

d. the Roman centurion at the crucifixion also gives a positive witness to Jesus (cf. Luke 23:47) 

C. There are some unique theological themes that play a role in the purposes for Luke's writings

1. Luke shows special care to certain groups of people.

a. The poor vs. the rich (e.g., Luke's Beatitudes, Luke 6:20-23)

b. The outcasts

(1) immoral women (cf. Luke 7:36-50)

(2) Samaritans (cf. Luke 9:51-56; 10:29-37)

(3) rebellious runaways (cf. Luke 15:11-32)

(4) tax collectors (cf. Luke 19:1-10)

(5) lepers (cf. Luke 17:11-19)

(6) criminals (cf. Luke 23:39-43)

2. Luke mentions the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel begins with the Jews and their Scriptures (i.e., Jesus fulfills OT prophesy) but they reject Him (cf. Luke 11:14-36) and He becomes the Savior of the entire world (cf. Luke 10:1-24) and replaces their temple with Himself (cf. Mark 14:58; 15:29; John 2:19-22).

 

VII. THE SOURCES FOR LUKE'S GOSPEL

 

A. Several theories have been advanced concerning the relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels).

1. The uniform tradition of the early church is that Luke, a Gentile physician and missionary companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote the Gospel.

2. Around 1776 A. E. Lessing (and later Gieseler in 1818) theorized an oral stage in the development of the Synoptic ("to see together") Gospels. He asserted that they were all dependent on earlier oral traditions which the writers modified for their own target audiences

a. Matthew: Jews

b. Mark: Romans

c. Luke: Gentiles

Each was related to a separate geographical center of Christianity

a. Matthew: Antioch, Syria or Judea

b. Mark: Rome, Italy

c. Luke: Caesarea by the Sea, Palestine or Achaia

d. John: Ephesus, Asia Minor

3. In the early nineteenth century J. J. Griesbach theorized that Matthew and Luke wrote separate accounts of Jesus' life, completely independent of each other. Mark wrote a brief Gospel trying to mediate between these other two accounts.

4. In the early twentieth century H. J. Holtzmann theorized that Mark was the first written Gospel and that both Matthew and Luke used his Gospel structure plus a separate document containing the sayings of Jesus called Q (German quelle or "source"). This was labeled the "two source" theory (endorsed by Fredrick Schleiermacher in 1832).

Some speculate that this list of quotes from Jesus, structured like OT wisdom literature, may be what Papias records that Matthew wrote. The problem is that not one copy of this list of sayings survived. If the church cherished the Gospels so much, how could they lose a list of the sayings of the Founder of the Faith used by both Matthew and Luke?

5. Later, B. H. Streeter offered a modified "two source" theory that he called "the four source" theory which posited a "proto Luke" plus Mark plus Q.

6. The above theories of the formation of the Synoptic Gospels are only speculation. There is no historical or actual manuscript evidence of either a "Q" source or a "proto Luke."

Modern scholarship simply does not know how the Gospels developed or who wrote them (the same is true of the OT Law and former Prophets). However, this lack of information does not affect the Church's view of their inspiration or trustworthiness as historical as well as faith documents.

7. There are obvious similarities in structure and wording between the Synoptics, but there are also many arresting differences. Differences are common in eyewitness accounts. The early church was not bothered by the divergence of these three eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life.

It may be that the target audience, the style of the author and the different languages involved (Aramaic and Greek) account for the seeming discrepancies. It must be stated that these inspired writers, editors, or compilers had the freedom to select, arrange, adapt, and summarize the events and teachings of Jesus' life (How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 113-148).

B. Luke specifically claims that he did research (Luke 1:1-4) into Jesus' life from eye witnesses. Paul's imprisonment at Caesarea by the Sea in Palestine allowed Luke time and access to these people. Luke 1-2 may reflect Mary's memories (See Sir William Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?)), as may the genealogy of Luke 3.

C. Several of the early church sources mention that Luke was a traveling missionary companion of the Apostle Paul. Some of these early sources also assert that Luke's Gospel was affected by Paul's preaching. It cannot be denied that the worldwide mission of the gospel is clearly identified as fulfilled prophecy in Luke, Acts, and Paul's writings.

 

VIII. THE UNIQUENESS OF LUKE

 

A. The first two chapters are unique to Luke and may have come from Mary, as may the genealogy of Luke 3:23-28.

B. Miracles unique to Luke

1. son of the widow of Nain resuscitated, Luke 7:12-17

2. sick woman in synagogue healed on the Sabbath, Luke 13:10-17

3. sick man in synagogue healed on the Sabbath, Luke 14:1-6

4. ten lepers healed; only one, a Samaritan, returns to give thanks, Luke 17:11-18

C. Parables unique to Luke

1. the good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37

2. the persistent friend, Luke 11:5-13

3. the rich fool, Luke 12:13-21

4. the lost coin, Luke 15:8-10

5. the two sons, Luke 15:11-32

6. the unrighteous steward, Luke 16:1-8

7. the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

8. the unrighteous judge, Luke 18:1-8

9. the Pharisee and Publican, Luke 18:9-14

D. Parables in Luke that are also in Matthew, but in a different form and context

11. Luke 12:39-46 (Matt. 24:43-44)

2. Luke 14:16-24 (Matt. 22:2-14)

3. Luke 19:11-27 (Matt. 25:14-30)

E. Other unique accounts

1. the events of the first two chapters

2. Zaccheus the tax-collector, Luke 19:1-10

3. Jesus sent to Herod by Pilate to be examined, Luke 23:8-12

4. the two on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-32

F. The most unique elements in Luke are found in Luke 9:51-18:14. Here Luke does not rely on Mark or "Q" (i.e., sayings of Jesus possibly written by Matthew). Even similar events and teachings are put into a different form. The unifying theme (literary structure) of this section is "on the way to Jerusalem" (cf. Luke 9:51; 13:22, 33; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11,28), which is really His journey to the cross.

 

READING CYCLE ONE  (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)

 

READING CYCLE TWO  (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.

 

Passage: 

Luke 1

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS*

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Dedication to Theophilus Dedication to Theophilus Introduction Introduction Prologue
1:1-4 1:1-4 1:1-4 1:1-4 1:1-4
    The Births of John and Jesus
(1:5-2:40)
   
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold John's Birth Announced to Zacharias   The Birth of John the Baptist is Announced The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
1:5-20 1:5-25 1:5-7 1:5-7 1:5-7
    1:8-20 1:8-17 1:8-10
        1:11-22
      1:18  
      1:19-20  
1:21-25   1:21-23 1:21-22  
      1:23-25 1:23-25
    1:24-25    
The Birth of Jesus Foretold Christ's Birth Announced to Mary   The Birth of Jesus is Announced The Annunciation
1:26-38 1:26-38 1:26-38 1:26-28 1:26-38
      1:29-33  
      1:34  
      1:35-37  
      1:38  
Mary Visits Elizabeth Mary Visits Elizabeth   Mary Visits Elizabeth The Visitation
1:39-45 1:39-45 1:39-45 1:39-45 1:29-45
Mary's Song of Praise The Song of Mary   Mary's Song of Praise The Magnificat
1:46-55 1:46-55 1:46-55 1:46-55 1:46-55
1:56 1:56 1:56 1:56 1:56
The Birth of John the Baptist Birth of John the Baptist   The Birth of John the Baptist The Birth of John the Baptist and Visit of the Neighbors
1:57-66 1:57-58 1:57-58 1:57-58 1:57-58
  Circumcision of John the Baptist     The Circumcision of John the Baptist
  1:59-66 1:59-66 1:59-60 1:59-66
      1:61-62  
      1:63-66  
The Prophecy of Zacharias Zacharias' Prophecy   Zacharias' Prophecy The Benedictus
1:67-79 1:67-79 1:67-79 1:67-75 1:67-79
      1:76-79 The Hidden Life of John the Baptist
1:80 1:80 1:80 1:80 1:80

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
  In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Luke the Historian

1. Verses 1-4 have several rare Greek words that relate to Hellenistic histography. Luke is trying to express his purpose of accurately recording what his research discovered about Jesus' His life and ministry. Luke was a well educated citizen of the first century Greco-Roman world.

2. The problem about Luke's Greek orientation has to do with the nature of Greek history. Often it was very selective and written more for entertainment and propaganda than modern history. Luke uses Hellenistic terms to describe his methods, but records Jesus' life in a Hebrew historical fashion. The best historians in the Ancient Near East (i.e., most accurate) were Hittites and Hebrews.

3. The real question is what is history? Modern western history is chronological and cause/effect driven. Yet even modern history is significantly colored by who writes it and why! History, by its very nature, is a biased selection and description of past events.

4. Luke's Gospel is not modern history or biography, but it is good and true history. The four Gospels are, in reality, gospel tracts, written for evangelistic purposes and targeting selected groups. Events and their relationship to each other are not necessarily chronologically arranged and interpreted for maximum impact. This is not to imply they are concoctions or fabrications, but they are eastern, not western; they are theological as well as historical. Different does not mean bad or false!

See Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148.

5. Luke has used the best traditions of his day to present Jesus Christ as God's promised Messiah, sent to redeem all humanity. He is surely influenced by Paul's Gentile mission. Luke is writing to convert Gentiles (as well as encourage believers), not just historically inform them.

6. The four Gospels are different, very different, yet they are true—true eyewitness accounts, true summaries of Jesus' words and activities—but they are not modern histories.

7. Luke clearly wants to put Jesus' life and ministry into a Palestinian and Roman historical framework.

a. a vision of Zacharias in reign of Herod, King of Judea (cf. Luke 1:5)

b. birth connected to a decree of Caesar Augustus (cf. Luke 2:1)

c. birth connected to Quirinius' presence in Syria (cf. Luke 2:2)

d. preaching of John (cf. Luke 3:1-2)

(1) Tiberius Caesar's (fifteenth year of his reign)

(2) Pontius Pilate governor of Judea

(3) Herod tetrarch of Galilee

(4) Phillip tetrarch of Ituraea

(5) Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene

(6) Annas and Caiaphas were high priests

 

B. The Blessings of Chapters One and Two

1. It must be remembered that they are given in a mindset of OT prophecies. Jesus surely fulfilled these OT expectations, but moved beyond them. These blessings must be seen as precursors of the gospel. They are OT pictures which will be universalized (i.e., not Jew vs. Gentile, but believer vs. unbeliever; not Israel, but all the world). The Gospel affects more than Israel and Palestine (cf. Luke 24:47).

2. It needs to be remembered that Luke, in chapter one, is recording the blessing of those who were first informed about and impacted by Jesus' birth. These blessings are in OT poetic form (cf. Luke 1:46-55 and 67-79) and contain OT content. OT poetry is a genre called wisdom literature. It has special interpretive procedures (See Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 206-230).

a. "the Magnificat" (song of Mary), Luke 1:46-55

b. "the Benedictus" (song of Zechariah), Luke 1:68-79

c. "Gloria in excelsis" (song of the angels), Luke 2:14

d. "Nunc dimittis" (song of Simeon), Luke 2:29-32

 

C. The parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus

1. devout parents

2. birth announced by Gabriel

3. supernatural conceptions

4. mothers both glorify God

5. babies named by an angel

6. both babies fulfill prophecy

7. the circumcision of both under Mosaic Law is specifically mentioned  

8. normal physical and emotional growth, but superior spiritual growth

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:1-4
 1In as much as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

1:1-4 This is one long involved Greek sentence. 

1:1

NASB, NKJV"In as much as"
NRSV"Since"
NJB"Seeing that"

The Greek word epeidē per is used only here in the NT. It is not used at all in the Septuagint, but is used in the Koine papyri found in the garbage dumps of Egypt (see James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament). Itbasically means "since indeed" or "considering that." Luke is setting out the reason he is writing an account of Jesus' life when there are several already in existence. This probably includes Mark's Gospel (which forms the literary outline of much of Matthew and Luke), as well as "Q" (sayings of Jesus used by both Matthew and Luke). It also implies that by the a.d. 60s there were several written accounts of Jesus' life circulating in the churches.

NASB"an account"
NKJV"a narrative"
NRSV"an orderly account"
TEV"a report"
NJB"accounts"

This is another Greek term (diē gēsis) found only here in the NT. It is used twice in the Septuagint in Judges (cf. Judges 5:14; 7:15) for a scribe recording something. In Greek literature it has the connotation of a full and complete narrative. Luke is describing the careful, historical research of Jesus' life that preceded his own writing (cf. Luke 1:3).

NASB"the things accomplished"
NKJV"those things which are most surely believed"
NRSV"the events which have been fulfilled"
TEV"the things that have taken place"
NJB"events that have reached their fulfilment"

This verb is a perfect passive participle, which denotes the abiding results of the fulfilled promises concerning Jesus, His teachings, His actions, and His death and resurrection. The passive voice surely implies that God the Father's eternal purposes were fully accomplished in Christ.

The term plērophoreō has a dual connotation.

1. Paul uses it for being fully persuaded in Rom. 4:21; 14:5; Col. 2:2; 4:12 (cf. NKJV).

2. The Papyri uses it of "accomplished" or "fully completed" (cf. NASB, NRSV, NJB).

Theophilus needs to accept both connotations! The OT promises have come to completion in Jesus of Nazareth.

1:2 "they were handed down to us" This is the Greek word paradidōmi, often translated "traditions" (cf. Mark 7:3,5,8,9,13; 1 Cor. 11:2,23; 15:3). Luke is asserting that he had received information about the life of Jesus from eyewitnesses. This implies

1. the accuracy of his accounts

2. the admission that he was a second-generation believer

 

"those who from the beginning" This refers to a larger number than the Twelve Apostles. Some examples would be

1. the women who followed Jesus and the Apostles (cf. Luke 8:2-3)

2. the one hundred and twenty disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:15)

3. the several men to choose from in replacing Judas (cf. Luke 1:21-22)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: ARCHĒ

NASB, NRSV"servants of the word"
NKJV, NJB"ministers of the word"
TEV"who proclaimed the message"

These "from the beginning" eyewitnesses were responsible proclaimers of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1). To know truth is to be a steward of that truth (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1,2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10)!

The term logos (word) is used of Jesus Himself in John 1:1, but here (cf. Luke 8:12) and in Acts 6:4; 8:4; 10:36; 11:19; 14:25 it refers to the gospel about Jesus.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW AND GREEK BACKGROUND OF LOGOS

1:3 This verse is the main clause of verses 1-4 and has several key terms that relate to Luke's research method.

1. "having investigated." This is a perfect active participle of a word that means "to follow." The metaphorical usage of this word meant "to make an extensive effort to learn the details and truth about something" (See Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, p. 331 and Josephus, Against Apion 1.10).

2. "carefully." This is the Greek term akribōs, which is translated "accurately," "diligently," or "precisely" (cf. Josephus Against Apion 1.10). Louw and Nida, vol. 1, p. 674, "pertaining to strict conformity to a norm or standard; involving both detail and completeness." It is used several times in the Septuagint (cf. Deut. 19:18; Dan. 7:19). Possibly the most relevant usage is that this term was used by Galen (a physician) for the careful checking of symptoms.

3. "from the beginning." This means from the source. In this case (1) the beginning events of John and Jesus' births or (2) the eyewitnesses from the beginning of Jesus' ministry (i.e., the Apostles, cf. Acts 1:21-22).

4. "in consecutive order." This term means "in a continual order," "successively," or "consecutively."

Luke is piling up word after word describing his faithful, accurate, and sequential arrangement of facts about Jesus' life and ministry. His account is not a fabrication or exaggeration.

▣ "most excellent" This is a first century title of honor and respect. This man may have been Luke's literary patron. The title is used in Acts of Felix (23:26; 24:3) and Festus (26:25), who were Roman regional officials. It is also used in the Septuagint as "best" (cf. 1 Sam. 15:15; Ps. 15:6; 22:5) or "chief" (cf. Amos 6:2), but not of people.

▣ "Theophilus" This was a common name in the Mediterranean area, used of both Jews and Gentiles. Theo means God, plus philos which means (1) loved, thus "God lover," "loved by God" or (2) friend, thus, "friend of God."

▣ "carefully investigated" This is also a medical term used by Galen to denote the careful checking of symptoms.

1:4 "in order" This is a purpose clause (hina with the subjunctive).

▣ "so that you may know" This is an intensified form (epiginōskō) which usually denotes full and complete knowledge by experience. It may well imply that Theophilus already knew something of the gospel.

"the things" This is the Greek word logos, which has a wide semantic range. In Luke 1:2 it refers to (1) the truths about Jesus (cf. Luke 7:17) recorded by Luke or (2) the content of what Theophilus has been taught. This may be an additional evidence he was a new believer (although we must be careful of reading too much into the words of this introduction which only much later take on a technical usage in the church).

▣ "taught" From this Greek word we get the English "catechism." This may imply that Theophilus was a new convert, but this is uncertain because the word is a general, common term.

NASB"the exact truth about the things"
NKJV"the certainty of those things"
NRSV"the truth concerning the things"
TEV"the full truth about everything"
NJB"how well founded the teaching is"

The term asphaleia is used in two related senses in the Koine Greek Paypri found in Egypt: (1) safety, security and (2) certainty as to a belief.

Luke is trying to reassure Theophilus, his first century readers, and later readers of his diligence and accuracy as a researcher and Gospel author. Luke's presentation is accurate and trustworthy. Believers can fully rely on God, on Christ, on the Gospels!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:5-7
 5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

1:5 "Herod" This refers to Herod the Great (37-4 b.c.), an Idumean (from Edom), who, through political maneuvering and the support of Mark Antony, managed to be appointed ruler of a large part of Palestine (Canaan) by the Roman Senate in 40 b.c. See Special Topic: The Family of Herod at Luke 3:1.

"Zechariah" His name meant "remembered by YHWH" (BDB 272). This was John the Baptist's father.

"the division of Abijah" Only four of the twenty-four divisions of Levites returned from the Exile (cf. 1 Chr. 24:7-18; 2 Chr. 23:8). They were then sub-divided (cf. Ezra 2:36-39) so that different ones officiated at the Temple on different weeks. The Abijah division was considered to be the least prestigious of the divisions. For a complete discussion of the priestly divisions see Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 12, pp. 89-93.

▣ "he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron" His wife, Elizabeth, was also from a priestly family. Her Hebrew name could mean (1) "God is swearer" or (2) "God fully satisfies."

1:6 "they were both righteous in the sight of God" "righteous" is used in this context like Matthew's definition (cf. Matt. 6:1), not Paul's (cf. Romans 4). This does not imply sinlessness, but someone who faithfully responds to their understanding of God's will and ways (cf. Deut. 6:25. Old Testament examples are Noah, Gen. 6:9; 7:1 and Job, Job 1:1). This phrase is included to show that this couple was experiencing childlessness because of physical problems, not spiritual ones. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

1:7 Barrenness was considered a divine curse in Jewish culture (cf. Gen. 20:18; 29:31; 30:2; Exod. 23:26; Lev. 20:20-21; Deut. 7:14; 1 Sam. 1:5; Jer. 22:30). There are several barren women mentioned in the Bible:

1. Sarah, Gen. 11:30; 16:1

2. Rebekah, Gen. 25:21

3. Rachel, Gen. 29:31; 30:1

4. Manoah's wife, Jdgs. 13:2,3

5. Hannah, 1 Sam. 1:2,5

Not only was Elizabeth barren, but now she was past the time of conception (like Sarah). This condition is theologically used as a way of asserting God's direct control in the affairs of men. This was not a virgin birth, but a birth with supernatural assistance (like Isaac, cf. Genesis 18; like Joseph, cf. Gen. 30:22-24; like Samson, cf. Judges 13; like Samuel, cf. 1 Samuel 1; like Hezekiah, Isa. 7:14-16). John the Baptist will fulfill Old Testament prophecy about the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:8-17
 8Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. 16And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

1:8 "while he was performing his priestly service before God" The Mishnah (part of the Talmud) says there were so many priests at this time that each offered incense only once in his lifetime; others, not at all.

1:9 "he was chosen by lot" Lots were a mechanical way to determine the will of God (cf Acts 1:21-26). There were several priests on duty at one time. This was the regular way to determine which offered the ritual.

In the OT the "lot" originally referred to the Urim and Thummim (cf. Lev. 16:8), which was carried behind the breastplate of the High Priest. It was a mechanical way of determining the will of God, usually for the King.

It was used as a way to divide the Promised Land among the tribes in Joshua 13-19.

The casting of lots was used by the early church to choose a new apostle to replace Judas in Acts 1.

"to burn the incense" This procedure is described in Exod. 25:6; 30:7; 31:11. The incense itself is described in Exod. 30:34-38.

1:10 Obviously this was a set time of prayer associated with the sacrifice of the Continual (a twice daily sacrifice and burnt offering of a lamb) at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Jewish sources advocate the offering of incense twice a day in connection to "the Continual" sacrifice (cf. Exod. 30:7-8). Incense was a physical symbol of prayer rising to God.

1:11 "an angel of the Lord" This phrase is used two ways in the OT.

1. an angel (cf. Gen. 24:7,40; Exod. 23:20-23; 32:34; Num. 22:22; Jdgs. 5:23; 1 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 21:15ff; Zech. 1:28)

2. as a way of referring to a physical manifestation of YHWH (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2,4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 2:1; 6:22-24; 13:3-23; Zech. 3:1-2).

Luke uses the phrase often (cf. Luke 1:11,13; 2:9; Acts 5:19; 7:30; 8:26; 12:7,11,23; 10:3; 27:23) in the sense of #1 above. The NT does not use sense #2, "an angel of the Lord," unless Acts 18:26 and 29 is in a reference to the Holy Spirit.

"standing to the right of the altar of incense" The altar of incense was located in the Holy Place, next to the veil of the Holy of Holies. The description of this golden incense altar is found in Exod. 30:1-10. This would place the angel between the incense altar and the seven pointed candle stand (Menorah).

1:12 Fear is the common human response in the presence of the spiritual realm (cf. Gen. 15:1; 21:17; Exod. 14:13,31; Jos. 8:1; 10:8; Dan. 10:12,19; Rev. 1:17). However, again and again the divine message is a clear "fear not" (cf. Luke 1:13,30; 2:10).

1:13 "Do not be afraid" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the Negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in progress. We get the English term "phobia" from this Greek term (phobos).

▣ "your petition has been heard" Zacharias was still praying for a child. The incense he was offering to God was a symbol of prayer. In Zacharias' priestly circle the offering of incense was considered a great honor. It was also considered to be a special time for personal requests.

▣ "John" In Hebrew it means "one whom God has graciously given" or "YHWH is gracious" (BDB 220).

1:14 John's birth will be a blessing, not only to Zacharias and his family, but to Israel and to all the earth.

1:15 "he will be great in the sight of the Lord" This is an idiom for "he will serve God's plan and kingdom in a special way." He is the promised precursor of the Messiah (cf. Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5,6). In Luke 1:32 this same term "great" is used of Jesus.

"he will drink no wine or liquor" This is a strong double negative with an aorist active subjunctive. He was to be a Nazarite (cf. Numbers 6), which was a special dedicatory life given completely to God's service.

For alcohol (fermentation) and alcoholism (addiction) see Special Topic at Luke 22:18.

"he will be filled with the Holy Spirit" This was an OT way of affirming God's power and giftedness (cf. Exod. 28:3; 31:3; 35:31,35, where it refers to those who helped build the tabernacle). This special presence and activity of the Spirit had been missing for 400 years. In Jesus the new age of the Spirit had come.

This will become a powerful NT idiom of the power and presence of the Lord with His people (cf. Acts 2:4; 3:10; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9; Eph. 5:18). See Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit at Luke 12:12.

"while yet in his mother's womb" This shows God's initiation and blessing, not only in conception, but even fetal spiritual development (cf. Luke 1:41). This phrase also parallels God's affirmation to Jeremiah in Jer. 1:4 (cf. Isa. 49:1; Ps. 139:13-16).

1:16 John's primary task was to spiritually prepare Israel for her Messiah (cf. Mark 1:15). His message was repent and be restored. He was the first true prophet (i.e., filled with the Spirit) since Malachi. Huge numbers of spiritually hungry Jews flocked to him.

The Greek verb epistrephō is used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word for repentance (shub, cf. Num. 10:36; Deut. 30:2). It is used in this sense in Luke 1:16,17; 22:32; Acts 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18,20; 28:27. See Special Topic: Repentance at Luke 3:3.

"the Lord their God" This probably reflects the OT combination of the names for deity, as in Gen. 2:4,5,7,8 and many other verses.

1. Lord – YHWH (redeemer and covenant maker, cf. Gen. 3:14-15)

2. God – Elohim (creator, provider, and sustainer of all life, cf. Gen. 1:1)

This seems to reflect Luke's usage in Luke 1:16,32,68. See Special Topic: Names for Deity at Luke 1:68.

1:17 "in the spirit and power of Elijah" This verse is an allusion to the prophecies of Mal. 3:1 and 4:5-6. Elijah was to precede the Messiah. However, John fills the role of Elijah (cf. Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). The fact that John fulfills the Elijah prophecies should warn us about western literalsim!

As Elisha received the Spirit of Elijah to become a prophet (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:16), Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:9). In a sense Elisha continued the ministry of Elijah. This is what John does; he extends the eschatological ministry of Elijah foretold in Malachi 3 and 4.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:18-20
 18Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." 19The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

1:18 "How will I know" This sounds very much like Abraham (cf. Gen. 15:8) and Mary (cf. Luke 1:34). However, apparently God knows the heart, he asked in a doubting way to which God reacted (cf. Matt. 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11-12; John 2:18; 6:30; 1 Cor. 1:22). Modern interpreters are not able to do psycho analysis on biblical characters!

1:19 "Gabriel" This Hebrew name means "God's strong man," "man of God," or "God is my warrior" (BDB 150). This is God's messenger angel (cf. Luke 1:26; Dan. 8:16; 9:21). There are only two angels named in the Bible: (1) Gabriel, who is God's messenger angel to Daniel, Zacharias, and Mary, and (2) Michael (BDB 567), who is the national archangel (cf. Dan. 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7).

"who stands in the presence of God" Angeology became a major element of rabbinical theology and speculation following Israel's contact with Zoroastrianism (Persian religion). The Bible is silent and vague about the spiritual realm. What is presented is often in metaphors or symbols. From the OT there are two types of angels surrounding YHWH's throne—Seraphim (cf. Isaiah 6) and Cherubim (cf. Ezekiel 1,10).

Gabriel's authority rests on his relationship with and proximity to God. This is an important message from God for His purposes (i.e., good news).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHERUBIM

1:20 This verse serves as a powerful warning about rejecting, or at least not fully believing, the message from God. Humans may fear the spiritual realm (angels), but they must respect their message! The consequences of rejection are potent.

NASB, NKJV"behold"
NRSV, TEV"But"
NJB"Look"

This is the Greek term idou, which was an imperative of eidein, "to see." For Luke it has become a literary technique to draw attention to a statement. It is used many times in the Luke's writings and the Revelation.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:21-23
 21And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

1:21 "the temple" This is the term naos. Literally it is from the term "to dwell." It came to be used of the central shrine made up of the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.

1:22 "when he came out, he was unable to speak" According to rabbinical tradition it was customary for the priest to bless the people when he came out from burning incense, using the Aaronic blessing of Num. 6:24-26.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:24-25
 24After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25"This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."

1:25 This shows how she felt about being barren. It was viewed as a curse from God (cf. Gen. 30:23). See note at Luke 1:7.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:26-38
 26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." 34Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 35The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37For nothing will be impossible with God." 38And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

1:26 "sixth month" This refers to Elizabeth's pregnancy (cf. Luke 1:36).

▣ "Gabriel" See note at Luke 1:19.

▣ "a city in Galilee called Nazareth" Galilee was known as a Gentile area although many Jews lived there (apparently a small, new community from the royal tribe of Judah lived in Nazareth). Nazareth is never mentioned in the OT or Talmud or by Flavius Josephus. The name Nazareth itself may be related to the Messianic title "Branch" (nezer, cf. Isa. 11:1; Matt. 2:23). See SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS THE NAZARENE at Luke 4:34. People from this area were generally looked down upon by Judean Jews. This is related to the prophecy of Isa. 9:1.

1:27 "a virgin" The Greek word from the Septuagint pathenon is not ambiguous as the Hebrew Almah (BDB 761 II) is in Isa. 7:4. It specifically means virgin. Matthew and Luke assert that Jesus had no human father (cf. Luke 1:34), that He was the ultimate fulfillment of Isa. 7:14 and Gen. 3:15! This child is of God, not of man (i.e., Immanuel). It is surprising that Luke's source does not mention Isa. 7:14.

Outside of the birth accounts of Matthew and Luke the virgin birth is not specifically mentioned in the NT. It does not appear in any of the sermons of Acts or the later Epistles. This is not because it is not true, but because it might be misunderstood by a polytheistic Greek/Roman culture, which believed that the gods at Olympus regularly took human women and produced offspring. The uniqueness of the biblical account would be lost in this cultural context.

At this point I wold like to use my comments from Isa. 7:14 (see www.freebiblecommentary.org).

"virgin" The Hebrew term here is almah (BDB 761). This term is used for a young woman of marriageable age (cf. Gen. 43:24; Exod. 2:8; Pro. 30:19). It designates a woman who is sexually mature. There is another Hebrew term for virgin, bethulah (BDB 143), which is used by Isaiah in Isa. 23:4, 12; 37:22; 47:1; 62:5. The Septuagint translates this verse with the Greek term "virgin." These terms are semantically overlapping and all of the young girls in Israeli culture were considered to be virgins. However, I do not believe in two virgin births, but one. There was a normal conception in Ahaz's day as a sign and a ("the," MT) virgin conception in Jesus' day (cf. Matt. 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-38). This is a multi-fulfillment prophecy!

I think the reason that the NT does not emphasize this more (only appears in the two birth narratives [i.e., Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:31,34] and never in a sermon in Acts or an Epistle by any Apostle) is because of the possible misunderstanding of Greco-Roman religion where the cohabitation of gods and humans, resulting in offspring, was common.

To try to base a doctrine of sin as transmitted through male sperm and, therefore, show the reason for a virgin birth is, in my opinion, folly! In reality it is similar to the barren wives of the Patriarchs having children only at God's instigation. God is in control of the Messiah! An even greater truth is revealed in the NT where the Messiah is presented clearly as incarnated Deity (i.e., John 1:1; 5:18; 10:33; 14:9-11; Phil. 2:6)! Thus the need for a virgin birth!

▣ "engaged" This is a perfect passive participle. In Jewish culture of the first century, this was legally binding. Only divorce or death could break this arrangement. Girls became marriageable at 12 years of age (bat mitzvah) with a one year betrothal period (Ketubot 4.4-5). For OT background see Deut. 22:23-27.

▣ "Joseph, of the descendants of David" Whether Joseph (BDB 415, meaning "may YHWH add") and Mary both were of Davidic descent or just Joseph is uncertain (cf. Luke 2:5). The issue is significant because of the promises and prophecies of 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 89:19ff). The obvious differences between the genealogies of Matthew and Luke are probably due to different lineages. Many commentators assume that Luke records the royal genealogy of Mary (Jesus' actual lineage), while Matthew records Joseph's royal lineage (Jesus' Jewish legal lineage). However, this is only speculation.

▣ "name was Mary" In Hebrew this is the name Mara (i.e., "bitter" [BDB 600] of Ruth 1:20). In the Septuagint it is Mariam (BDB 599). Luke (like all the Synoptic Gospels) spells the name Maria (cf. Luke 1:27).

1:28

NASB, REB,
NIV, NET"Greetings"
NRSV, NJB"rejoice"
TEV"peace"

This is a form of the normal term for "greeting" (chairein, cf. Acts 15:23; James 1:1) in the Greco-Roman world of the first century. Its grammatical form is present active imperative. Its basic meaning is "be full of joy" or "continue to rejoice." It may reflect the Messianic passage of Zech. 9:9.

There is the added possibility that this phrase was used in the Septuagint in contexts where

1. the phrase "do not be afraid" is used

2. God's people are told to rejoice because God is about to deliver them

a. Lamentations 4:21-22

b. Zephaniah 3:14-20

c. Joel 2:21-27

d. Zechariah 9:9

The angel's first words are a sound play on chaire and kecharitōmenē (a perfect passive participle), which is "be glad, favored one." These words have different etymological roots, but they sound alike.

"favored one" The Vulgate has "Hail, Mary, full of grace." This is a good translation if we see that Mary is the recipient of God's grace, not the giver of grace (NJB, "you who enjoy God's favor!"). There is only one mediator, Jesus (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). However, this was a great and unique honor for a young, peasant woman (cf. Luke 1:48). This greeting shocked her (cf. Luke 1:29).

"you" There are several ancient Greek uncial manuscripts (MSS A, C, D) which add the phrase "blessed are you among women." This illustrates one of the recurrent tendencies of copyists (i.e., scribes) to harmonize phrasing (see Luke 1:42). The UBS4 critical apparatus gives the absence of the phrase (MSS א, B, L, W) in Luke 1:28 an "A" rating (certain).

1:30 "'Do not be afraid'" This is a present imperative with the negative particle negated, which usually means to stop an act in process. This is a common angelic message to humans (see note at Luke 1:13).

"you have found favor with God" This seems to be an OT idiom for God's special activity in someone's life (cf. Gen. 6:8; 18:3; 19:19; 30:27; Exod. 33:12,17; Acts 7:46). God chooses to use imperfect, but available, humans who choose to trust Him to accomplish His purposes in this world.

1:31 "you will conceive in your womb" Mary could have been stoned for pregnancy outside of marriage (cf. Deut. 22:24-25).

A virgin-born child fulfills the prophecy and promise of Gen. 3:15 (cf. Gal. 4:4). Until this point in progressive relation, neither Isa. 7:14 nor Gen. 3:15 made sense. But now John 1:1-14; Rom. 1:3; 8:3; Phil. 2:6-11 make perfect sense. God became incarnate to deal with human sin.

In Jesus, God's justice,( "the soul that sins it will surely die") and God's grace ("For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son") meet in a redemptive, loving, sacrificial climax (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21)!

▣ "you shall name Him Jesus" Jesus is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua" (BDB 221). Both are a compound of "YHWH" and "salvation." In the Matthew parallel (Matt. 1:21) the name is explained by the angel.

1:32-33 These two verses describe who this male child is and what he will do.

1. He will be great (cf. Micah 5:4).

2. He will be called the Son of the Most High (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7).

3. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12; Ps. 132:11; Micah 5:2)

4. He will reign over the house of Jacob (cf. Micah 5:3-4)

5. His kingdom will have no end (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18,27).

These phrases must have shocked Mary because

1. The Jews were not expecting an incarnation, but an empowering (like the Judges).

2. Her child will be the promised Messiah (cf. Isa. 9:7)

3. His kingdom would be universal and eternal (cf. 2 Sam. 7:13,16; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 2:44; 7:14,18,27; Micah 5:4).

 

1:32 "the Son of the Most High" In the OT the King is called a "son" (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7). For a note on "Most High" see 1:76.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD

"the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David" That Jesus is a descendant of David is a major Messianic affirmation (cf. 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89:3-4; 132:11; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15-18; Micah 5:2); it is a recurrent theme of the Gospels (both Matthew's and Luke's genealogies, cf. Luke 1:32,69; 2:4; 3:31; Acts 2:29-31; 13:23; Matt. 15:22; 20:3; 21:9,15; John 7:42); Paul's Epistles (cf. Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8); and the book of the Revelation (cf. Luke 3:7; 22:16).

1:33 "He will reign. . .forever, and His kingdom will have no end" This obviously is not a reference to a millennial reign (cf. Rev. 20:1-6, as a matter of fact, Jesus never refers or alludes to a limited Messianic reign), but an eternal kingdom (cf. Ps. 45:7; 93:2; Isa. 9:6,7; Dan. 7:14,18; and implied in Mic. 5:2-5a). For "kingdom" see Special Topic at Luke 4:21.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER (GREEK IDIOM)

1:34

NASB, NRSV,
TEV"Since I am a virgin"
NKJV"since I do not know a man"
NJB"since I have no knowledge of a man"

The word "know" in Hebrew implies an intimate, personal relationship (cf. Jer. 1:5), even a sexual union (cf. Gen. 4:1; 1 Sam. 1:19). This same idiom is used in the same sense in the Septuagint (cf. Jdgs. 11:39; 21:12).

1:35 "overshadow you" This was not a sexual experience for God or Mary. The Spirit does not have a physical, human body. There is a parallel relationship between "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" and "the power of the Most High will overshadow you." In this context it is not the person of the Spirit that is emphasized, but that OT concept of Him as the power of God that goes forth to do God's bidding (cf. Gen. 1:2). As the power of God came upon Mary (eperchomai) to accomplish His purposes, so too did it come upon the early church (cf. Acts 1:8).

We must be careful not to involve Greek polytheistic ideas in these virgin-birth texts. See note at Luke 1:27. This may be the very reason that this truth does not appear in the sermons of Acts or in the NT Epistles.

"Overshadow" (episkiazō) seems to be related to the OT Shekinah cloud of the Wilderness Wanderings which symbolized God's presence (cf. Septuagint of Exod. 40:35). The same Greek term is used of God's presence overshadowing the inner circle of Apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:5; Mark 7:9; Luke 9:34). It showed His personal presence and power.

NASB, TEV"the holy Child"
NKJV"that Holy One who is to be born"
NRSV"the child to be born will be holy"
NJB"the child will be holy"

It is obvious from these English translations there is a problem in the Greek text. Literally the phrase is "wherefore also the thing being born holy." To the participle "being born" (present passive) some ancient Greek manuscripts add "out of (or "from") you" (i.e., Mary, cf. MS C*). There have been several possible explanations.

1. The two previous clauses have "you."

2. The addition follows the Matthew parallel (cf. Matt. 1:20).

3. This is one of several purposeful theological additions by scribes to deter ancient Christological heresies (cf. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 139).

This is used in the sense of "sinless" (cf. Acts 3:14; 7:12; 22:14), but also "given to accomplish God's tasks" (cf. Acts 4:27).

Holiness is a family characteristic of God ("holy child" is parallel to "Son of God"). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY

▣ "the Son of God" See Special Topic: The Son of God at Luke 1:32.

1:37 "For nothing will be impossible with God" This statement refers to Luke 1:36, but also to Gabriel's message to Mary (Luke 1:26-35). Elizabeth's pregnancy was a way of confirming God's supernatural actions in human conception (cf. LXX of Gen. 18:14). This phrase is an OT idiom of God's power accomplishing His purposes (cf. Job 42:2; Jer. 32:17; Zech. 8:6). It may be an allusion to Gen. 18:14, which deals specifically with the birth of Isaac (another supernatural, but not virgin, birth). It also occurs in a similar affirmation in Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27.

1:38 "the bondslave of the Lord" The term "Lord" (kurios which reflects adon) obviously refers to YHWH here, but in Luke 1:43 Elizabeth uses the term for Jesus. See fuller note at Luke 1:43 and Special Topic at Luke 1:68.

▣ "may it be done to me according to your word" This is an aorist middle (deponent) optative, which is a prayer or expressed desire. What great faith this young girl displayed! She is not sinless, but has great faith (cf. Luke 1:45). This verse shows the theological balance between God's sovereignty and His covenant mandate (i.e., "if. . .then") of human response. God planned and initiated; Mary cooperated!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:39-45
 39Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

1:39 Zacharias and Elizabeth did not live in Jerusalem, but close by.

1:41 "baby leaped in my womb" This is not unusual for the sixth month of pregnancy, but the timing is miraculous! The eye of faith saw great meaning in a common occurrence. The rabbis asserted that the unborn child could respond to spiritual things (cf. Gen. 25:22). John, who was conceived with God's help, was in the presence of Jesus (both yet unborn).

▣ "filled with the Holy Spirit" Notice that this phrase (so common in Acts) occurs here in a pre-Pentecostal setting. However, Elizabeth's resulting prophetic insight is far-reaching and obviously supernatural.

1:42 "'Blessed. . .blessed" These are both exclamatory forms (Hebrew and Aramaic), like Ps. 1:1 (no verbs). These are also both perfect passive participles. Mary is blessed for a divine purpose. The world is blessed because of her child (cf. Gen. 3:15).

1:43 "my Lord" Elizabeth is using the theologically significant term "Lord" (cf. Exod. 3:14; Ps. 110:1) to refer to the unborn Messiah (cf. Luke 2:14). The filling of the Spirit has clearly opened her eyes as He did for Simeon in Luke 2:26; for Anna in Luke 2:36-38; for Nathanael in John 1:49; and for Peter in Matt. 16:16.

Elizabeth uses the same Greek term, "Lord," of YHWH in Luke 1:45 and 46-47 (by means of His messenger angel). In later Jewish worship the Jews were nervous of pronouncing the covenant name for God, YHWH, so they substituted the Hebrew term Adon (husband, owner, master, lord) for it in their reading of Scripture. This in turn affected later translations like the English ones, which use Lord for YHWH and Lord for Adon (cf. Ps. 110:1). See Special Topic at Luke 1:68.

1:45 "blessed" This is a different Greek word for blessed (makaria) than Luke 1:42 (twice), which is eulogeō. The term in Luke 1:42 is used only of God (once of Mary in Luke 1:42), while the term in Luke 1:45 is used of humans (cf. Luke 6:20-23; Matt. 5:3-11).

"is she who believed" This seems to be a purposeful comparison with Zacharias' expressed doubts and resulting dumbness. However, it could also function as a way to denote the evangelistic purpose of all the Gospels (cf. John 20:30-31). Luke wants his Gentile readers/hearers to also exercise faith in God's word and promises!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the Old Testament (אמן)

SPECIAL TOPIC: Faith, Believe, or Trust (Pistis [noun], Pisteuō, [verb], Pistos [adjective])

"that there would be a fulfillment" This is the Greek term teleiōsis, which means "completion" or "accomplishment." Mary believed God's word to her. This is the key to the biblical concept of faith. Throughout the OT God spoke to human beings. Those who would be believers must believe! They must respond to God's word by yielding to His will and purpose. Many surely fit this "faith" category (cf. Hebrews 11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:46-55
 46And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, 47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. 51He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever."

1:46-47 "soul. . .spirit" These two terms (psuchē and pneuma) are in a parallel relationship, therefore, these are synonymous (as are "Lord" and "God my Savior"). Humans are a unity, not a dichotomy or trichotomy (cf. Gen. 2:7). This is a controversial issue, so I would like to insert the note from my commentary on 1 Thess. 5:23 (www.freebiblecommentary.org):

"This is not an ontological dichotomy in mankind, but a dual relationship to both this planet and to God. The Hebrew word nephesh is used of both mankind and the animals in Genesis, while spirit (ruah) is used uniquely of mankind. This is not a proof-text on the nature of mankind as a three-part (trichotomous) being. Mankind is primarily represented in the Bible as a unity (cf. Gen. 2:7). For a good summary of the theories of mankind as trichotomous, dichotomous, or a unity, see Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology (second edition) pp. 538-557; Frank Stagg's Polarities of Man's Existence in Biblical Perspective (p. 133) and W. T. Conner, Revelation and God, pp. 50-51."

▣ "exalts. . .rejoiced" The first is present tense. The second is aorist tense. It is possible that the first phrase refers to the unborn Messiah and the second phrase to Mary's faith in YHWH.

1:46 "Mary" There is an interesting discussion about which name—(1) Mary, (2) Elizabeth, or (3) no name at all—appeared in the original autograph. All Greek witnesses have "Mary" (spelled two different ways), but three Latin texts and comments by Irenaeus and Jerome, commenting on Origen's notes, have given rise to speculation. For further information, see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 130-131.

1:47 "God my Savior" Mary recognizes her need for a savior!

As there has been an ambiguity in the use of Lord (kurios), possibly referring to YHWH or the Messiah, it is interesting to me how this possibly "purposeful" ambiguity continues throughout the NT. The Trinitarian aspect of God's nature unifies the Father and the Son. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22.

In Paul's letter to Titus he calls the Father "Savior" three times (cf. Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4). In every context he also calls Jesus "Savior" (cf. Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6).

1:48 "humble state" God chose a young peasant girl to be the Messiah's mother (cf. Gen. 3:15). Isn’t that just like God! He is in control. He will be magnified. He does not need human merit or performance. He will bring redemption!

▣ "will call me blessed" Elizabeth has already blessed her younger relative twice (cf. Luke 1:42,45). This will be repeated throughout time because of the significance of her Son!

1:49 "the Mighty One" This reflects the Patriarchal name of God, El Shaddai (cf. Exod. 6:3). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68.

"holy is His name" See Special Topic at Luke 1:35.

1:50 "His mercy is upon generation after generation" This is an OT allusion to YHWH's unchanging character of mercy and covenant loyalty toward those who believe (cf. Deut. 5:10; 7:9; Ps. 103:17).

▣ "fear Him" This means to respect or revere Him, to keep Him in a place of awe (of God in Acts 9:31; of government officials in Rom. 13:7; of slave owners in 1 Pet. 2:18).

1:51 "He has done mighty deeds with His arm" This is an anthropomorphic phrase. God does not have a physical body. It is used in the Bible to describe God's power to act (cf. Ps. 98:1; 118:15-16; Isa. 51:9; 52:10). Often Jesus is depicted at the Father's right hand (cf. Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Luke 20:42; 22:69; Acts 2:33,34; 5:31; 7:55,56).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM)

"He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart" This reflects YHWH's actions in the OT recorded in the Septuagint (cf. Num. 10:35; Deut. 30:1,3; Jer. 51:20-22). God's ways are so different from mankind's ways (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). He exalts those who are weak, powerless, and humble, like Mary (cf. Luke 10:21).

The Greek term for "proud" (huperēphanos) is used often in Isaiah (cf. Isa. 1:25; 2:12; 13:11; 29:20).

For "heart" see Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART

1:52 This is parallel to Luke 1:51, as is Luke 1:53. This is known as a "reversal" promise. YHWH will bring down the proud and powerful, but will exalt the lowly!

1:53 This is a quote from Ps. 107:9. The same concept is found in Ps. 146:7-9. God's ways are not mankind's ways (cf. Isa. 55:8-11).

1:54 "to Israel His servant" The term "servant" was originally used in the OT as an honorific title for leaders (e.g., Moses, Joshua, David).

It came to be used in a collective sense for Israel, especially in the Servant Songs of Isaiah (cf. Luke 41:8-9; 42:18-19; 43:10). This collective sense is personified in an ideal Israelite (i.e., the Messiah in Isa. 42:1; 52:13-53:12).

"In remembrance of His mercy" God is and has been faithful to Israel because of His unchanging character (cf. Mal. 3:6) of mercy and covenant love (Hebrew hesed).

1:55 This verse emphasizes the call of Abraham (cf. Gen. 12, 15, 17) and his descendants who will provide a family and a nation for the Messiah. Jesus is the fulfillment of "the seed" of Abraham (cf. Rom. 2:28-20; Gal. 3:15-19).

"forever" See Special Topic: Greek Idioms for "Forever" at Luke 1:33.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:56
 56And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

1:56 "then returned to her home" Obviously to face ridicule. Belief always costs!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:57-58
 57Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

1:57 For Jews the birth of a child, especially a son, was a blessing from God. Elizabeth had been childless for so long and now had delivered a healthy boy!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:59-66
 59And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60But his mother answered and said, "No indeed; but he shall be called John." 61And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name." 62And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished. 64And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, "What then will this child turn out to be?" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

1:59 "on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child" This was practiced by all of Israel's neighbors except the Philistines (Greek Aegean people). For most cultures it was usually a rite of passage into manhood, but not for Israel. It was instead an initiation rite into the covenant People. It was a sign of a special faith relationship with YHWH (Gen. 17:9-14). Each Patriarch circumcised his own sons (i.e., acted as priest for his own family). Robert Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 214, says the rite of circumcision connected the rite of blood-shedding with the act of circumcision. Blood was connected to covenant forming (cf. Gen. 15:17), covenant breaking (cf. Gen. 2:17), and covenant redemption (cf. Isaiah 53).

The eighth day was the set time for male Jews to have the foreskin of their penises removed (cf. Lev. 12:3; Gen. 17:12). It was so important that even if the eighth day occurred on the Sabbath the ritual was still performed.

1:60 "he shall be called John" Naming was usually the choice of the father, but for both Jesus (cf. Matt. 1:21) and John (cf. Luke 1:13) the messenger angel gave their names.

1:63 "they were all astonished" This is the Greek term thaumazō, which is used often by Luke (cf. Luke 1:21,63; 2:18,33; 4:22; 7:9; 8:25; 9:43; 11:13,38; 20:26; 24:12,41; Acts 2:7; 3:12; 4:13; 7:31; 13:41). Luke's vocabulary is influenced by the Septuagint. This word is also found in several OT contexts (cf. Gen. 19:21; Lev. 19:25; 26:32; Deut. 10:17; 28:50; Job 41:4; Dan. 8:27). The noun form is used of God's miracles (cf. Exod. 3:20; Deut. 34:12; Jdgs. 6:13; and 1 Chr. 16:9).

"fear" These neighbors, family, and friends recognized God's special presence and divine purpose (cf. Luke 1:66) in this conception and birth. This fear (a better word, "awe," cf. NJB) is the common human response to the presence of the supernatural.

1:66 "For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him" Luke adds these personal comments several times (cf. Luke 2:50; 3:15; 7:39; 16:14; 20:20; 23:12).

This was a Semitic idiom for God's presence, power, and plan for individuals who become part of His design for the Kingdom (cf. 1 Chr. 28:19; Ezek. 1:3). By analogy it would apply to the mindset and worldview of all believers. God is with us, for us, and has a plan and purpose for our lives. See Special Topic at Luke 1:51.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:67-79
 67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 68"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant – 70As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old – 71Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; 72To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, 73The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, 74To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; 77To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, 78Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 79To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace."

1:67 "was filled with the Holy Spirit" This shows the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit who was active in the world before Pentecost. Be careful about making too radical a distinction between the OT actions of the Spirit and the NT actions of the Spirit. The difference is in the NT personification of the Spirit (see Special Topic at Luke 12:12), not His actions.

"prophesied" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY

1:68-70 Zacharias, John the Baptist's father, thanks "the Lord God of Israel" for sending His promised Messiah. The context does not mention his own son (i.e., John) until Luke 1:76-77. In this same section, Luke 1:71-75 and 78-79 are also a psalm of thanksgiving to YHWH for the salvation He has brought in His Messiah (cf. Eph. 1:3-12).

1:68 "Blessed" See note at Luke 1:45.

"the Lord God of Israel" This phrase contains a Greek translation of the two most common names for deity.

1. "Lord" reflects YHWH of Exod. 3:14, which denotes God as Savior, Redeemer, and Covenant-making God.

2. "God" reflects the general name for God, Elohim (cf. Gen. 1:1), which denotes God as creator, provider, and sustainer of all life on this planet.

The creator and redeeming God (cf. Gen. 2:4) reveals Himself to the world through His dealings with Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen. 12,15,17). Israel will be the source of God's promised Messiah.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

"For He has visited us" This visit of YHWH was in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus has brought redemption, not only for Israel, but for the world (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6).

▣ "redemption" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

1:69 "horn of salvation" In the OT an animal's horns were a symbol of that animal's power (cf. Deut. 33:17; Ps. 92:10; Zech. 1:18-21). It was used to describe the power of the wicked (cf. Ps. 75:10) and the righteous (cf. 1 Sam. 2:1; Ps. 75:10; 89:17; 148:14).

This cultural idiom came to be used for the efficacious power of the altar of sacrifice (cf. Exod. 27:2; 30:10; 1 Kgs. 1:50; 2:28). From this developed the concept of God as the efficacious protector of one's salvation (cf. 2 Sam. 22:2; Ps. 18:2).

"in the house of David His servant" This phrase brings several OT connotations.

1. The key term is "house" and the key context is 2 Samuel 7. From this Messianic promise comes Ps. 132:17 and Isa. 11:1. The Messiah will be from the tribe of Judah (cf. Genesis 49) and the family of Jesse (cf. Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32; John 7:42; Acts 13:23; Rom. 1:3; Rev. 22:16).

2. "Servant" was an OT title of honor and of Moses and Joshua.

 

1:70 The "He" of this verse refers to the "Spirit" of Luke 1:67. This is the NT affirmation of the inspiration and relevance of OT prophecy (cf. Rom. 1:2; 3:21; 16:26). It is also an affirmation of the personality of the Spirit. See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Ed., pp 875-878. See Special Topic at Luke 12:12.

NASB, NRSV"from of old"
NKJV"who have been since the world began"
TEV"long ago"
NJB"from ancient times"

This phrase relates to the OT prophets. It was inserted between "holy" and "prophets" (cf. Acts 3:21). The theological thrust is that the Messiahship of Jesus was not a recent invention, but ancient, inspired prophecy. He would bring physical (OT) and spiritual (NT) salvation to Israel and beyond (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

1:71 "Salvation" In the OT the word "salvation" has a primary meaning of physical deliverance (cf. Luke 1:74). This introduces a quote from Ps. 106:10.

1:72

NASB"to show mercy toward our fathers"
NKJV"to perform the mercy promised to our fathers"
NRSV"thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors"
TEV"He said He would show mercy to our ancestors"
NJB"and show faithful love to our ancestors"

The two lines of Luke 1:72 are parallel. The covenant to Abraham (cf. Gen. 12,15,17) is specifically mentioned in Luke 1:73-75. This was a conditional covenant based on God's promise in Luke 1:73-74a and the appropriate faith response in Luke 1:74b-75.

"holy covenant" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT

1:73 "The oath which He swore to Abraham our father" God's covenant with Abraham is recorded in Lukes 12 and 15, but this specific oath is recorded in Gen. 22:16-18. Paul mentions this oath/promise several times in Romans 4, where he documents that God's salvation has always been based on (1) God's mercy and covenant initiation and (2) mankind's faith response.

1:74 The infinitive that begins this verse in NASB, NKJV, and NJB is found in Luke 1:73 in UBS4 and NRSV.

The purpose of human redemption is human service to God. This is Paul's very point in Romans 6!

Fear of God is caused by sin. The Messiah removes the penalty of sin and restores the "image of God" (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) in fallen mankind, so fellowship without fear is possible again, as it was in the Garden of Eden.

1:75 "holiness" See Special Topic: Holy at Luke 1:35.

▣ "righteousness" See Special Topic at Luke 1:6.

1:76 "you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High" This was a startling statement since there had been no prophet in Israel since Malachi, over 400 years earlier.

The title "Most High" (hupsistos) comes from the Septuagint's translation of the Hebrew Elion. It is first applied to God in Gen. 14:18,19,20,22 in connection with Melchizedek (cf. Heb. 7:1) and again in Num. 24:16 in connection with Balaam.

Moses uses it of God in Deut. 32:8 (cf. Acts 17:26). It is used several times in the Psalms (cf. Luke 18:13; 78:35; 89:27).

The Gospel writers use it several times in connection to Jesus being called the Son of the Most High (cf. Luke 1:32; Mark 5:7; and parallel Luke 8:28) and here in this text, John the Baptist as prophet of the Most High. See Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 35.

▣ "you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways" The Jews were expecting a forerunner to the Messiah and because of Mal. 4:5, they were expecting Elijah to be reincarnated. John the Baptist dressed and lived much like Elijah.

John did not see himself in this role (cf. John 1:21), but Jesus says he fulfilled this prophecy (cf. Matt. 11:14). John describes himself (cf. Luke 3:2-6) by this very quote from Mal. 3:1 (cf. Isa. 40:3-4).

The word "Lord" is a way to translate YHWH. It refers to the Covenant God of Israel (cf. Luke 1:16-17; Mal. 3:1; Isa. 40:3-4). John prepares for the coming of YHWH in His Messiah.

1:77 John's ministry of preparation had a threefold purpose.

1. to accentuate a spiritual sense of need (i.e., baptism of repentance)

2. to bring knowledge of salvation (i.e., repent and believe) in God's mercy, God's Messiah, God's soon-coming provision (cf. Luke 1:15)

3. to point toward Jesus (cf. John 1:29-34, 35-37)

John cannot bring salvation by the forgiveness of sins, but he points toward One who can and will—Jesus of Nazareth.

1:78 "Because of the tender mercy of our God" It was the unchanging character of God the Father (cf. Mal. 3:6, although it could reflect Isa. 9:2 or 60:1), which sent the Messiah (cf. John 3:16). Mercy is the key to "predestination" (cf. Rom. 9:15,16,18; 11:30,31,32).

The Greek term translated "tender" is literally splagchnon, which denoted "the inward parts" of a sacrifice, which the Canaanites ate but the Jews offered to YHWH on the altar of sacrifice at the Tabernacle (cf. Exod. 29:13; Lev. 3:3-4,10,15; 4:8-9; 7:3-4; 8:16,25; 9:10,16).

The Ancients located the feelings in these "lower organs" (liver, kidneys, intestines, cf. Isa. 63:15; Jer. 4:19; and the metaphor is continued in the NT, cf. 2 Cor. 6:12; 7:15; Phil. 1:8; 2:1; Col. 3:12; Philemon 7,12,20).

NASB"With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us"
NKJV"With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us"
NRSV"The dawn from on high will break upon us"
TEV"He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us"
NJB"In which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us"

Because there have been several allusions to Malachi in this praise of Zacharias, this is probably an allusion to Mal. 4:2a. "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings."

The word "sun" does not appear in the Greek text, but only the term "rising" (as it does in the LXX of Mal. 4:2). The term "sun" has two possible origins.

1. The Zoroastrians' (i.e., Persian religion during the captivity of Israel) symbol of their high, good god (Ahura Masda) was the sun disk with wings.

2. The title for God, "Most High" (cf. Luke 1:32,76) is a way of referring to God's gift of light/sun (cf. Ps. 19:1-6).

Malachi 4 speaks of a day of salvation coming symbolized by light/healing.

There are Greek manuscript variations as to the verb tense (present/future). The Malachi prophecy is future, but the Christ-event for John the Baptist was present.

1:79 This is a quote from Isa. 9:1-2 (which means Luke 1:78 could also refer to Isa. 9:2). There have been several quotes from Malachi that have had parallels in Isaiah (i.e., prepare the way of the Lord). This seems to be another (i.e., a rabbinical wordplay on "sun rise" and "shine").

Originally the Isaiah prophecy referred to the first defeated tribes in the north of Israel who were taken captive first by the northern invasion of Assyria in the eighth century b.c. Isaiah asserts they will be the first to have good news presented to them. Jesus' first area of ministry was Galilee!

"to guide our feet into the way of peace" This is an aorist active infinitive of the Greek term "to direct." It is used only three times in the NT: here and twice by Paul in his letters to Thessalonica (cf. 1 Thess. 3:11; 2 Thess. 3:5). In all three occurrences it emphasizes God's guidance. In the Septuagint it is linked to "keep one straight" (i.e., on God's path).

OT faith is characterized as a clear path. God's people are to follow the path, stay on the straight path. It is not by accident the early church in Acts is called "the Way."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 1:80
 80And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

1:80 "the child continued to grow and to become strong" This is very similar to the description of Jesus' development, both physically and spiritually (cf. Luke 2:40).

SPECIAL TOPIC: BE MADE STRONG

"in spirit" As is often the case, the interpretive issue is, does this refer to the Holy Spirit or to John's human spirit? Possibly to both, based on an allusion to Isa. 11:1-2.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT (PNEUMA) IN THE NT

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the virgin birth an important biblical concept?

2. How did the Spirit accomplish this task?

3. How do we balance the greatness of Mary's faith with the normalcy of her humanity?

4. What is the important truth revealed in Luke 1:51-53?

5. Why are the titles of the godly king listed in Luke 1:6 so significant in our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth?

6. Why can Zacharias be filled with the Holy Spirit before Pentecost?

7. Why is the Davidic origin of the Messiah so important?

8. Why were the Jews expecting Elijah to be reincarnated?

 

Passage: 

Luke 2

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Birth of Jesus Christ Born of Mary The Birth of Jesus The Birth of Jesus The Birth of Jesus and Visit of the Shepherds
2:1-7 2:1-7 2:1-7 2:1-3 2:1-14
      2:4-7  
The Shepherds and the Angels Glory in the Highest   The Shepherds and the Angels  
2:8-14a 2:8-13 2:8-14 2:8-12  
      2:13  
  2:14-20   2:14  
2:14b-20        
    2:15-20 2:15 2:15-20
      2:16-20  
  Circumcision of Jesus   Jesus Is Named The Circumcision of Jesus
2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Jesus Presented in the Temple   Jesus is Presented in the Temple Jesus is Presented in the Temple
2:22-24 2:22-24 2:22-24 2:22-24 2:22-28
  Simeon Sees God's Salvation      
2:25-35 2:25-35 2:25-32 2:25-32 The Nunc Dimittis
        2:29-32
        The Prophecy of Simeon
    2:33-35 2:33-35 2:33-35
  Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer     The Prophecy of Anna
2:36-38 2:36-38 2:36-38 2:36-38 2:36-38
Return to Nazareth The Family Returns to Nazareth   The Return to Nazareth The Hidden Life of Jesus at Nazareth
2:39-40 2:39-40 2:39-40 2:39-40 2:39-40
The Boy Jesus in the Temple The Boy Jesus Amazes the Scholars The Boy Jesus at Jerusalem The Boy Jesus in the Temple Jesus Among the Doctors of the Law
2:41-52 2:41-50 2:41-51 2:41-48 2:41-45
        2:46-50
  Jesus Advances in Wisdom and Favor   2:49-50 The Hidden Life at Nazareth Resumed
  2:51-52  2:52 2:51-52 2:51-52

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:1-7
 1Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

2:1 "decree" These Roman enrollments ran in fourteen-year cycles which began under Caesar Augustus (30 b.c. to a.d. 14, cf. Luke 3:1; Matt. 22:17). We learn of these cycles from Egyptian papyri. They took years to finish. A second census is mentioned in Acts 5:37 and in the writings of Josephus, which says that it was done in a.d. 6; therefore, the first was begun about 8 b.c. (cf. Acts 5:37).

▣ "census" This registration was for the purpose of taxation and military conscription. Jews, however, were exempt from military service. It also included, possibly, an oath of loyalty to Caesar.

"the inhabited earth" This refers to the Roman Empire or the known civilized world (cf. Luke 4:5; 21:26; Acts 11:28; 17:6,31; 19:27; 24:5; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 3:10). It is surely possible that some of these texts reflect a world-wide emphasis, like Matt. 24:14; Acts 17:31; and Heb. 1:6; 2:5).

2:2 "This was the first census" A second census is mentioned in Acts 5:37. These Roman censuses took many years to complete, possibly up to fourteen years (i.e., evidence from Egypt).

▣ "Quirinius" There is a problem with this statement and secular history. Quirinius was the civil governor of Syria in a.d. 6. He was the military leader in Syria, of which Judea was a part, from 10-7 b.c., however, he did not become the political leader until a.d. 6. He came to Judea in a.d. 6/7 for the explicit purpose of registration for taxation (Josephus, Antiq. 18.1-2,26). The footnote in the NRSV gives the information that Quirinius was a special legate of Augustus to deal with a rebellious tribe (Homonadenses, cf. Tacitus, Annals, 13.48) and, therefore, was the military governor of Syria while Varas was the civil governor (Oxford, 1991, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Roland Murphy, pp. NT 79-80).

A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Luke, p. 105, asserts that Quirinius acted as a special representative of the Emperor from 12 b.c. to a.d. 16, which included an administrative charge related to the census. It also asserts that he was twice governor of Syria, from 3-2 b.c. and again in a.d. 6-16. The authors of the UBS Handbook, Reiling and Swellengsegel, cite Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, pp. 975-977, as their source.

2:3 The "everyone" refers to males, possibly males with taxable property (land, businesses, etc.).

▣ "each to his own city" This was the unique aspect related to Jewish culture. Nazareth had a clan from the tribe of Judah (family of Jesse) living there, but for several families Bethlehem was their ancestral city.

2:4 "Bethlehem" This was a small Judean village about six miles southwest of Jerusalem and, therefore, about seventy miles south of Nazareth. It was known in the OT as Ephrath (cf. Gen. 35:19), which became Bethlehem Ephrathah of Micah 5:2. This was a way to distinguish it from a Bethlehem in the north of Israel.

This city is known as the city where Boaz and Ruth, who were ancestors of King David, lived (cf. Ruth 4:11). David's father, Jesse, lived here also (cf. 1 Sam. 17:12). Because it was the ancestral home of David, it was the prophesied but unexpected site of Jesus' birth (cf. Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:5,6; John 7:42).

▣ "because he was of the house and family of David" One wonders how much of the prophecy of 2 Sam. 7:12-17 Luke had in mind (cf. Luke 1:32) when he recorded this phrase about the lineage of Jesus. This phrase may have been a direct allusion to these OT Messianic promises.

2:5 "to register along with Mary" One wonders why Mary traveled so late in her pregnancy when only males were required to return to their ancestral home.

1. Joseph did not want to leave her in Nazareth where she would be verbally ridiculed

2. Joseph or Mary knew the prophecy of Micah 5 and wanted to fulfill it

3. God was working in the situation, unbeknown to either Joseph or Mary

 

▣ "engaged" Matthew 1:24-25 implies that they were married, but the marriage had not been consummated. In Jewish culture engagement was legally binding. Marriages were arranged by families and this engagement period usually lasted up to a year.

2:6 "While they were there" This may imply an extended period in Bethlehem, possibly to keep Mary from the derision in Nazareth.

2:7 "firstborn" This is used in the OT sense of "heir." It also suggests that Mary had other children (cf. Matt. 13:55-56; John 7:35).

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRSTBORN

▣ "wrapped Him in cloths" This term (BDB 367) meant to wrap up with cloth, like a broken arm (cf. Ezek. 30:21). It is used of wrapping a newborn in Ezek. 16:4 (cf. Wis. 7:4). It is used metaphorically in Job 38:9.

Apparently the entire body of a newborn was wrapped (similar to American Indians) for its warmth and protection. This would have been the common procedure for every child.

"manger" This was a feeding trough (cf. LX, Isa. 1:3; Pro. 14:4) for domestic animals. These were very crude, non-hygenic conditions, but so was all of the ancient, peasant world.

▣ "inn" The term kataluma is indefinite and could refer to

1. A guest room (animals often lived in close proximity to their owners, cf. Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11; see Kenneth Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, p. xv).

2. Justin Martyr (a.d. 110-162/168) says that Jesus was born in a cave used as an animal corral (common in this area).

3. Others say it was in an open-air courtyard of the Inn.

4. The more traditional interpretation is in a room on the lowest level shared with animals of the home owner (i.e., not an inn).

Bethlehem was a very small village. I am not sure there would be enough travelers to warrant an inn (normal word, pandocheion, cf. Luke 10:34). Jewish culture stressed the cultural obligation of hosting relatives. There were so many relatives in town for the enrollment that no guest room was available. Luke uses this same word in Luke 22:11 for a "guest room" (cf. Mark 14:14).

The term is used in a wide variety of meanings in the Septuagint, but one of them is a room in one's house, usually on the roof (cf. 1 Sam. 1:18; 2 Sam. 7:6; 1 Chr. 17:5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:8-14
 8In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

2:8 "In the same region" This refers to Bethlehem.

"shepherds" The rabbis considered them to be religious outcasts and their testimony was not admissible in court (i.e., later Jewish tradition). This was because they lived with the sheep and could not keep all the rules and regulations of the rabbis (i.e., Talmud). There may be some symbolic connection with David's being a shepherd in this same area. The Messiah's birth was announced first to Jewish shepherds! This is surprising, recorded by a Gentile, writing for Gentiles, while Matthew, writing to Jews, mentions the wise men (possibly Gentiles) from the east.

▣ "their flock" There is no way to fix the time of the year of Jesus' birth because the Temple flocks were kept in that area all year. God's Lamb (cf. John 1:29) was born in the same area that the sacrificial lambs used year round in the daily temple sacrifice. If so, these shepherds may have been Levites.

The traditional date of December 25 to celebrate Jesus' birth developed hundreds of years later (i.e., fourth century, Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Luke 2:3.13), apparently chosen to coincide with a pagan, astral festival (winter solstice). Some of the elements of modern Christmas were a part of the Roman holiday known as "the Feast of Saturnalia."

Clement of Alexandria, at the end of the second century, noted the lack of agreement on the exact birth date of Jesus (Stromata, 1.21). Even today some believers celebrate January 6, not December 25 (i.e., Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox).

2:9 "an angel of the Lord" This angel seems to be separate from the heavenly hosts who later speak or sing. The KJV has the definite article, but it is not in the Greek text. This exact Greek phrase is used of the angel who appeared to Zacharias in the Holy Place (see note at Luke 1:11).

▣ "the glory of the Lord" This phrase is often used in the Septuagint to denote the glorious personal presence of YHWH (cf. Exod. 16:7,10; 24:16; 40:34-38; Num. 16:19).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA)

"stood before them" This same verb is used of the two angels at the Ascension (cf. Luke 24:4).

"shone around them" This same word is used by Paul of his Damascus road experience in Acts 26:13. These are the only two occurrences of the term in the NT; it does not appear at all in the Septuagint. I wonder if Luke got the term, which describes God's glorious presence, from hearing Paul's testimony so many times?

NASB"they were terribly frightened"
NKJV"they were greatly afraid"
NRSV, NJB"they were terrified"
NJB"they were terribly afraid"

The Greek phrase is literally "they feared a great fear." The verb and the object are the same term. This is called a "cognate accusative." The sight of the spiritual realm always frightens fallen humanity.

2:10 "Do not be afraid" This is a present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process. This is a very common angelic greeting to frightened humanity (cf. Luke 1:13,30).

▣ "good news of great joy" Their "great fear" is now balanced with "great joy."

The word translated "good news" (euangelizō, cf. Luke 1:19) is a combination of the words "good" and "message." It is used often in the Septuagint for preaching a glad message (cf. 1 Sam. 31:9; 2 Sam. 1:20; 4:10; 18:19-20,31; 1 Kgs. 1:42; Ps. 39:10). It came to be used in a technical sense for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 3:18; 4:18,43; 7:22; 8:1; 9:6; 16:16; 20:1; Acts 5:42; 8:4,12,25,35,40; 10:36; 11:20; 13:32; 14:2,15,21; 15:35; 16:10; 17:18).

▣ "for all the people" This was the promise of Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; and of the eighth century prophets. This is the mystery hidden in ages past, but now fully revealed in Christ (cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13). This good news even reaches to outcast shepherds (and by implication to Luke's Gentile readers)! This same universal emphasis is repeated and defined in Luke 2:32.

SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN

2:11 "for today" The NET Bible has a good comment about Luke's use of "today" (cf. p. 1796, #9). Luke often uses it to denote the presence of the new age.

1. Luke 2:11 – Christ's birth

2. Luke 4:21 – OT quotes from Isa. 61:1-2 (at Luke 2:18-19)

3. Luke 5:26 –Jesus' healing of the leper (sign of the new age)

4. Luke 13:32-33 – healings (sign of the new age)

5. Luke 19:9 – salvation comes to Zaccheus' house

6. Luke23:43 – with Jesus in Paradise

7. Acts 4:9 – healings of Peter denote the new age

8. Acts 13:33 – Jesus' resurrection (sign of the new age, quote from Ps. 2:7)

The new Messianic age, the age of the Spirit, has now broken into time! 

▣ "the city of David" This refers to Bethlehem. See note at Luke 2:4.

▣ "Savior" This title was used of YHWH in the OT (cf. Luke 1:47; Isa. 43:3,11; 45:15,21; 49:26; 60:16). In the Roman Empire it was used of Caesar. The word in Hebrew means "deliverer" (BDB 446) and is part of the name of Jesus (i.e., Hosea, BDB 448). This and 1:47 are surprisingly the only use of this term in the Synoptic Gospels.

The fact that Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth is called by two major OT titles of YHWH (Savior and Lord) is striking. When you add the title Messiah (Christ), it is obvious that Luke is piling affirmation on affirmation of the deity of Jesus. The Synoptics, especially Mark, tend to hide Jesus' deity until the end. John clearly and forcefully asserts Jesus' pre-existence and deity in John 1:1-18. Luke, by using these titles, sets the theological stage for Gentiles (the audience for both John's and Luke's Gospels) to comprehend who Jesus was/is.

▣ "Christ" The literal meaning is "Anointed One" from the verb chriō. It refers to the Coming King (Mashiach, Ps. 2:2; 18:50; 84:9; 89:49-51; 132:10,17) who will be called and equipped to do God's will in initiating the restoration and the New Age. The Hebrew term is translated in Greek as "Christ."

SPECIAL TOPIC: ANOINTING IN THE BIBLE (BDB 603)

SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH

▣ "Lord"The Greek term "Lord" (kurios) can be used in a general sense or in a developed theological sense. It can mean "mister," "sir," "master," "owner," "husband" or "the full God-man" (cf. John 9:36, 38). The OT (Hebrew, adon) usage of this term came from the Jews' reluctance to pronounce the covenant name for God, YHWH, which was from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). They were afraid of breaking the Commandment which said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (cf. Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). They thought if they did not pronounce it, they could not take it in vain. So, they substituted the Hebrew word adon, which had a similar meaning to the Greek word kurios (Lord). The NT authors used this term to describe the full deity of Christ (e.g., Luke 2:11; John 20:28; Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:11; James 2:1; Rev. 19:16). The phrase "Jesus is Lord" was the public confession of faith and a baptismal formula of the early church (cf. Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11). In Acts 2:36 both Christ and Lord are used of Jesus.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68.

2:12 "This will be a sign for you" One wonders if this was an intentional allusion to Isaiah 7. Zacharias and Mary had to believe without immediate confirmation, but these shepherds are given immediate confirmation. I wonder if they followed Jesus' life and ministry, if they were in the crowds that followed Him. I am surprised we do not hear more about their eyewitness testimony.

"in a manger" There was nothing unusual about His clothing, but there was something unusual about the Messiah lying in an animal feeding trough!

2:13 "heavenly host" This is literally "army of heaven." It reflects the Hebrew "sabbaoth," which also has a military connotation (cf. Jos. 5:14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68.

2:14 "Glory to God in the highest" God is given glory for

1. His person ("in the highest")

2. His good news ("peace among men")

3. the sending of His Son

4. the good news of His finished work of redemption of fallen mankind)

God deserves glory (see Special Topic at Luke 2:9) and praise from creation and from His redeemed children!

There is some confusion as to the physical location of these angels. The first angel seems to have appeared on the earth next to the shepherds, but the large number of angels may have appeared in the sky. The text is ambiguous. The phrase "in the highest" refers to God, not the angels.

NASB"on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased"
NKJV"on earth peace, good will toward men"
NRSV"on earth peace among those whom he favors"
TEV"peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased"
NJB"on earth peace for those he favors"

There is a manuscript variant connected to the last word in Greek. The genitive form (cf. NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB) is found in MSS א*, A, B*, D and in the Greek text used by Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, and Augustine. The UBS4 gives this form an A (certain) rating. This grammatical construction is unusual for Koine Greek, but is a Semitic construction found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The opening chapters of Luke have many of these Semitic constructions (cf. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 133), which may reflect Aramaic-written documents.

The familiar King James rendering gives the wrong theological impression. This is not a text on God's love for all humanity like 2:10; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; or 2 Pet. 3:9, but of God's offer of peace to those who know Him and are involved in His kingdom. The gospel was not good news to many Jews of Jesus' day, so it cannot refer to Israel alone. It is surely true that the mystery of God's election and human free will is difficult to harmonize, but both are biblically true. We must not proof-text part of the NT tension, but fully embrace the tension—preach God's sovereignty to whosoever will receive! There is a tension between Luke 2:10 (whether Israel or humanity) and Luke 2:14!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:15-20
 15When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." 16So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

2:15 These shepherds recognized the prophetic aspect of the angels' message and wanted (both verbs are subjunctive) to go and confirm this great revelation in the nearby village.

I would have hated to be the one shepherd who had to stay and watch the sheep!

This verse uses rēma as "thing" (cf. Luke 2:19) instead of "word" or "statement" (cf. Luke 2:17).

2:16 It was not hard to find Mary, Joseph, and the baby in the small village of Bethlehem. The scene was exactly as the angels had said.

2:17-18 To whom does the "all" refer? It could be the people and visitors in Bethlehem or, because of the proximity of Jerusalem and the importance and source of the message, it may refer to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. However, notice that we do not hear of the message again anywhere else in the NT. Possibly the bias of the Jewish leadership against shepherds caused them to discredit the whole account.

2:19 "But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart" Mary thought about these events again and again (cf. Luke 2:51). Luke's source for these early years seems to have been Mary. He possibly visited her while Paul was in prison at Caesarea for two years.

2:20 It must have been hard to return to life as usual. I wonder how many of these shepherds were still alive when Jesus began His public ministry some thirty years later.

▣ "glorifying and praising God" This involves two present participles.

1. glorifying God Luke 2:20; 5:25,26; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15; 18:43; 23:47; Acts 4:21; 11:18; 21:20; 23:47

2. praising God – Luke 2:13,20; 19:37; Acts 2:47; 3:8,9

Other parallel expressions are

1. blessed by God – Luke 1:64,68; 2:28; 24:53

2. gave thanks to God – Luke 2:38

3. give glory to God – Luke 2:14; 17:18; 19:38; 12:23 (negated)

It is obvious this is a recurrent theme in Luke's writings. God deserves glory, praise, and blessing!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was the Roman world enrolled?

2. Is there a problem with Luke's chronology?

3. Why is Jesus' birth in Bethlehem so important? What does this say about God's control of history?

4. Why was Jesus born in a stable?

5. What is the significance of God's angel announcing Christ's birth to shepherds?

6. Why are the titles "Savior," "Messiah," and "Lord" so important?

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO LUKE 2:21-52

There are several Jewish rituals referred to in this passage.

 

A. The Ritual of Circumcision

1. The sign of YHWH's covenant with Abraham (cf. Gen. 17:1-14)

a. every male

b. eight days old (cf. Lev. 12:3)

c. for all generations

d. for domestic servants (cf. Exod. 12:44)

e. the uncircumcised male is to be cut off from the faith community

2. flint knives used

a. Exodus 4:25

b. Joshua 5:2-3

3. no special place, but done by the father (cf. Gen. 17:23-27), usually locally (not in the Tabernacle)

4. done by Patriarchs (cf. Gen. 34:13-24), but neglected in captivity (cf. Exod. 4:24-26) and restarted in conquest (cf. Jos. 5:4-9)

 

B. The Ritual of Childbirth Purification

1. period of uncleanness

a. any fluid that leaked from the body caused one to be ceremonially unclean

b. the mother was unclean for seven days after the birth of a son (cf. Lev. 12:2)

c. the mother was unclean for fourteen days after the birth of a daughter (cf. Lev. 12:5)

d. she remains unclean for forty days for a son (cf. Lev. 12:3-4 and eighty for a daughter (cf. Lev. 12:6)

e. this ceremonial uncleanness is compared to the monthly menstrual cycle

2. rite of purification

a. after a waiting period the mother comes to the tabernacle and brings an offering of

(1) a one year old lamb for a burnt offering (cf. Lev. 12:6)

(2) a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering (cf. Lev. 12:6)

(3) if the person is poor, then two pigeons or turtle doves are acceptable (cf. Lev. 12:8)

b. these procedures result in a ceremonial cleansing

 

C. The Rite of Redemption of the Firstborn

1. Because of the death of the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of non-priestly families was given to serve YHWH (cf. Exodus 13).

2. The Levites and Priests as a tribe took the place of the firstborn males in serving YHWH (cf. Num. 3:12,45; 8:14).

3. The priest (any priest) had to be paid a set price by the parents to buy back their firstborn male child (cf. Exod. 34:20).

4. This seems to be reflected in Luke 2:23 and 27b, while the mother's rite of purification is in Luke 2:22,24.

5. The rabbis say that this redemption can be done with any priest on the thirty-first day. This does not fit the timing of Mary's forty-day uncleanness. Some scholars would see only two rituals in this context.

 

D. The command that all males (and by implication, their families) come to the tabernacle/Temple at least on the three annual feast days (cf. Exod. 23:14,17; Lev. 23)

1. The three main feasts

a. Passover/Unleavened Bread (cf. Exod. 23:14-15; Lev. 23:4-8; Num. 28:16-25)

b. Feast of Harvest/Pentecost (cf. Exod. 23:16; 34:22-34; Lev. 23:15-21; Num. 28:26-31)

c. Feast of Ingathering/Booths (cf. Exod. 23:16; Lev. 23:34-36; Deut. 16:13-17)

2. Jesus' parents brought Him to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover when He was twelve (cf. Luke 2:41-43) just before His bar mitzvah at thirteen

3. Jesus fulfilled all aspects of the Mosaic Law (cf. Luke 2:39)

 

E. It is surprising how few OT quotes are in Luke's Gospel (Luke 2:23,24; 3:4-6). This is also true of Mark (who wrote for Romans). These three occur in Luke's first three chapters, which are possibly from his interviews with (or documents from) Mary. Luke, writing for Gentiles, does not feel the need to document OT prophecies as does Matthew (cf. Matt. 1:23; 2:15,18,23; 3:3; 4:15; 8:17; 12:18-21; 13:25; 21:5; 27:9), who writes for Jews.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:21
 21And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

2:21 "eight days old" This was the Jewish time for circumcision (cf. Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3). It was considered so important that it was even performed on the Sabbath. All of the people in the Mediterranean area were circumcised (except the Philistines). The Romans performed this rite on the ninth day, the Greeks on the seventh or tenth day, and the Arabs on the thirteenth birthday (cf. Gen. 17:23-26). For the Jews it was a sign of YHWH's Covenant with Abraham. Jesus was born under the Law. See Contextual Insights, A.

▣ "His name was then called Jesus" The parents usually named their children, but this child's name had been revealed by Gabriel (cf. Luke 1:31; Matt. 1:21).

Jesus (Greek) and Joshua or Yeshua (Hebrew) are the same Hebrew names. They are a combination of the covenant name for God, YHWH, and the noun "help" or "deliver." The exact way to combine these two nouns is uncertain, a verb must be supplied. Here are some options.

1. "YHWH saves"

2. "salvation is of YHWH"

3. "YHWH delivers"

4. "YHWH is the deliverer"

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:22-24
 22And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord"), 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

2:22 "the days for their purification" The pronoun "their" has bothered Bible students because it involves a sin offering for both the mother and the child. Jesus was born under the law (cf. Luke 2:21-22,27; Gal. 4:4-5) and He was to fulfill all things (cf. Matt. 3:15). He completely identified with the Jewish customs of His day. The period of purification was forty days after birth for a son and eighty days for a daughter (cf. Lev. 12:1-5). See Contextual Insights, B.

▣ "up to Jerusalem" Bethlehem is higher than Jerusalem physically, but to the Jews, no place on earth was spiritually higher than Jerusalem. In the Bible one must always go "up to Jerusalem." There are two or three Jewish rituals mentioned in Luke 2:22-44. The first was performed locally (circumcision), the others at the Temple at a later time. Mary's purification after forty days and buying back the firstborn male child was done according to later rabbinical traditions on the thirty-first day.

2:23 "Every firstborn male" This Jewish rite (cf. Exod. 13:2,12,13,15) was instituted at Passover (cf. Exodus 12). The Levites as a group took the place of the firstborn as God's special servants. The price of redemption in Jesus' day was five shekels, which was given to any priest (cf. Numbers 18:16). This was the normal price of a sacrificial lamb. See Contextual Insights, C.

2:24 "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons" This was the cheapest purification offering one could make. One bird was for a sin offering and the other was for a burnt offering (cf. Lev. 12:6-8). This rite is in reference to the purification of Luke 2:22. Any bodily emission made a Jewish person ceremonially unclean, therefore, birth was something that had to be dealt with by sacrifice. The women could watch the ritual by looking from the Nicor gate, but they could not enter into the inner court of the Temple because (1) they were considered ceremonially unclean and (2) they were women.

This offering shows that the wise men from the East had not yet brought their gifts.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:25-32
 25And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32A Light of revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel."

2:25 "Simeon" This is a very common name (BDB 1035, meaning "hearing" from Gen. 29:33). Some ancient sources suppose that he might have been the son of Rabbi Hillel and the father of Gamaliel, but this is very doubtful. Others suppose that he was the president of the Sanhedrin. These suggestions are proposed so that Simeon would be a priest and this would be the rite of the buying back of the firstborn male child, but this is not in the text! Tradition says that he was old, but the text is silent.

▣ "righteous" See full note and Special Topic at Luke 1:6.

▣ "devout" This term literally means "taking hold well." It refers to one who is careful about religious matters, therefore, a pious person. It was used in the Septuagint in Lev. 15:31 and Micah 7:2. It is found only in Luke's writings in the NT (cf. Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; 8:2; 22:12).

▣ "consolation of Israel" This term is used several times in Luke's writings (cf. Luke 2:25; 6:24; Acts 4:36; 9:31; 13:15; 15:31), but it is not used in the other Gospels. It seems to be parallel to "the redemption of Jerusalem" in Luke 2:38 (cf. Luke 24:21) and possibly "the kingdom of God" in Luke 23:51 (cf. Mark 15:43). Therefore, it has an eschatological orientation (cf. Isa. 40:1-2). It is also a favorite phrase of Paul. In one paragraph in 2 Corinthians 1 he used it six times.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COMFORT

"the Holy Spirit was upon him" The gospel is not the result of human research or discovery. It is the supernatural revelation of the Spirit of God (cf. Luke 2:26-27).

The Spirit is the source of the revelations of the working out of the redemptive plan of God in these opening chapters of Luke:

1. Elizabeth, Luke 1:41

2. Zacharias, Luke 1:67

3. Simeon, Luke 2:25,26

Notice the imperfect tense. The Spirit did not come and go, but remained upon him.

SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION

2:26 "Lord's Christ" The Spirit had promised Simeon that he would not experience physical death until he saw God's Redeemer, the Anointed One, the Messiah (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11) with his own eyes (sounds like Job 19:25-27).

The term "revealed" is a periphrastic perfect passive indicative. God did it and the revelation remains. The verb is used in the Septuagint of God's revealing Himself (cf. Jer. 32:30; 33:2; 36:23).

The term "Lord" obviously refers to YHWH and "Christ" to baby Jesus. Jesus did not earn His Messiahship; He was born the Christ (no Adoptionism, no Gnosticism, see Appendix: Glossary of Terms).

2:27 "the parents" This is simply the language of description. This says nothing about the doctrine of the virgin birth (cf. Luke 1:34; Matt. 1:18-25).

▣ "to carry out for Him the custom of the Law" This seems to refer to the Jewish rite of the redemption of the firstborn (cf. Exodus 13). See Contextual Insights, C.

2:28 "and blessed God" Simeon's blessing is directed toward YHWH for sending His promised redeemer (for all people, cf. Luke 2:29-32).

2:29

NASB, NKJV,"Lord"
TEV
NRSV, NJB"Master"

The term despotēs is used often in the Septuagint for YHWH (cf. Gen. 15:2,8; Jos. 5:14; Isa. 1:24; 3:1). In English we get the word "despot" from this Greek word. It is used of one who has supreme authority and power. It is used of YHWH in Acts 4:24 and Rev. 6:10 and of Jesus in 2 Pet. 2:1 and Jude 4.

"to depart in peace" This is an OT idiom of physical death after a long, happy life (cf. Gen. 15:15; Jer. 34:5). Death is not an enemy to those who know God!

"according to Your word" This refers in context to Luke 2:26. The Greek term "revealed" (perfect passive participle) is regularly used in the passive voice of divine revelations (cf. Matt. 2:12,22; Luke 2:26; Acts 10:22; Heb. 8:5; 11:7).

2:30 This emphasis on seeing God's salvation may come from OT prophecy (cf. Isa. 52:10) or reflect the same message.

In these opening chapters of Luke the term "salvation" has two connotations:

1. In the OT texts quoted it refers to the physical deliverance of Israel.

2. In light of the gospel it refers to spiritual salvation, which is brought through faith in Jesus' person and work.

In the OT, Israel is saved from the nations, but now Israel's Messiah will save the nations!

2:31-32 "all peoples. . .light. . .Gentiles" This is the universal gospel, which must have been very shocking to the Jews (I wonder if Simeon fully understood these prophecies in light of Christ), but was thrilling to be heard by Luke's Gentile readers (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; 9:2; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1-3). This phrase could mean "in the presence of the Gentiles" (cf. Ps. 98:1-3; Isa. 52:1-10), however, this does not fit the context. It is amazing how many allusions there are to Isaiah's prophecies in the first two chapters of Luke. Isaiah, of all the prophets, saw this universal salvation (which becomes the theme of the NT (i.e., 24:47; John 1:12; 3:16; 4:10; Acts 10:34-35,43; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:14; 2 Pet. 3:9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:33-35
 33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

2:33 "were amazed" This is a periphrastic imperfect. They marveled again and again. This possibly refers to the Gentiles being included in God's salvation! Mary already had the testimony of Gabriel and Elizabeth. Both Mary and Joseph had the shepherd's message.

2:34

NASB"is appointed"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"is destined"
TEV"is chosen"

This term is literally "to lie upon" or "be placed upon," but it came to have a metaphorical extension of "an appointed sign" in the Septuagint of Jos. 4:6. It is used in this sense several times in the NT (cf. 1 Thess. 3:3, which is also a present passive [deponent] indicative).

▣ "the fall" God's universal redemptive plan (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11), which will be manifested by a suffering Messiah, will not be easy to believe for many people. But, how they respond will determine their spiritual destiny and eternity (cf. John 1:12; 3:16-19; 9:39).

It is possible that "fall" refers to unbelieving Jews tripping over Jesus (cf. Luke 20:17-18; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pet. 2:6-8). He is the stone which the builders rejected (cf. Isa 8:14; 28:16; Matt. 21:42,44; Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pet. 2:8). Hearers of the gospel must make a choice about Jesus. There is no neutral ground about Him (cf. Matt. 10:34-39). He is the Christ or He is a false Messiah (cf. John 10:1-18; 14:6).

▣ "and rise" This same Greek term is translated "resurrection" in other texts. This special Child, the Messiah, will be the only way to be right with God. Trusting Him will determine one's eternal state. The mystery of evil is that even with the Holy Spirit and the good news of Christ, many will reject Him (cf. Luke 8:11-12; 2 Cor. 4:4).

NASB"for a sign to be opposed"
NKJV"for a sign which will be spoken against"
NRSV"to be a sign that will be opposed"
TEV"He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against"
NJB"destined to be a sign that is opposed"

One of the evidences which affirms Jesus' Messiahship is His rejection. This may be an allusion to OT texts like Isa. 6:9-10, of which Jesus says is the purpose of parables (i.e., to hide meaning, cf. Luke 8:10; Matt. 13:13; Mark 4:12; John 12:36b-43). The OT predicts again and again that only a faith remnant will be saved (delivered).

2:35 "a sword" This refers to the large sword which was carried by the Romans. This is a metaphorical reference to Jesus' rejection and crucifixion. Mary was present at Jesus' crucifixion (cf. John 19:26-27). This phrase seems to be addressed to Mary specifically. Notice the dashes in NASB.

▣ "thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" There is no middle ground with Jesus. He polarizes every group and by each one's response, his/her heart is revealed (cf. Luke 8:17-18). Being Jewish never did make one automatically right with God (neither does church membership or religious activity).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:36-38
 36And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

2:36 "prophetess" There had not been any truly inspired spokesperson for God since Malachi (or the writer of Chronicles). Women in places of leadership were not a new or unusual thing in the OT. Miriam, Hannah, Deborah, Ruth, Huldah, and Esther are examples (cf. Acts 2:17; 21:9).

SPECIAL TOPIC: WOMEN IN THE BIBLE

SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S USE OF WOMEN IN MINISTRY

▣ "the tribe of Asher" This shows the presence of a tribe out of the northern ten tribes who were exiled by Assyria in 722 b.c. in Jesus' day; some of the northern tribes did return.

2:37 "widow to the age of eighty-four" This woman had dedicated her life to God after the early death of her husband.

▣ "she never left the temple" This is the kind of phrase that becomes a point of contention among commentators. Some modern believers assert that it must be literal (i.e., she lived there) or the Bible is not true. For me this is obviously hyperbole. She was there during the day and at all special events. Worshiping God was her life. The same issue of literal vs. metaphorical relates to Ezekiel's lying in front of his house in Babylon for days on end (cf. Ezek. 4:4-8).

2:38 "to speak of Him" We are not told what she said, therefore, why would Luke mention her at all? It was to give the evidence of two witnesses required by Mosaic Law (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Both the young (unborn John) and the old (Simeon and Anna) as well as male and female recognized who He was.

▣ "looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" See note at "consolation of Israel" at Luke 2:25. Zacharias also speaks of this in Luke 1:68-74. For "redemption," see Special Topic at Luke 1:68.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:39-40
 39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

2:39 "When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord" Jesus and His parents were orthodox Jews in every sense. They completely fulfilled the Mosaic requirements due at the temple for themselves and their child.

▣ "returned to Galilee" This was Jesus' initial area of ministry, which was predicted in the OT (cf. Isa. 11:1). This would have been the first part of the Promised Land, which was invaded and defeated by Syria, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.

▣ "Nazareth" The village where Jesus grew up was called Nazareth. It is not mentioned in the OT, the Talmud, or in Josephus. It apparently was not settled until the time of John Hyrcanus (i.e., Hasmonaen), who ruled from 134-104 b.c. The presence of Joseph and Mary from this village implies that a clan of David's line settled here.

There may be an etymological connection between the names Nazareth and the Messianic title Branch (cf. Matt. 2:23, "called a Nazarene"), which is netser in Hebrew (cf. Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Rev. 5:5; 22:16). See Special Topic at Luke 4:34.

It was apparently a term of reproach because of its location far from Jerusalem in a Gentile area (cf. John 1:46 and Acts 24:5, even though this, too, was prophecy [cf. Isa. 9:1]). This may be why "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was inscribed on the placard which was placed on the cross above Jesus' head.

2:40 "The Child continued to grow" Jesus developed normally as a human child (as did John, cf. Luke 1:80) physically, emotionally, and spiritually (cf. Luke 2:52, see Special Topic at Luke 1:80). This may be an anti-Gnostic statement. He obviously attended synagogue school with the other children.

See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GNOSTICISM

"the grace of God was upon Him" The Greek term charis has a wide semantic range. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 2, p. 262, list "kindness, gift, thanks, and good will" as possible translations. The sense in which it is used in this verse is unique to the Synoptic Gospels. The term is used several times in Luke's Gospel, but only here in the sense of "grace."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:41-51
 41Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day's journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You." 49And He said to them, "Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" 50But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

2:41 "went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover" Jewish males over 21 years of age were required to attend all three major annual feasts (cf. Ex. 23:14-17; 34:23; Deut. 16:16). In the first century this was reduced to one feast because of the number of Jews living outside of Palestine. This is another evidence of Jesus' parents' dedication to the law of Moses. Mary was not required by law to attend, but she wanted to.

2:42 "when He became twelve" Jesus was coming very close to His Bar Mitzvah, which made a Jewish boy a "son of the Law." This occurred at age thirteen. It is possible that Luke recorded His age as twelve to show how fully developed He was in the Scriptures even at this age. Jesus obviously, by this time, recognized who He was (cf. Luke 2:49).

2:43 "spending the full number of days" These bands of pilgrims came in groups for safety reasons and usually stayed either two or seven days (cf. Exod. 12:15-16; Lev. 23:6-8; Deut. 16:3).

▣ "Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it" Usually in these caravans of pilgrims the men and women traveled separately and often times the children would play together. Probably each parent thought that Jesus was in the care of the other.

2:44 "went a day's journey, and they began looking for Him" Usually these caravans left Jerusalem and stopped at Beereoth, about eight to ten miles from Jerusalem, for the night. The normal distance of a day's journey was over twenty miles.

2:46 "after three days" This includes their one day travel away from Jerusalem, the one-day journey back, and one day to search for Jesus.

▣ "in the temple" On the Sabbath and on feast days the rabbis lectured in the covered porches of the Court of the Women (outermost courtyard of the shrine).

"both listening to them and asking them questions" This is a helpful model for all of us. We all have teachers who have influenced us and we thank God for them. It is good to have a receptive spirit. However, there must come a time of mature reflective thought when we ask questions about what we have been told, even of those we trust. Maturity both listens and questions. The truth that was shared by others must become our truth.

2:47 "And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers" This is an imperfect middle indicative, which suggests a repeated experience. This was Jesus' only known chance to hear the great rabbis in Jerusalem and discuss the Law with them. These would be the same type of leadership that would not listen to Him as an adult.

This verse addresses the exceptional nature of Jesus, while Luke 2:52 stresses the normalcy of Jesus. Both are true. Jesus knew very early who He was and why He came! Yet, He was truly human!

2:48 "were astonished" This literally is "struck with a blow" (cf. Luke 2:48; 4:32; 9:43; Acts 13:12).

▣ "Your father and I" Notice the contrast between Mary's use of the pronoun "your father" and Jesus' use of the pronoun "My Father" in Luke 2:49. Verse 50 clearly states that Mary and Joseph did not clearly make the distinction, but young Jesus did!

▣ "have been anxiously looking for You" This is an imperfect. They had been looking for three days (cf. Luke 2:46) and were extremely anxious about Jesus' welfare.

2:49 "Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house" These are the first recorded words of Jesus. This shows that Jesus knew something of His origin and purpose, even at this early age. This also may be Luke's attempt to refute the heresy of "Adoptionism."

For an interesting discussion of "adoptionism" and how early scribes modified their texts so as to reject this heretical Christology, see Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 47-118. For a brief definition see my glossary in the appendices.

2:50 There are three places in Luke's Gospel where it is specifically stated that Jesus hearers did not understand.

1. his parents – 2:50

2. the crowd – 9:45

3. the Twelve – 18:34 (about Jesus' death)

The Twelve were privileged to much of Jesus' private instruction (cf. Luke 10:21-24), but still they were unable to receive the information about His suffering and death in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 9:32; John 2:22; 12:16; 14:26) until after the resurrection (cf. Luke 24:45).

In John's Gospel this disconnect is part of the vertical dualism (i.e., Jesus is from above but humans are from below).

2:51 "He went down with them and came to Nazareth" This is the last mention of Joseph. Apparently he died at an early age, but the couple had several other children first (cf. Matt. 12:46; 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 2:12; 7:3,5,10; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19).

▣ "continued in subjection to them" This is a periphrastic imperfect passive, "He was continually subject to them." The law was very strict on this (cf. Deut. 21:18-21). Jesus grew up in a normal Jewish household, obeying and following the normal Jewish rules for children.

▣ "and His mother treasured all these things in her heart" Mary remembered these early events (cf. Luke 2:19), but did not understand them (cf. v 50) until after the resurrection. Luke apparently interviewed Mary and she is one of the sources of his Gospel. Possibly this interview took place during Paul's two-year imprisonment at Caesarea by the Sea.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 2:52
 52And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

2:52 Jesus had a normal childhood. He is truly human (contra the Gnostics); that is how He understands us completely (cf. Heb. 2:18; 4:15)! 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus need a sin offering to be offered for Him and Mary?

2. What is so unusual about Simeon's message?

3. Why is Hannah mentioned if her words about Jesus are not recorded?

4. Did Jesus have a "normal" childhood?

5. List the three Jewish rites which are discussed in Luke 2:21-41.

6. Why did Luke omit the account of the wise men and the flight to Egypt?

7. What was orthodox Judaism's attitude toward Jesus?

8. What do Luke 2:40 and 52 imply?

9. Was the occurrence in Luke 2:40 Jesus' Var Mitzvah?

10. Describe what a pilgrim caravan was like. Does this explain how Jesus' parents could have missed Him for a whole day?

11. Why were Jesus' parents astonished? Why was Jesus astonished at their reaction?

 

Passage: 

Luke 3

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Preaching of John the Baptist John the Baptist Prepares the Way Activity of John the Baptist The Preaching of John the Baptist The Proclamation of John the Baptist
3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6 3:1-6
  John Preaches to the People      
3:7-14 3:7-20 3:7-9 3:7-9 3:7-9
    3:10-14 3:10 3:10-14
      3:11  
      3:12  
      3:13  
      3:14a  
      3:14b  
3:15-20   3:15-20 3:15-17 3:15-18
      3:18-20 John the Baptist Imprisoned
        3:19-20
The Baptism of Jesus John Baptizes Jesus Jesus' Baptism The Baptism of Jesus Jesus is Baptized
3:21-22 3:21-22 3:21-22 3:21-22 3:21-22
The Genealogy of Jesus The Genealogy of Jesus Christ The Genealogy of Jesus The Ancestors of Jesus The Ancestry of Jesus
3:23-38 3:23-38 3:23-38 3:23-38 3:23-38

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:1-6
 1Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight. 5Every ravine will be filled, And every mountain and hill will be brought low; The crooked will become straight, And the rough roads smooth; 6And all flesh will see the salvation of God.'"

3:1 "fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" The exact date is unsure, but a date between a.d. 27 to a.d. 29 is possible.

Tiberius controlled the provinces two years before Augustus' death, however, he reigned from a.d. 14-37.

It is obvious that Luke 3:1-2 are Luke's way of precisely dating this event. Luke is far more concerned with corroborating the gospel events with secular history than any other NT author. Christianity is a historically based religion. It stands or falls on the "eventness" which the Bible records.

▣ "Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PONTIUS PILATE

▣ "Herod was tetrarch of Galilee" Herod Antipas, 4 b.c. - a.d. 39, was called governor or tetrarch. He was removed by Caligula for changing his title to "King." See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FAMILY OF HEROD THE GREAT 

▣ "Philip was tetrarch of the region" Of Herod's children, Philip, 4 b.c. - a.d. 34, was the best ruler.

▣ "Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene" This person is mentioned only here in the NT. Josephus mentions an earlier son of Ptolemy, who ruled Chalcis, which included Abila (but not Abilene), beginning in 40 b.c. (cf. Josephus, Antiq. 15.4.1 and 14.13.3).

However, an inscription from Abilene specifically mentions a tetrarch named Lysanias. This inscription is from a.d. 11 or a.d. 14-29. Josephus also mentions a Lysanias connected to Abila (cf. Antiq. 19.5.1; 20.7.1; and Jewish Wars 2.11.5; 2.12.8). Again Luke's historicity is confirmed.

Abilene is north of Galilee and was originally part of Herod the Great's territory.

3:2 "high priesthood of Annas" His name in Greek is Hannas; Josephus calls him Hannanos. The name seems to come from the Hebrew "merciful" or "gracious" (hānān).

In the OT the high priest served for life and had to come from the lineage of Aaron. However, the Romans had turned this office into a political plum, purchased by a Levitical family. The high priest controlled and operated the merchandising in the Court of the Women. Jesus' cleansing of the Temple angered this family.

According to Flavius Josephus, Annas was the High Priest from a.d. 6-14. He was appointed by Quirinius, governor of Syria and removed by Valerius Gratus. His relatives (5 sons and 1 grandson) succeeded him. Caiaphas (a.d. 18-36), his son-in-law (cf. John 18:13), was his immediate successor. Annas was the real power behind the office. John depicts him as the first person to whom Jesus is taken (cf. John 18:13,19-22).

▣ "Caiaphas" Caiaphas was the High Priest, appointed by Rome in exchange for a price, from a.d. 18-36. He was the son-in-law of Annas, High Priest from a.d. 6-15. This powerful family was motivated more by politics and wealth than by spirituality. It is unfair to judge all Sadducees or, for that matter, the Sanhedrin, by them.

▣ "the word of God" This is an OT formula for God speaking to the prophets (e.g., Jer. 1:2). Here it is used for God's message through the last OT prophet, John the Baptist.

▣ "in the wilderness" He was possibly a member of or a visitor to the Essene community (cf. Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:1). The wilderness was also the regular habitation of Elijah. John looked, acted, and lived like Elijah. Jesus will say he fulfills the prophecies recorded in Mal. 3-4 about the coming of Elijah before the Messiah (cf. Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13).

3:3 "baptism" The first century Palestinian background to water baptism was possibly

1. the Essene community (i.e., Dead Sea Scrolls)

2. proselyte baptism for Gentiles converts

3. a symbol of cleansing in Judaism (cf. Isa. 1:16)

 

▣ "repentance" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

▣ "forgiveness" This is a form of the common Greek term aphiēm, often used of forgiving sin (cf. Luke 5:20,21,23,24; 7:47,48). This was also a medical term (aphesis) for the relaxing of disease (cf. Luke 4:39). Luke uses aphesis often in his writings but it appears only once in Matthew, twice in Mark, not in John at all, and only twice in Paul's writings.

John's task was to call Israel back from sin and faithless ritual to personal faith. His message was targeted to the covenant people who had repeatedly broken and misunderstood YHWH's covenant mercy and love. John accentuated the spiritual need that only Jesus could meet!

SPECIAL TOPIC: WORDS FOR FORGIVENESS

3:4-6 This is a quote from Isa. 40:3-5. Only Luke gives the full quote of Luke 3:4 and 5; the other Gospels quote only Luke 3:3. This shows Luke's consistent universalism of the gospel for all people.

Notice the relevant aspects of the OT quote:

1. John was from the "wilderness."

2. John was to prepare the people for the message and ministry of Jesus the Messiah.

3. All obstacles to God, here symbolized by physical barriers, are to be removed.

4. "All flesh" will see and have available God's salvation.

 

3:4 "it is written" this perfect passive indicative of graphō was a Hebrew idiom used to introduce a quote from the OT. The Greek graphē was often used to describe Scripture in the NT (cf. Luke 4:21; 24:27,32).

▣ "in the book" This is the Greek word biblos (cf. Luke 20:42), from which we get the English word "book," and later "Bible," but here it refers to a parchment scroll (cf. Luke 4:20; Rev. 5:1-5).

▣ "Make ready the way" This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. In the Masoretic Hebrew text, Lord (i.e., adon) is read, but YHWH is in the text. The phrase originally referred to physical preparation for a royal visit (cf. Isa. 57:14; 62:10). It came to refer metaphorically to the ministry of John the Baptist spiritually preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah, who is also called "Lord" (i.e., kurios).

▣ "of the Lord" New Testament writers regularly attribute OT writings about YHWH to Jesus.

▣ "Make His paths straight" The Masoretic Text and Septuagint have "make straight the paths of our God." Mark (or Peter) modified the text (or quotes an unknown textual form) to make it specifically relate to Jesus, not YHWH (Luke uses Mark's Gospel here).

3:5 The imagery of this verse can be understood in two ways:

1. Historically it is used of preparing a road for a royal visit.

2. Eschatologically it is used of all physical barriers being removed for God's people to be gathered to Himself.

 

3:6 "'all flesh will see the salvation of God'" "Salvation" is from the Septuagint; Matthew has "glory" (cf. Luke 3:30-32). Universal salvation (i.e., for all who repent and believe) is being emphasized by Luke, who is writing for a Gentile audience.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:7-9
 7So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

3:7 "saying" This imperfect tense shows John the Baptist's repeated message.

▣ "the crowds who were going out" This is a present middle (deponent) participle emphasizing that the crowds continued to come. There was a spiritual hunger in Israel.

▣ "'You brood of vipers’" There was also the presence of the Jewish establishment (cf. Matt. 12:34; 23:23). This is used in Matt. 3:7 of self-righteous Sadducees. We must remember that the people looked up to and admired these religious leaders (i.e., Sadducees and Pharisees). John did not admire them at all, but called them to personal repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15).

"the coming wrath" Eschatological fulfillment calls for a new day of the Spirit, but also a day of judgment (cf. Matt. 24-25). To those who have much, much will be required (cf. Luke 12:48).

3:8 "bear fruits" This is an Aorist active imperative. John demanded a lifestyle change to give evidence of a true change of heart (repentance). This concept of spiritual fruit can be seen in Matt. 7:15-23; 12:33; Luke 6:39-45; Gal. 5:22-23. Eternal life has observable characteristics.

▣ "We have Abraham for our father" These Jewish leaders were trusting in their racial lineage (cf. John 8:37-59; Gal. 3:29). The rabbis believed that God's promises to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Gen. 12,15,17) were unconditional promises, but the OT prophets clearly declare they are conditioned on a faith response (cf. Rom. 9:4-5 vs. 10:1-4). Neither the merit of the Patriarchs nor the covenants of the OT can replace repentance, personal faith, obedience, and perseverance. The gospel does not focus on genealogy, but on faith (cf. Rom. 2:17-29).

▣ "descendants. . .stones" These two words have very similar sounds in Aramaic (sons – banayyā and stone – ’abnayyā). Jesus regularly spoke Aramaic, not Koine Greek. This may be an intentional word play. It could possibly allude to the New Age prophecy of Isa. 56:1-2.

3:9 This same metaphor of fruitlessness and the destruction of the tree is found in Matt. 7:19. This surely has an eschatological flavor. Although the Kingdom came in Jesus, it is not yet fully consummated. At the consummation a separation of judgment will occur (cf. Matt. 25:31-46 and Rev. 20:11-15). There is a spiritual principle, OT and NT—we reap what we sow (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

Fire in the OT prophets is a metaphor of judgment (eighth century examples, Isa. 5:24; 9:18-19; 10:16-17; 26:11; 33:11, 12,14; 47:14; 64:2,11; 66:15-16,24; and seventh century examples, Jer. 4:4; 5:14; 6:29; 11:16; 15:14; 17:4,27; 21:12,14; 22:7; 23:29; 43:12-13). See Special Topic at Luke 3:17.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:10-14
 10And the crowds were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" 11And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." 12And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" 13And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." 14Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."

3:10 "Then what shall we do" Obviously the rules, rites, and liturgies of rabbinical Judaism were not enough. The personal application of truth is crucial in biblical faith (i.e., a heart circumcision, cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25-26; Rom. 2:28-29). We must live what we believe (cf. James 2:14-26). The gospel is a person to welcome (Jesus), truths about that person to be believed (the NT), and a life like that person to be lived (daily Christlikeness).

3:11 "tunics" This Greek word (chitōn) is thought to be a loan word from Hebrew. It is used in the Septuagint for:

1. a woman's undergarment, Gen. 3:21

2. a man's undergarment, Jdgs. 14:19

3. a priest's undergarment, Lev. 6:3

Moulton and Milligan, in their study of Koine Greek writings from the Egyptian papyri, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 688, believe it is a term native to Asia Minor. It had two related meanings:

1. inner garment worn next to the skin by men and women (cf. LXX, Matt. 5:40; 10:10; Mark 6:9)

2. used generically for clothing (cf. Mark 14:63)

In this context the idea is that if people have more than they need, let them share it with others who have need (no clothes, no food).

3:12-14 "tax collectors. . .soldiers" Here are just two examples of John's ethical imperatives. Notice they (people in occupations considered unclean or evil) are not encouraged to change jobs, but to be fair and content. John is following in the OT ethical tradition of the prophets.

The verbs directed to the soldiers in Luke 3:14b are imperatives

1. no one intimidates (aorist active imperative)

2. no one accuse falsely (aorist active imperative)

3. be satisfied with your pay (present passive imperative)

Were these Jewish soldiers? Jews often served as mercenaries (Elephantine Papyri), but most Jews under Roman occupation would not serve. The verbs used imply a heavy-handed treatment of the populace. Would Jews living in the same community treat fellow Jews this way? Rome gave Jews an exemption from serving in the military. It is possible that these were Jews who served in Herod's service and collected his taxes.

Could these be Roman soldiers or conscripts who worked with the tax collectors? The presence of kai in Luke 3:14 came to be interpreted as "even." If so, this shows Luke's interests in Gentiles hearing the good news very early, even in John's ministry. This may be another aspect of Luke's universal gospel.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:15-17
 15Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

3:15 "in a state of expectation" The Greek term prosdokaō is used several times in Luke's writings (Gospel, six times; Acts, four times), mostly for "waiting" (as in the LXX), but also for eschatological expectations (cf. Luke 3:15; 7:19-20; 12:46).

▣ "as to whether he was the Christ" This is a present active optative. Messianic expectations were kindled by John's ministry. These disclaimers serve two theological purposes:

1. to lift up and exalt Jesus

2. to help quell the early church's heresies connected to John the Baptist (cf. Acts 19:1-7 and similar emphatic disclaimers in John's Gospel, 1:6-8,19-42).

 

3:16 "One is coming who is mightier than I" This message is repeated in all three Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:7-8). John knew who he was and what his message was to be (cf. Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). He was the forerunner (cf. Isa. 40:4-5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: OT TITLES OF THE SPECIAL COMING ONE

▣ "I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals" The rabbis said that their disciples should do for them what slaves do for their masters, except untie their shoes. John uses this cultural detail to show his humility and the greatness of the Messiah.

▣ "with the Holy Spirit and fire" This phrase is used in the NT only in contexts which contrast John's water baptism with Jesus' spirit baptism (cf. Luke 3:16; Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Therefore it is a way to show and magnify the spiritual effectiveness of Jesus' ministry. The Spirit and fire are synonymous. This phrase should not be proof texted to denote a separate work of the Spirit. It refers to initial salvation through the gospel. Fire is probably a metaphor of cleansing (cf. Lev. 13:52,55,57), which is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Luke 3:3). John was sent to prepare, but Jesus to accomplish.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE

3:17 "winnowing fork" This is an OT metaphor of judgment, where one separates the grain from the husk (which is burned, cf. Job 21:17-18; Ps. 1:4; 35:5; 83:13; Isa. 17:13; 29:5; 41:15-16; Jer. 15:7; Hos. 13:3; Zeph. 2:2).

▣ "gather the wheat into His barn" This is an eschatological metaphor of the righteous being gathered from an evil world to be at home with God. Notice only two possible outcomes—God's barn or the fire! Many of Jesus' parables play on these agricultural themes.

"unquenchable fire" This is the Greek word for extinguish or quench with the alpha privative, which negates it. This theme is repeated several times in the Gospels (cf. Matt. 3:12; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48). It may be an allusion to Isa. 66:24.

The theological question which this raises is not the eternal consequences of rejecting Christ, but the presence of pain and torment without a redemptive hope (i.e., hell). An interesting book by Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, deals with the option of permanent annihilation for the lost after a period of judgment. I do not want to compromise or diminish in any way the eternal consequences of unbelief. It is hard to know for sure how much of the Bible which deals with the afterlife (good and bad) is metaphorical and how much is literal. Jesus is the person who emphasizes the consequences of hell. Most of Jesus' metaphors of Gehenna come from the garbage dump in the valley and the sons of Hinnom, just south of Jerusalem where the fire god, Molech, was worshiped by the sacrifice of children. Hell is a serious reality, far worse than human languages' ability to communicate. Hell is the isolating and permanent purging of evil from God's creation!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:18-20
 18So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.

3:18 "the gospel" It must be remembered that John the Baptist was the last OT prophet, not a NT gospel preacher. He did not know the full gospel. Here the sense of the term is the "good news" (i.e., gospel) of God's willingness to judge sin and God's coming full provision for sin through repentance and faith in the work of the Messiah (cf. Mark 1:15).

3:19 "Herodias" This text tells us that Herod had John killed at the instigation of Herodias. Josephus tells us he had him killed because he feared a riot (cf. Antiquities of the Jews, 18.5.2). She had been the wife of Philip, the brother of Herod Antipas (cf. Matt. 14:3). They had lived in Rome. She was also Antipas' niece through Aristobulus. Antipas had wooed her away from Philip and married her.

According to Josephus (i.e., Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.4), Herodias was married to Herod the Great's son, Herod (whose mother was Marianne, the high priest's daughter). He also says Herodias' daughter, Salome, later married Philip. It is possible that Herod was known as Herod Philip.

3:20 "locked John up in prison" Josephus tells us it was at the fortress Machaerus (cf. Antiq. 18.5.2,4). This was one of nine fortresses Herod the Great built throughout his kingdom which he used as dungeons for his enemies. Three of these nine were also palaces (Machaerus, Masada, and Herodium). Machaerus was located in the mountain on the eastern side of the Dead Sea (cf. Jewish Wars 7.6.2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:21-22
 21Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened,
 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

3:21 "Now when all the people were baptized" This implies either

1. how successfully John's preaching affected the lives of his hearers

2. that out of a larger crowd all those who responded stayed to be baptized.

 

▣ "Jesus was also baptized" Why Jesus was baptized has always been a concern for believers because John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus did not need forgiveness for He was sinless (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). The theories have been:

1. it was an example for believers to follow

2. it was His identification with believers' need

3. it was His ordination and equipping for ministry

4. it was a symbol of His redemptive task

5. it was His approval of the ministry and message of John the Baptist

6. it was a prophetic foreshadowing of His death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12)

Whatever the reason, this was a defining moment in Jesus' life. Although it does not imply that Jesus became the Messiah at this point, which is the early heresy of adoptionism (cf. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 47-118), it held great significance for Him.

▣ "while He was praying" Luke's Gospel, more than the others, emphasizes Jesus' prayer life (cf. Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18,28-29; 11:1; 22:41). If Jesus, the sinless Son of God, sensed the need to pray often, how much more should we!

3:22 "Holy Spirit. . .Him. . .a voice out of heaven" This is one of several passages in the NT where all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

▣ "dove" This is an unusual symbol for the Spirit. God wanted all to see a physical manifestation of His Spirit on His Messiah. Some think it is related to

1. the Spirit brooding over the waters in Gen. 1:2

2. Noah's sending out a dove in Gen. 8:8-10

3. the rabbis' using it as a symbol for Israel (cf. Hos. 11:11)

John is surely mixing his metaphors to describe the Spirit's work from cleansing fire to the peace and innocence of a dove.

Luke is the only Gospel that has "in bodily form." Apparently Luke is trying to emphasize the physical manifestation of the unseen Spirit. This visible descent was not only an affirmation to Jesus, but a witness to the crowd of just-baptized hearers.

▣ "a voice came out of heaven" This is called a bath kol. It was an interbiblical rabbinical method to communicate that a message was from God (cf. Ps. 2:7; Isa. 42:1). God used a mechanism to which these Jewish hearers were accustomed to reveal His presence and power in Jesus.

▣ "You are My beloved Son" This shows (1) the Father's affirmation to the Son and (2) a witness to the crowd. This is an allusion to Psalm 2, which is a royal Psalm of God's victory on behalf of the Davidic king (i.e., Son, cf. Luke 2:7). This title (Son) is repeated at Jesus' transfiguration (cf. Luke 9:35).

George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 164, has an interesting comment about "Beloved" (agapētos), where he asserts that it appears in the Septuagint as the translation of the Hebrew yachid, "only" (i.e., only Son, cf. Gen. 22:2; Jer. 6:26). Based on this he further asserts that it is synonymous with monogenēs (cf. John 3:16), thus making this quote refer to Jesus as God's only, unique, one-of-a-kind Son (i.e., Messiah).

"in You I am well-pleased" This is an allusion to Isa. 42:1 (LXX), which is one of the Servant Songs of Isaiah. In this verbal affirmation to Jesus and before the believing crowd God unites the OT concepts of royal king and suffering servant (cf. Isa. 52:13-53:12). These are the very words of Mark 1:11.

An interesting discussion of the several variants related to this verse is found in Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 62-67. He asserts that the reading of MS D (which quotes Ps. 2:7) is original, but that since it gave theological support for the heresy of "adoptionism," scribes altered it.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 3:23-38
 23When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, 36the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

3:23 "about thirty years of age" The exact dating of NT events is uncertain, but by comparing other NT texts, other secular histories, and modern archaeology, these dates are moving more and more in a narrow range. This text is not asserting thirty years old exactly, but in His thirties.

▣ "being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph" Joseph is mentioned to fulfill Jewish legal requirements. The term "supposed" validates Luke's understanding and affirmation of the virgin birth (as does 1:34-35).

NASB"the son of Eli"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"the son of Heli"

The only difference in spelling is the rough breathing mark. The real question is, who was Joseph's father? Luke's genealogy has Eli/Heli and Matthew's genealogy has Jacob.

There are several differences in the list of ancestors between Matthew and Luke. The best guess is that Luke records Mary's lineage. And Matthew records Joseph's lineage.

One of my favorite commentators, F. F. Bruce in Questions and Answers (p. 41) mentions another possibility for the differences between Matthew and Luke's genealogies, Matthew records the royal lineage (i.e., the line of succession to the throne of Judah), while Luke records Joseph's actual blood line (a part of the Davidic line, but not the family of royalty).

I guess my problem is that Luke's comments about Joseph being the "supposed" father of Jesus (Luke 3:23) seem to demand that Mary must be of Davidic descent also for the prophecy of 2 Sam. 7:12-16 to be fulfilled.

3:32

NASB, NKJV,
TEV"Salmon"
NRSV, NJB"Sala"

There are several variants related to the name.

1. Sala – MSS P4, א*, (UBS4 gives it a B rating)

2. Salmōn – MSS אi2, A, D, L (from Matt. 1:4,5)

3. Salman – some minuscules (from Ruth 4:20)

4. Salma – not in Greek MSS, but in 1 Chr. 2:11

 

3:33 This verse has many variants. For details see Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary, pp. 207-208.

3:38 "the son of Adam" Matthew, written for Jews, takes the lineage back to Abraham. Luke, written for Gentiles, takes it back to Adam for the beginning of the human race. Luke even alludes to the special creation of humans (cf. Gen. 2:7) made in God's image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Luke make such an effort to date John the Baptist's ministry?

2. Why was John's message so radical in its day?

3. Why were Luke 3:7-9 so striking to the Jews of John's day?

4. Why did Herod have John killed?

5. Why was Jesus baptized?

6. Why is the genealogy in Luke different from Matthew's?

 

Passage: 

Luke 4

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Temptation of Jesus Satan Tempts Jesus Jesus' Temptation The Temptation of Jesus Testing in the Desert
4:1-13 4:1-13 4:1-4 4:1-2 4:1-4
      4:3  
      4:4  
    4:5-8 4:5-7 4:5-8
      4:6  
    4:9-13 4:9-11 4:9-13
      4:12  
    Events and Teachings in Galilee
(4:14-9:50)
4:13  
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry Jesus Returns to Galilee Jesus Begins His Work in Galilee Jesus Begins to Preach
4:14-15 4:14-15 4:14-15 4:14-15 4:14-15
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth Jesus Rejected at Nazareth In the Synagogue at Nazareth Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth Jesus at Nazareth
4:16-30 4:16-30 4:16-30 4:16-19 4:16-22a
      4:20-21  
      4:22  
        4:22b-24
      4:23-27  
        4:25-27
      4:28-30 4:28-30
The Man with an Unclean Spirit Jesus Casts Out an Unclean Spirit The Synagogue at Capernaum A Man with an Evil Spirit Jesus Teaches in Capernaum and Cures a Demoniac
4:31-37 4:31-37 4:31-37 4:31-34 4:31-32
        4:33-35
      4:35  
      4:36-37 4:36-37
The Healing of Many People Peter's Mother-in-law Healed Healing and Preaching Jesus Heals Many People Cure of Simon's Mother-in-law
4:38-41 4:38-39 4:38-39 4:38-39 4:38-39
  Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset     A Number of Cures
  4:40-41 4:40-41 4:40-41a 4:40-41
      4:41b  
A Preaching Tour Jesus Preaches in Galilee   Jesus Preaches in the Synagogue Dawn Departure from Capernaum and Travels Through Judea
4:42-44 4:42-44 4:42-44 4:42-43 4:42-44
      4:44  

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 4:1-13

 

A. It is extremely significant that immediately following God's affirmation of the Messianic Sonship of Jesus (cf. Luke 3:22) the Spirit "drives" Jesus into the desert to be tempted (cf. Mark 1:12). Temptation was in the will of the Father for the Son. Temptation can be defined as the enticement of a God-given desire beyond God-given bounds. Temptation is not a sin. This temptation was initiated by God. The agent was Satan (cf. 2 Kgs. 22:13-23; Job 1-2; Zech. 3).

 

B. Could Christ really have sinned? This is really the mystery of the two natures of Christ. The temptation was real. Jesus, in His human nature, could have violated the will of God. This was not a puppet show. Jesus is truly human though without a fallen nature (cf. Phil. 2:7-8; Heb. 4:15; 7:26). In this respect He was like Adam. We see this same true, but weak, human nature in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed three times for another way of redemption other than the cross (cf. Luke 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). This tendency is the essence of each one of Satan's temptations in Matthew 4, cf. James S. Stewart, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ). How will Jesus use His Messianic gifts to redeem mankind? Any way other than substitutionary atonement was the temptation!

 

C. Jesus must have told this experience to His disciples later because He was alone in the desert. This implies that this account not only teaches us about Christs temptation, but also helps us in our temptations (cf. Heb. 2:18; 4:15).

 

D. The Synoptic parallels of Luke 4 are found in Mark 1:12-13 and Matt. 4:1-11. Since only Matthew and Luke record this full event, and it does not occur except briefly in Mark (1:12-13), scholars say this comes from a list of Jesus' sayings (possibly written by Matthew in Aramaic), which they call Quelle, the German for "source." The account of the temptations is similar (order of temptations vary, but same three temptations and dialogue) that there "must" have been a common source. The problem is that "Q" has never been found, not even a part of it. It is assumed because of logic and church tradition.

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:1-4
 1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone.'"

4:1 "full of the Holy Spirit" This refers to Jesus' baptism in Luke 3:22. Luke's emphasis on the Spirit can be seen by the Spirit being mentioned twice in the opening clauses as well as verses 14 and 18. Notice that the temptations occurred while Jesus was filled with the Spirit, even led by the Spirit (cf. Mark 1:12) into this time of testing (as well as spiritual preparation and mental clarification).

Luke is often called the Gospel of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealed as the empowering source of Jesus.

1. conceived by the Spirit – Luke 1:35

2. came in the Spirit to the temple – Luke 2:27

3. will baptize with the Spirit – Luke 3:16

4. Spirit descended upon Him – Luke 3:22

5. full of the Spirit – Luke 4:1

6. led by the Spirit – Luke 4:1

7. in the power of the Spirit – Luke 4:14

8. anointed by the Spirit – Luke 4:18

Some theologians try to contrast "full of the Spirit" with "filling of the Spirit" as if the first were permanent (which is surely true of Jesus, cf. Luke 4:14; 4:18). However, the "filling" is used of several in Luke's writings:

1. Luke

(a) Elizabeth in Luke 1:41

(b) Zacharias in Luke 1:67

2. Acts

(a) the Seven in Acts 6:3

(b) Stephen, one of the Seven in Acts 7:55

(c) Barnabas in Acts 11:24

Several times in Acts the disciples are said to "be filled":

1. all those in the upper room, Luke 2:4

2. Peter, Luke 4:8

3. the group, Luke 4:31

4. Paul, Luke 9:17; 13:9

Even Jesus has a previous experience of the Spirit in Luke 3:22.

I have included several Special Topics related to the Spirit

1. Spirit (pneuma) in the NT at Luke 1:80

2. The Trinity at Luke 3:22

3. The Personhood of the Spirit at Luke 12:12

4. Spirit in the Bible (see below)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE

▣ "forty days" Mark (Peter) chose a motif from the OT of (1) Moses' forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9; 10:10) and (2) Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years (cf. Num. 14:26-35). Matthew saw Jesus as the New Law giver and deliverer.

The term "forty" was used often in the Bible, implying that it could function both literally (forty years from Egypt to Canaan) and figuratively (the flood). The Hebrews used a lunar calendar. "Forty" implied a long, indefinite period of time longer than a lunar cycle, not exactly forty twenty-four hour periods.

▣ "was led by the Spirit" This phrase is different in each of the Synoptics.

A. Mark (1:12) has ekballō ("to throw out") in its present active indicative form, which would denote an ongoing experience. This was a strong term, used of exorcism (cf. Mark 1:34,39; 3:15,22,23; 6:13; 7:26; 9:18,28,38).

B. Matthew (4:1) has anagō, a compound from ana – "up" and agō – "to go" or "to lead." In its aorist passive indicative form, which denotes a finished, one-time event. This term is also used of offering sacrifices (cf. Acts 7:41).

C. Luke (4:1) has agō in its imperfect passive indicative form, which emphasizes the beginning of an action.

All three assert the action of the Spirit (see Special Topic at Luke 12:12) in this inaugural preparation experience for public ministry.

▣ "the wilderness" This refers, not to the desert, but to the uninhabited pastureland south and east of Jerusalem. It was during the wilderness wandering of Israel (i.e., the Exodus) that YHWH was uniquely present, powerful, and constantly providing for Israel's needs. The rabbis later called this forty-year (actually thirty-eight years) wandering the honeymoon between YHWH and Israel. This was the very region where John had spent his time of preparation.

It is also possible that "the wilderness" symbolizes the dwelling place of evil spirits (azazel, cf. Lev. 16:8,10). These spirits were denoted by certain animals (cf. Isa. 13:21; 34:14-15). There is an allusion to this in Matt. 12:43.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

4:2 "forty" There seems to be some literary attempt by the Gospel writers to connect Jesus' experience in the wilderness with Moses in the wilderness (cf. Exod. 16:35; Num. 14:33-34; Duet. 8:2) or Moses on the mountain of God (cf. Exod. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:18; 10:10). This play on Moses is much more obvious in the Matthean parallel (cf. Matthew 4).

▣ "tempted" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GREEK TERMS FOR TESTING AND THEIR CONNOTATIONS

▣ "by the devil" This is the Greek term diabolos, for the OT Satan. See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN

▣ "He ate nothing" Fasting for spiritual sensitivity was practiced regularly in Judaism of the first century. Although Jesus ate nothing (double negative) this does not mean He did not drink fluids. Physically life cannot be sustained after the third or fourth day without fluids. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING at Luke 5:33.

▣ "He became hungry" Jesus was a normal man with bodily needs. Scholars still debate whether Luke's emphasis on Jesus' humanity was in any way connected to the early church heresy of Gnosticism, which denied His true humanity. (See Special Topic at Luke 2:40).

It is possible that Satan/Devil waited until the end of the fast, when Jesus was weak and hungry, to start the temptations, the first of which deals with bread.

4:3, 9 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence and may have several meanings: (1) the statement is assumed true so that the author can make his point or (2) the author is assenting the truthfulness of the statement. In this context I am assuming #2. The Devil was not doubting who He was (i.e., "the Son of God," 3:22, also mentioned in Luke 1:32,35), but how He would accomplish His God-given Messianic task (cf. James S. Stewart, The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ).

4:3 "stone. . .bread" Apparently these rocks in the Judean desert were shaped like loaves of baked bread used in first century Palestine. Satan was tempting Jesus to use His Messianic powers both to meet His personal needs and to win human followers by feeding them. In the OT the Messiah was described as feeding the poor (cf. Isa. 58:6-7,10). These temptation experiences, to some extent, continued to occur during Jesus' ministry. The feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13-21) and of the four thousand (Matt. 15:29-33) showed how humans would, and did, abuse God's provision of physical food. This again was similar to the problems of Israel's wilderness experience (i.e., God providing food). Matthew saw a parallel between Moses and Jesus. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to perform many of the functions of Moses (cf. John 6).

4:4 "it is written" This is a perfect passive indicative. This was the standard way of introducing an inspired quotation from the OT (cf. Luke 4:4,7,10), in this case, from Deut. 8:3 from the Septuagint (LXX). This particular quote relates to God providing manna to the children of Israel during the wilderness period.

All of Jesus' responses to Satan's temptations were quotes from Deuteronomy (i.e., Deut. 6:13,16; 8:3). This must have been one of His favorite books.

1. He quoted repeatedly from it during His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, Matt. 4:1-16; Luke 4:1-13.

2. It is possibly the outline behind the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

3. Jesus quoted Deut. 6:5 as the greatest commandment, Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28.

4. Jesus quoted this section of the OT (Genesis - Deuteronomy) most often because the Jews of His day considered it the most authoritative section of the canon.

Jesus memorized God's word and hid it in His heart that He might not sin against God (cf. Ps. 119:11). If Jesus needed God's word in His mind and heart to face temptation, how much more do we?

▣ "man shall not live on bread alone" This quote is from Deut. 8:3. There is a Greek manuscript variant involving this quote.

1. NASB, NRSV, TEV, and NJB follow the Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, L, and W (UBS4 gives it a B rating).

2. NKJV follows MSS A and D, which come from the Septuagint translation of Deut. 8:3 and the Matt. 4:4 parallel.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:5-8
 5And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." 8Jesus answered him, "it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'"

4:5 "he led Him up" This is the term anagō, which was used in Matt. 4:1, where Luke has agō. The preposition ana means up. The Matthew parallel has the temptations in a different order, but the parallel adds "to a very high mountain" (cf. Matt. 4:8).

▣ "show Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time" This phrase makes me think that these temptations, real though they were, were in Jesus' mind (cf. George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 49). There was no mountain from which one could see all the kingdoms, even in this one part of the world. The instantaneous time factor further confirms this. This same issue of physical vs. mental can be seen in Ezekiel 8 and John's visions in Revelation.

4:6 "this domain" See Special Topic at Luke 20:2.

▣ "it has been handed over to me" The Bible presents Satan as the ruler (god) of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19). However, he is not the owner.

This is a perfect passive indicative, which denotes something that has become a settled position and was given by an unnamed agent. The crux of the interpretation is "is this statement true" or "is it a lie by the great liar?"

If true, it is a result of Genesis 3. If true, this time of sin and rebellion may have been allowed by God to test His human creation. There is surely mystery here! If false, it just fits into so many other lies of Satan, the accuser and father of lies.

Theologically they may be parallel. Satan successfully tricked Adam and Eve, but he will not be able to trick Jesus, the second Adam (cf. Rom. 5:12-21; 2 Cor. 15:45-49; Phil. 2:6-11). Satan "claims" all authority here, but Jesus has all authority (cf. Matt. 28:18, as well as Matt. 11:27; John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2).

▣ "I give it to whomever I wish" This was a lie. Satan can do only what God allows (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1-2; Zechariah 3).

4:7 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action but with an element of contingency.

NASB, NKJV"worship before me"
NRSV, TEV"worship me"
NJB"do homage to me"

Theologians have assumed that Satan wants to replace God. This is often based on (1) Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 or (2) Dan. 11:36-39 and (3) Revelation 13. The rabbis say Satan, a created angel, rebelled when he was told he must serve fallen humanity. Now he wants to supplant God.

In the OT Satan is a servant of god, but an enemy of humanity. There is a progressive development of evil in the Bible (see A. B. Davidson, An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306).

4:8 This is a quote from Duet. 6:13. Jesus answers the devil's temptations with another quote from Deuteronomy. This was a significant book for Him. He must have memorized it. He quoted it three times to Satan in this context.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:9-12
 9And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10for it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,' 11and, 'On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'" 12And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

4:9 "pinnacle of the temple" This was the corner that overlooked the Kidron Valley where the priest announced the morning and evening sacrifices. The temptation here was to win the world by the miraculous and spectacular. Many Jews expected the Messiah to appear suddenly in the Temple (cf. Mal. 3:1).

4:10 Satan quotes from Ps. 91:11-12. He misquotes it slightly but still in context. This is a good example of how proof-texting is a poor method of biblical interpretation (even Satan can make the Bible say what he wants it to using this method).

4:12 This is a quote from Deut. 6:16. Every response of Jesus to Satan in this context is from Deuteronomy, and all from the sections where Israel was in the wilderness. Jesus refused to force God to act (cf. Dan. 3:16-18).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:13
 13When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

4:13 "When the devil had finished every temptation" Matthew and Luke record these same temptations in a different order. This phrase may imply there were others. However, this may be a summary statement so common in Luke's writings. Jesus knows our temptations and loves us anyway (cf. Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16) because He's been there!

▣ "he left Him until an opportune time" This phrase has implications.

1. temptation is not a once-and-for-all event

2. Satan looks for times of vulnerability (cf. Matt. 16:22-33)

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS, LUKE'S GALILEAN MINISTRY OF JESUS (4:14-9:50)

A. This begins Luke's Galilean ministry of Jesus. The Gospel of John's recording of an early Judean ministry (cf. John 1:19-4:42) does not fit Luke's theological pattern. Luke wants Jesus' visit to Jerusalem to climax His ministry. The majority of Luke's presentation of Jesus is "on the way/road to Jerusalem," which characterizes 9:51 (i.e., "He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem," cf. Luke 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11,28).

This focus on Jerusalem may also be why Luke rearranges the order of Satan's temptations so that Jerusalem is last.

B. Luke takes a day in the life of Jesus (both in Nazareth and Capernaum) and uses it to reveal His whole life and ministry. The themes of "gladly welcomed" and "rejection, even murder" are repeated. Readers see the whole reflected in a part.

 

C. Remember, as Jesus used typological Christology to reveal Himself from the OT (cf. Luke 24:13-35, esp. 25-27), so too, Luke, writing long after Jesus' death, resurrection, and the spread of the gospel, gives us hints of the main points of Jesus' life and message very early in his account. Only a backwards view fully reveals Luke's perspective. Luke's Gospel is as much theology as chronological, sequential history. True historical events are selected, adapted, and arranged for theological impact (see Fee, Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148)!

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:14-15
 14And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. 15And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

4:14 "returned to Galilee" Both Matthew and Luke move directly from the temptation experience in Judea into the Galilean ministry which runs from 4:14 to 9:50. Only John 1:35-4:44 describes the intervening ministry in Judea. Galilee, which in Hebrew means "circle" (BDB 165 II), was interpreted by the rabbis as meaning encircled by the Gentiles. This area was despised by the Orthodox Jews from Judea, however, Jesus' ministry here was a fulfillment of predictive prophecy (cf. Isa. 9:1). Josephus describes this region in Jewish Wars 3.3.1-2.

Mark (1:14) and Matthew (4:12) mention that Jesus' return to Galilee coincided with John the Baptist's arrest by Herod.

▣ "in the power of the Spirit" Temptation does not cause the loss of the Spirit. Jesus spoke the Father's words and acted in the Spirit's power. The fluidity between the ministries of the three persons of the Trinity is evident throughout the NT (cf. Luke 4:18-19). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22.

▣ "news about Him spread through all the surrounding district" This is one of Luke's characteristic statements (cf. Luke 4:37; 5:15; 7:17). He tended to add brief summaries both in his Gospel and Acts.

4:15 "synagogues" This local Jewish institution developed during the Babylonian Exile to offer the Jews who were estranged from their Temple a place of prayer, worship, study, and ministry. It was probably the single most significant means of the Jews retaining their culture. Even after they returned to Palestine they continued this local institution.

▣ "was praised by all" The Gospels record Jesus' popularity with the common people in the local Galilean synagogues. But they also record a growing opposition from the religious leaders.

Luke often adds a comment about how people preserved Jesus' words (cf. Luke 4:22; 8:25; 9:43; 11:27; 13:17; 19:48).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:16-30
 16And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, 19To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." 20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" 23And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" 24And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, He went His way.

4:16-30 The footnote in the New Jerusalem Bible translation (1966) on p. 99 #g makes the interesting assertion that Luke combines three separate visits to Nazareth.

1. vv. 16-22, where Jesus is honored (cf. Matt. 4:13)

2. vv. 23-24, where Jesus amazes the townspeople (cf Matt. 13:54-58)

3. vv. 25-30, where Jesus is attacked, which is not mentioned by Matthew or Mark

The NJB (Jerome Biblical Commentary, pp. 131-132) says this account functions as a theological summary of how Jesus will be initially received and then rejected by Palestinian Jews.

4:16 "Nazareth" The spelling of "Nazareth" (Nazara) is unusual and is found only here and Matt. 4:13, which is also the temptation of Jesus. This seems to give evidence that both Matthew and Luke used a common source for their Gospel accounts.

This was Jesus' hometown (cf. Luke 2:39,51, see Special Topic at Luke 4:34). There is some question as to whether Mark 6:1-6 and Matt. 13:53-58 are parallel or this is a second trip to Nazareth. For me, the similarities are too overwhelming to be a second visit. Luke purposefully places this event first as a summary of Jesus' whole life-ministry.

It must be remembered that the Bible is not a western history. Near Eastern history is selective, but not inaccurate. The Gospels are not biographies, but gospel tracts written to different groups of people for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship, not just history. Often Gospel writers selected, adapted, and arranged the material for their own theological and literary purposes (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart's How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 94-112, 113-134). This does not mean to imply they falsify or make up events or words. The differences in the Gospels do not deny inspiration. They affirm eyewitness accounts and the unique evangelistic purpose of each author.

▣ "as was His custom, He entered the synagogue" Jesus grew up participating in public worship. I’m sure he learned the OT in synagogue school (starting at age 5). Habits are a vital, healthy part of our religious life.

▣ "Sabbath" This is from the Hebrew word meaning "rest" or "cessation" (BDB 992). It is connected to the seventh day of creation where God ceased His labor after finishing initial creation (cf. Gen. 2:1-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but because

1. creation was complete and good (cf. Gen. 1:31)

2. to give mankind a regular pattern for worship and rest

The Sabbath begins like all the days of Genesis 1, at twilight, therefore, twilight on Friday to twilight on Saturday was the official time period. All the details of its observance are given in Exodus (especially chapters 16, 20, 31, and 35) and Leviticus (especially chapters 23-26). The Pharisees had taken these regulations and, by means of their oral discussions, interpreted them to include many rules (the Oral Traditions, later the written Talmud). Jesus often performed miracles, knowingly violating their picky rules so as to enter into a dialogue with them. It was not Sabbath that Jesus rejected or belittled, but the self-righteous legalism and lack of love exhibited by the religious elite.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SYNAGOGUE SERVICE

▣ "stood up to read" The general order of worship in the synagogue service is as follows:

1. prayer

2. a reading from the Pentateuch

3. a reading from the Prophets

4. exposition of the texts (this order was followed by the early church, but they added the reading of the NT)

As was the custom of the Jews, Jesus stood up to read the Scripture, but sat down to teach (cf. Luke 4:20). See Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chapter 10, pp. 430-450.

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy several times during His temptation experience. All were quotes from the Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint. Here in the synagogue of Nazareth His reading seems to also come from the Septuagint. Most Jews of Jesus' day had lost the ability to read Hebrew. They spoke Aramaic, but most could also use Koine Greek as a second language.

I would assume, along with F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 175, that Jesus could read and speak (everyone read aloud) Hebrew. If so, Jesus was trilingual. The real question is what text of the Scriptures was used in the synagogues of Galilee? Most Jewish sources would assert that the reading of the Scriptures would have been in Hebrew, then an Aramaic translation would be provided.

4:17 "the book of the prophet Isaiah" The Hebrew Scriptures are written on long parchment scrolls that had to be turned to find the right place. A good resource book on this type of background information is F. F. Bruce's The Books and the Parchments.

4:18 "This is a partial quote of Isa. 61:1-2 from the Septuagint with the omission of verses 61c and 62b, but with an insertion of a verse from Isa. 58:6d. The combining and editing of OT texts was common in rabbinical Judaism.

There is a variant in the Greek MSS concerning the quote of Isa. 61:1-2.

1. some MSS stop at "He has sent me" – א, B, D, L, W

2. others add the full sentence from Isa. 61:1 – A, Delta, Epsilon

The UBS4 gives option #1, the short text, and A rating (certain).

One wonders if Jesus intentionally omitted the line from Isaiah 61 because He chose not to do any miracles in Nazareth. This may explain why He added another line from Isa. 58:6.

▣ "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" Notice the different divine Persons. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22. The new age of righteousness is the Age of the Spirit.

▣ "He anointed Me" This Hebrew word is the same root as "Messiah" (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11). In Greek the term "Messiah" is translated "Christ." This was a way of denoting God's calling and equipping of leaders. In the OT prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ANOINTING IN THE BIBLE (BDB 603)in the Bible also at Luke 2:11.

▣ "preach the gospel" At this point the full gospel (lit. "good news") is not yet available. Only after Jesus' death and resurrection did His actions and teachings come into perfect focus.

▣ "poor. . .captives. . .blind. . .downtrodden" Notice the types of people that Jesus came to help. His care for these fulfilled many prophetic texts.

4:19 "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" This originally referred to the year of Jubilee (cf. Lev. 25:8-17), but in this context (Isa. 61:2), it applies to the eschatological fulfillment of Jesus' ministry. Clement and Origen of Alexandria said that this means that Jesus ministered only one year, but this is far too literal in understanding how this OT passage is fulfilled in Christ.

4:20 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Luke 1-9 in the Anchor Bible, has an interesting comment on the VERB atenizō (fixed intently). He notes that it is a term used often by Luke, especially in Acts.

"In most instances it expresses a steadfast gaze of esteem and trust—the nuance intended here. It is part of the assembly's initial reaction of admiration or pleasant surprise" (p. 533).

4:21 "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" This is a perfect passive indicative. It speaks of the eschatological fulfillment of the promise of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which was now present in Jesus. What a shocking statement!

The Kingdom of God is the focus of Jesus' preaching. It is the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:10). It is both here and now and yet future!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD

4:22 "all were speaking well of Him" Jesus' initial popularity continued (cf. Luke 4:15), but it will be short-lived at Nazareth!

▣ "Is this not Joseph's son" This question in Greek expects a "yes" answer. This shows the normalcy of Jesus' childhood in Nazareth (i.e., 2:40,52). It was a statement of pride in a hometown boy.

4:23 "proverb" This is literally "parable," which means "to throw alongside of." It was a method of teaching which used a common occurrence of life to illustrate or highlight a spiritual truth.

▣ "'Physician, heal yourself’" The point Jesus is making is obvious: to these townspeople of Nazareth, Jesus held no special place in their minds. They wanted Jesus to do the miracles that He had done in Capernaum in His hometown also. We learn from Mark 6:1-6 that because of their unbelief, He did not do many mighty miracles here (cf. Luke 4:24).

▣ "we heard what was done at Capernaum" This is a good place to see how Luke uses Mark's Gospel. Mark 1:21ff records Jesus' ministry in Capernaum. In Mark, the healing at Capernaum found in Luke 4:31-37 is placed in chapter 1.

The difficulty modern western readers and commentators face in trying to understand the Gospels is that we assume they are chronological, detailed, sequential, cause-and-effect, modern histories, which they are not. For a good discussion on interpreting the Gospels, see Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 113-134.

4:24 "'Truly I say to you’" This is literally "amen." Only Jesus uses this as a literary technique to introduce a significant statement.

SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN

▣ "no prophet is welcome in his hometown" This statement is similar to our English statement "familiarity breeds contempt." It must have been so hard for Jesus' family and neighbors to accept His Messiahship (cf. Mark 6:4; Matt. 13:57).

4:25-27 Jesus mentions two OT examples where God acted in miraculous ways for non-Jews and no miracles for covenant people are recorded (Stephen will pick up on these examples in Acts 7) . This fits Luke's universal emphasis of the gospel's availability to all humans who repent and believe. The majority of Jews, however, will not believe, as in the days of Elijah and Elisha.

Notice that the two prophets mentioned were northern prophets from the area Jesus was addressing (i.e., tenth century b.c. Israel).

4:25 "when the sky was shut for three years and six months" This same time element is mentioned in James. 5:17, however, 1 Kgs. 18:1 mentions only three years. Apparently, this was a rabbinical tradition. It was also an apocalyptic idiom for "a set time of persecution" (cf. Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 11:2; 12:6,14).

4:26 "Elijah. . .sent to Zarephath. . .to a woman who was a widow" God sent His prophet to minister to a needy Phoenician foreigner (and a woman at that), instead of the contemporary Israelis, who were also in need. Luke records Jesus' sayings and teachings which emphasize His love and care for outcasts!

4:27 "Elisha. . .Naaman the Syrian" God sent His prophet (Elisha) to heal a foreign military leader (an enemy at that) instead of the many sick among God's Covenant people, Israel (cf. 2 Kings 5).

4:28 "And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things" God's universal love toward the Gentiles was the source of these nationalistic Jews' rage (the same is true of Stephen's sermon in Acts 7). They did not think well of Him now (cf. Luke 4:22a and 29). They did not want to hear God's truth, but only wanted affirmation of their own biases and nationalistic traditions (not much has changed with humans of every age). These religious worshipers are "filled with rage" against Him who is full of the Spirit. What irony!

4:29 "they got up and drove Him out of the city. . .to throw Him down the cliff" It is amazing how quickly the attitude of this crowd moved from wonder and awe to rage and murder.

4:30 "But passing through their midst, He went His way" This is a remarkable miracle, the exact nature of which is not explained (cf. John 8:59; 10:39). It was simply not His hour (cf. John 7:30). It, at least, shows us that Jesus was an ordinary-looking man of His day.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:31-37
 31And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. 33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34"Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!" 35But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. 36And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out." 37And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.

4:31 "He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee" Capernaum became Jesus' headquarters and He probably moved His family to this locale.

▣ "and He was teaching them on the Sabbath" In these early days of ministry, Jesus spoke in the local synagogues as much as possible (as did Paul, cf. Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16). There would quickly come a time when He was forced to speak to the large crowds in the open air of the countryside.

4:32 "and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority" The Greek term translated "amazed" literally meant "struck by a blow" or "knocked beside themselves." Jesus' message was different (both in content and form) because He did not speak as the scribes who quoted the famous pair of rabbinical teachers like Shammai (the conservative rabbinical school) and Hillel (the liberal rabbinical school). He spoke as one who had authority in Himself (cf. Matt. 7:28-29; John 7:46).

▣ "authority" See Special Topic: Luke's Use of Exousia at Luke 20:2.

4:33 "a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC (UNCLEAN SPIRITS)

▣ "cried out" This implies at the top of his voice.

4:34

NASB, NRSV"Let us alone"
NKJV"Let us alone"
TEV"Ah"
NJB"Ha"

The Greek particle ea is used in the Septuagint of Job where it is translated "alas" in Luke 19:5 and "let alone" in Luke 15:16. It is used in Hellenistic poetry to express displeasure or surprise.

NASB"What business do we have with each other"
NKJV"What have we to do with You"
NRSV"What have you to do with us"
TEV, NJB"What do you want with us"

This expression is used in the Septuagint with a hostile connotation (cf. Jgds. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kgs. 17:18; 2 Chr. 35:21).

▣ "Jesus of Nazareth" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS THE NAZARENE

▣ "us" Notice the plural. In the NT possession often involves numbers of demons (cf. Luke 8:2,27,30).

▣ "I know who You are—the Holy One of God" The demon's recognition and testimony was not meant to help Jesus, but to add to the Pharisee's charge that His power was from Satan (cf. Luke 4:41; 11:15; Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22).

The phrase "Holy One of God" is an OT Messianic title. It is alluded to in Luke 1:35 and Acts 3:14. It is the title by which the demonic addressed Jesus in Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOLY ONE

4:35 "'Be quiet’" This is an aorist passive imperative singular meaning "be muzzled." Notice the switch from "us" (Luke 4:34) to the singular here. Possibly only one demon spoke on behalf of them all.

▣ "come out" This is an aorist active imperative. Exorcisms were common in Jesus' day, but Jesus' methods were radically different. His exorcisms were a sign of the New Age. The rabbis used magic formulas, but Jesus used His own authority. There is so much confusion and bad information circulating today about exorcism and the demonic. Part of this problem is that the NT does not discuss these issues. As a pastor I wish I had more information on this subject. Here are some books I trust:

1. Christian Counseling and the Occult, Kurt E. Koch

2. Demons in the World Today, Merrill F. Unger

3. Biblical Demonology, Merrill F. Unger

4. Principalities and Powers, Hendrik Berkhof

5. Three Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare by Clinton Anthony

It surprises me that exorcism is not listed as one of the spiritual gifts and that the subject is not addressed in the Apostolic letters. I believe in a biblical world view which includes the spiritual realm (i.e., good and evil), present and active in the physical realm (i.e., Job 1-2; Daniel 10; Eph. 2:2; 4:14; 6:10-18). However, God has chosen not to reveal the specifics. As believers we have all the information we need to live godly, productive lives for Him! Some subjects are not revealed or developed.

Several physical manifestations of an unclean spirit leaving a person are recorded (cf. Mark 1:26; 9:26; Luke 9:39). This may have been a way of confirming that the spirit had truly left.

This first sign of power clearly shows the Messianic implications of Jesus. The OT title (cf. Ps. 16:10) by which the demons acknowledge Him and His power to control and judge them clearly reflects the spiritual authority of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Luke 4:27c).

4:36 "amazement" This is a different Greek term from Luke 4:32, but a synonym (cf. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, pp. 311-312). Luke uses it in Luke 4:36; 5:9 and Acts 3:10.

▣ "authority" See Special Topic at Luke 20:2. Jesus' message about Himself was radical and unexpected. He verified His claims with His actions!

4:37 "spreading" We get the English term "echo" from this Greek term. The message of Jesus' power over unclean spirits, as well as His physical healings, caused great excitement and the gathering of large crowds.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:38-39
 38Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. 39And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them.

4:38 "Simon's mother-in-law" Peter was obviously married (cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:29-34; 1 Cor. 9:5). Celibacy is a gift, not a forced norm for clergy. Marriage is the biblical norm (cf. Gen. 1:28; 2:18; 9:1,7).

▣ "was suffering from" This is a periphrastic imperfect passive. This fever was a pre-existent, recurrent problem.

▣ "a high fever" This is a medical term used by Galen for a "category of fever." The Gospels make a distinction between Jesus exorcizing demons and healing sickness.

▣ "He rebuked the fever" In Luke Jesus rebukes

1. demons (Luke 4:35,41; 9:42)

2. fever (Luke 4:39)

3. the wind and waves (Luke 8:24)

4. the disciples (Luke 9:21,55)

This showed His authority and power. Jesus was truly human, but He was also God incarnate. It is hard to hold these two in balance. Luke's Gospel emphasizes both aspects!

Just a word about Jesus rebuking a fever. This literary personification of a physical problem does not make this an exorcism. Demons can cause physical problems, but not all physical problems are demonic. Be careful of the extremes (no demons; demons cause everything)! See note at Luke 4:35 on exorcisms.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:40- 41
 40While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. 41Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.

4:40 "While the sun was setting" This meant it was the end of the Sabbath. The Jews count the day from twilight in the evening to the next twilight following (cf. Gen. 1:5). Many Jews felt even healing on the Sabbath was inappropriate.

▣ "brought them to Him" The people had seen Jesus' power in the synagogue (Luke 4:31-37) and had heard His words of compassion and prophecy. Jesus now shows by His actions that He has both the power and the compassion of YHWH!

▣ "laying His hands on each one of them" Note the laying on of hands was for the sick, never the demon possessed (cf. Luke 4:41).

SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS IN THE BIBLE

▣ "healing them" Notice that Jesus cured all who came! Also notice the distinction between the medical problems of Luke 4:40 and the demon possession of Luke 4:41. These actions reveal the gracious, loving, kind heart of God for humanity and the compassion and power of God's Messiah.

4:41 "many" From the English text it seems that Jesus healed all of those with physical ailments, but only some of those with demons. There are two possible solutions:

1. There is a volitional aspect to deliverance/exorcism.

2. The Bible uses "all" and "many" interchangeably (cf. Isa. 53:6, "all" vs. 53:11,12, "many" or the parallelism of Rom. 5:18, "all" and Rom. 5:19, "many").

 

▣ "the Son of God" See Special Topic at Luke 1:35.

▣ "not allow them to speak" This is another reason that Jesus did not allow their testimony. The people had a false view of His Messianic task (nationalism). These demons were not witnessing to support Jesus, but allowing the religious leaders to claim that His power came from Satan, not God.

▣ "they knew Him to be the Christ" Demons have theological knowledge (cf. James 2:19), but they do not have a personal faith relationship with the Father or the Son. Here is a good example of knowledge without faith being futile (cf Matt. 7:21-23). See Special Topic: Messiah at Luke 2:11.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:42-43
 42When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. 43But He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose."

4:42 This verse is one of Luke's ways of showing

1. the humanity of Jesus and His need to get away and relax

2. the crowds seeking Jesus, not for His teachings, but for His physical healings and exorcisms. He did not want to be known for these things, but they did give Him access to large numbers of people.

 

4:43 "the kingdom of God" The Kingdom of God is a central concept of Jesus' preaching. It involves the reign of God in human hearts now which will one day be consummated over all the earth. The kingdom is placed in the past in Luke 13:28, in the present in Luke 17:21, and in the future in Matt. 6:10-11. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21.

"I was sent for this purpose" Jesus knew something of His special calling and purpose by age twelve (cf. Luke 2:49). Mark 10:45 reveals Jesus' mature self-understanding. Jesus is the Father's special agent, His sent One, His anointed One (cf. John 17:3). The verb here is apostellō (cf. Luke 4:18), which came to be used of those special disciples Jesus commissioned and sent (Apostles of John 17:18; 20:21). This term takes on special meaning in John's Gospel, but in the Synoptic Gospel it is just one of several Greek words used for sending.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 4:44
 44So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

4:44 "Judea" This geographical location is very unusual because of Luke 4:14, 31, and 37. Jesus is supposed to be in Galilee (cf. Matt. 4:23).

Because of the confusion caused by "Judea" (found in MSS P75, א, B, C, L) several early Greek manuscripts have "Galilee" (cf. MSS A and D and the Vulgate and Peshitta), which follows Mark 1:39 and Matt. 4:23.

The editorial committee of the UBS4 gives "Judea" a B rating (almost certain). This may be (1) the use of Judea referring to all of Israel (i.e., the Prophets) or (2) the Gospels are not western histories, but eastern gospel tracts.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Could Jesus have been tempted to sin?

2. Is temptation a sin?

3. Does God ever cause temptation?

4. How is Jesus' Messianic task related to these temptations?

5. Why are the temptations listed in different order (cf. Matt. 4:1-11; Lk. 4:1-12)?

6. Why did the Gospels leave out such large sections of Jesus' ministry?

7. Why did Jesus regularly teach in the synagogue?

8. Why were the people in Nazareth so angry?

9. Explain why Jesus' message was so different from the rabbinical teachers of His day.

10. Why were the people astounded at Jesus' teachings?

11. What about demons? Who are they? What is their purpose?

12. What does Peter's having a mother-in-law imply about celibacy?

13. What is the significance concerning Jesus' healing everyone who was brought to Him?

14. What is the Kingdom of God? Define it in your own words.

15. What is the problem with the word "Judea" in Luke 4:44?

 

Passage: 

Luke 5

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Calling of the First Disciples Four Fishermen Called as Disciples The Unexpected Catch Jesus Calls the First Disciples The First Four Disciples are Called
5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-3 5:1-3
      5:4 5:4-7
      5:5-8  
        5:8-11
      5:9-10  
      5:11  
The Cleansing of a Leper Jesus Cleanses a Leper A Leper Healed Jesus Heals a Man Cure of a Man Suffering from a Virulent Skin Disease
5:12-16 5:12-16 5:12-16 5:12 5:12-14
      5:13-14  
      5:15-16 5:15-16
The Healing of a Paralytic Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic Forgiveness of Sins Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man Cure of a Paralytic
5:17-26 5:17-26 5:17-26 5:17-20 5:17-25
      5:21  
      5:22-24  
      5:25-26  
        5:26
The Calling of Levi Matthew the Tax Collector Call of Levi Jesus Calls Levi The Call of Levi
5:27-32 5:27-32 5:27-28 5:27-28 5:27-28
        Eating With Sinners in Levi's House
    5:29-32 5:29-30 5:29-32
      5:31-32  
The Question About Fasting Jesus is Questioned About Fasting On Fasting The Question About Fasting Discussion on Fasting
5:33-39 5:33-39 5:33-39 5:33 5:33-35
      5:34-35  
      5:36-39 5:36
        5:37-39

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-11

A. There are three separate and unique accounts of Jesus' calling fishermen as disciples.

1. Mark 1:16-20 and Matt. 4:18-22

2. John 1:40-42

3. Luke 5:1-11

 

B. Whether these accounts are parallel eyewitness accounts or subsequent accounts of different callings is uncertain.

 

C. Luke 5 shows Jesus' power

1. over nature (cf. Luke 5:1-11)

2. over disease (cf. Luke 5:12-26)

3. over sin (cf. Luke 5:27-32)

 

D. John 21:1-14 describes a time when Jesus helped these fishermen catch fish. It is very similar to this account, however, there are differences. I believe they are two separate occurrences (possibly like the cleansing of the Temple in John), one at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and one after His resurrection.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:1-11
 1Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." 6When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" 9For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." 11When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

5:1 "the crowd was pressing around Him" Jesus' preaching/teaching/healing ministry caused large crowds to follow Him; most of them tried to touch Him.

"listening to the word of God" This is a Lukan phrase (cf. Luke 5:1; 8:11,21; 11:28; and Acts 4:31; 6:2,7; 8:14; 11:1; 12:24; 13:5,7,44,46,48; 16:32; 17:13). It is used only once in each of the other Gospels. It reflects a Septuagint idiom.

Sometimes we modern believers think the "word of God" is only the Bible, but in reality, the phrase has a much wider meaning. It refers to all that God has communicated to us. Some of it is recorded in the Bible. Psalm 19:7-11 and 119 are OT examples of how the Jews understood this phrase. The NT understanding can be seen in Luke 1:2; 8:11-15,21; 11:28; 24:44. Thank God for the words we do have! We must act on them and not worry about what we do not have. We have all we need for salvation and the Christian life. We must resist our curiosity.

▣ "by the lake of Gennesaret" This body of water goes by several other names.

1. "Chinneroth"

2. the Sea of Galilee

3. the Sea of Tiberias

4. sometimes just "the sea" (cf. Matt. 13:1; Mark 4:1, from the Septuagint of Num. 34:11; Jos. 12:3)

It is a body of water about twelve miles by eight miles and is 680 feet below sea level, surrounded by low rolling hills. The etymology of the term Gennesaret is uncertain. Because it is the name of a land area west of the lake that was very fertile, some suppose it means "princely garden."

5:2 "He saw two boats" This Greek term can be used of any size boat. The fact that this boat was manned by several men in Luke 5:2, 4, and 5 implies that at least one was a large fishing boat.

▣ "were washing their nets" Fishing normally was done on the Sea of Galilee at night. Apparently these men had been fishing all night and simply were washing and repairing their nets (cf. Mark 1:19) for the next night.

5:3 "He got into one of the boats" The press of the crowd was so great that Jesus got into the boat as a means of protecting Himself (cf. Mark 3:9; 4:1) and possibly as a way of amplifying His voice to the large crowd.

▣ "Simon's" He will be the leader of the Apostolic group. Jesus changes his name to Peter (Cephas) in Matt. 16:16-18. He is first called Peter in Luke's Gospel in Luke 6:14.

▣ "He sat down and began teaching" This is the normal position for rabbis when teaching (cf. Luke 4:20; Matt. 26:55), but in this context it would have been safer to sit than stand in a boat.

5:4 "Put out into the deep water" These are both aorist active imperatives. It was the wrong time of day, the wrong place, and the wrong depth to catch fish, yet Peter obeyed (after arguing briefly, cf. Luke 5:5)!

5:5 "Master" The Greek term epistatēs literally means "one placed over." The term was used of one in charge. This term is also used by Luke in Luke 8:24,45. Luke never uses the term rabbi because he is writing to Gentiles (cf. Luke 5:5; 8:24,45; 9:33,49; 17:13).

"we worked hard all night and caught nothing" Why did Luke record this incident out of all the things Jesus said and did? One reason is that this chapter has a series of incidents that show Jesus' power over (1) nature; (2) disease; (3) sin. This would have confirmed His new teachings about Himself and the present Kingdom of God. He not only spoke with authority, He acted with authority (cf. Luke 4:32,36).

Still (noting this is still Luke, not John) one wonders whether this is not a slap at human effort, energy, merit, and knowledge. These professional fishermen tried their best with no results, but Jesus' word was overwhelmingly productive.

5:6 "they enclosed a great quantity of fish" Jesus, being Lord of all creation, understood well the habits of fish and could control them (cf. Matt. 17:27). This is not an example of a great fisherman, but Jesus, God's agent of creation and Spirit-filled Messiah!

5:8 "when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet" The phrase is literally "fell at the knees of Jesus." He fell down in the middle of the fish! Peter, who knew fishing, recognized the miraculous nature of this event and the power of the person!

▣ "Lord" When we interpret the Gospels we must remember they were written well after the events. Those who wrote knew the full story. It is difficult to know how much of their full gospel knowledge is read back into their accounts of Jesus' life and ministry. The term "Lord" is a good example. It is obvious that this term takes on divine attributes after the resurrection (cf. Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:9-11), but also culturally it could simply be a polite address comparable to our "mister " or "sir " (cf. Matt. 18:26; Luke 7:6; 9:57; John 4:11). It is possible that Luke intentionally plays on this ambiguity (cf. Vincent Taylor, The Names of Jesus, p. 42, examples Luke 7:13,19; 10:1,39,41). This account here is a good illustration. What did Peter mean by kneeling before Jesus and calling Him Lord? It is obvious adoration, but was it worship to Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, the Messiah (cf. Luke 9:20)?

▣ "I am a sinful man" The closer we get to God, the more we recognize our own sinfulness (cf. Job 42:5-6; Isa. 6:5). There is also the reassurance that God loves and works with sinful, fallen, marred people (e.g. Moses, David, Apostles). Fallen mankind's only hope is the gracious character of God and the self-giving work of Christ.

5:9 "For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish" The miracle astonished the helpers also.

5:10 "James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon" These would become the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. All of them were middle-class businessmen from Galilee.

▣ "Do not fear" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. This is a characteristic Lukan phrase (cf. Luke 1:13,30; 5:10; 8:50; 12:32; Acts 18:9; 27:24).

▣ "you will be catching men" This Greek phrase implies "catching them alive." This may be an allusion to Jer. 16:16 about YHWH sending fishermen and hunters into the world to find and restore His people. It is possible that the early church's symbol of a fish for Christianity is related to

1. the acrostic, "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior"

2. catching fish, used as an evangelistic metaphor

 

5:11 "they left everything" After a tremendous catch of fish like this, which was worth so much, they left them. The question has been raised, did they leave them to rot? Obviously not. There were other workers of Zebedee, or possibly they were used to feed the crowd.

Here again, one wonders how much this phrase is meant to symbolically characterize true faith (cf. Luke 5:28; 14:33).

▣ "followed Him" This is probably not the first time they had heard, seen, and talked with Jesus. We learn from John's Gospel that Andrew had introduced them earlier (cf. John 1:29-42). I am sure they had heard Him preach and teach. Possibly they had seen Him perform miracles. It is significant to realize they left everything and immediately followed Him! This was a rabbinical way of acknowledging their officially becoming disciples of Jesus (cf. Luke 5:27-28; 9:23,49,57,59,61; 18:22,28).

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 12-32

A. These accounts are paralleled in Mark 1:40-45; Matt. 8:1-4; and Mark 2:14-17; and Matt. 9:9-13.

 

B. These incidents show Jesus' revolutionary attitudes and actions toward lepers and publicans so different from the rabbis of His day.

 

C. Luke purposefully chose incidents which showed Jesus' power

1. over nature (Luke 5:1-11)

2. over disease (Luke 5:12-26)

3. and over prejudice and human sin (Luke 5:27-32)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:12-16
 12While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 13And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. 14And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." 15But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

5:12 "He was in one of the cities" Leviticus 13:46 and Num. 5:2-4 forbade lepers from involvement in normal Israeli society.

▣ "a man covered with leprosy" Luke, the medical doctor, uses several medical terms in this passage.

1. in Luke 5:12 he denotes the severity of the illness by use of a technical term

2. in Luke 5:18 he uses the technical term for "paralyze"—different from Matthew and Mark who used the more popular term

3. in Luke 5:31 Luke uses the medical term for "well"

 

▣ "leprosy" There were many illnesses covered by this term. Whether it is modern leprosy is uncertain. Leprosy (or whichever skin disease was meant) was seen in Judaism as an illness given by God as punishment (possibly because of Uzziah, cf. 2 Chr. 26:16-23).

▣ "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" This man obviously had heard of Jesus' power, but was uncertain of His willingness. This is an example of a third class conditional sentence which means potential action, contingent on other actions.

5:13 "He. . .touched him" Technically this would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean. Jesus' life showed the priority of people over Jewish rules and ceremonial cleanliness.

5:14 "He ordered him to tell no one" Jesus veils His deity in the Synoptic Gospels until the great redemptive events are complete. See full list in the texts at Luke 8:56. Jesus did not want to be known as a healer only. The gospel was not yet complete. Jesus was offering more, far more, than physical healing. From Mark 1:45 we learn this man disobeyed.

▣ "go and show yourself to the priest" This refers to regulations found in Lev. 14:1-32. Jesus wanted

1. to witness to the priest

2. to show that He did recognize and fulfill the Mosaic law

Luke records another leper who was told to do the same thing in Luke 17:14.

5:15 "the news about Him was spreading even farther" Fallen, sick, lonely humanity will go anywhere for help and hope.

5:16 "But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray" Jesus, God's Son Incarnate, set the example for believers' prayer lives (cf. Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18,28). If Jesus needed to get away and pray to face life, how much more do we!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:17-26
 17One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." 21The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" 22But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23"Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," — He said to the paralytic — "I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." 25Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today."

5:17 "One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law" See parallels in Mark 2:3-12 and Matt. 9:1.

▣ "Pharisees" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES

▣ "teachers of the law" This seems to be parallel with "the scribes" of Luke 5:21 (see Special Topic at Luke 5:21). Most of them were Pharisees, but not all. They were the experts in applying the oral and written law to the practical matters of everyday life. In a sense they took over the role of the OT local Levites. These "biblical lawyers" became the rabbis of today's Judaism.

▣ "from Jerusalem" We learn from rabbinical literature that Jerusalem was considered a separate district of Judah. These were Jewish representatives from "headquarters"! In essence these biblical experts convened to examine Jesus.

▣ "and the power of the Lord was present for Him" Notice in Luke 4:14 it says "power of the Spirit." We must remember the close interpersonal relationship between the persons and work of the Triune God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22). Notice also the term "Lord" in this text refers to YHWH. Jesus was YHWH's agent in creation, redemption, and judgment.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS AND THE SPIRIT

There are several related Greek manuscript variants in Luke 5:17. These are attempts by scribes to clarify the sentence.

1. It seems a staggering statement to say Pharisees and scribes from every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem came to hear Jesus (cf. MSS אi1, Ac, B, C, L, W and the Vulgate and Syriac translations), so scribes changed the sentence to refer to those who were being healed (cf. MS א* and some Coptic and the Armenian translations).

This shows that the later scribes, as well as modern westerners, do not understand Eastern literature (hyperbole).

2. The "him" is singular and refers to Jesus (cf. MSS א, B, L, W), but some scribes thought it referred to those being healed and made it plural (cf. MSS A, C, D, and the Vulgate, Peshitta and Armenian translations). UBS4 gives "him" an "A" rating, which means "certain."

 

5:18 "paralyzed" Luke, the Gentile physician, uses the technical, medical term (Hippocrates, Galen), while Matthew and Mark use the common vernacular.

5:19 "they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles" Most homes had outside stairs where the roof was accessible. The roof was a place of socializing and even sleeping in the hot season of the year. Can you imagine what it must have been like for those people sitting in the crowded home when the roof started falling in on them?

5:20 "Seeing their faith" "Their" refers to the friends as well as the paralytic man.

The term "faith" is a major NT term (cf. Luke 5:20; 7:9,50; 8:25,48; 17:5,6,19; 18:8,42; 22:32). The Greek noun is pistis and the verb is pisteuō. This term is translated into English by three words—faith, believe, trust (see Special Topics at Luke 1:45). The concept is crucial for an understanding of salvation (cf. John 1:12; 3:16) and the Christian life (cf. Heb. 11:1,3,6).

The Hebrew equivalent is emeth, which originally referred to someone in a stable stance, but it developed the metaphorical extension of someone who is dependable, loyal, trustworthy, and faithful.

Faith is not something we do, but it is the hand that receives the gifts of God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). It is not a work, but a receptive attitude of need and thanksgiving. We are not dependable, loyal, trustworthy, or faithful, but God is! We trust His trustworthiness; we faith His faithfulness. The hope of all fallen humanity is the unchanging character of God, His mercy and grace towards His rebellious human creation.

These friends believed Jesus, as God's representative, would act graciously toward their friend and they would do anything to get their friend to Jesus (cf. Luke 7:9,50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). Oh, that friends had that kind of love and concern today!

▣ "your sins are forgiven" The grammatical form is a Perfect passive indicative. This was an astonishing statement. It was meant to provoke a dialogue with the religious leaders who were present. In rabbinical Judaism, sin and sickness were related (cf. John 5:14 and James. 5:13-15, however, not all sin is related to sickness, cf. John 9:3). Human guilt causes many physical ailments.

5:21 "scribes" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SCRIBES

▣ "Who can forgive sins, but God alone" This was exactly Jesus' point! Jesus was clearly, unambiguously giving them the sign they asked for. He is clearly proclaiming His Messiahship.

5:22 "But Jesus, aware of their reasonings" Does this imply that

1. Jesus overheard them

2. Jesus knew their theology

3. Jesus read their minds

The end of Luke 5:22 implies #3.

5:23-24 The man's healing was an outward sign for these religious leaders of the purpose, power, and person of the Messiah (cf. Luke 4:18-19). Instead of praise and adoration (which they initially gave, cf. Luke 5:25-26), their hearts will turn to self-interest, even murder (cf. Luke 22:2; Matt. 12:14; 26:1; Mark 14:1; John 5:18; 7:1,19; 8:37,40; 11:53).

Healing can occur without faith. Jesus healed people as a means of

1. getting the attention of His hearers

2. demonstrating the power and compassion of God and His Messiah

3. training the disciples

Forgiveness of sin, however, is never possible without personal faith.

SPECIAL TOPIC: IS HEALING GOD's PLAN FOR EVERY AGE?

5:24 "Son of Man" This term is Jesus' chosen self-designation. In the book of Ezekiel (example 2:1; Ps. 8:4) it means simply "human being," but in Dan. 7:13-14 it derives an added connotation of deity (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). This term was not used by rabbinical Judaism and, therefore, it did not have militaristic, nationalistic, exclusivistic connotations. See fuller note at Luke 6:5.

The parallel in Matt. 9:8 has the phrase "glorified God, who had given such authority to men." The comment accentuates the human aspect of "Son of Man." One wonders how much the more developed Gnosticism of Luke's day is reflected in Luke choosing those aspects of Jesus' life and teachings which reflect His humanity.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF MAN

▣ "has authority on earth to forgive sins" This was the central question of the Jewish leaders. Where did Jesus get His power and authority (see Special Topic: Authority at Luke 20:2)? They could not deny His miracles or the power of His teaching, so they tried to attribute His authority to the Evil One.

5:26 "they were filled with fear" Jesus was filled with the Spirit before birth (cf. Luke 1:15). Elizabeth and Zacharias were filled with the Spirit so they could better understand His person and birth (cf. Luke 1:41,67), but the Jews (i.e., Nazarites) are filled with anger (cf. Luke 4:25) and their leaders are filled with fear (cf. Luke 5:26) and rage (cf. Luke 6:11).

Luke continues this theme in Acts.

1. The disciples are filled with the Spirit (cf. Luke 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9).

2. The Jewish leaders (Sadducees) were filled with jealousy (cf. Luke 5:17).

3. The Jewish crowd at Pisidian Antioch was filled with jealousy (cf. Luke 13:45).

One's reaction to the gospel determines what one is filled with.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:27
 27After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 28And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

5:27 "a tax collector named Levi" We know from Mark 9:9 that he was also called "Matthew" (gift of YHWH). We also know from Mark 2:13 that he was "son of Alphaeus." Apparently Jesus did not change his name, but he had one Jewish name and one Galilean name.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHART OF APOSTLES' NAMES

▣ "tax booth" This occupation was a position purchased from both the Romans and the Herods and was open to great abuse. Obviously Levi collected Herodian and Roman taxes on the major road known as the Via Maris. He was completely ostracized by the local Jews from all religious and social events because of this. Luke chooses to record several events involving these social pariahs (cf. Luke 3:12-13; 5:27-28,29-32; 7:34; 15:1-2; 18:9-14; 19:1-10). This was Luke's way of assuring his Gentile readers that YHWH and His Christ would include them by faith also.

▣ "'Follow Me'" This is a present active imperative. The fact that Jesus would call a tax collector to follow Him was absolutely amazing to the people of Capernaum and even to the disciples. It was surely a symbol that the gospel was open to all people.

5:28 "And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him" Apparently he had heard Jesus preach. He acted in the same way as James, John, and Peter (cf. Luke 5:11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:29-32
 29And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" 31And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

5:29 "Levi gave a big reception. . .a great crowd of tax collectors" Luke records many dinners which Jesus attended, always for the purpose of teaching and revealing Himself (cf. Luke 7:36; 9:12; 10:38; 11:37; 14:1; 19:7; 22:14; 24:30; 24:41). Because Capernaum was on a major road, there was a large number of tax collectors.

Everyone else in town would be shocked that Jesus would associate with, even eat with, this group and their outcast friends (another insight into the gospel, cf. Luke 7:34; 15:1-2).

Jesus ate with the socially and religiously outcast as a way of initiating a religious dialogue with them. They flocked to Him because He acted so different from the self-righteous rabbis and scribes. Eating was a special event in the Ancient Near East which expressed friendship and acceptance. They would have reclined on their left elbow around a low horseshoe-shaped table with their feet behind them (this has been challenged by J. Jeremias in his book The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, pp. 20-21. He asserts the Jews did not regularly follow the Mediterranean custom of reclining, except during feast days). In the Near East others who were not invited to the meal could come in to the dining area and stand around the walls or at the door or windows and listen to the conversation.

One wonders how much eschatological symbolism should be read into this context. Is this feast a foreshadowing of the Messianic banquet which will include outcasts (cf. Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29, possibly reflecting Isa. 59:15b-21)? If so, then there is the theological insight that temporal fellowship with Jesus mirrors eschatological kingdom fellowship. Sinners are reconciled now and in eternity! All sinners are welcome (and all are sinners, even the OT covenant people, cf. Rom. 3:9-18).

5:30 "Pharisees" These Pharisees were present at the dinner, but were not a part of the dinner. It seems unusual, but in the ancient world anyone could come and stand around the walls or look in the windows and participate in the conversation without being an official guest at the dinner. Apparently "the Pharisees" was another name for "the scribes," who were mentioned earlier in this context. They were a group of committed Jews who followed a particular tradition affirming the Oral Tradition of the Jews (the Talmud). Notice that they confronted the disciples and not Jesus Himself. Jesus, by eating with these notorious sinners, was expressing fellowship and friendship. John the Baptist had come earlier as an ascetic and the Jewish leaders had rejected him; now they rejected Jesus, who came as a more social person (cf. Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). They even accused Jesus of being a "wine-bibber," which meant a "glutton" or "one who over-drinks." Quite often religious conservatism has an ugly and self-righteous side.

For a discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see Special Topics: Pharisees at Luke 5:17 and Scribes at Luke 5:21.

▣ "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners" The verbs are both present active indicatives, which implies a regular activity. I think many "church people" would ask this same question today, which shows how easy it is to forget the purpose of Jesus' coming.

5:31 "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick" The parallel in Mark 2:15-17 is helpful. I would like to insert a note from my commentary on Mark 2 (see www.freebiblecommentry.org).

"2:17 "those who are sick" They had a sense of need that was essential for faith (cf. Matt. 5:3-4) and Jesus was their healer and friend (cf. Luke 7:34; 19:10).

▣ "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" This is an ironic, possibly sarcastic, statement like Mark 7:19. This statement was not meant to imply that the religious leaders were righteous (cf. Matt. 5:20) and, therefore, did not need to repent, but rather that Jesus' message (cf. Mark 1:14-15) was more appealing to those who sensed their own spiritual need. Jesus uses proverbial statements often in His teaching (cf. Mark 2:17,21,22,27; 3:27; 4:21,22,25; 7:15; 8:35,36,37; 9:40,50; 10:25,27,31,43-44). No one is more blind than those who think they see!

In his book, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, Robert H. Stein makes a good point about this statement:

'Although the term "totalitarian" has many negative connotations, Archibald M. Hunter's use of this term is an accurate one and describes well the total commitment that Jesus demanded of his followers. On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and that the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him. . .according to Jesus, the fate of man centers around him. Rejection of him means eternal judgment; acceptance of him means acceptance by God. The pivotal point of history and salvation, Jesus claims, is himself. To obey him is to be wise and escape judgment, but to reject his words is to be foolish and perish, for his words are the only sure foundation upon which to build (Matt. 7:24-27).' (p. 118)."

▣ "well" This was used as a technical medical term for "wholeness."

5:32 "repentance" The Greek term "repentance" means a change of mind. The Hebrew term for "repentance" means a change of action. Both are required for true biblical repentance. It is turning from (repentance), as well as a turning to (faith). We can see this so well in Mark 1:15, where it says "repent and believe" (cf. Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). This shows the positive aspect of faith and the negative aspect of repentance. Jesus said it so well when He said "unless you repent you shall all likewise perish" (cf. Luke 13:3). See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 5:33-39
 33And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink." 34And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." 36And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'"

5:33 In the parallel (and probably the original account) Mark 2:18 has the Jewish leaders asking Jesus' disciples a question (cf. MSS אi*,2, A, C, D, and the Vulgate and Syriac translations), but in Luke it is a statement (cf. MSS P4, אi1, B, L, W, and several Coptic translations). The UBS4 translation committee said Luke's statement was "almost certain" (B rating) to be the original. Later, scribes changed the form to make it conform to Mark's account.

▣ "fast" The Pharisees and John's disciples were culturally conditioned to fast twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (cf. Luke 18:12). The Mosaic Law had only one fasting day a year, the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). These twice-a-week fasts are a good example of developed traditionalism (cf. Zechariah 7-8). Fasting loses its spiritual value when it becomes mandatory and draws attention to itself (cf. Matt. 6:16-18). See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING

5:34-35 "the bridegroom" The question of Luke 5:34 expects a "no" answer. There is so much OT imagery involved in the concept of "bridegroom." In the OT YHWH is the bridegroom or husband of Israel. However, it is never a Messianic title. In this context Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride (cf. Eph. 5:23-32). In Luke 5:35 "the bridegroom is taken away" refers to a time when a separation will occur.

Now, as interpreters, we have two choices. First, we can see this as a cultural metaphor about a time of joy connected to a wedding. No one fasts during a wedding! Second, we can see it as parabolic of Jesus' time on earth and His coming crucifixion. Mark (who recorded Peter's sermons in Rome and developed them into the first Gospel) would have known the full implication of these metaphorically-laden terms (in Judaism the bridegroom was a metaphor, not of the Messiah, but of the coming Kingdom of God). Is this a prediction of Jesus' death? He has clearly revealed His Messiahship and deity through His words and deeds (i.e., exorcism, healings, forgiving of sins). His followers will fast in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.

5:36 The Markan (2:21) and Matthean (9:16) parallels help us understand this parable by noting that the patch is from an unshrunk piece of cloth (it will shrink). The new patch (Jesus and the gospel) will destroy the old clothing (Judaism).

There has been much discussion about how to apply this truth. It seems to emphasize the need to be flexible in one's faith. However, one must be careful as to the nature and extent of this flexibility. It is a condemnation of rabbinical Judaism's literalistic interpretation of the Oral Tradition. God help us! Sometimes we are more committed to our traditions and legalisms than we are to God (cf. Isa. 29:13). This parable is paralleled in Mark 2:19-20 and Matt. 9:16-17.

5:37 "wineskins" This referred to goats being skinned in such a way as to allow the skins to be used as a container for liquids (i.e., water, Gen. 21:15; milk, Jdgs. 4:19; and wine, Jos. 9:4,13). These newly-tanned skins would have elastic qualities. When these skins became old, the fermentation process and expansion of the new wine would cause them to split. Judaism was unable to receive Jesus' insights and corrections and, therefore, was about to be made null and void. The new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) has come in Jesus! Nothing can remain the same.

5:39 The fifth century a.d. Western family of manuscripts, D (Bezae), omits Luke 5:39 because

1. it is omitted by Mark 2:22 and Matt. 9:17

2. it seems to give priority to the OT (cf. Metzger, A Textual Commentary, p. 139)

Where did Luke get the closing comment? It is not from Mark. It is not in Matthew, so possibly not in "Q" (Quell, saying of Jesus possibly written by Matthew). Luke apparently interviewed many people. It must be oral tradition.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Luke 5 such an important chapter in showing Jesus' power and preeminence?

2. Why did Jesus want the leper to show himself to the priest?

3. Why did Jesus tell the leper not to tell anyone?

4. Why did Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven"?

5. Why was Jesus' invitation for a tax collector to become a disciple so radical?

 

Passage: 

Luke 6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath Jesus and Sabbath Laws The Question About the Sabbath Picking Corn on the Sabbath
6:1-5 6:1-5 6:1-5 6:1-2 6:1-5
      6:3-4  
      6:5  
The Man With A Withered Hand Healing on the Sabbath   The Man With a Paralyzed Hand Cure of the Man With a Withered Hand
6:6-11 6:6-11 6:6-11 6:6-10 6:6-11
      6:11  
The Choosing of the Twelve The Twelve Apostles Choosing the Twelve Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles The Choice of the Twelve
6:12-16 6:12-16 6:12-16 6:12-16 6:12-16
Ministering to a Great Multitude Jesus Heals a Great Multitude The Sermon on the Plain
(6:17-49)
Jesus Teaches and Heals The Crowds Follow Jesus
6:17-19 6:17-19 6:17-19 6:17-19 6:17-19
Blessing and Woes The Beatitudes   Happiness and Sorrow The First Sermon: the Beatitudes
6:20-26 6:20 6:20-21 6:20-21 6:20-21
  6:20b-23      
    6:22-25 6:22-25 6:22-23
  Jesus Pronounces Woes     The Curses
  6:24-26     6:24-25
    6:26 6:26 6:26
Love for Enemies Love Your Enemies   Love for Enemies Love of Enemies
6:27-36 6:27-36 6:27-31 6:27-31 6:27-36
    6:32-36 6:32-36  
Judging Others Do Not Judge   Judging Others Compassion and Generosity
6:37-42 6:37-42 6:37-38 6:37-38 6:37-38
        Integrity
    6:39-42 6:39-40 6:39-42
      6:41-42  
A Tree Known by Its Fruit A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit   A Tree and Its Fruit  
6:43-45 6:43-45 6:43-45 6:43-45 6:43-45
The Two Foundations     The Two House Builders The True Disciple
6:46-49 6:46-49 6:46-49 6:46-49 6:46
        6:47-49

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter seems to divide into several separate incidents:

1. Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees over His disciples' eating grain on the Sabbath (cf. Luke 6:1-6)

2. Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees over the "healing of the man with the withered hand" on the Sabbath (cf. Luke 6:6-11)

3. Jesus chooses twelve disciples (cf. Luke 6:12-19)

4. Luke's recording of a sermon similar to "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matt. 5:7 (recorded in Luke 6:20-49)

 

B. There is an obvious difference between the "Sermon on the Mount" recorded in Matthew and "The Sermon on the Plain" in Luke (cf. Luke 6:17). Luke seems to be written on the level of social conditions and attitudes toward our material world (some scholars would say Luke is dealing with a delayed Parousia); whereas Matthew seems to be written as a progression of spiritual levels progressing to Christlikeness (an eschatological setting). It is uncertain why Luke includes the "curses" (i.e., OT prophetic "woes." These woes are antithetically parallel to the blessings), while Matthew completely leaves them out (this shows the sermons recorded in the NT are not verbatim, but summaries and excerpts). Basically, the Beatitudes are not specific commands to be followed, but examples of an attitude toward our present world and our place in it. It is hard to decide whether or not Luke and Matthew record two different sermons using similar themes and examples (cf. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, p. 312 and 366) or the same sermon recorded differently (cf. D. A. Carson, "Matthew" in Expositor's Bible Commentary). Remember each of the Gospel writers selected, adapted, and rearranged Jesus' teachings to address their target audiences. Luke leaves out much of the Jewish elements in Jesus' teaching that Matthew records for his Jewish readership.

 

C. Luke's version of Jesus' sermon has been greatly ignored by scholarship. Most interpreters use Matthew's account to interpret Luke's account. However, they are very different. Luke's beatitudes are not eschatological, but contemporary. Jesus is addressing His disciples (cf. Luke 6:20). The Kingdom is here! Believers' outward physical conditions must not affect their trust and joy in God.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:1-5
 1Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 2But some of the Pharisees said, "Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 3And Jesus answering them said, "Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, 4how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?" 5And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

6:1 "passing through some grainfields" This referred to the footpaths through the grain fields which surrounded the villages and towns. These "grainfields" could refer to any kind of cereal grain grown in this area (e.g., barley, wheat).

The Talmud taught that any journey over 2,000 paces on the Sabbath was considered work and, therefore, not permitted. It is interesting that the crowds, along with the Pharisees and the Scribes, were following Jesus on the Sabbath, therefore, they also were guilty of breaking this Sabbath law.

This reflects Luke's continuing emphasis on the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders over the Oral Law (traditions of the Elders). Their legalism came from a sincere desire to keep God's word! They were sincere and obviously very committed. They believed that Moses received the oral traditions from God on Mt. Sinai and passed them on verbally. It is at this point that Jesus' three parables of Luke 5:33-39 are crucial.

▣ "on a Sabbath" This phrase is found in MSS P4, א, B, L, W and UBS4 gives it a "C" rating because a more unusual (unique) option, "on the second first Sabbath," is found in MSS A, C, D, K, X, Delta.

There have been several theories about the unique wording.

1. From a Semitic expression from a Palestinian priestly calendar referring to the Sabbath after the feast of unleavened bread, but the second after Passover, from which the Jews count 50 days until Pentecost (cf. Lev. 23:15, see Archer Bible Commentary, vol. 28, p. 607.

2. From a scribal error confusing the three mentions of Jesus' activities of the Sabbath (cf. Luke 4:16,31; 6:1, see Bruce Metzger, Textual Commentary, p. 139).

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH

▣ "His disciples were" Obviously the disciples were following their Master and were violating the traditional Sabbath laws (cf. Matt. 12:1).

▣ "picking the heads. . .rubbing them in their hands" The Pharisees considered the disciples' actions as

1. harvesting

2. winnowing

3. preparing food on the Sabbath

These actions were illegal according to their oral traditions based on Exod. 34:21. For one example of the rabbinic traditions see Shabbath 7:2. Jesus' disciples were not doing anything illegal in their actions according to the gleaning laws of the OT (cf. Deut. 23:25); the problem was the day (cf. Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:15; Deut. 5:12-15) on which they did it! It seems that the Gospel writers record Jesus' actions on the Sabbath to show

1. the controversies they caused

2. that Jesus did these kinds of things every day and the Sabbath was no exception

 

6:2 "some of the Pharisees" The Pharisees were assuming that Jesus was violating Exod. 34:21. This shows that Jesus always had a crowd following Him. That crowd was made up of disciples, the sick, the curious, and representatives of the religious leaders trying to catch Him in a situation they could exploit.

It is this mixture (1) of motives and (2) the people to whom Jesus is speaking which causes some of Jesus' teaching (without their specific context) to be so difficult to interpret because we are unsure to whom He addressed His teachings.

6:3 "Have you not even read what David did" This incident from David's life seems to emphasize that human need takes precedence over legalistic rituals and traditions (cf. 1 Sam. 21:1-6). Just a brief comment about this account in 1 Samuel, I think David lied to the priest at Nob to protect him from the charge of helping David. Unfortunately he was killed by Saul for his supposed treason by helping David.

6:4 "the house of God" This refers to the Tabernacle (cf. Exod. 25-31).

▣ "bread" This refers to the twelve large loaves of bread (which symbolized God's provision for the Twelve Tribes) that were placed on the table in the Holy Place and were replaced every seven days. These loaves were for the priests alone to eat (cf. Exod. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9). They weighed approximately 6 1/4 pounds.

▣ "and gave it to his companions" This phrase is repeated in all three Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 12:3; Mark 2:25). This is the implication of 1 Samuel 21, but in reality, David was lying about having companions. He apparently did this to protect the priests at Nob whom he knew Saul would retaliate against. David's companions, as well as other disgruntled Israelites, did not join him until 1 Sam. 22:1.

6:5 "The Son of Man" This was an adjectival phrase from the OT. It was used in Ezekiel 2:1 and Ps. 8:4 in its true etymological meaning of "human being." However, it was used in Dan. 7:13 in a unique context which implied both the humanity and deity of the person addressed by this new eschatological royal title (cf. Mark 8:38; 9:9; 13:26; 14:26). Since this title was not used by rabbinical Judaism and, therefore, had none of the nationalistic, exclusivistic, militaristic implications, Jesus chose it as the perfect title of both veiling and revealing His dual nature, fully man and fully divine (cf. 1 John 4:1-6). It was His favorite self-designation. It is used twenty three times in Luke (cf. Luke 5:24; 6:5; 9:22,26,44,58; 11:30; 12:8,10,40; 17:22,24,26,30; 18:8,31; 20:13; 21:27,36; 22:22,48,69; 24:7).

▣ "is Lord of the Sabbath" This has staggering Messianic implications (cf. Matt. 12:6). The Sabbath (see Special Topic at Luke 6:1) was divinely instituted (cf. Gen. 2:1-3; Exod. 28:11) and here Jesus claims to be Master and Ruler over it.

The Sabbath regulations had become the priority. These traditions, not love for humans made in God's image, had become the issue of religion. The priority of rules had replaced the priority of people. Merit had replaced love. Religious traditions (i.e., the Oral Law) have replaced God's intent (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23).

How does one please God? A good OT analogy might be sacrifice. God intended it as a way for sinful, needy humanity to come to Him and restore broken fellowship, but it turned into ritual, liturgical procedure. So too, Sabbath law! Mankind had become the servant instead of the object (i.e., the reason for the laws).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:6-11
 6On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. 8But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. 9And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" 10After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

6:6 "On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching" This event is paralleled in Matt. 12:9-14 and Mark 3:1-6. The synagogue developed during the Babylonian Exile. It was primarily a place of education, prayer, worship, and fellowship. It was the local expression of Judaism, as the Temple was the national focal point.

Jesus attended the synagogues regularly. He learned His Scriptures and traditions at synagogue school in Nazareth. He fully participated in first century Jewish worship.

It is also interesting that Jesus, apparently purposefully, acted in provocative ways on the Sabbath and in synagogue. He intentionally violated the Oral Traditions (i.e., Talmud) of the elders so as to enter into a theological confrontation/discussion with the religious leaders (both local and national; both Pharisees and Sadducees). The best extended discussion of His theology as it deviates from the traditional norms is the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 5-7, especially 5:17-48).

▣ "a man there whose right hand was withered" Only Luke, the physician, records the detail that it was the right hand, which probably means his vocational life had been terminated.

6:7 "scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely" This is an imperfect middle indicative which refers to repeated action, the beginning of an action, or the beginning of an action in past time. There was always a contingent of these religious leaders trying to trap or catch Jesus in an infraction of the written or Oral Law (cf. Luke 14:1; 20:20; Mark 3:2).

"if" This is a first class conditional sentence which follows Mark 3:2. They assumed He would do something that violated their traditions.

"to accuse Him This is a common verb in the Septuagint (cf. Deut. 6:5; I Macc. 7:6,25; II Macc. 4:47; 10:13,21).

6:8 "He knew what they were thinking" See note at Luke 5:22. This same term is used in Luke 9:47 in reference to the disciples, while in Luke 5:22 and 6:8 it refers to His enemies.

▣ "'Get up and come forward'" These are both imperatives, the first a present active and the second an aorist active. This man did not ask to be healed, but Jesus uses him as an object lesson for the disciples and the Pharisees. Often Jesus' use of miracles was primarily to teach those who observed.

6:9 This is the issue! What is the Sabbath for (cf. Matt. 12:11; Mark 3:4)?

▣ "a life" This is a good example of the Greek word psuchē used of a person or a life, not of a "soul." Biblically speaking, humans do not have "a soul"; they are a soul (cf. Gen. 2:7). There are several different words in Hebrew and Greek that refer to aspects of humanity, but are really synonymous of earthly life.

6:10 "looking around at them all" Mark (Peter) adds "in anger" (cf. Mark 3:5).

▣ "he said to him" Some ancient Greek texts add "in anger" (NKJV), which comes from Mark 3:5 where it is directed at the Pharisees, not the crippled man. The UBS4 gives the shorter text (MSS P4, א, A, B, C, W) an A rating (certain).

▣ "'Stretch out your hand'" This is an aorist active imperative. The Talmud allows for medical help to save a life on the Sabbath, but not to heal.

"and he did so" Here is the man's faith act.

6:11 "they themselves were filled with rage" This shows the ongoing scheming of the religious leaders (cf. Mark 3:6). The word "rage," "unreasoning fury," is made up of the word for "mind" (nous) with the alpha privative. This term is used in the Gospels only here, but it is used by Paul in 2 Tim. 3:9. It was a common term in wisdom literature in the Septuagint (cf. Job 33:23; Ps. 22:3; Pro. 14:8; 22:15; and Eccl. 11:10).

"and discussed together what they might do to Jesus" From Mark 3:6 we learn that the consultation was held between the Herodians and the Pharisees, who were traditional enemies (in politics and religion).

These leaders saw themselves as YHWH's defenders! It is amazing that the religious leaders saw no conflict in their premeditated murder compared to Jesus' supposed ritual and Sabbath breaking (cf. Matt. 26:4; John 11:53).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:12-16
 12It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 14Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

6:12 "He went off to the mountain" In the OT psalms mountains are places of safety, strength, and permanence. They are associated with YHWH's presence (cf. Ps. 121:1) or with the temple (i.e., Mt. Moriah, cf. Ps. 87:1). Moses met YHWH on a mountain (i.e., Mount Sinai, cf. Exod. 19:16-25). Matthew's Gospel, in his recording of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, makes a definite link between Moses and Jesus. Jesus' famous sermon (cf. Matthew 5-7) was given on a mountain. This detail may have come from Mark's Gospel (Peter's eyewitness) in Mark 3:13. However, Luke records this sermon "on a plain."

It is uncertain to what mountain this refers. There is a mountain in Galilee that is mentioned often in connection with Jesus' post-resurrection meeting with disciples (cf. Matt. 26:32; 28:7,10). Whatever the location it was obviously a time to get away and be close to the Father (cf. Luke 9:28).

▣ "to pray and He spent the whole night in prayer to God" Luke, more than any other Gospel writer, emphasizes Jesus' prayer life (cf. Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:18,28; 11:1-4) and His teachings on prayer (cf. Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-8,9-14).

Jesus spent the entire night in prayer (periphrastic imperfect active) before He chose twelve special disciples to later represent Him. Here is the tension between predestination (The Father) and human will (Jesus). Jesus, full of the Spirit, incarnate deity, still needed to pray. Judas the betrayer was one of the prayerful choices!

6:13 "He called His disciples to Him" There were many people who followed Jesus, men and women, old and young (cf. Acts 1:21-22). Jesus selected twelve to be His special representatives and leaders. He spent much time and effort in their discipleship (see Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Discipleship).

▣ "twelve" This seems to relate to the twelve tribes of Israel as a symbol of the people of God.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NUMBER TWELVE

▣ "whom He also named as apostles" This comment is unique to Luke. This comes from the verb "to send" with the rabbinical implication of delegated authority. It is used in the Greek Classics like our term "ambassador." See Special Topics: Send (apostellō) at Luke 9:48 and Chart of the Apostles' Names at Luke 5:27.

6:14 "Simon, whom He also named Peter" There are three other listings of the twelve apostles. Peter is always first; Judas Iscariot is always last. There are three groups of four which remain the same, even though the order of names within the groups is often reversed (cf. Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Acts 1:13).

SPECIAL TOPIC: PETER, THE MAN

"Andrew" The Greek term means "manly." From John 1:29-42 we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and that he introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus.

"James" This is the Hebrew name "Jacob" (BDB 784), which means "supplanter," cf Gen. 25:26). There are two men named James in the list of the Twelve. One is the brother of John (cf. Mark 3:17) and part of the inner circle (i.e., Peter, James, and John). This is the brother of John.

"John" This was James' brother and a member of the inner circle of disciples. He wrote five NT books and lived longer than any other Apostle.

▣ "Philip" The Greek name means "fond of horses." His call is recorded in John 1:43-51.

▣ "Bartholomew" The name means "son of Ptolemy." He may be the Nathanael of the Gospel of John (cf. John 1:45-49; 21:20).

▣ "Matthew" The Hebrew name (from the Mattithiah, cf. 1 Chr. 9:31; 15:18,21; 16:5; 25:3,21; Neh. 8:4) means "gift of YHWH." This is referring to Levi (cf. Mark. 2:13-17).

"Thomas" The Hebrew name means "twin" or Didymus (cf. John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2).

"James the son of Alphaeus" This is the Hebrew name "Jacob." There are two men named James in the list of the Twelve. One is the brother of John (cf. Luke 6:17) and part of the inner circle (i.e., Peter, James, and John). This one is known as "James the less" (cf. Mark 3:17).

"Simon who was called the Zealot" The Greek text of Mark has "Cananaean" (also Matt. 10:4). Mark, whose Gospel was written to Romans, may not have wanted to use the political "hot button" word, zealot, which referred to a Jewish anti-Roman guerilla movement. Luke does call him by this term (cf. Acts 1:13). The term Cananaean has several derivatives.

1. from the area of Galilee known as Cana

2. from the OT use of Canaanite as merchant

3. from a general designation as a native of Canaan.

If Luke's designation is right, then zealot is from the Aramaic term for "enthusiast" (cf. Acts 1:17). Jesus' chosen twelve disciples were from several different and competing groups. Simon was a member of a nationalistic group which advocated the violent overthrow of Roman authority. Normally this Simon and Levi (i.e., Matthew, the tax collector) would not have been in the same room with each other.

"Judas the son of James" He was also called "Lebbeus" (cf. Matt. 10:3) or "Judas" (cf. John 14:22). Both Thaddaeus and Lebbeus mean "beloved child."

"Judas Iscariot" There are two Simons, two Jameses, and two Judases. The name Iscariot has two possible derivations:

1. man of Kerioth (a city) in Judah (cf. Jos. 15:23, which would mean he was the only Judean)

2. his father's name (cf. John 6:71; 13:2,26)

3. "dagger man" or assassin, which would mean he also was a zealot, like Simon

 

See SPECIAL TOPIC: ISCARIOT at Luke 27:3.

▣ "who became a traitor" There is so much speculation about Judas and his motives. He is mentioned and vilified often in John's Gospel (cf. John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2,26,39; 18:2,3,5). The modern play "Jesus Christ Superstar" depicts him as a faithful but disillusioned follower who tried to force Jesus into fulfilling the role of the Jewish Messiah, which was to overthrow the Romans, punish the wicked, and set up Jerusalem as the capital of the world. However, John depicts his motives as greedy and malicious.

The main problem is the theological issue of God's sovereignty and human free will. Did God or Jesus manipulate Judas? Is Judas responsible for his acts if Satan controlled him or God predicted and caused him to betray Jesus? The Bible does not address these questions directly. God is in control of history; He knows future events, but mankind is responsible for their choices and actions. God is fair, not manipulative.

There is a new book that tries to defend Judas—Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, Fortress Press, 1996. I do not agree with this book because it depreciates the testimony of John's Gospel, but it is very interesting and thought provoking.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:17-19
 17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, 18who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. 19And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

6:17 This is paralleled in Matt. 4:24-25 and Mark 3:7-8. This introduces the sermon called "the Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 and "the sermon on the Plain" in Luke.

6:18 "to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured" In the Gospels, distinctions are made between physical sickness and demon possession. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC (UNCLEAN SPIRITS) at Luke 4:33 and notes on exorcism at Luke 4:35. Although demonic forces might cause physical symptoms, the cure for each is different. Jesus healed all those who were brought to Him. We know from other accounts that healing was sometimes based on

1. the faith of the individual

2. the faith of the sick individual's friends

3. sometimes it came without much faith at all (cf. John 5:1-9a)

Physical healing did not always mean or imply immediate spiritual salvation (cf. John 9).

6:19

NASB"for power was coming from Him"
NKJV"for power went out from Him"
NRSV"for power came out from him"
TEV"for power was going out from him"
NJB"because power came out of him"

This is an imperfect passive (deponent) indicative. The Spirit's power resided in Him and flowed to others in need (cf. Luke 5:17; 8:46; Mark 5:30). Ministry took something out of Jesus.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:20-26
 20And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 24But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way."

6:20 "turning His gaze toward His disciples" Jesus addresses this sermon to His disciples, while in Matthew He addresses different groups in the large crowd.

▣ "Blessed are you who are poor" Matthew relates these series of Beatitudes (cf. Matt. 5:1-12) to the spiritual life, while Luke's abbreviated form seems to relate to social conditions (i.e., poor, hungry, weeping, and hatred, cf. Luke 6:20-22).

This term (makarios) meant "happy" or "honored" (cf. Luke 6:20-22). The English word "happy" comes from the Old English "happenstance." Believers' God-given happiness is not based on physical circumstances but inner joy. There are no verbs in these statements. They are exclamatory in form like Aramaic or Hebrew (cf. Ps.1:1). This blessedness is both a current attitude toward God and life as well as an eschatological hope.

▣ "kingdom of God" The phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God" is used over 100 times in the Gospels. Matthew, writing for people with a Jewish background who were nervous about pronouncing God's name because of Exod. 20:7, usually used the phrase "the Kingdom of Heaven," although in Matt. 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31,43, even he uses "Kingdom of God." But the Gospels of Mark (cf. Mark 10:14) and Luke were written to Gentiles. The two phrases are synonymous (Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, pp. 151-152).

M. R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, has a list of the places he believes the Kingdom is both present and future:

"1. present – Matt. 11:12; 12:28; 16:19; Luke 11:20; 16:16; 17:21 and the parables of: the Sower, the Tares, the Leaven, and the Dragnet

2. future – Dan. 7:27; Matt. 13:43; 19:38; 25:34; 26:29; Mark 9:47; 1 Cor. 6:9; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 20" (p. 161).

 

6:21 "blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied" Luke does not clearly state when this meeting of needs or change of circumstances will take place. Is it a future time, but in this life ("now" of Luke used twice in Luke 6:21, twice in Luke 6:25) or is it an eschatological setting (like the future eschatological setting of Matthew's Beatitudes, cf. Matt. 5:1-11)? The point is that those who trust Christ will be blessed and physically rewarded (the Matthew parallel focuses on a spiritual future). Salvation changes everything eventually. Most of the early church in Jerusalem was poor (that is one reason why Paul wanted to collect an offering for them from the Gentile churches). Luke is not promising that the gospel will immediately change one's physical, financial, or cultural circumstances, but he does assert it will immediately change one's attitude and hope!

6:22 There were and are repercussions for following Jesus in a fallen world (cf. Matt. 5:10-11). This blessing is different from the rest in that there is a condition required—persecution (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 3:14; 4:12-19; Rev. 11:7; 13:7). These pronounced blessings are both now and ultimately in an eschatological setting (in heaven, cf. Luke 6:23).

"Son of Man" See note at Luke 6:5.

6:23 "Be glad. . .leap" These are both aorist imperatives. Believers' attitudes and actions in the midst of persecution, rejection, and torture are a powerful witness of their salvation and their persecutor's judgment.

"For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets" Religious persecution is not new. Those who do it think they serve God (cf. John 16:2). The Jews have a track record of this kind of persecution (cf. Heb. 11:36-40).

However, there is an implication that Jesus' disciples are the new prophets. They were foretellers of God's good news. God's OT spokespersons were rejected and now the same thing has happened to Jesus and His followers.

6:24 "woe" The term ouai means "alas." This was a prophetic formula used in the Septuagint for introducing a funeral dirge of judgment. These are the corollaries (exact opposite, antithetical parallelism) of the blessings. Luke is the only Gospel that records this cursing section (cf. Luke 6:24-26). This is surprising, especially if Matthew is intentionally making a comparison with Moses because this pattern reflects Deuteronomy 27-28 (cursings and blessings section).

▣ "rich" The rich are singled out because of their illusions of self-sufficiency. The "woes" are a role-reversal with the "blessed." God's ways are not our ways (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). What looks like prosperity may, in reality, be a curse!

NASB"you are receiving your comfort in full"
NKJV, NRSV"you have received your consolation"
TEV"you have your easy life"
NJB"you are having your consolation now"

This is a Present active indicative. Notice the "this life" orientation (cf. Matt. 6:2,5,16) of this phrase (and of the next three woes as well).

6:25 "Woe to you who laugh now" This seems to refer to the superficial merriment related to earthly comfort. These woes are a contrast to Jesus' blessings of believers (cf. Luke 6:23).

6:26 "when all men speak well of you" This verse contrasts Luke 6:23. The theological balance to this statement is found in 1 Tim. 3:7. We are not to seek the acclaim of the world at any cost, but we are to attempt to remove any handle for criticism so as to facilitate evangelism and ministry.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:27-36
 27"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

6:27 "I say to you who hear" This is parallel to "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" of Luke 8:8; 14:35; Mark 4:9,23; Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9. Only those who have the indwelling Spirit and are sensitive to His prompting can understand these spiritual truths because they are so different from the world's.

By using this phrase Luke shows that the target group (disciples) for these sayings (cf. Luke 6:27-38) is different from that of Luke 6:24-26 ("woe to you").

▣ "love your enemies" This whole section of imperatives deals with an attitude of sacrificial, self-giving love (cf. Luke 6:35; Matt. 5:44). How are believers to do this?

1. do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27)

2. bless those who curse you (Luke 6:28)

3. pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:28)

4. turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29)

5. give away your clothes (Luke 6:29)

6. give to all who ask (Luke 6:30)

These are to be done even in the presence of abuse by others. We act in such a way because of who we are in Christ, not how we are treated. Our witness of sacrificial, self-giving love is even more powerful in the face of abuse (i.e., Christ's rejection and death).

Luke's representation of Jesus' sermon deals with social issues and concerns now. How we live as believers is crucial in fulfilling the purpose of the church (cf. Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

6:28 "pray for those who mistreat you" If believers take offense or try to avenge themselves, they lose the blessing, the joy, the contentment. Anger, hatred, and other emotions of the flesh can rob even believers of peace and contentment. They can also open a spiritual door for Satan to attack. We must give the pain to God. Often our love breaks down the barriers and provides an opportunity for witnessing (cf. Rom. 12:14-21).

Our forgiveness releases a joy in us and guilt in the abusers!

6:29 "coat. . .shirt" The first word refers to the outer garment, which was used to sleep in. This was the garment that one who loaned money could keep during the daytime to ensure repayment of a loan in the OT (cf. Exod. 22:25-26; Deut. 24:10-17).

The second term refers to an inner garment worn close to the skin. They were of different lengths. It would be similar to our modern underwear, including a top and shorts.

6:31 This is the universal, positive principle that goes far beyond the OT admonition of Lev. 19:18. The Matthean parallel is 7:12 in which Matthew records Jesus saying that this attitude and action fulfills all the Law and the Prophets.

6:32-34 This is a series of conditional sentences (the first is a first class; the other two are third class) that compare our love to the world's love. Possibly in our day, some other examples would be more appropriate:

1. our forgiveness and love while we are driving

2. our help given to others without demanding receipts for a tax break

3. our love and prayers for other denominational groups

4. our help in picking up the neighbor's trash that has blown in our yard without making a big deal out of it

 

6:35 "love your enemies" This is another present active imperative, an ongoing command to believers (cf. Luke 6:32-34).

NASB"expecting nothing in return"
NKJV"hoping for nothing in return"
NRSV
(footnote)"despairing of no one"
TEV"expect nothing back"
NJB"without any hope of return"

The New Testament: An American Translation, by Edgar J. Goodspeed, has "never despairing." This same meaning is found in The RSV Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Alfred Marshall, p. 251.

This word is found only here in the NT. Most English translations assert that the parallelism of "if you lend to those from whom you expect (hope – elpizō) to receive" in Luke 6:34 demands a synonym (cf. Louw and Nids, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, p. 357), but this is a meaning that this word has in no ancient usage.

However, the word used in the Septuagint in the sense of "to despair" or "to be despaired" (cf. Isa. 29:19; II Macc. 9:18), and also in the same sense in the Egyptian papyri (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 56). It was a medical term for a terrible disease, gives credence to "despair."

Another option is that the phrase alludes to Lev. 25:35-36 relating to loaning money to a covenant partner at interest.

▣ "you will be sons of the Most High" We should exemplify the loving, giving family characteristics of God, not the self-centered, "me first" characteristics of (1) fallen humanity or (2) the evil one (cf. Luke 6:36; Matt. 5:45).

"for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" What an extraordinary statement! Thank God there is no tit-for-tat in Him. The only hope for sinners is the unchanging, gracious, merciful, loving character of God (cf. Luke 6:36; Mal. 3:6).

6:36 This verse is a command (present middle [deponent] imperative) related to Luke 6:32-35. We are to live out before the world what we claim to believe and affirm. Actions speak louder than words.

The adjective "merciful" or "compassionate" is used only two times in the NT (cf. James 5:11, where it also describes God, cf. Rom. 12:11; 2 Cor. 1:3), but the noun is used several times where it describes what believers should be (cf. Phil. 2:1; Col. 3:12).

There is an interesting possibility that these words of Jesus, recorded in Luke 6:36, reflect the pseudo-Jonathan Targum of Leviticus 22:28, while the parallel in Matt. 5:48 reflects the Targum from Lev. 22:27 (cf. M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts [3rd ed.], p. 181, which is mentioned in F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments, p. 128). Jesus probably preached these sermons in Aramaic. Early church tradition claimed that "Q" (the sayings of Jesus used by Matthew and Luke) was written by Matthew in Aramaic.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:37-38
 37"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

6:37-39 This section deals with the same material recorded in Matthew 7, which speaks of our attitude toward others, within and without the family of God.

6:37 "Do not judge. . .do not condemn" These are two present active imperatives with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act already in process. Christians have a tendency to be critical of one another. This verse is often quoted to prove that Christians should not judge each other at all. But, Matt. 7:5,6,15; 1 Cor. 5:1-12; and 1 John 4:1-6 show that Jesus was assuming that believers evaluate one another spiritually. One's attitude and motives are the keys (cf. Gal. 6:1; Rom. 2:1-11; 14:1-23; James 4:11-12).

The Greek word "judge" is the etymological source for our English word "critic." It seems to imply a critical, judgmental, self-righteous spirit which judges others more severely than it does itself. It emphasizes one set of sins over another set of sins. It excuses one's own faults, but will not excuse the faults of others (cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-9).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?

"and you will not be judged. . .you will not be condemned" Both of these phrases have the strong double negative.

"pardon, and you will be pardoned" This is another present active imperative. The first two are negated, but this third and fourth are positive. Not only is the lack of judgment and condemnation crucial, but also the presence of forgiveness. This is similar to what God tells Job in chapter 42 about how he (Job) should act toward his three friends.

This verse contains a significant truth which was repeated quite often in the NT (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:35; Mark 4:24-25; 11:25; James 2:13; and 5:9). How believers act toward others is a reflection of how God has acted toward them. This is not meant to destroy the biblical truth of justification by faith. It is meant to emphasize the appropriate attitude and lifestyle of those who have been so freely forgiven. Eternal life has observable characteristics!

6:38 "it will be given to you" This is a metaphor from the commercial marketplace. Fairness and kindness result in fairness and kindness.

"they will pour into your lap" Marketers in this period would often carry dry goods (grain, flour, beans) in a fold in their robe, turned into a pocket by their belt.

▣ "by your standard of measure it will be measured to you" The number of parallels in Matthew using this maxim is startling (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:35). This was a familiar cultural proverb of the day.

The passive voice verbs are used throughout Luke 6:37-38 to denote God's activity in

1. judging

2. condemning

3. pardoning

4. giving

5. measuring

How we act toward others gives evidence of our relationship to God. We reap what we sow (cf. Gal. 6:7).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:39-45
 39 And He also spoke a parable to them: "A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. 41Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye. 43For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."

6:39 "pit" This Greek term was used in the Septuagint for:

1. a grave, 2 Sam. 18:17

2. an animal trap, Isa. 24:17-18

It is only used three times in the NT. The Matthew passages (cf. Matt. 12:11; 15:14), as this passage in Luke, could refer to a ditch or well. The implication is that false teachers lead their followers to disaster and death.

6:39-40 There is some confusion about exactly how this teaching relates to the immediate context. Verse 39 is paralleled in Matt. 15:14 and Luke 6:40 in Matt. 10:24. Jesus often used the same illustrations in different ways and contexts. Grammatically the first question of Luke 6:39 expects a "no" answer, while the second question expects a "yes" answer.

6:40 Jesus lived what He taught. He was rejected in the midst of His love and ministry to the people. Jesus' followers will experience the same type of treatment in a fallen world. When we as believers (1) emulate our culture or (2) are fully accepted by our culture, that is a sure sign that we are not modeling Jesus' teachings. New Testament Christianity has never been socially acceptable. A selfish world is made uneasy by self-sacrifice and self-giving love!

NASB"has been fully trained"
NKJV"who is perfectly trained"
NRSV"who is fully qualified"
TEV"completed their training"
NJB"fully trained disciple"

This is a perfect passive participle of a term that means

1. baby chicks, old enough to be sold in the market as fryers

2. broken bones, now mended and the arm and leg can be used again

3. torn fishing nets, now repaired and capable of catching fish

4. a fully built ship, now equipped with sails and rigging, ready to sail

The term means fully equipped for the assigned task (cf. Eph. 4:12), or possibly restored to usefulness (cf. Gal. 6:1).

6:41-42 Jesus used humor and Oriental overstatement to convey the tremendously important message to religious people about criticism. This is one reason western literalists have interpreted His sayings so rigidly.

6:41 "speck" "Speck" was used by Classical Greek writers for the material that made up a bird's nest. Therefore, we are talking about bits of plant material and similar insignificant small items.

"do not see the log that is in your own eye" The "log" referred to some large piece of lumber, a building timber or rafter. Jesus often used this literary form of hyperbole to communicate spiritual truths (cf. Matt. 5:29-30; 19:24; 23:24).

6:42 "brother" In this context this word could refer to

1. other Jews (cf. Luke 14:12; Acts 2:29 [cf. Luke 6:22],37; 3:17; 7:2)

2. believers (cf. Luke 17:3; 22:32; Acts 1:15; 6:3)

 

▣ "hypocrite" This compound word came from the theatrical world and was used for an actor performing behind a mask. It came from two Greek words: "to judge" (krinō) and "under" (hupo). It described a person acting in one way, but being another (Luke 18:9). A good example of this kind of activity can be seen in the life of David (cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-9). Jesus used this term to describe the self-righteous Pharisees in Matt. 5:20; 6:2,5,16; 15:1,7; 23:13.

This verse implies the appropriateness of believers' concern for other Christians when it is not done in a condescending, self-righteous manner (cf. Rom. 14:1). The Church has always had to spiritually examine and exhort its leadership and membership.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HYPOCRITES

6:43-45 The parallel is in Matt. 7:16,20. Our actions reveal our hearts. Our actions reveal who our true father is (God or Satan). Our actions bring consequences, either positive or negative.

6:45 "for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart" This is a powerful NT truth (cf. Matt. 12:34-35; 15:18).

SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 6:46-49
 46"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

6:46-47 Lip service only is not the essence of true discipleship (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 7:21,22). Obedience which flows from a personal commitment is crucial. Obedience does not precede grace, but it does follow after it!

6:46 "Lord, Lord" The rabbis said that the doubling of a name shows affection (cf. Gen. 22:11).

The Greek word Kurios was used in several distinct ways in the first century. It could simply mean (1) "sir"; (2) "master"; (3) "owner"; or (4) "husband." But, in theological contexts, it is usually interpreted with its full meaning derived from the OT substitution of the Hebrew term adon (owner, master, husband, lord) when reading Scripture for the covenant name YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14). See Special Topic at Luke 1:68. In this context these men were making a theological statement about Jesus, but did not have a personal relationship with Him (cf. Matt. 7:21-25). It is difficult at this early stage in Jesus' ministry to know how much theological weight to attach to this term. Peter uses it early as a theological title for Jesus (cf. Luke 5:8), as does this verse, where Jesus links one's verbal affirmations with obedience.

SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI)

▣ "hears My words and acts on them" This parable was unique to Matthew (Matt. 7:24-27) and Luke (Luke 6:47-49). This is similar to the connotation of the Hebrew word Shema of Deut. 6:1, where the word implies "to hear so as to do." Christianity involves

1. knowledge

2. personal response

3. a lifestyle of service

It is interesting that both builders are said to hear Jesus' words. Again, it looks as if the context of these warnings is religious people who have heard and responded at some level.

6:48-49 This ending is very similar to Matthew's conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 7:26-27).

6:48 "because it had been well built" This corresponds to "dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock." This phrase is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P75, א, B, L, and W (the UBS4 gives it an A rating). However, another phrase was taken from the Matthew parallel (cf. Luke 7:25) and very early was substituted for the Lukan phrase (cf. MSS A, C, D, and the Vulgate). Many of these scribal additions happened very early in the period of hand copying these texts. Here is a good example. Manuscript P75 is from the early third century, while MS A (Alexandrinus) is from the fifth century.

I want to remind you that none of the ancient Greek manuscripts of the NT (over 5,000) completely agree with each other, but the differences really affect no major doctrine. The NT is the best preserved text from the ancient world. We can trust that it faithfully communicates God's truth to us who believe and obey! Within the Greek manuscripts we have the original words. Nothing has been lost! We are just not sure which reading is original.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Jesus continue to challenge the religious leaders on the subject of the oral traditions concerning the Sabbath?

2. Why do the lists of the names of the disciples vary?

3. Why is the Sermon on the Mount so different from the Sermon on the Plain?

4. What is the purpose of the Sermon on the Plain in its Lukan context?

 

Passage: 

Luke 7

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Healing of a Centurion's Servant Jesus heals a Centurion's Servant The Centurion's Slave Jesus Heals a Roman Officer's Servant Cure of the Centurion's Servant
7:1-10 7:1-10 7:1-10 7:1-5 7:1-10
      7:6-8  
      7:9  
      7:101  
The Raising of the Widow's Son at Nain Jesus Raises the Son of the Widow of Nain The Widow's Son at Nain Jesus Raises a Widow's Son The Son of the widow of Nain Restored to Life
7:11-17 7:11-17 7:11-17 7:11-15 7:11-17
      7:16  
      7:17  
The Messengers from John the Baptist John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus Jesus and John The Messengers from John the Baptist The Baptist's Question-Jesus Commends Him
7:18-30 7:18-35 7:18-23 7:18-19 7:18-23
      7:20  
      7:21-23  
    7:24-30 7:24-28 7:24-27
        7:28-30
      7:29-30 Jesus Condemns His Contemporaries
7:31-35   7:31-35 7:31-35 7:31-32
        7:33-35
A Sinful Woman Forgiven A Sinful Woman Forgiven The Woman Who Was a Sinner Jesus at the Home of Simon the Pharisee The Woman Who Was a Sinner
7:36-50 7:36-50 7:36-50 7:36-39 7:36-38
        7:39-43
      7:40  
      7:41-42  
      7:43a  
      7:43b-47  
        7:44-50
      7:48  
      7:49  
      7:50  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:1-10
 1When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2And a centurion's slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue." 6Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." 9Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith." 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

7:1 "When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people" This refers to the sermon recorded in Luke 6:20-49.

▣ "Capernaum" This was Jesus' local headquarters in Galilee. See note at Luke 4:23.

7:2 "a centurion" A centurion was a Roman (or Gentile conscript) and part of an army of occupation. He seems to have been a God-fearer, much like Cornelius in Acts 10. Every mention of Centurions in the NT is positive. These non-commissioned soldiers were the heart of the Roman army.

▣ "slave" The Matthew parallel (Matt. 8:5-13) has the term "boy."

"who was highly regarded by him" This term was common and in the Septuagint, where it is used

1. of God's name, cf. Deut. 28:58

2. of the Messiah, cf. Isa. 28:16 and NT in 1 Pet. 2:4,6

3. of honorable men, cf. Num. 22:15; and NT in Phil. 2:29

The best parallel to this NT usage is 1 Sam. 26:21 and Isa. 13:12, where a person's life is precious.

7:3 "he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come" The parallel account is in Matt. 8:5-13, but not in Mark. From Luke 7:5 we see why the Jewish elders (local synagogue leaders) were willing to be intermediaries.

"save" The Greek term sozō is used often in the NT for spiritual salvation (ex. James 1:21; 2:14; 4:12), but here it is used in its OT sense of physical deliverance (ex. James 5:20; Matt. 9:22; Mark 6:56). The term literally means "to make whole" (physically and/or spiritually).

7:6 "Lord" This is the vocative form of the Greek term kurios, which can be

1. a title of respect like "sir"

2. a title for a superior like "master"

3. a theological affirmation of Jesus as God's Messiah (cf. Luke 7:13)

In this context (like John 4) it is option #1. Also note the ambiguity of its use in Luke 7:19.

▣ "do not trouble Yourself" This is a Present middle imperative (Zerwick and Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, p. 199 and A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, p.99), while Barbara, Tim Friberg, Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 199 and Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 370, call it a present passive imperative.

▣ "I am not worthy for You to come under my roof" Obviously this Roman army officer knew the Jewish attitude toward Gentile homes. There is an obvious contrast between Luke 7:5 (the message of the elders) and this man's own sense of his unworthiness (cf. Luke 7:7).

7:7 "but just say the word" Jesus' physical presence was not demanded. This man was used to delegating authority (cf. Luke 7:8). This gesture shows this Gentile's great faith in the power of Jesus. It also gives a precedent for trusting Jesus' words, not His presence, for one's salvation (physical here, but for the Gentile readers, spiritual also). Luke chooses the accounts he will record to reach Gentiles!

There is an ancient Greek manuscript variant connected with this verse. Luke has the aorist passive imperative, iathētō (cf. P75, B, L, and some Coptic translations, the UBS4 gives this one a B rating), but other ancient texts have iathēsetai (future passive indicative), which occurs in Matt. 8:8 (cf. MSS א, A, C, D, W, and the Vulgate and Armenian translations). Which one does not change the meaning of the text, but this does show how easily these scribal corrections or alterations occurred (between a.d. 200-400).

7:9 "He marveled" See note at Luke 1:63.

"not even in Israel have I found such great faith" This is an extremely significant theological assertion. Remember that Luke is writing to Gentiles. In this context Jesus commends a Gentile military officer for his faith, heals a widow's child (like Elijah, cf. Luke 4:25-26), and is willing to help a sinful woman and even commend her faith (cf. Luke 7:50). It is obvious that faith, not national origin or privileged standing, is the key to the new age inaugurated by Jesus.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:11-17
 11Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. 12Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." 14And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" 15The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" 17This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.

7:11 "He went to a city called Nain" This account is recorded only in Luke. It seems not to be a special event, but a typical event in the travels and ministry of Jesus. Nain is about six miles southeast of Nazareth, close to Mt. Tabor. It is parallel to what Elijah did in Luke 4:25-26 (cf. 1 Kgs. 17:17-24).

▣ "His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd" There was always a large crowd of the sick, the curious, and religious leaders following Jesus. Much of Luke's presentation of Jesus' life and teachings is structured as travel narratives. These travel narratives include many of the teachings found in Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount." In Luke, Jesus is heading toward the climatic confrontation in Jerusalem. As always in the Gospels, Jesus' healings had several purposes:

1. to help a needy person (a lady in Luke 7:13)

2. to witness to:

a. the disciples (for maturity)

b. the crowd (for saving faith)

c. the townspeople (cf. Luke 7:12)

d. the religious leaders who were always there

3. to demonstrate His Messiahship

 

7:12 "the only son of his mother" How did Jesus know this fact? Possibly

1. someone in the crowd told Him

2. this is another example of His supernatural knowledge

3. this is an editorial comment by the evangelist

The fact that this was the only son meant this woman had no means of support!

▣ "a sizeable crowd from the city was with her" Jewish funerals involved the entire community and were remarkably noisy and emotional.

7:13 "Lord" This is the first use of this title for Jesus in Luke. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68.

▣ "He felt compassion for her" This is a developed connotation from "bowels." The ancients thought the lower viscera or the major organs (heart, liver, lungs) were the seat of the emotions (cf. Septuagint of Pro. 12:10; 26:22; Jer. 28:13,51; II Macc. 9:5-6; IV Macc. 10:8; Baruch 2:17). Paul uses this metaphor often (cf. 2 Cor. 6:12; 7:15; Phil. 1:8; 2:1; Col. 3:12; Philemon 1:7,12,20). Luke, probably following Paul, also uses it (cf. Luke 1:78; 7:13; 10:33; 15:20; Acts 1:18). It is meaningful to me to know of the human emotions and empathy that Jesus shares with us (cf. Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2).

▣ "and said to her" She would have been leading the funeral procession (Alfred Edersheim, Jewish Social Life)..

"do not weep" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually implies stop an act in process.

7:14 "coffin" This refers to an open bier (cf. NRSV). Jesus did not fear ceremonial defilement by touching ceremonially unclean things or people.

▣ "Young man, I say to you, arise" This man's age is uncertain, for in Jewish society one was considered to be a young man up to the age of forty. The verb is an aorist passive imperative. Jesus has power over death and hades (cf. Rev. 1:18). What a powerful sign of His Messiahship (cf. Luke 7:22).

7:15 "The dead man sat up and began to speak" The verb "sat up" is rare and used only by medical doctors in Greek literature. The NT never records the words of those who have been raised from the dead. What powerful evidence to confirm Jesus' words and ministry!

7:16 "they began glorifying God, saying, 'A great prophet has arisen among us’" Jesus did work similar to Elijah and Elisha in the very same geographical area. These people were attributing to Jesus the highest title that they knew.

"God has visited His people" The Jews had experienced YHWH"s visitation many times. God is active in the life of His people. There is a real tension in the Bible between the transcendence of God and the immanence of God. He is the Holy One of Israel, yet Father!

7:17 All the Synoptic Gospels have these summary statements (cf. Mark 1:28,45; Matt. 4:24; 9:31; 14:1), but Luke has the most (cf. Luke 4:14,37; 5:15; 7:17). Jesus did not perform miracles (healing, exorcisms, raising the dead) in secret, but in public, and word of it spread rapidly to a needy, expectant Palestine.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:18-23
 18The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. 19Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?" 20When the men came to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, 'Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'" 21At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22And He answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."

7:18 "The disciples of John reported to him about all these things" The parallel is in Matt. 11:2-19.

7:19 "Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else" There have been several theories trying to explain John's confusion about Jesus.

1. He said this only to convince his own disciples (John Calvin, cf. John 1:29-42).

2. John, the outdoors man, trapped in a cell, was getting nervous.

3. John was impatient for Jesus to act.

4. Jesus was not acting in the expected pattern of eschatological judgment (cf. Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:13).

 

7:21 The opening clause is a summary of Jesus' ministry to the crowds. His actions clearly revealed who He was, if they could only recognize its prophetic fulfillment.

▣ "gave sight to many who were blind" This is the most common recorded healing with definite Messianic implications (cf. Isa. 35:5-6; 61:1). It is surely a sign of the spiritual blindness which had infected Judaism (cf. John 9).

7:22 "Go and report to John" "Go" is an aorist passive (deponent) participle used in an imperative sense; "Report" is an aorist active imperative.

This is a good example that grammar must be related to context. These are not commands, but a way of directing John's representatives. They came to do this very thing—"report to John." As words have meaning only in context, so too, grammatical constructions.

The rest of Luke 7:22 is a combination of several OT quotes which link up with Jesus' activities recorded in Luke 7:21. The first two partial quotes are from Isa. 61:1 (or possibly Isa. 29:18-19; 32:3-4; 35:5-6; 42:7,16). This is from the section of Isaiah that deals with the new age (chapters 56-66).

▣ "the lepers are cleansed" Leprosy and barrenness were diseases that Jews thought showed God's displeasure.

▣ "the dead are raised up" There are only three accounts of resuscitation in the NT, but apparently there were actually many more.

There are three terms which describe God's dealing with humans relating to physical life:

1. Translated. Enoch (cf. Genesis 5), like Elijah (cf. 2 Kings), was taken to heaven without physical death.

2. Resuscitation. Humans are restored to physical life, but will die again.

3. Resurrection. Jesus is the first to have a physical body of the new age. This is the promise of eternal life, a new body prepared for life with God (cf. 1 Corinthians 15).

 

▣ "the poor have the gospel preached to them" This was the unique element that pointed to the nature of Jesus' mission. God graciously included those whom Jewish society neglected. This is a hint of God's inclusion of the Gentiles.

7:23 "Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me" Jesus was warning John about his presuppositions concerning the Messiah. This is a good word to us also. Judaism missed its own Messiah because of their preconceived images of Him.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:24-30
 24When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! 26But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, Who will prepare Your way before You.' 28I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." 29When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God's justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

7:24-27 This is a series of questions expecting a "no" answer. They emphasize the quality of John's character.

7:27 "it is written" These references (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5; Isa. 40:3-4) show that Jesus recognized who and what he was.

7:28 "I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John" What a tremendous statement from the Messiah concerning the forerunner (cf. Matt. 11:11)! It must be recognized that Jesus' concluding remarks in Luke 7:28 show that John was the last of the OT prophets, not the first of the NT gospel preachers.

The NT affirms the unique power of John's preaching and message. He was a Spirit-led prophet. However, the NT also depreciates John so that the worship and preeminence goes to Jesus' person and ministry. There were some heretical groups in the early centuries that tried to elevate John.

▣ "yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" As radical as the first part of Luke 7:28 is, this second phrase is even more shocking! It does clearly demonstrate the radical newness of the age of the Spirit, the Kingdom of God. The context shows the least:

1. Roman centurion and his servant (Luke 7:2-10)

2. widow of Nain and her child (Luke 7:11-17)

3. the people of Isa. 61:1 (Luke 7:21-22)

4. tax collectors (Luke 7:29)

 

7:29-30 These two verses can be seen as to how

1. Jesus comments about how John 6's message was received

2. Luke's comments about Jesus' message was received (NET Bible)

 

7:29 This verse and Luke 7:30 show the makeup of the crowd that continuously followed Jesus: social outcasts and religious leaders. I am sure that they stood in their respective groups! These two verses may be Luke's editorial comment.

The social outcasts were receptive to a message of repentance and faith (cf. Mark. 1:15), but the religious leaders were not. They thought they were an elite group who were exclusively accepted by God.

NASB"they acknowledged God's justice"
NKJV"justified God"
NRSV"acknowledged the justice of God"
TEV"who had obeyed God's righteous demands"
NJB"acknowledged God's saving justice"

This is literally "justified (aorist active indicative) God." The spiritually receptive ones recognized God's righteous ways being revealed in John's message. John's public baptism was an admission of spiritual need and trust in God's acceptance of repentant people.

It is surprising how limited is the Gospel's use of "justify" (cf. Matt. 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29,35; 10:29; 16:15; 18:14) when it is used so often in Paul' writings (i.e., 13 times in Romans and 8 times in Galatians). Paul speaks often of justification (i.e., how a sinner is right with God), but Jesus speaks of being part of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was speaking to Jews who thought they were accepted by God because of Abraham and the Law of Moses, but Paul spoke mostly to Gentiles who had no covenant background. They both address the need of being in fellowship with God and how that fellowship will manifest itself in believers' lives (i.e., words, actions, motives).

"baptized by John" John's and Jesus' messages were initially similar, but there is a vast difference between John's baptism and Christian baptism. John focused on an OT foundation, whereas Jesus focused on Himself on a NT foundation.

One wonders whether John's disciples who followed Jesus were re-baptized. Rituals are symbols, carriers of meaning, but they are not mechanisms of grace! Religious acts and liturgy without personal faith are barriers instead of bridges to God. The key in true faith is the heart, not just the outward forms of faith.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:31-35
 31"To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.' 33For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon!' 34The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' 35Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children."

7:31-34 This paragraph is paralleled in Matt. 11:16-19. John and Jesus came with different styles of ministry (John as an ascetic; Jesus as socially available), yet the Jewish leaders rejected them both. Verse 30 shows the close-mindedness and self-righteousness of the Jewish leaders.

7:31 "this generation" This term is used in a negative sense of current hearers who see and hear God's truth, but refuse to respond appropriately (cf. Luke 7:31; 9:41; 11:29,50; 17:25). This may be an allusion to Deut. 32:5; Ps. 78:8; Jer. 2:31; 7:29. There is far more guilt connected to those who hear the truth and refuse to embrace it than to those who never have seen or heard.

7:33 "John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine" John the Baptist was a Nazarite (cf. Numbers 6). He also lived in the wilderness and did not freely socialize with those to whom he preached (like Elijah). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAZARITE VOW

▣ "and you say, 'He has a demon’" This was the same charge that they used of Jesus (cf. Luke 11:14-26). They could not explain away God's mighty use of this man so they attributed his power to a supernatural force of evil.

This accusation reveals

1. the animosity of the religious elite

2. the compassion of Jesus.

Luke was writing to Gentiles who were also poor. This shows Jesus' love and identification with the common person.

7:35 This was a cultural proverb much like Luke 6:44, "each tree is known by its own fruit." The actions and attitudes of those baptized by John (cf. Luke 7:29) were clearly distinct from the religious leaders (cf. Luke 7:30). The Jews often used the OT idiom "son of. . ." as an adjective to describe a person.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 7:36-50
 36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, 38and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." 40And Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he replied, "Say it, Teacher." 41"A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" 43Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly." 44Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven." 49Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this man who even forgives sins?" 50And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

7:36-50 This account is similar to Mary of Bethany's actions recorded in Mark 13:3-9; Matt. 26:6-13; John 12:2-8. It is obvious that on further reflection, the account in Luke, though similar, is distinct from Mary of Bethany's anointing mentioned in the other Gospels.

Luke often uses these meals given by Pharisees to communicate the gospel (cf. Luke 7:36; 11:37; 14:1).

7:36 "one of the Pharisees" Jesus ministered to all groups. He wanted to reach all people. See Special Topic: Pharisees at Luke 5:17.

"was requesting Him to dine with him" One wonders the motive of this request:

1. curiosity

2. spiritual hunger

3. being seen with Jesus

4. trying to find out something he could use against Him (cf. Luke 7:44-45)

These dinners were social events for the entire community. Although only invited guests ate, anyone was welcome to come and listen to the table conversation.

"reclining at the table" Luke is the only NT author to use this term kataklinō (cf. Luke 7:36; 9:14,15; 14:8; 24:30). Other NT writers use anakeimai.

The Jews of the first century did not use tables and chair as the Persians did (cf. Esther 1:6; 7:8) and some Egyptians. Typically they would recline on their left elbow on pillows spread around horseshoe-shaped tables, usually three on a side.

7:37 "a woman in the city who was a sinner" The implication is that she was a local prostitute, however, this phrase is unspecific. To the Jewish leaders, anyone who did not keep all the expected rules and rituals of the Talmud was considered a sinner (e.g., shepherds, tanners). This city was in the north, possibly Capernaum. The other Gospels record an anointing by a woman at a Simon's house, near Jerusalem. However, the other Gospels record a similar anointing of Jesus' feet by Mary Magdalene (cf. Matt. 26:6; Mark 14:3; John 12:2).

▣ "alabaster vial of perfume" Alabaster was a whitish yellow stone which was named for the town in Egypt (Alabastron) in which it was developed. The perfume was very expensive. Women often carried this as a dowry around their necks on a chain.

7:38 "and standing behind Him at His feet" At these social events others from the town who were not invited were welcome to come and sit along the walls, look in the windows and doors, and listen to the conversations. Remember that Jesus was reclining on his left elbow with His feet behind Him.

▣ "and kept wiping them with the hair of her head" For a Jewish woman, to have her hair undone in public was a sign of social impropriety.

"kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume" This was a highly unusual act that seems to symbolize this woman's joy over forgiveness and the deep sense of gratitude for Jesus' attitude concerning people like herself (cf. Luke 7:35).

7:39 "If this man were a prophet" This is a second class conditional sentence. The form of this sentence shows that he did not believe Jesus was a prophet. This is a unique Greek construction which would be understood as "if this man were a prophet, which he is not, he would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching him, but he does not." This Pharisee totally misunderstood Jesus and His motives, purposes, and actions.

The very early codex B, called Vaticanus because it was found in the Vatican library, has the definite article with "prophet." This is obviously a theological attempt to link Jesus with "the Prophet" of Moses' prophecy in Deut. 18:15. This was a Messianic prediction. But from the context of Luke this Pharisee is not calling Jesus the Messiah, but a non-prophet!

A book that documents these theological variants is Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Oxford, 1993.

7:40 "Simon" This was a common name. There are many examples in the NT of people named Simon:

1. Simon Peter, Matt. 4:18

2. Simon the Canaanite, Matt. 10:4; Acts 1:13

3. Simon, Jesus' half-brother, Matt. 13:55

4. Simon the Leper, Matt.26:6; Mark 14:3

5. Simon the Cyrene, Matt. 27:32

6. Simon the Pharisee, Luke 7:40

7. the father of Judas Iscariot, John 6:71

8. Simon Magnes, Acts 8:5

9. Simon the Tanner, Acts 9:43

The parallels in Matthew and Mark also place the dinner at the home of a man named Simon, but he is not called a Pharisee.

7:41 It is only in Luke that Jesus tells this parable to Simon. Matthew and Mark have a totally different reason for the woman's actions (i.e., prepare Jesus for His upcoming death by anointing Him for burial).

"500 denarii" A denarius was a common coin of the period. It represented a day's wage for a soldier or day-laborer (cf. Matt. 20:2). See Special Topic: Coins in Use in Palestine in Jesus' Day at Luke 15:8.

7:42 "So which of them will love him more" This account obviously deals with two kinds of people:

1. the self-righteous who thought they needed little or no forgiveness

2. the humble and repentant who knew they needed God's forgiveness

This parable has much in common with the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner (cf. Luke 18:9-14).

7:44-47 There are several actions that Simon the Pharisee did not perform for Jesus that were expected of a host in Jewish culture:

1. he did not wash His feet when he entered, Luke 7:44

2. he did not give Him a kiss of greeting, Luke 7:45

3. he did not anoint Him with oil, Luke 7:46

 

7:47 "I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven" Jesus did not overlook this woman's sins, but He forgave them. This pericope (gospel story) clearly shows the radically new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38). Salvation is based on faith in Jesus, not personal achievement, merit, or performance (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). This is the new covenant way of being accepted by God!

Theologians emphasize the word "love" and turn it into a new requirement for forgiveness and acceptance. Love is surely the by-product of a personal relationship with God through Christ, but it is not the criterion for acceptance. Acceptance is based on the finished and complete work of the Son. Humans must respond in repentance and faith, but they cannot add to or take away from this freely given salvation. A changed and changing life of love, obedience, and perseverance are evidence that we have met God in Christ. Believers are saved "unto good works" (cf. Eph. 2:10), not "by good works" (cf. Rom. 3:21-30)!

7:48 "Your sins have been forgiven" This is a perfect passive indicative. This must have been a tremendous shock to the Jews sitting there who knew that only God could forgive sins (cf. Luke 5:21-24).

7:50 "'Your faith has saved you" This is a perfect active indicative. This woman's expression of love was the result, not the means, of forgiveness. Faith in Christ is the key issue (cf. Luke 5:20; 7:9; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42).

"go in peace" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative (cf. Luke 8:48).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are the accounts of Luke 7 and Matthew 8 so different?

2. Why was Jesus so impressed with this man's faith?

3. Why did Jesus resuscitate the widow of Nain's son?

4. Why did John the Baptist doubt that Jesus was the Messiah? How did Jesus answer his question?

5. Is John the Baptist an OT prophet or a NT preacher?

6. Why is Jesus' statement of Luke 7:48 an anathema to the Jewish leaders?

 

Passage: 

Luke 8

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Some Women Accompany Jesus Many Women Ministered to Jesus On Tour Women Who Accompanied Jesus The women Accompanying Jesus
8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3 8:1-3
The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower
8:4-8 8:4-8 8:4-8 8:4 8:4
      8:5-8a 8:5-8
      8:8b  
The Purpose of the Parables The Purpose of the Parables   Purpose of the Parables Why Jesus Speaks in Parables
8:9-10 8:9-10 8:9-10 8:9-10 8:9-10
The Parable of the Sower Explained The Parable of the Sower Explained   Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower Explained
8:11-15 8:11-15 8:11-15 8:11-15 8:11-15
A Light Under a Vessel The Parable of the Revealed Light On Obedient Listening A Lamp Under a Bowl Parable of the Lamp
8:16-18 8:16-18 8:16-18 8:16 8:16-18
      8:17  
      8:18  
The Mother and Brothers of Jesus Jesus' Mother and Brothers Come to Him Jesus' True Family Jesus' Mother and Brothers The True Family of Jesus
8:19-21 8:19-21 8:19-21 8:19-20 8:19-21
      8:21  
The Calming of a Storm Wind and Waves Obey Jesus Wind and Sea Calmed Jesus Calms a Storm The Calming of the Storm
8:22-25 8:22-25 8:22-25 8:22-24a 8:22-25
      8:24b-25a  
      8:25b  
The Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac A Demon-Possessed Man Healed The Gerasene Demoniac Jesus Heals a Man with Demons The Gerasene Demoniac
8:26-31 8:26-39 8:26-31 8:26-29 8:26-27
        8:28-31
      8:30a  
      8:30b-31  
8:32-39   8:32-33 8:32-33 8:32-33
    8:34-39 8:34-38a 8:34-37
      8:38b-39a 8:38-39
      8:39b  
Jairus' Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Garment A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed Jairus' Daughter Raised Jairus' Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Cloak Cure of the woman with a Hemorrhage – Jairus' Daughter Raise to Life
8:40-42a 8:40-56 8:40-42a 8:40-42a 8:40-42
8:42b-48   8:42b-48 8:42b-45a  
        8:43-48
      8:45b  
      8:46-48  
8:49-56   8:49-56 8:49 8:49-56
      8:50  
      8:51-52  
      8:53-56  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter is made up of several incidents

1. the parable of the soils, Luke 8:1-18

2. Jesus deals with His own family, Luke 8:19-21

3. Jesus calms a storm, Luke 8:22-25

4. Jesus heals the Gadarene Demoniac, Luke 8:26-39

5. Jesus raises Jairus' daughter and heals a woman with an issue of blood, Luke 8:40-55

 

B. INTERPRETING PARABLES

The Gospels were written many years after Jesus' life. Those who write the Gospels (by the aid of the Spirit) were culturally accustomed to oral teaching. The rabbis taught by oral presentation. Jesus continued this oral approach to teaching. To our knowledge He never wrote down any of His teachings or sermons. To aid in the memory, teaching presentations were repeated, summarized, and illustrated. The Gospel writers retained these memory aids. Parables are one of these techniques. Parables are hard to define:

"Parables are best defined as stories with two levels of meaning; the story level provides a mirror by which reality is perceived and understood" (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels [p. 594]).

"A parable is a saying or story that seeks to drive home a point that the speaker wishes to emphasize by illustrating it from a familiar situation of common life" (The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia [p. 590]).

It is hard to define exactly what was understood by the term "parable" in Jesus' day

1. Some say it reflects the Hebrew term mashal, which was any kind of riddle (Mark 3:23), clever saying (Proverbs, Luke 4:23), short saying (Mark 7:15) or mysterious saying ("dark saying").

2. Others hold to the more limited definition of a short story.

This was a major NT literary genre. Depending on how one defines the term, over one-third of Jesus' recorded teachings are in parabolic form. Parables are certainly authentic sayings of Jesus. If one accepts the second definition, there are still several different types of short stories

1. simple stories (Luke 13:6-9)

2. complex stories (Luke 15:11-32)

3. contrasting stories (Luke 16:1-8; 18:1-8)

4. typological/allegorical stories (Matt. 13:24-30, 47-50; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15; 10:25-37; 14:16-24; 20:9-19; John 10; 15:1-8)

In dealing with this variety of parabolic material, one must interpret these sayings on several levels.

The first level would be general hermeneutic principles applicable to all biblical genres:

1. identify the purpose of the entire book, or at least the larger literary unit in which the parable appears

2. identify the original audience. It is significant that the same parable is sometimes given to different groups.

a. lost sheep in Luke 15 directed to sinners

b. lost sheep in Matthew 18 directed toward disciples

3. be sure to note the immediate context of the parable. Often Jesus or the Gospel writer tells the main point (usually at the end of the parable or immediately after it).

4. express the central intent(s) of the parable in one declarative sentence. Parables often have two or three main characters. Usually there is an implied truth, purpose, or point to each character.

5. check the parallel passages in the other Gospels, then other NT books and OT books.

 

The second level of interpretive principles are those that relate specifically to parabolic material:

1. Read (hear if possible) the parable again and again. These were given for oral impact, not written analysis.

2. Most parables have only one central truth, which is related to the historical and literary contexts of both Jesus and/or the evangelist.

3. Be careful of interpreting the details making it an allegory instead of a parable. Often they are just part of the setting of the story.

4. Remember parables are not reality. They are life-like analogies, but often exaggerations, to drive home a point (truth).

5. Identify the main points of the story that a first century Jewish audience would have understood. Then look for the twist or surprise. Usually it comes toward the end of the story (cf. A. Berkeley Mickelsen, Interpreting the Bible, pp. 221-224).

6. All parables were given to elicit a response. That response is usually related to the concept of "the Kingdom of God." Jesus was the inaugurator of the new Messianic Kingdom (Matt. 21:31; Luke 17:21). Those who heard Him must respond to Him now! The Kingdom is also future (Matthew 25). A person's future is dependent on how he responded to Jesus at the time. Kingdom parables described the new kingdom that had arrived in Jesus. They described its ethical and radical demands for discipleship. Nothing can be as it was. All is radically new and focused on Jesus!

7. Parables often do not express the point or central truth. The interpreter must seek the contextual keys that reveal the original culturally obvious central truths which, because of time, language, and culture, are now obscure to us.

 

A third level that is often controversial is that of the hiddenness of parabolic truth. Jesus often spoke of the hiddenness of parables (cf. Matt. 13:9-15; Mark 4:9-13; Luke 8:8-10; John 10:6; 16:25). This is related to the prophecy in Isa. 6:9-10. The heart of the hearer determines the level of understanding (cf. Matt. 11:15; 13:9,15,16,43; Mark 4:9,23,33-34; 7:16; 8:18; Luke 8:8; 9:44; 14:35).

However, it must also be stated that often the crowd (cf. Matt. 15:10; Mark 7:14) and the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 21:45; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19) understood exactly what Jesus was saying, but refused to respond appropriately by faith and repentance. In one sense this is the truth of the Parable of the Soils (cf. Matt. 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). The parables could conceal or reveal truth (cf. Matt. 13:16-17; 16:12; 17:13; Luke 8:10; 10:23-24).

Grant Osborne, Hermeneutical Spiral, p. 239, makes the point that "parables are an 'encounter mechanism' and function differently depending on the audience. . .Each group (i.e., leaders, crowds, disciples) is encountered differently by the parables." Often even the disciples did not understand either His parables or His teachings (cf. Matt. 15:16; Mark 6:52; 7:18; 8:17-18,21,33; 9:10,32; Luke 9:45; 18:34; John 12:16).

A fourth level is also controversial. It deals with the central truth of parables. Most modern interpreters have reacted (justifiably so) against the allegorical interpretation of the parables. Allegory turned the details into elaborate systems of truth. This method of interpretation does not focus on the historical setting, literary setting, or authorial intent; it presents the thoughts of the interpreter, not the inspired text.

However, it must be admitted that the parables that Jesus interpreted are very close to allegorical or at least typological. Jesus used the details to convey truth (the Sower, Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8 and the wicked tenants, Matthew 21; Mark 12, Luke 20).

Some of the other parables also have several main truths. A good example is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). It is not only the love of the Father and waywardness of the younger son, but also the attitude of the older son, that is integral to the full meaning of the parable.

Here is a helpful statement from Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation by Peter Cotterell and Max Turner:

"It was Adulf Julicher more than any other who directed New Testament scholarship towards a decisive attempt to understand the role of parable in the teaching of Jesus. The radical allegorizing of the parables was abandoned and the search begun for a key that would enable us to penetrate their true meaning. But as Jeremias made clear, 'His efforts to free the parables from the fantastic and arbitrary interpretations of every detail caused him to fall into a fatal error.' The error was to insist not merely that a parable should be understood as conveying a single idea, but that the idea should be as general as possible" (p. 308).

Another helpful statement from The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne is:

"Yet I have noted many indications that the parables are indeed allegories, albeit controlled by the author's intention. Blomberg (1990) in fact argues that there are as many points as there are characters in the parables and that they are indeed allegories. While this is somewhat overstated, it is nearer the truth than the 'one point' approach" (p. 240).

Should parables be used to teach doctrinal truths or illuminate doctrinal truths? Most interpreters have been influenced by the abuse of the allegorical method of interpreting parables, which allowed them to establish doctrines that had no connection to Jesus' original intent or that of the Gospel writer. Meaning must be linked to authorial intent. Jesus and the Gospel writers were under inspiration, but interpreters are not.

However badly the parables have been abused, they still function as vehicles of truth. Hear Bernard Ramm on this point!

"Parables do teach doctrine and the claim that they may not be used at all in doctrinal writing is improper. . .we must check our results with plain, evident teaching of our Lord, and with the rest of the New Testament. Parables with proper cautions may be used to illustrate doctrine, illuminate Christian experience and to teach practical lessons." Protestant Biblical Interpretation (p. 285).

In conclusion let me give three quotes that reflect warnings in our interpretation of parables:

1. Taken from How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart:

"The parables have suffered a fate of misinterpretation in the church second only to the Revelation" (p. 135).

2. Taken from Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Robertson McQuilkin:

"Parables have been the source of untold blessing in enlightening God's people concerning spiritual truth. At the same time, parables have been the source of untold confusion in both doctrine and practice in the church" (p. 164).

3. Taken from The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne:

"Parables have been among the most written about yet hermeneutically abused portions of Scripture. . .the most dynamic, yet the most difficult to comprehend of the biblical genres. The potential of the parable for communication is enormous, since it creates a comparison or story based upon everyday experiences. However, that story itself is capable of many meanings, and the modern reader has as much difficulty interpreting it as did the ancient hearers" (p. 235).

 

C. A Checklist for Interpreting Parables

1. General Hermeneutical Principles

a. What is the central purpose of:

(1) the whole Gospel

(2) the literary unit

(3) the immediate context

b. Identify, if possible, the original audience (disciples, crowd, religious leaders)

c. Seek the historical setting

(1) of Jesus

(2) of the Gospel author

d. What is the main truth(s) of the story

(1) express it in one declarative sentence

(2) list the main characters of the parable (usually 2 or 3) and assign a purpose, truth, or plot development to each

e. Check the other gospels for their use of the parabolic material. Is it the same or different?

2. Special Hermeneutics

a. Read (or better, listen to) the story again and again

b. Identify the cultural aspects of the story. Look for what would have surprised the original hearers. This surprising twist usually comes toward the end. It can be a statement of Jesus or the hearers or a character in the story or the Gospel writer

c. What response was Jesus seeking to elicit in the story?

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:1-3
 1Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

8:1

NASB"from one city and village to another"
NKJV"every city and village"
NRSV"cities and villages"
TEV, NJB"towns and villages"

Jesus was trying to reach everyone with the Good News. This extensive tour of Galilee was precipitated by the leaders' rejection of Him in Judea.

▣ "proclaiming and preaching" These two Greek terms (kērussō and euangelizō) are synonymous. They (usually, but not always, cf. Luke 1:19) both reflect the public announcement of the gospel. Both of these are present participles.

▣ "the kingdom of God" This refers to the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated in God's reign over all the earth. This is the focal message of Jesus' ministry (cf. Matt. 6:10). See Special Topic at Luke 4:21.

"The twelve" See Special Topic at Luke 6:13.

8:2 "some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses" This is a periphrastic perfect passive. Jesus had healed or exorcized this group of women. These women apparently followed and contributed to the needs of Jesus and the Apostolic group (money for sure and probably cooking, washing clothes, etc.). They traveled with Jesus and the Twelve. See Special Topic: The Demonic at Luke 4:33

"Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out" This phrase indicates that this personis being introduced for the first time. Therefore, she is not the woman who anointed Jesus at Simon's house.

This phrase says several things about her.

1. her given name – Mary

2. where she was born/grew up – Magdala (cf. Matt. 15:39)

3. her condition from which Jesus freed her – demon possession (the seven denotes a full and complete possession)

 

8:3 "Joanna" She is mentioned only here and in Luke 24:10. She was married to a servant of Herod Antipas (see Special Topic at Luke 3:1), which means she was a woman of means. How much or how often she traveled with Jesus and the Apostolic group is uncertain. She traveled through Galilee in Luke 8 and was present in Jerusalem during the Passion Week. She may have seen the crucifixion and helped prepare the spices for burial (cf. Luke 23:55-56). She then returned to the tomb (cf. Luke 24:10).

▣ "Susanna" There is no other mention of this woman in the NT.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WOMEN WHO FOLLOWED JESUS

NASB"to their support"
NKJV"who provided for Him"
NRSV, NJB"who provided for them"
TEV"to help Jesus and his disciples"

The Greek manuscript evidence is divided between the singular (cf. MSS א, A, L, and Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41) and the plural(cf. MSS B, D, and W). It is hard to decide which is original (UBS4 gives the plural a "B" rating, meaning "almost certain"), but as with most variants, it really does not make much difference. Several women followed Jesus and the Apostles and helped them.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:4-8
 4When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: 5"The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. 6Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. 8Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

8:4 "parable" See introduction to the chapter for hermeneutical helps.

8:5 "'The sower went out to sow his seed’" This would have been an agricultural procedure everyone in that culture would have identified with. There may have been a sower in the distance that Jesus pointed to.

This parable is repeated in all three Synoptic Gospels. In many ways this parable, accompanied with Jesus' interpretation, is the paradigm for all the rest.

Notice that salvation is not human discovery or merit, but divine revelation (word of God); also note this is not a text on predestination, but the eternal consequences of human choices! This is really a parable about different soils (i.e., human hearts).

▣ "road" The farmer sowed his entire field, even the footpaths that traversed them then he plowed it all. The seed that fell in these well-worn paths did not penetrate the packed soil and it was quickly trampled on by passers-by.

8:6 "rocky soil" The farmer could not tell where the rocky ledges or the large underground boulders were located, but the seeds did not have enough soil in which to root.

8:7 This refers to the well established, thorny weeds which were plowed under (therefore they could not be seen), but quickly reestablished and crowded out the newly germinated grain.

8:8 "a hundred times as great" Matthew has a scale of grain production graded from 30 to 60 to 100 (cf. Matt. 13:8).

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear" This implies that an openness to the Spirit was required for understanding (cf. Mark 4:9; Matt. 13:9). In a sense, these parables were spiritual riddles. The heart (prepared by the Spirit, cf. John 6:44,65) of the hearer was crucial.

Notice also that of the four types of soil, three allowed the seed to germinate, but only one allowed fruit-bearing. Salvation involves evidence. Eternal life has observable characteristics! Be careful of an initial response as the only evidence of salvation. The yield varies, but not fruitfulness. True salvation is an initial response to the gospel followed by a daily response. This parable is a warning against an "easy believism" (as is John 15)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:9-10
 9His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.

8:9 "His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant" Even the inner group of Apostles did not understand the spiritual significance of parables. This is comforting to me when I do not understand Jesus' words either.

8:10 "'To you it has been granted’" This is a perfect passive indicative. We are responsible stewards of the spiritual truths we possess. "To whom much is given, much is required" (cf. Luke 12:48).

This private teaching, which seems to be a regular occurrence, may explain the differences between the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., public teaching) and John's Gospel (private teaching). Jesus speaks very differently in John. It is possible that the parabolic teachings, so common in the Synoptics, were done before the crowds and that the totally different style (i.e., "I Am" statements) of the Gospel of John were done in private with the disciples.

It is just possible that this whole issue of special instruction for the Twelve may have functioned in the early church as a way of accentuating Apostolic authority. They, and they alone, knew the "true" interpretation of Jesus' words. All revelation comes through these chosen and inspired disciples (NT authors).

"the mysteries of the kingdom of God" This is the Greek term mustērion. It is used in the NT in several different senses. Here in Luke it is plural. In Mark 4:11 and here it is revealed truth which the leaders and the crowd could not comprehend (cf. Isa. 6:9-10).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MYSTERY IN THE NT

▣ "but to the rest it is in parables" Parables had the linguistic ability

1. to reveal truths

2. to hide truths

 

▣ "so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand" This is a quote from Isa. 6:9. This prophetic passage (Isa. 6:9-10) is used often to explain unbelief (cf. Matt. 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; John 12:40; Acts 28:26,27; Rom. 11:8).

This emphasizes that only a heart and mind touched by the Spirit of God can understand the gospel. This is the mystery of Divine Sovereignty and required human response. Somehow both are true! Humans can only respond to God's initiation. The question remains, "Does He touch all or only some?" The evidence of a Divine touch is a human response (repentance, faith, obedience, perseverance).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:11-15
 11"Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."

8:11 "the word of God" See note at Luke 5:1.

8:12 "the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts" The NT teaches the reality of a personal force of evil out to thwart God's gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN at Luke 4:2.

The NET Bible (footnote #23, p. 1822) makes the interesting observation that each of the Synoptic Gospels uses a different name for God's opponent.

1. Luke – "the devil"

2. Matthew – "the evil one"

3. Mark – "Satan"

This shows the freedom of the Gospel writers to record true events and teachings in their own words.

"will not believe and be saved" It is so hard to precisely define the procedure and process of salvation (ex. the variety of conversions in Acts). This is because the NT approaches the subject from several different angles:

1. repentance and faith

2. faith and works

3. faith and baptism

4. faith and tongues

However, the consistent requirement is faith. I have come to understand this faith as having three crucial aspects.

1. receiving/welcoming a person (Jesus)

2. believing truths about that person (the NT)

3. living a life emulating that person (Christlikeness).

Some of these are initial; others develop over time. New Testament faith is a dynamic relationship which is difficult to explain. It is more than just faith, but it starts there and finishes there for us. In reality it starts and finishes with God.

"from their heart" This is the OT use of the term "heart" to refer to the person (cf. Luke 8:15). Often today we speak of inviting Jesus into our heart, which is the same metaphorical usage of heart as the will, mind, and emotions of a person. See Special Topic at Luke 1:51.

8:13 "those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy" This shows that the joyful acceptance of the gospel is not automatically eternal salvation! The word "receive" (cf. John 1:12) is synonymous with "believer" (cf. John 3:16). Receive/believe is used in John 8:31 for Jews who later tried to kill Jesus (cf. Luke 8:59).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NEED TO PERSEVERE

8:14 "are choked with worries and riches and pleasure of this life" Here is another group who, after what seems to be a vital initial response to the Good News, succumbed to the pressures of earthly fallen life (cf. Demas in 2 Tim. 4:10; God and mammon in Luke 16:13). The theological questions has always been, "Are these people lost, immature or saved and lost"?

See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at Luke 6:46.

▣ "bring no fruit to maturity" This issue is fruit-bearing, not germination only (cf. Matthew 7).

8:15 "hold it fast and bear fruit with perseverance" Both of these are present active indicatives. Here is the key—the harvest is the result of a whole life, not one emotional incident of dedication to God (cf. Gal. 6:9). There is a good article on "Apostasy" in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, pp. 38-40.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:16-18
 16"Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 17For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."

8:16 "Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container" This is related to the preceding parable. It emphasizes the true believer's need to live and share the truth of the gospel. We are saved to serve, to tell.

▣ "lampstand" This could refer to several different ways by which lights were positioned in the home so as to give off the most illumination:

1. an out-cropping in the wall

2. a hanger on the wall

3. some type of pedestal

 

8:17-18 These two verses must relate to the previous context of "apparent" believers. The intentions of the heart will one day be revealed. God looks first at the heart, not the religious actions. One's true motive will become evident (1) in this life or (2) on judgment day.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:19-21
 19And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." 21But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."

8:21 "My mother and My brothers" This shocking statement shows Jesus' self-understanding and the radical nature of biblical faith that can only be described in terms of a new birth, a new family. Family life was such an important aspect of Jewish life (cf. J. Duncan, M. Derrett, Jesus' Audience, pp. 38-45) that to use this of fellow believers is significant. Believers relate to deity as family members; God is Father, Jesus is the unique Son and Savior, but believers, even the least, are children of God too!

"who hear the word of God and do it" This reflects the Hebrew word Shema (cf. Deut. 5:1; 6:4), which means hear so as to do (cf. Luke 11:28). This is the emphasis of the book of James. Eternal life has observable characteristics!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:22-25
 22Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out. 23But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. 24They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. 25And He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, "Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?"

8:23 "a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake" The Sea of Galilee is several hundred feet below sea level, surrounded by high, rolling hills. The wind that funnels down from these hills is able to swirl the lake into a tempest in a relatively short time.

One wonders how this miracle is related to God's

1. control of the waters (cf. Ps. 65:7; 89:9; 107:23-32)

2. victory over chaos (cf. Job 9:13; Ps. 89:10-11; Isa. 27:1; 51:10)

Water is the only aspect of creation not said to be spoken into existence in Genesis 1. There may have been many OT allusions behind this event. These Jewish fishermen would have known these verses much like the tumultuous waters.

8:24 "Master, Master" See note at Luke 5:5.

▣ "we are perishing" This is a present middle indicative. Remember these were seasoned fishermen. It must have been some storm!

8:25 "Where is your faith" The parallels in Matthew (cf. Matt. 8:26) and Mark (cf. Mark 4:40) add "why are you afraid?" Many of Jesus' miracles were for the purpose of training the disciples.

"Who then is this" This verse clearly displays the Apostles' theological immaturity. Jesus faced several types of unbelief: (1) His family's; (2) the crowds’; and (3) the disciples’. Numbers 1 and 3 are spiritually growing. Their unbelief is based on ignorance, but number 2 is willful.

Everyone who hears the gospel must answer this question about Jesus! It is the crucial issue.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:26-31
 26Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. 28Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me." 29For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. 30And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. 31They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

8:26 "country of the Gerasenes" This area goes by several names in the Gospels:

1. Gadarenes (Matt. 8:28; MSS A, W)

2. Gerasenes (Mark 5:1, MSS P775, B, D)

3. Gergesenes (Luke 8:26,37; MSS א, L)

It is sometimes called Gadara. There is a town by this same name several miles away from the sea, but we have learned from archeological evidence that this town owned land near the sea.

8:27 "a man" Matthew 8:28 has two men, but this is characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew, which often has "two," while the other Synoptics have one. Another example would be the blind man/men of Jericho (cf. Matt. 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35). Some have supposed that two were mentioned because this number was required to be witnesses in court (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16). There is a good article in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 371-377.

▣ "who was possessed with demons" See Special Topic: The Demonic at Luke 4:33 and the note at Luke 4:35.

"in the tombs" He had been ostracized by the community and this was the only place where he could find shelter. During this period of time small manmade or natural caves were used as burial places. Whether this location was connected with his demon possession is uncertain. There are many specific questions about demons and angels which cannot be answered because there is not enough biblical information. Our world is permeated by a personal force of evil with his servants, the demonic, who are out to thwart the will of God and to destroy mankind, God's ultimate creation and the focus of His love and attention.

8:28

NASB"What business do we have with each other"
NKJV"What have I to do with You"
NRSV"What have you to do with me"
TEV, NJB"What do you want with me"

This is literally "what to me and to you." In A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, Bratcher and Nida note that "In classical Greek the phrase would mean 'what have we in common?' Here, however, it corresponds to the Hebrew 'Why do you meddle with me’" (p. 49). This idiom is illustrated in Jdgs. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kgs. 17:18; 2 Chr. 35:21.

▣ "Jesus, Son of the Most High God" These demons knew who Jesus was (cf. James 2:19; Mark 1:23), but Jesus refused their testimonies because He knew that the religious leaders who could not deny His power would later accuse Him of using Satan's power (cf. Luke 11:14-26). See notes at Luke 1:32 and 1:76.

"do not torment me" It is interesting that in this conversation sometimes the plural is used of the demons and sometimes the singular (head demon).

This is grammatically an aorist active subjunctive of prohibition functioning as an Aorist active imperative, which implies "never start an action" (cf. Barbara and Timothy Friberg's Analytical Greek New Testament, p. 120). The demonic knew that judgment was coming and that Jesus had power and authority over them (cf. Mark 1:23-24; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9; 20:10). The parallels in Matt. 8:29 and Mark 5:7 also imply eschatological judgment. These demons apparently did not know about the two comings of the Messiah. This context shows that even "spirits" can suffer!

8:29 This describes the man's previous life (cf. Mark 5:3-5; Matt. 8:28).

"into the desert" These non-inhabited regions were often associated in the OT with the demonic (cf. Luke 4:1-2).

8:30 "Legion" In the Roman Army 6,000 troops made up a Legion (though in reality they often had less than this ideal number). This may have been a metaphor of the degree of their control over the man. However, because of Luke 8:32, which describes the demons causing the death of many hogs, it may be literal.

8:31 "the abyss" This seems to refer to Hades in Rom. 10:7. It is also mentioned in Rev. 9:1; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3. Let me quote my note from Rev. 9:1 (see www.freebiblecommentary.org):

"▣ "the key of the bottomless pit was given to him" A "key" is mentioned in Rev. 1:18 and Rev. 20:1. It symbolizes authority. God exercises authority over the demonic hordes of judgment. The abyss is a Greek term that meant "depth" negated by an alpha privative. It is used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) in Gen. 1:2 and 7:11.

It seems to be synonymous with the term "tartarus" (cf. 2 Pet. 2:4 and I Enoch 21:7), a place where evil angels are held in prison (cf. Luke 8:31; Jude 6; Rev. 11:7; 17:8; 20:1-3; and I Enoch 10:4; 86:1; 88:1; Jubilees 5:6-11). Paul used this term in Rom. 10:7 for the place of the dead (cf. Isa. 24:21-22). Later the rabbis said it was the name of the unrighteous part of Sheol/Hades."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:32-33
 32Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. 33And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

8:32 "swine" Obviously this was a Gentile area (cf. Lev. 11:7; Deut. 14:8).

8:33 Notice that the demons made a request to Jesus. The text does not tell us why Jesus allowed these demons to go into the hogs or why they wanted to. Possibly the demons leaving the man and entering the hogs was a visible way of encouraging the man to believe he was delivered. Perhaps it was a visual aid, similar to Jesus putting spit (cf. Mark 8:23) and/or mud into blind eyes (cf. John 9:6) or putting His fingers in a deaf person's ears (cf. Mark 7:33). The demons may have requested it because

1. they preferred hogs to the abyss

2. this action would cause the townspeople to ask Jesus to leave

Demons do not do things to help Jesus!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:34-39
 34When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. 35The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. 36Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. 37And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. 38But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, 39"Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

8:34-37 What a sad account of fear and greed (cf. Mark 5:15). There was no joy over the man's restitution, just fear (cf. Luke 8:37). They were so concerned over the loss of a herd of pigs and other possible consequences that they asked Jesus to leave, and He did! This is a good example that shows that miracles, in and of themselves, do not always result in faith!

8:38-39 "the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him" Jesus wanted this Gentile man to witness to his family and friends about the love and power of God. This was the first "home missionary" (assuming he was a Gentile). This man's presence and testimony may have negatively affected Jesus' mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:40-42
 40And as Jesus returned, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him. 41And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus' feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house; 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him.

8:41 "Jairus’" This is a Hebrew name which means "he who gives light" (BDB 22, cf. Jdgs. 10:3) or "YHWH has enlightened."

▣ "he was an officer of the synagogue" He was in charge of both the order of service on the Sabbath and the physical maintenance of the synagogue. This was a man of religious stature in the community.

8:42 "for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying" The girl was this man's only child. She was at the age of becoming a marriageable woman, responsible for keeping the Law (bat mitzvah). Jesus was his only hope!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:43-48
 43And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, 44came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched Me?" And while they were all denying it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You." 46But Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me." 47When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

8:43 "a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and could not be healed by anyone" It is interesting to me that Luke leaves out the references to (1) the doctors' inability to heal the woman and (2) her spending her entire savings trying to be healed (There is a Greek manuscript variant connected with the inclusion of this phrase concerning doctors in Luke. It is missing in MSS P75 and B. It may have been assimilated from Mark 5:26). This ailment would have made her ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 15:25-27). She could not have attended synagogue or religious festivals. The rabbinical cures for this kind of illness are very strange:

1. carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen rag in the summer and a cotton rag in the winter

2. carry the barley corn from the dung of a while female donkey (cf. Shabb. 110 A & B)

 

8:44 "and touched the fringe of His cloak" This refers to His tallith. This was the prayer shawl worn by rabbinical teachers in fulfillment of Num. 15:38-40 and Deut. 22:12. It has four tassels (cf. Matt. 9:20) to symbolize the law of Israel and she touched one of these.

There is a Greek manuscript variant connected to the word "the fringe." It is included in MSS P75, A, B, C, L W, but missing in some Old Latin manuscripts. Possibly scribes were influenced by its absence at Mark 5:27. The UBS4 gives its inclusion a B rating (almost certain).

8:45 "Jesus said, 'Who is the one who touched Me?’" Either Jesus did not know who touched Him or He wanted the woman to make a public profession of her faith and healing.

NASB"Peter said"
NKJV"Peter and those with him"

The shorter reading is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P75 and B, but the vast majority of ancient texts support the longer reading (cf. MSS א, A, C*, D, L, P, and W; Mark 5:31 does not mention Peter specifically, but does say, "His disciple said to Him"). The UBS4 translation committee chooses the shorter reading and give it a "B" rating (almost certain).

8:46 "for I was aware that power had gone out of Me" Exactly what this involves is uncertain. Apparently, Jesus' physical healing of others took something out of Him (cf. Luke 5:17; 6:19; Mark 5:30).

8:47 Her illness made her ceremonially unclean. She should never have touched a religious teacher. She now testified that her touch had immediately resulted in her healing (cf. Luke 8:44).

8:48 "your faith has made you well" Not her touch, but acting on her faith in Him was the key. Faith itself is not the issue, but the object of faith (i.e., Jesus). There was nothing magical here, nor was it the power of positive thinking, but the power of Jesus. This is another use of the Greek sōzō in both its OT and NT senses. It is a perfect active indicative, which implied she was healed and remained healed of the physical problem and her spiritual problem.

"go in peace" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. She was not only physically healed, but spiritually healed.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 8:49-56
 49While He was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, "Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore." 50But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, "Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well." 51When He came to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the girl's father and mother. 52Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, "Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep." 53And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died. 54He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, "Child, arise!" 55And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat. 56Her parents were amazed; but He instructed them to tell no one what had happened.

8:49 "Your daughter has died" This is a perfect active indicative. She died and had entered into death. Whether this girl was dead or in a coma is difficult to know (cf. Acts 20:7-12). The family thought she was dead and had hired professional mourners, which was a common practice in that day.

"do not trouble" This is a present active imperative. This word was also used by the centurion seeking Jesus for healing (cf. Luke 7:6).

"the Teacher" Luke never calls Jesus "rabbi" because he is writing to Gentiles. However, this designation is also used often in Matthew's Gospel. It was a way to characterize Jesus' ministry. He acted, then He explained the significance of His person, work, and mission. Preaching and teaching are used interchangeably in the Gospels.

8:50 "Do not be afraid" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative participle, which usually denotes the cessation of an act in process.

This man had stood there patiently as Jesus visited with the woman, but now it was too late. This delay may have been purposeful to test this man's faith in Jesus (cf. Mary and Martha's test of faith in John 11).

"only believe" This is an aorist active imperative. Faith is the opposite of fear (doubt). Believe what? Believe that Jesus was capable of healing his daughter and fulfilling His word.

This is still the issue today. Will Jesus fulfill His word? Can we trust Him to do what He promised?

8:51 "He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James" This is the inner circle of disciples who were present at all the intimate, special times with the Lord.

8:52 "they" This must refer to the crowd of mourners gathered at this home (cf. Luke 8:53).

"Stop weeping" This is another Present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in progress.

"asleep" Sleep is an OT circumlocution for physical death (cf. John 11:11). It is difficult to know whether this is a healing (cf. Luke 8:52) or a resuscitation (cf. Luke 8:49,53,55). This series of miracles has shown Jesus' power over nature, the demonic, illness, and death.

8:54 "arise" This is a present active imperative. This is a common verb with a large semantic range; it is often used of resuscitation (cf. Luke 7:14,22; 8:54; 9:2; 20:37), but also of the resurrection (cf. Luke 9:22; 24:6,34). Jesus has power over death (cf. John 10:17-18).

8:56 "He instructed them to tell no one what had happened" In the Synoptics, Jesus' deity is veiled until after the great truths of Calvary and the resurrection are revealed.

1. demons not allowed to reveal His person

a. Mark 1:34; 3:12

b. Luke 4:34-35,41

2. those He healed not allowed to tell others about it

a. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16

b. Mark 1:43-44; 5:43; 7:36

c. Luke 5:14; 8:56

3. the disciples not allowed to reveal His Messiahship

a. Matt. 16:20; 17:9

b. Mark 8:30; 9:9

c. Luke 9:21 The crowds wanted favors, not truth; healing, not conversion

Jesus did not want to be known as a healer. The crowds wanted favors, not truth; healing, not conversion.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the major truth in the parable of the soils?

2. Is it possible for someone to receive Jesus Christ and then later to be lost?

3. Why does Jesus mention the Kingdom of God so often?

4. Why did Mary and Jesus' brothers come to see Him?

5. Is demon possession a live option today? Is it a possibility for believers?

6. Why did Jesus tell the parents not to say anything about the raising of their daughter?

 

Passage: 

Luke 9

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Mission of the Twelve Sending Out the Twelve Commissioning and Instruction of the Twelve Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Disciples The Mission of the Twelve
9:1-6 9:1-6 9:1-6 9:1-5 9:1-6
      9:6  
Herod's Anxiety John the Baptist Beheaded Herod Asks About Jesus Herod's Confusion Herod and Jesus
9:7-9 9:7-9 9:7-9 9:7-9 9:7-9
The Feeding of the Five Thousand Feeding the Five Thousand Five Thousand Fed Jesus Feeds Five Thousand The Return of the Apostles–Miracle of the Loaves
9:10-17 9:10-17 9:10-11 9:10-11 9:10-11
    9:12-17 9:12 9:12-17
      9:13a  
      9:13b-14a  
      9:14b  
      9:15-17  
Peter's Declaration About Jesus Peter Confesses Jesus As the Christ Peter's Confession Peter's Declaration About Jesus Peter's Profession of Faith
9:18-20 9:18-20 9:18-20 9:18 9:18-21
      9:19  
      9:20a  
      9:20b  
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection   Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death First Prophecy of the Passion
9:21-27 9:21-22 9:21-22 9:21-22 9:22
  Take Up the Cross and Follow Him On Discipleship   The Condition of Following Christ
  9:23-27 9:23-27 9:23-27 9:23-26
        The Kingdom Will Come Soon
        9:27
The Transfiguration of Jesus Jesus Transfigured on the Mount The Transfiguration The Transfiguration The Transfiguration
9:28-36 9:28-36 9:28-36 9:28-33 9:28-36
      9:34-35  
      9:36  
The Healing of a Boy with an Unclean Spirit A Boy Is Healed Epileptic Child Healed Jesus Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit The Epileptic Demoniac
9:37-43a 9:37-42 9:37-43a 9:37-40 9:37-43a
      9:41  
      9:42-43a  
Jesus Again Foretells His Death Jesus Again Predicts His Death The Passion Foretold Again Jesus Speaks Again About His Death Second Prophecy of the Passion
9:43b-45 9:43-45 9:43b-45 9:43b-45 9:43b-45
Who Is Greatest? Who Is the Greatest? True Greatness Who Is Greatest? Who Is Greatest?
9:46-48 9:46-48 9:46-48 9:46-48 9:46-48
He Who Is Not Against You Is For You Jesus forbids Sectarianism The Unknown Exorcist Whoever Is Not Against You Is For You On Using Jesus' Name
9:49-50 9:49-50 9:49-50 9:49 9:49-50
    Events on the Way to Jerusalem
(9:51-18:14)
9:50  
A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior The Hostile Samaritans A Samaritan Village Refuses to Receive Jesus A Samaritan Village is Inhospitable
9:51-56 9:51-56 9:51-56 9:51-54 9:51-56
      9:55-56  
The Would-Be Followers of Jesus The Cost of Discipleship Claims of Discipleship The Would-Be Followers of Jesus Hardships of the Apostolic Calling
9:57-62 9:57-62 9:57-62 9:57 9:57-58
      9:58  
      9:59a 9:59-60
      9:59b  
      9:60  
      9:61 9:61-62
      9:62  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:1-6
 1And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. 3And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. 5And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them." 6Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

9:1 "He called the twelve together" Possibly all twelve were not with Jesus all the time. They had responsibilities at home with their families (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8) and it is quite possible that different groups of Apostles (four groups of three) went home at different times for short periods.

Here Luke seems to follow Mark 6:7 in calling the disciples "the Twelve" (dōdeka, MSS P75, A, B, D, W), but some Greek manuscripts address them as

1. his disciples – in several lectionaries

2. his twelve disciples (cf. Mark 10:1) – MSS C3, E, F, H

3. twelve apostles – MSS א, C*, L

The UBS4 gives "the Twelve" a B rating (almost certain).

▣ "gave them power and authority" Dunamis means the ability to overcome; exousia means legal right or authority. These two terms are used earlier in Luke 4:36, also in connection with Jesus' exorcisms of demons. See Special Topic: Luke's Use of Exousia at Luke 20:2.

▣ "over all the demons and to heal diseases" Notice the distinction that is made between demon possession and physical illness. Demons often cause physical symptoms, but in exorcisms there is a clear distinction in the NT between demonic activity and physical diseases. See Special Topic: The Demonic at Luke 4:33.

9:2 "He sent them out" The term "sent" (apostellō) is related to the term "apostle" (apostolos). The primary meaning in rabbinical circles was "to send someone" as an official representative with authority. They were to preach that the kingdom of God had come in Jesus of Nazareth and then confirm their message with signs.

Jesus' power and authority can be delegated to His followers. Surely there is an intensity shared between the Twelve and Jesus that cannot be duplicated, but God's power is available to His church. Where is the power in our day? It seems that these power signs are used to confirm the gospel message and give credence to the gospel preacher. This is still true today. However, in cultures where the gospel message has taken root, then believers must walk by faith, not by sight; trust in God, do not demand miracles (cf. John 4:48). Miracles are not the answer to faith problems! It is also very possible that the judgment of God on the modern western church is the perception of success, but the reality of ineffectiveness.

Signs and miracles, as well as demonic and angelic activity, increased in Jesus' and the Apostles' day. This spiritual activity is surely present in every age, but it intensified at Jesus' first coming and will intensify again as His Second Coming draws near.

I rejoice in the manifestations of God's love and power (i.e., the gifts are still active), but I trust in gospel truths, not the presence or absence of physical confirmations. Miracles and signs can be counterfeit (cf. Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 19:20). Believers must not demand confirmation! Childlike faith is spiritually superior to supernatural signs and wonders.

This is a good place to compare Luke's account of the mission of the Twelve to Matthew's account (cf. Matt. 10:5), where Jesus specifically says not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, but only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The questions arises, what exactly did Jesus say? Does Luke edit Jesus' words or does Matthew expand Jesus' words? This is the kind of question that cannot be answered. Each evangelist (Gospel writer) had a particular audience in mind (Matthew – Jews, Luke – Gentiles). They select, arrange, and adapt Jesus' words to fit this target audience (see Fee and Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp 127-148 ). This example of the sending of the Twelve illustrates the differences! This does not violate inspiration; it is part of it!

▣ "the kingdom of God" This was the central thrust of Jesus' teachings. It relates to the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated with God's reign over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). This new day of God's activity (the New Age of the Spirit) began in Jesus' ministry. They did not yet know all the gospel details, but they did know the gospel person—Jesus. It is Him they preach. See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God at Luke 4:21.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

9:3 "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff" There seems to be a contradiction between this verse and Mark 6:8. Some explain it by saying that there was a confusion in translating the two Aramaic terms. Others assert that "a staff" is mentioned because often it had a secret compartment for carrying money. Although I cannot explain the discrepancy, it is obvious the main thrust of this verse is that they were to depend on God's provision, not their own. It is also obvious that this was not a universal principle to be followed in all ages (cf. Luke 22:35-36).

These comparisons are confusing and painful to our simplistic understanding of the nature of the inspiration of the Gospels, but we cannot get away from them. A good discussion of this and other "discrepancies" between Gospel accounts is found in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 422-424.

9:4 "Whatever house you enter, stay there" The disciples were not to be moving from house to house seeking better food or accommodations, but were to stay where they were first invited. This showed the community that they were not self-seeking.

9:5 "shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them" This was a cultural sign of rejection. The rabbis did this whenever they had to travel through Gentile areas before reentering Jewish areas. It was also used in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 13:51). This may have been a subtle way of treating Jewish unbelievers the way they treated Gentiles.

9:6 As Jesus passed through all the villages preaching and healing, so now the Apostolic group mimics the Master. See Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Discipleship.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:7-9
 7Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. 9Herod said, "I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see Him.

9:7 "Herod the tetrarch" This refers to Herod Antipas. He was the one who had John the Baptist beheaded and was ruler of Galilee and Perea. He took power from his father, Herod the Great, in 4 b.c. and reigned until a.d. 39. See Special Topic: The Family of Herod the Great at Luke 3:1.

Luke mentions this Herod often.

1. his perplexity and desire to see Jesus, Luke 9:7-9

2. his attempt to kill Jesus, Luke 13:31-33

3. his questioning of Jesus at the request of Pilate, Luke 23:8-12

 

"he was greatly perplexed" This is an imperfect active indicative, which refers to repeated action in past time. Luke uses this term (diaporeō) several times (Luke 9:7; Acts 2:12; 5:24; 10:17). It is not used by any other NT writers.

▣ "John had risen from the dead" Matthew (cf. Matt. 14:2) and Mark (cf. Mark 6:14) tell us that Herod was worried about Jesus being John the Baptist.

9:8 "by some that Elijah had appeared" In this context all three of the guesses involve a resuscitation. They are repeated again in Luke 9:19. Elijah and John the Baptist were both prophets, similar in their lifestyle and dress.

9:9 "I myself had John beheaded" The fuller account is in Mark 6:14-29.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:10-11
 10When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. 11But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.

9:10 "When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done" Jesus tried to provide a time ofdebriefing, rest, and recuperation, but from Luke 9:11, it is obvious that a crowd followed Him. It is amazing how Jesus always had time for common people (welcoming, speaking about the Kingdom, and curing those in need). But He needed time alone with the Twelve. See Robert Coleman, Master Plan of Discipleship.

"to a city" There are several textual variants.

1. "a city" – MSS P75, אi1, B, L, X (UBS4 gives it a B rating)

2. "a town" – MS D

3. "a desert place of a city" – MSS A, C, W

4. "a desert place" – MSS אi*,2 (similar to Matt. 14:13; Mark 6:32)

Again the variants do not affect the meaning of the text.

"Bethsaida" This is a city on the north side of the Sea of Tiberias (cf. John 6:1, Sea of Galilee). The name means "house of hunting." This was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (cf. John 1:44; 12:21). Philip the tetrarch had enlarged this village into a city and renamed it Julias, after Augustus Caesar's daughter (cf. Josephus Antiq. 18.2.1).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:12-17
 12Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, "Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place." 13But He said to them, "You give them something to eat!" And they said, "We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people." 14(For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, "Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each." 15They did so, and had them all sit down. 16Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. 17And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.

9:12 Jesus' popularity had caused Him to preach out in the countryside; no building was large enough and the Jewish leaders did not want Him preaching in the Synagogues. The problem was that there were no facilities in these remote areas to accommodate the needs of the crowd (food, shelter, latrines, etc.). The Apostles were exhibiting concern and practicality, but Jesus wanted them to exhibit faith!

9:13 "You give them something to eat" The account of feeding the five thousand is recorded in all four Gospels (cf. Matt. 14:13-31; Mark 6:32-44; John 6:1-4). These miraculous feedings were tremendous evidences of Jesus as the promised Messiah based on the rabbinical interpretation of OT promises about the Messiah providing food, like Moses (cf. Deut. 18:15,18; Ps. 132:15; Isa. 49:10). It is even possible it is an allusion to 2 Kgs. 4:42-44, which would make it another sign of Jesus' prophetic role. However, they are also related to the temptation experiences of Jesus (cf. Luke 4:3-4). Quite often the crowds misunderstood His motive and followed Him for the wrong reasons (cf. John 6:14,15).

▣ "We have no more than five loaves and two fish" We learn from John 6:9 that this was one boy's lunch. Jesus' command (aorist active imperative) was met with an analysis of their resources. They were not trusting in His provision!

"unless" This is a third class condition which usually has ean, but here it has ei (cf. 1 Cor. 14:5 and Phil. 3:12). This denotes potential action.

9:14 "(For there were about five thousand men)" Exactly how large the crowd was is uncertain, but the presence of at least some women and children is probable, indicating many more people.

"Sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each" Jesus organized the task. Just think of how many groups of fifty it would take to accommodate 5,000 plus people. Even with twelve disciples serving them, this was a major task!

9:16 "He looked up to heaven" Jesus knew and acknowledged the source of His power. The typical physical position for Jewish prayer was:

1. standing

2. hands lifted to God

3. eyes open looking up

4. direct address to God

 

"He blessed them, broke them, and kept giving them" The first two verbs are aorist active indicatives, implying a prayer and a breaking, but the third is an imperfect active indicative, implying a continual giving. The miracle continued to occur as He broke the food and kept passing it out! Think again of the size of this crowd! The disciples were amazed again.

9:17 "twelve baskets full" "Baskets" are also mentioned in the feeding of the four thousand, found in Mark 8:8. But, the baskets there are large, hamper-sized baskets (spuris), while the baskets in this text are small knapsacks (kophinos). The disciples collected the food to eat later. Jesus did not regularly multiply food for the disciples' needs.

Luke follows Mark's chronology, but for some reason, a major section of Mark (i.e., Mark 6:45-8:26) is omitted between Luke 9:17 and Luke 9:18. The exact reason is uncertain, but most scholars assume it has to do with Luke wanting to keep Jesus' activity in Galilee. Mark's Gospel has Jesus' activity outside Galilee (Mark 6:14-8:30). Luke's structure is Jesus traveling to Jerusalem. To maintain this emphasis he omits some events of Jesus' life that Mark chose to include.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:18-22
 18And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" 19They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." 20And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." 21But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day."

9:18 "while He was praying alone" For a fuller discussion of this event see Matt. 16:13ff. Luke records Jesus praying before the major events of His ministry much more than any of the other Gospels. He was praying alone, possibly removed a distance from the disciples; the phrase may mean that only Jesus and His special inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, and John) were present.

▣ "Who do people say that I am" The same three guesses mentioned in Luke 9:8 and 9 are repeated here. It is important that Elijah is connected with the Messianic kingdom (cf. Mal. 4:5). "One of the prophets of old" possibly refers to Moses' statement in Deut. 18:15,18 about "the Prophet."

9:20 "But who do you say that I am" The "you" (plural) is emphatic. This question was given to all the disciples.

▣ "The Christ of God" Peter, as a spokesman for the others, affirmed that Jesus was the promised Messiah (see Special Topic at Luke 2:11). Christ is the Greek translation of "the Anointed One." However, their concept of what this meant was formed more by rabbinical Judaism than Jesus' teachings (cf. Acts 1:6). The Jews of Jesus' day were expecting an empowered Jewish leader, like the Judges of the OT, to militarily free Israel from foreign domination and restore the Jews to a place of power and independence. In a sense this judgmental aspect is exactly what He will do when He returns. However, they had missed the Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Ezekiel 9-14; Zechariah 9 aspect of a humble, suffering, and dying Savior.

9:21 "But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone" These are two strong terms for a command, even an implied threat. There has been much discussion about this because it seems so unusual. Apparently the gospel was not yet complete and they had nothing to tell except their false Messianic views (cf. see full list of texts at Luke 8:56). We must remember that these Gospels were written decades after the events. The Evangelists knew the full account, but they (except John) wrote as if it was an unfolding truth to their readers.

9:22 "The Son of Man" This was Jesus' self-chosen designation. It had no rabbinical connotations. It is a phrase that means "human being" (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1). However, in Dan. 7:13-14 it involves the idea of deity. See Special Topic at Luke 5:24.

▣ "must" This Greek word, dei means "necessity." Jesus had to suffer (cf. Luke 9:44; 12:50; 13:33; 17:25; 18:31-33; 22:37; 24:7,26,46). What a shocking reflection on human sin (cf. Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21)! In a sense this term should be translated with all the following phrases.

▣ "suffer many things" The great stumbling block to Jesus being the Messiah for the Jewish people was His suffering and death (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). The OT seems to depict one coming of the Messiah, in power and glory. The NT reveals that such passages as Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Ezek. 9-14; and Zech. 9 describe the coming of the Messiah as a Suffering Servant, which the Jewish nation—and for a long time, the Apostles—misunderstood.

▣ "be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes" This may be an allusion to Ps. 118:22 (cf. Luke 20:17). The term "rejected" is a legal term for the examination and rejecting of someone. This series of nouns reflects the deliberations of the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling court of the Jews in Jerusalem made up of seventy members that had limited authority under the Roman Empire.

Jesus fully understood His mission and its cost (cf. Mark 10:45). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SANHEDRIN

▣ "raised up on the third day" Jesus was in the grave somewhere around thirty hours, but in Jewish reckoning of time, it was three days (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Each part of a day, twilight to twilight, was counted as a full day.

1. died at 3 p.m., but buried before 6 p.m. on Friday (day one)

2. in the tomb all of the high holy Sabbath of Passover Week (day two)

3. arose sometime before dawn Sunday following the high holy Sabbath (day three)

This phrase could refer to Hos. 6:1-2. It is interpreted in a similar way in the Aramaic Targum on this verse. However, Jesus seems to be making an allusion to Jonah 1:17 (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:4). This type of predictive sign was exactly what the Pharisees were asking for in Luke 9:12 (cf. Matt. 16:4). This type of prediction was the basis of defining a true prophet according to Deut. 13:2-5; 18:18-22. Jesus gave them sign after sign, but they could not comprehend. Luke used the phrase "three days" often (cf. Luke 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7,21,46; Acts 10:40) in connection with Jesus' resurrection.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RESURRECTION

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:23-27
 23And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

9:23 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the writer's perspective or for his literary purposes.

"anyone" Here again is the mystery of election and free will. Jesus' invitation is wide open to all (possibly all who had heard Him preach and were fed), but we know from other texts that no one can respond without the wooing and drawing of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44,65). Food alone is a poor motive (cf. John 6:15).

"he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" There are three imperatives in this phrase. The first is an aorist middle (deponent, "deny himself"), followed by an aorist active ("take up daily"), but then a present active ("and continue to follow Me"). There is a gate and then a road (cf. Matt. 7:13-14). There is an initial response and an ongoing response. Both are necessary! This speaks of our once-and-for-all death to selfish ambitions and our ongoing followship of Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:38; Gal. 2:20; 6:14). The Jews understood that "the cross" referred to a once-for-all death. Condemned criminals had to carry their own cross (the top beam) to the place of execution. We die to self so as to live daily for God (cf. Rom. 6; 8:36; 1 Cor. 15:31; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16).

The Fall (Genesis 3) has made mankind's independence and self-centeredness the goal of life, but now believers must return to selfless dependence on God. This should become a world view and life directive (i.e., daily). It is not a one-time decision, but a recurrent, volitional choice of priorities (cf. Luke 14:33).

9:24 "life. . .life" There is a play on two connotations of the Greek word psuchē, which reflects the OT term nephesh. Both of these terms simply refer to a human's personality or life force (cf. Luke 17:33; Matt. 10:38-39; John 12:25). I think these two terms relate to the two Jewish ages. Physical life is bound to this fallen age of rebellion, but eternal life is part of the age to come. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at Luke 9:2.

Not only is there a play on the word "life," but also on the word "save." Its OT sense was physical deliverance, but its NT connotation is eternal spiritual salvation.

Our decisions about knowing, trusting, and following Jesus have in-time and beyond-time consequences! He lay down His life for us; we must reciprocate (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16)!

9:25 This is a penetrating question. It is very similar to the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-20. Those who cling to this world (age) lose the next. One cannot serve/love God and mammon (cf. Luke 16:13; Matt. 6:24).

9:26 "whoever" The warning is as wide as the invitation (cf. Luke 9:23,24).

"is ashamed of Me and My words" This refers to the time when each person is confronted with the gospel. This same truth is expressed in a different way in Matt. 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9. What people decide today about the gospel determines their future. Jesus is the gospel!

"when He comes" The OT clearly reveals one coming of the Messiah. However, Jesus showed that Gen. 3:15; Psalm 22; and Isaiah 53 also refer to a suffering of the Messiah. The second glorious coming of the Messiah as Lord and Judge of the Kosmos will be exactly the way the Jews were expecting Him to come the first time. Their closed-minded, theological dogmatism caused them to reject Jesus.

The Second Coming is a major and oft repeated NT truth (cf. Matt. 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:3,27,30,37; 26:64; Mark 8:38-39; 13:26; Luke 21:27; John 21:22; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7,10; 2:1,8; James 5:7-8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 1:7).

SPECIAL TOPIC: NT TERMS FOR CHRIST'S RETURN

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SECOND COMING

"In His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" This is an OT prediction from Dan. 7:10 (cf. Matt. 16:27; Mark 13:20; Luke 9:26; 2 Thess. 1:7). This refers to the Second Coming. This was another way of asserting the deity of Jesus. Several times in Matthew the angels are the eschatological gatherers and dividers of humanity (cf. Matt. 13:39-41,49; 24:31).

In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kbd) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales) meaning "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (cf. Exod. 15:16; 24:17; Isa. 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Exod. 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jer. 1:14; Matt. 17:2; Heb. 1:3; James 2:1). See Special Topic at Luke 2:9.

9:27 There have been many theories to explain Jesus' statement. It may have referred to

1. Jesus' ascension

2. the Kingdom already present in Jesus

3. the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

4. the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70

5. the expectation of Jesus' early return

6. the rapid spread of Christianity

7. the transfiguration

These theories focus on different phrases in the text:

a. "some of the people standing here"

b. "the Kingdom of God"

c. "come in its power" (parallels in Mark 9:1)

The best guess is #7 because of the immediate context (cf. Mark. 9; Matt. 17; also 2 Pet. 1:16-18). Also, no other theory can explain all three aspects of the Markan text (Mark 8:38).

"truthfully" Luke has replaced the "amen" of Mark 9:1 with alēthōs because his Gentile audience would not know the Hebrew term. See Special Topic: Amen at Luke 4:24.

"not" This is the strong double negative.

▣ "taste death" This same idiom is used in the Synoptic parallels of Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1. It is also used in John 8:51,52 and Hebrews 2:9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:28- 36
 28Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. 33And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not realizing what he was saying. 34While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" 36And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

9:28 "some eight days after these sayings" The parallel in Mark 9:2 has "six days." The reason for the difference is one of the mysteries of why God allowed four Gospels to be written which do not agree on chronology, sequence, or details! These differences are the reason the term "inerrant" is an inappropriate adjective for Scripture. Which one of the four Gospels is the historically accurate one? They are all true, but they are eastern and ancient, not western and modern literary accounts.

One theory about Mark's "six days" is that it links this event to Exod. 24:12-18.

"went up on the mountain to pray" Context seems to make Mt. Hermon the best possibility (cf. Matthew 16 at Caesarea Philippi). Tradition from the non-Canonical Gospel According to Hebrews affirms Mt. Tabor. In the fourth century the tradition grew that Mt. Tabor was also the Mount of Temptation as well as transfiguration, but this cannot be true.

Only Luke mentions "to pray." Jesus' prayer life is a recurrent theme in Luke's Gospel. Prayer is crucial.

9:29 The other two Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt. 17:1-11; Mark 9:2-8) describe this same event with the Greek term metamorphoō, which means to transfigure, to change the external form. Paul uses this metaphorically of Christians being changed in Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18. Luke simply describes the outburst of radiant glory (cf. Mark 9:3) connected to Jesus' meeting with two OT leaders.

9:30 "Moses and Elijah" Apparently they were (1) two eschatological OT figures (cf. Deuteronomy 18 and Malachi 3-4) or (2) those who had unusual deaths and their bodies were never found. There is no evidence in Judaism that Moses and Elijah represented the Law and Prophets sections of the Hebrew canon. They were meant to encourage Jesus and discuss His upcoming (periphrastic present active infinitive) crucifixion and resurrection (cf. Luke 9:31).

9:32 "Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep" Literally this is "were having been burdened," a periphrastic perfect passive. This experience is very similar to what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matt. 26:43).

"they saw His glory" This was one of the purposes of the event. Little by little it was dawning on them who He was!

9:33 Peter was very impetuous and often spoke out of turn. The term "tabernacles" refers to the leafy booths that were made to briefly live in during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Peter wanted to hold on to this glorious moment. Who wouldn’t?! However, they were needed down in the valley, and so are we.

"not realizing what he was saying" This can be understood as Peter not recognizing the uniqueness of Jesus. He cannot/could not be one with even Moses and Elijah. He was not a prophet but the incarnation of God (cf. Luke 9:35).

9:34 "a cloud" I think this is related to the Shekinah Glory of the OT (cf. Exod. 13:21,22; 14:19,20,24; 16:10; 19:9,16; 24:15,16,18; 40:34-38; Num. 9:15-23), which represents the very presence of YHWH. It is seen several times in the NT.

1. at Jesus' baptism

2. at the transfiguration

3. at the ascension

4. at the return of Jesus at the Second Coming (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13ff)

In a sense it is the transportation of deity (cf. Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 1:7).

"formed and began to overshadow them" This is the very same word used of the Spirit overshadowing Mary in the conception of Jesus (cf. Luke 1:35). This was an awesome spiritual experience!

9:35 "a voice came out of the cloud" This kind of event, of God's speaking out of a cloud, was not unique. The rabbis referred to it as a Bath-kol. It was the tradition during the inter-biblical period of how to know and affirm God's will.

"This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him" This statement of the Father is recorded three different ways in the Synoptic Gospels. 

1. Mark, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" (Mark 9:7)

2. Matthew, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" (Matt. 17:5)

3. Luke, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (MSS P45, P75, א, B, L; UBS4 gives it a "B" rating)

The Lukan statements seem to be a combination of the Royal Messianic Psalm, Psalm 2 (My Son) and the Servant Song of Isaiah 42:1 (My Chosen One, cf. Luke 23:35). In this combination the two functions (Savior and Judge) or two comings of Christ are united—Savior and Judge/King.

The common element in all three is, "Listen to Him!" (Present active imperative - plural). This may be an allusion to one Messianic passage of Deut. 18:15.

9:36 This experience was so awesome that they:

1. did not ask Jesus any questions

2. did not tell anyone, even the other disciples, until after the resurrection.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:37-43a
 37On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. 38And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, "Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, 39and a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves. 40I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not." 41And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here." 42While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

9:37-62 This is a series of events that clearly illustrates the disciples' lack of spiritual maturity.

1. the demonized boy, Luke 9:37-43

2. the prophecy of Jesus' death, Luke 9:43-45

3. the fight over who is greatest, Luke 9:46-48

4. jealousy over other exorcists, Luke 9:49-50

5. the anger of the Apostles, Luke 9:51-56

6. mixed loyalties, Luke 9:57-62

 

9:37-43a Mark 9:14-20 is a much fuller account of this healing.

9:39 The physical symptoms are of a grand mal seizure. Demons often manifest symptoms of diseases. However, the NT makes a clear distinction between disease and demon manifestation.

9:40 Jesus had given power and authority over the demonic to His Apostles in Luke 9:1-6. However, in this instance they were unable to exorcize the boy.

9:41 "Jesus answered" This is an allusion to the Song of Moses from Deut. 32:5,20; it addresses not only the disciples (cf. Matt. 17:19-21), but also the crowd (Israel).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:43b-45
 43bBut while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, 44"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." 45But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.

9:44

NASB, NRSV"Let those words sink into your ears"
NKJV"Let those words sink down into your ears"
TEV"Don’t forget what I am about to tell you"
NJB"For your part, you must have these words constantly in mind"

This is an idiom (cf. Exod. 17:14). The verb tithēmi basically means "to place," "to set," or "to lay." Here the imperative is used to encourage attention and remembrance. This phrase functions like Jesus' "Amen, Amen" to introduce a significant truth statement.

"the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men" In all the Synoptic Gospels Jesus predicts and warns the disciples about the upcoming events in Jerusalem. This is an allusion to Isaiah 53, especially Luke 9:12, in the Septuagint (i.e., "deliverance"). Mark has a much fuller account in Luke 9:30-32. He predicted this for several reasons:

1. to show His knowledge of future events

2. to reveal the redemptive plan of God

3. to try to help them prepare

 

9:45 Only Luke has this statement. Jesus spoke to them, but someone veiled (periphrastic perfect passive participle) their eyes (cf. Luke 18:34). Was it the Spirit or was it Satan? If it is the Spirit, then the disciples were just not ready to receive this truth. It would come in time. If Satan, then the purpose is to cause them not to understand and, therefore, cause more fear and confusion. What surprises me is that Jesus makes this statement to them and, for some reason, it is veiled. Why would Luke add this? What could be his purpose?

The confusion and fear of the disciples is revealed in the last phrase, "they were afraid to ask Him about this statement" (cf. Luke 9:36). This entire section deals with the Apostles' immaturity.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:46-48
 46An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48 and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great."

9:46-48 This discussion is recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mark 9:33-37; Matt. 18:1-5), but each is slightly different. Verses 37-56 have a series of events which reveals the disciples immaturity.

Here they argue over who of them was greatest (obviously they did not acknowledge Peter's leadership). Jesus defines true greatness as service, not control!

SPECIAL TOPIC: SERVANT LEADERSHIP

9:47 "knowing what they were thinking in their heart" See the discussion at Luke 5:22 and 6:8.

There is a Greek manuscript variant in this phrase. Some texts have "knowing" (cf. MSS א, B, F) and some have "seeing" (cf. MSS A, C, D, L, W, and the Vulgate). Either one makes sense in this context. UBS4 puts "knowing" in the text but gives it a C rating.

9:48 "in My name" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD

"receives Him who sent Me" This phrase reflects the theological emphasis of John's Gospel (cf. John 17:3,8,18,21,23,25). Jesus acknowledges His dependence on the Father (cf. Luke 10:16). Jesus serves also!

This same type of teaching is also found in Luke 22:26 and Matt. 10:40-42. Jesus must have used this concept often in different teaching situations.

The truth is that greatness is in service and that those who men consider "the least" are significant to God.

Also, the life-changing power of Jesus' name means that not only do we speak it, we must conform to and emulate Him. Jesus is the ultimate example of love, service and, therefore, greatness (cf. Mark 9:35b).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SEND (APOSTELLŌ)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:49-50
 49John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us." 50But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you."

9:49-50 This is also found in Mark 9:38-40.

9:49 "someone" The question is, was it a Jewish exorcist simply using Jesus' name as a magic formula or was this a disciple, but not part of the Twelve?

9:50 This is an important principle in our relationship to other Christian denominations ("in My name"), however, it cannot be a blank check of acceptance (cf. Luke 11:23).

"Do not hinder him" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means to stop an act in process. The disciples were jealous of others involved in ministry. Oh my!

"he who is not against you is for you" When one compares Luke 11:23a and Matt. 12:30a with this text, there seems to be a paradox. Many of Jesus' teachings were framed in this type of tension-filled statement. It is an eastern way of expressing truth. All truths can be taken to extremes. Metaphors, analogies, and illustrations all break down when pressed. Remember these were oral statements given in specific contexts. See Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 466-467.

Be careful of proof-texting literalism! All Scripture is inspired, not just my favorite parts and verses. A little knowledge often causes undue dogmatism and judgmentalism!

This brief account may reflect a situation in the later church (setz im laben of Luke). The Gospels have two authors: (1) Jesus and (2) the evangelist. The evangelist wrote his Gospel for a later target audience. It is possible, even probable, that some of Jesus' actions and teachings were chosen to relate to and impact later controversies.

SPECIAL TOPIC: EASTERN LITERATURE

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:51-5651When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."]And they went on to another village.

9:51-62 A new section of Luke's Gospel that describes Jesus' travel to Jerusalem begins here (cf. Luke 9:51-19:44). Luke structures his Gospel around Jesus' travels and especially His march to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51; 13:22; 17:11; 18:38; 19:11,28). We are thankful that Luke recorded this section, for this tremendous information is unique to Luke.

9:51

NASB"when the days were approaching"
NKJV"when the time had come"
NRSV"when the days drew near"
TEV, NJB"As the time drew near"

This is another idiom, literally "to fill up with" (a present passive infinitive). There was a set plan for Jesus' life and death (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29). Jesus had revealed to them what would happen in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:22,31) and now Luke comments that the time of these events was approaching.

"for His ascension" Jesus has told them of His upcoming trial, death, and resurrection (cf. Luke 9:22; Matt. 16:21; Mark 8:31), but now Luke introduces "the ascension," that special event forty days after the resurrection, where Jesus is taken into heaven by a cloud from the Mount of Olives (cf. Luke 24:51; Acts 1:2,9,11,22; 1 Tim. 3:16). It had not been mentioned before and it is not defined here at all, but simply mentioned in passing. It may be an intentional linking of Elijah's ascension (2 Kgs. 2:9-11) with Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:2,11).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ASCENSION

NASB"He was determined to go to Jerusalem"
NKJV"He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem"
NRSV"he set his face to go to Jerusalem"
TEV"he made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem"
NJB"he resolutely turned his face toward Jerusalem"

This is another Semitic idiom. The NRSV is closest to a literal translation. He metaphorically looked straight ahead. He let nothing distract Him to the right or to the left. God's will was in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 10:32). This may be an allusion to Isa. 50:7 or Jer. 42:15,17 (cf. Dan. 9:3).

9:52 This is the only time the Gospels mention Jesus sending people ahead of Him to prepare for His visit. Who they were and why they were rejected is uncertain.

It is surprising that Luke is the only Synoptic Gospel to record this negative account when his other accounts related to Samaritans are so positive (cf. Luke 10:25-27; 17:11-19; Acts 1:8; 8:1-13,14,25; 9:31; 15:3). Luke mentions this outcast group often to show Jesus' love and concern for all people (i.e., his Gentile audience), but not here!

9:53 "they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem" This relates to Jewish/Samaritan prejudices. These two groups hated each other. It is also possible that they knew He was traveling to a feast at the Temple and they rejected Jerusalem as the site of the true Temple, which they thought was on Mt. Gerizim, near Shechem. Josephus mentions Jewish travelers to Jerusalem feasts being harassed (cf. Antiq. 20.6.1).

This verse sets the stage for the request of James and John in Luke 9:54, which Jesus rebukes in Luke 9:55.

9:54 "James and John" See Mark 3:17, where these two men are called "sons of thunder." This very incident is how they got their nicknames.

The KJV (NRSV and TEV footnote) inserts a phrase ("just as Elijah did," which is in MSS A, C, D, W), but it is not in MSS P45,75, א, B, or L. The UBS4 committee gave the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

9:55-56 The KJV inserts a phrase ("and said, 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them’"), which is found only in the uncial manuscript K and later versions. It is missing in MSS P45,75, א, A, B, C, L, and W. The UBS4 committee gave the shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 9:57-62
 57As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." 58And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 59And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 60But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." 61Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." 62But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

9:57-62 The cost of discipleship is a radical commitment that supersedes all cultural and family ties. There are three different people who want to follow Jesus (cf. Luke 9:57,59,61). In the context of Middle Eastern culture (see Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, pp. 22-32), Jesus' call to follow was a radical commitment not to an easy life, but to suffering and rejection. It was a call to leave the most significant cultural commitment—"family"— and become a part of a new family (cf. Luke 8:19-21; Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35).

Jesus tries to get these "would-be" followers to count the cost before they make the choice (cf. Luke 14:25-35). His first coming was one of suffering and rejection; this will certainly be the experience of His followers also. These first century Jews were expecting a powerful, glorious, conquering Messiah (Daniel), not a Suffering Servant (cf. Isaiah 53).

9:57 "someone said to Him" The parallel in Matthew 8:19-22 has "a scribe said."

"I will follow You wherever You go" This eager disciple had good intentions, but did not realize the price of followship (cf. Matt. 26:33,35). Talk is easy; daily denial and focused commitment are very hard.

9:58 Jesus is calling for a reality check. Jesus' Jewish followers were still thinking in terms of kingdom benefits and perks (cf. Matt. 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Acts 1:6), which is very much like "what's in it for me" Christianity, which turns the gospel into a message of more-and-more for me!

9:59 "Follow Me" This imperative reflects the terminology which the rabbis used to call their disciples. We have examples of Jesus saying this very thing to the Twelve (cf. Luke 5:27; 9:23,59; 18:22; Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 21:19-22).

"permit me first to go and bury my father" This is very similar to Elisha's response to Elijah in 1 Kgs. 19:19-20. In the ancient world children (especially the oldest male) were duty-bound to care for their parents (cf. Luke 9:61). However, Jesus' call to followship superceded every earthly call (cf. Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-35). This statement would have shocked the rabbis.

This is another example of one word with two connotations (like "life" [psuchē] in Luke 9:24). Here the word "dead" refers to the spiritually dead (cf. Eph. 2:1) and the physically dead. The death is related to their lack of response to Jesus' words and call.

9:60 "go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God" These imperatives show the mandate of the Great Commission ministry (cf. Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The self-centered life of the fall (cf. Genesis 3) is replaced by the kingdom-centered, Spirit-filled, service to others. Jesus' followers are to mimic Jesus' actions (cf. Luke 8:1; 9:6). He sent out the Twelve (Luke 9) to preach, as well as the Seventy (Luke 10).

9:62 What a shocking statement! The Kingdom is ultimate! It must take priority over every aspect of self and culture. Followship with God in Christ is the only worthy goal. Keep focused!

In ancient times plowing with an animal held two dangers of not staying focused on the ground ahead:

1. One could hit a rock or root and damage the plow.

2. One could plow a crooked row and cause loss of crop.

Again this type of call for priority discipleship cannot be used in every family issue. We all live in families and are called on to act responsibly toward them (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8). John was told to care for Jesus' mother (cf. John 19:26), which he did until her death in Palestine; then John went to Asia Minor. Jesus' statements are hard-hitting priority truths, but they must not be pushed so as to damage other Scriptural truths.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Luke give such a condensed account of these events?

2. How is demon possession related to physical illness?

3. How does one reconcile 9:3 with Mk. 6:8?

4. Explain in your own words what Luke 9:23 means.

5. Why did Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus?

 

Passage: 

Luke 10

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Mission of the Seventy-Two The Seventy Sent Out Mission of the Seventy Jesus Sends Out Seventy-Two The Mission of the Seventy-Two Disciples
10:1-12 10:1-12 10:1-12 10:1-12 10:1-12
Woes to Unrepentant Cities Woe to the Unrepentant Cities   The Unbelieving Towns  
10:13-16 10:13-16 10:13-16 10:13-15 10:13-15
      10:16 10:16
The Return of the Seventy-Two The Seventy Return with Joy Return of the Seventy The Return of the Seventy-Two True Cause for the Apostles to Rejoice
10:17-20 10:17-20 10:17-20 10:17 10:17-20
      10:18-20  
The Rejoicing of Jesus Jesus Rejoices in Spirit Prayer of Jesus Jesus Rejoices The Good News Revealed to the Simple–The Father and the Son
10:21-24 10:21-24 10:21-22 10:21 10:21-22
      10:22 The Privilege of the Disciples
    10:23-24 10:23-24 10:23-24
The Good Samaritan The Parable of the Good Samaritan A Lawyer's Question The Parable of the Good Samaritan The Great Commandment
10:25-37 10:25-37 10:25-28 10:25 10:25-28
      10:26  
      10:27  
    The Good Samaritan 10:28 The Parable of the Good Samaritan
    10:29-37 10:29 10:29-37
      10:30-35  
      10:36  
      10:37a  
      10:37b  
Visiting Martha and Mary Mary and Martha Worship and Serve Martha and Mary Jesus Visits with Martha and Mary Martha and Mary
10:38-42 10:38-42 10:38-42 10:38-40 10:38-42
      10:41-42  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Much of this chapter is unique to Luke's Gospel

1. the mission of the seventy, Luke 10:1-20

2. dinner at Martha and Mary's, Luke 10:38-42

 

B. Luke and Matthew record Jesus' praise to the Father, Luke 10:21-24; Matt. 11:25-27

 

C. Along with the other Synoptic Gospels, Luke records the question of the scribe/lawyer, Luke 10:25-37; Mark 12:28-31; Matt. 22:34-40

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:1-12
 1Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' 12I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city."

10:1 "appointed" Luke uses this term in two different senses.

1. to make known by lifting up (i.e., a torch to see or a hand to designate), Luke 1:80; Acts 1:24

2. to assign a task to, Luke 10:1

Both of these follow Septuagint uses (#1, Hab. 3:2; #2, Dan. 1:11)

▣ "seventy others" Several manuscripts have the number "seventy-two." There has been much discussion about which number is appropriate. There are two possible theories about the origin of this larger number:

1. it comes from Num. 11:16-26, where Moses appoints seventy elders

2. it comes from the rabbis' interpretation of Genesis 10-11, where seventy (Masoretic Text) or seventy-two (Septuagint) represents the nations and languages of the world. Option two fits Luke's overall purpose in writing the Gospel (cf. Luke 24:47).

The Greek manuscript tradition is equally divided as to which number is original ("seventy," MSS א, A, C, L, W, and "seventy-two," MSS P75, B, D). If one approaches this variant with the position that the most unusual reading is probably true, then "seventy-two" is original. The number 70 was a common round number in the OT (cf. Exod. 1:5).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE

"in pairs" This methodology follows the sending (same verb, apostellō) of the Twelve (cf. Luke 9:1-6; Mark 6:7).

"ahead of Him" Now this is a new element. The Twelve went to villages that Jesus Himself never visited to heal, exorcize demons, and preach. The first time we hear of Jesus sending representatives ahead is in Luke 9:52, concerning a village in Samaria.

10:2 "The harvest is plentiful" Apparently Jesus used the same phrases and teachings in different locations under different circumstances (cf. Matt. 9:37-38 and John 4:35). It is important to note that we are to pray for God to send workers, not to simply go ourselves. Need does not constitute a call! However, the priority of the gospel is an issue every believer must contemplate!

NASB"beseech"
NKJV, TEV"pray"
NRSV, NJB"ask"

The term deomai is characteristic of Luke's writing (eight times in Luke and seven times in Acts, once in Matthew and never in Mark and John). Here it is an aorist passive (deponent) imperative. It follows his emphasis on prayer. Believers see the evangelistic potential, recognize the spiritual need, and appeal to the only One who can help (God). It is His field and His harvest (cf. Matt. 9:35-38)! The Great commission (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) is a worldview!

"send" This is literally the stronger word "thrust" (ekballō). There is an urgency and a mandate.

10:3

NASB, TEV"Go"
NKJV"Go your way"
NRSV"Go on your way"
NJB"Start off now"

This is a present active imperative. Theologically this is parallel to the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19, "Go" (aorist participle used in the sense of an imperative). In context this looks like a specific assignment; so this cannot be interpreted "as you are going through life" or "through your daily affairs." This is a specific mission.

This section of Luke is similar to the sending out of the Twelve in Luke 9.

▣ "I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves" The parallel in Matt. 10:16 has a fuller statement. Luke wants these representatives to know that there will be opposition and rejection (cf. Luke 10:11). The Spirit of God is with them and will provide for them.

This is a foreshadowing of the reception Jesus will receive in Jerusalem.

10:4 The significance of this verse is that they are to depend totally on God's provision, not their own resources (cf. Luke 9:3-5). Jesus repeats this to the disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Luke 23:35-36).

▣ "greet no one on the way" Their mission was so important that they were not to be delayed with long, detailed, ceremonial eastern greeting rituals (cf. 2 Kgs. 4:29).

10:6 "If a man of peace is there" The "if" is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action. This is literally "son of peace." The Jerome Biblical Commentary (vol. 2, p. 143) makes the statement that this expression in Luke denotes that salvation has come to this welcoming home (cf. Luke 1:79; 2:14,29; 7:50; 8:48; 12:51; 19:38). The home welcomes Jesus' messengers and Jesus' message!

"if" The second "if" in Luke 10:6 is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

10:7 "stay in the house" This is a Present active imperative. This was to be the standard operating procedure of traveling missionaries (cf. Luke 9:4).

"eating and drinking what they give you" These are both perfect active participles. Missionaries are not to seek better and better accommodations or food. Hospitality was a cultural requirement in the east. They gave the best they had to guests (and still do).

▣ "for the laborer is worthy of his wages" This was an eastern agricultural proverb or truism (cf. Matt. 10:10; 1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:18)

▣ "Do not keep moving" This is a present imperative with the negative particle which usually implies "stop an act already in process." Apparently they were moving from home to home with the object of getting the finest facilities available.

10:8 "eat what is set before you" These being conservative Jews, they were likely to be very picky about the food that was offered to them. The Great Commission (cf. Matt. 28:18-20) is more important than food laws (cf. Mark 7:1-23). For believers the Mosaic food laws of Leviticus 11 are annulled (i.e., Acts 10:9-16,34; 15:6-11; 1 Cor. 10:27).

10:9 "heal those in it who are sick" This is another present active imperative. There are two possible ways to interpret this phrase: (1) their task was to heal anyone and everyone in order to confirm their message about Jesus and the Kingdom of God or (2) they were to heal those who had faith (much like, stay in those homes who welcome you).

Jesus did both of these in different settings (cf. Matt. 4:23; 8:16; 9:35; 14:14; 15:30; 19:2; 21:14, while Mark says "many," Mark 1:34; 3:10).

▣ "The kingdom of God has come near to you" This verb is a perfect active indicative. The Kingdom of God is inaugurated in Jesus' coming (cf. Luke 10:11; 11:20; 21:31; Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 6:10; 10:7; Mark 1:15). There comes a time in every person's life when God draws near. That is the time of response (cf. Luke 19:9; 2 Cor. 6:2).

This is such a controversial text today because of the theological view that the Kingdom is future only. I would like to include my notes from my commentary on Mark 1:15 (www.freebiblecommentary.org):

"Mark 1:15 "'time is fulfilled’" This phrase is introduced by hoti, which usually denotes a quote and is common in Mark. This reflects Peter's memory of Jesus' words. This is perfect passive indicative, which has prophetic/messianic significance (cf. Eph. 1:10; Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 1:3). The passive voice reflects God's activity in and control of time and history.

▣ "'the kingdom of God’" This refers to God's reign. It is both a present reality and a future consummation. In Matthew's Gospel this is usually referred to as "kingdom of heaven." These phrases are synonymous (compare Matt. 13:11 with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10). The kingdom arrived when Jesus was born. It is described and embodied in Jesus' life and teachings. It will be consummated at His return. It was the subject of Jesus' sermons and parables. It was the central theme of His spoken messages.

NASB, NKJV"is at hand"
NRSV"has come near"
TEV"is near"
NJB"is close at hand"

This is a perfect active indicative, which implies that the kingdom was a past reality (cf. Luke 10:1-3) as well as a current reality (cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20; 17:21). The phrase "the time is fulfilled" parallels this phrase and emphasizes the reality of God's prophetic word now becoming a historical event. The "New Age of Righteousness" was inaugurated at Jesus' birth, but not fully known until the Passion Week's events and not fully empowered until Pentecost.

Although the Kingdom has truly come, there are also NT texts which imply that its complete manifestation is future (cf. Luke 9:1; 14:25; Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:18; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). What we do with Christ now determines our eschatological hope (cf. Luke 8:38)."

10:10-11 Jesus had just received this same type of treatment in Samaria (cf. Luke 9:51-56). However, Jesus' reaction to the potential rejection of "the seventy" was severe and put in an eschatological-judgment setting. We must be very careful of building theological systems out of one text. We only have a small percentage of Jesus' words and actions. The Gospel writers selected what they did record for evangelism and the needs of the early church. Moderns must be content with the snapshots we have of Jesus' life without trying to turn them into dogmatic rules for every culture and every situation. Our only hope is to keep the main truth of the event, pericopes, or paragraph, and not turn all the details into a Christian Talmud!

10:11 This was a cultural gesture of rejection and judgment (cf. Matt. 10:14; Luke 9:5)

10:12 "'I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day’" I believe the Bible does teach degrees of both reward and punishment based on how much one understands, receives, and acts on the will of God.

SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT

▣ "Sodom" This evil city's fiery destruction was a symbol of God's judgment (cf. Matt. 10:15). Jesus surely knew of an end-time judgment (cf. Matt. 5:21-30; 7:13-27; 10:15; 11:20-24; 12:36,41-42; 25:1-46; Luke 11:31-32).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:13-15
 13"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!"

10:13

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"Woe"
TEV"How terrible"
NJB"Alas"

This is one of the OT prophetic literary markers. It symbolized a funeral dirge. Luke records more of Jesus' woes than any other Gospel writer (cf. Luke 6:24, 25, 26; 10:13; 11:42, 43, 44, 46,4 7, 52; 17:1; 21:23; 22:22). Life choices have spiritual consequences.

▣ "Chorazin" This was a city in Galilee, two miles north of Capernaum. It is mentioned only in Matt. 11:21 and here. We do not have any recorded information about Jesus' ministry in this city.

The point is that cities (Bethsaida and Capernaum) where Jesus taught and ministered were responsible. Many OT cities who were judged by God would have responded to Jesus' message and miracles if only given the chance.

▣ "if" This is a second class conditional sentence (cf. Matt. 11:23), where a false assertion heightened a false result. Jesus' miracles were not done in Tyre and Sidon and they did not repent.

▣ "Tyre and Sidon" These were two of the major seaport towns in Phoenicia, which is modern Lebanon (cf. Matt. 11:22,24). They are often used in the OT as symbols of pride and arrogance (cf. Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-28).

"would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes" These are OT symbols of repentance or mourning. Several could be listed:

1. sitting on the ground

2. wearing sackcloth

3. putting ashes or dirt on the head

4. pulling out one's beard or hair (disheveled hair)

5. tearing one's clothing

6. wailing loudly

7. being barefoot

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES

10:14 Light and understanding bring spiritual responsibility (cf. Luke 12:47-48). See Special Topic: Degrees of Reward and Punishment at Luke 10:12.

10:15 "Capernaum" This was Jesus' self-chosen headquarters. To whom much is given, much is required.

The question of Luke 10:15 expects a "no" answer.

NASB, NRSV"You will be brought down"
NKJV"You. . .will be thrust down"
TEV"You will be thrown down"
NJB"you shall be flung down"

This is possibly an allusion to Num. 16:30; Ezek. 31:18; or 32:18 in the Septuagint (which uses katabainō). The parallel in Matt. 11:23 speaks of being brought down to hades or the pit (cf. Isa. 14:13,15; Ezek. 26:20; 31:14; 32:24). This Greek word is found in several ancient manuscripts (cf. P75, B, D).

However, the rarer and more intense katabibazō (thrust down) is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P45, א, A, C, L, W, and the Vulgate and Peshitta translations.

The meaning of the text is not affected, but which term was original cannot be determined.

▣ "Hades" This may be an allusion to Isa. 14:15 or Ezek. 26:20; 28:8; 31:14; 32:18,24. This referred to the realm of the dead (cf. Luke 16:23). According to the rabbis, there was a righteous part called Paradise and a wicked part called Tartarus. This may be true. Jesus' words to one of the criminals crucified with Him in Luke 23:43 seem to imply a righteous part of Hades because Jesus did not return to heaven until forty days after Passover. At Jesus' resurrection He took the righteous part of Hades (sheol) to be with Him. Therefore, Paul can now say in 2 Cor. 5:6,8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Luke 16:23.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:16
 16"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."

10:16 To reject the gospel is to reject Jesus. To reject Jesus is to reject the Father (cf. 1 John 5:10-12). It is extremely important that we realize the dignity which believers have as Christian witnesses (cf. Luke 9:48; Matt. 10:40; Mark 9:37; John 13:20). The gospel is not our message, but God's. People do not reject us, but Him.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:17-20
 17The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." 18And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."

10:17 "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" This is a present passive indicative. This was surprising to the seventy because they were not expecting this. It was a sign that the power and authority of God in Christ had been effectively delegated to His followers, and that the kingdom of Satan had been effectively defeated.

For "name" see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD at Luke 9:48.

10:18 "He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning’" This is an imperfect tense followed by an aorist tense. This statement is only in Luke's Gospel. There has been much discussion about exactly what this relates to: (1) Satan's fall from heaven, or (2) Satan's fall from earthly power. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN at Luke 4:2. It seems to me that #2 is best because the context relates this entire account to the exorcisms by the seventy.

When did Satan fall from heaven? (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:8; 1 John 5:19)

1. before Gen. 1:1 (angelic fall predates creation)

2. between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2 (gap theory)

3. after Job 1-2 (Satan in heaven)

4. after Zech. 3:1-2 (Satan in heaven)

5. metaphors in Isa. 14:12-16; Ezek. 28:12-16 (possibly refers to Satan being kicked out of heaven because of pride)

6. during Jesus' life on earth (cf. Matt. 12:29; John 12:31; 16:11); especially His victory over satanic temptation, cf. Luke 4:1-13

7. during the mission of the seventy (here)

8. after Calvary/Resurrection (Col. 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:24)

9. in the future (Rev. 12:9)

10. every time they performed an exorcism

F. F. Bruce in Answers to Questions, thinks that Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth as the immediate consequence of Jesus' earthly ministry (p. 228). This same thought is found in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 465-466.

George E. Ladd in A Theology of the New Testament, thinks it is only metaphorical of Satan's defeat in the mission of the seventy, but that Satan's final destruction is future (pp. 67, 625).

10:19 "I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy" This is a perfect active indicative (a past event with abiding results). There have been many theories concerning this reference:

1. that snakes and scorpions are symbols of the power of the evil one

2. that this is a reference to Ps. 91:13-14; Rom. 16:20

3. that it is related to Mark 16:17-18, which is a non-inspired manuscript addition to the Gospel of Mark

It is obvious to me that #1 is the only possible meaning in this context. This is a wonderful truth for believers living and serving in a fallen world. See Special Topic: Luke's Use of Exousia at Luke 20:2.

▣ "and nothing will injure you" This is a strong double negative. This must be interpreted in the light of other NT texts. But it does assert God's presence, protection and provision (cf. 1 John 5:19).

10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice" This is a present imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. They are not to rejoice over the power of exorcism, but rejoice (Present active imperative) over the fact that their names are written in the Book of Life.

▣ "but rejoice that" This is a present active imperative. There is a place for appropriate rejoicing!

▣ "your names are recorded in heaven" This is a perfect passive indicative (abiding results). Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 20:12 list the two books which are symbols of God's memory and mankind's destiny. They are

1. the Book of Life (those who know God, cf. Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27)

2. the Book of Deeds (the acts of the saved and the unsaved, cf. Ps. 56:8; 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:21-22
 21At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 22All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

10:21-22 This is paralleled in Matt. 11:25-27. Because the wording is so similar, it may be an early hymn in liturgy.

10:21

NASB"He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit"
NKJV"Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit"
NRSV"Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit"
TEV"Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit"
NJB"filled with joy by the Holy Spirit"

There are several different forms of this phrase in the Greek manuscript tradition. This is probably because this is an unusual and unique phrase, "he exulted in (by) the Holy Spirit." The exact text is uncertain, but the sense is not affected. Because of the seventy's spiritual victories over the demonic, Jesus was greatly encouraged and began to praise the Father.

▣ "I praise You" This is a present middle indicative. This word is used several times in OT Wisdom Literature in the sense of "to give thanks" or "praise." In the middle voice in Koine Greek it means to profess, confess openly (cf. Rom. 14:11; 15:9; Phil. 2:11; Rev. 3:5).

▣ "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" Notice how Jesus combines YHWH's immanence (Father, see Special Topic at Luke 22:42) and transcendence (Lord of heaven and earth). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Luke 1:68. It is this combination of glory, power, and intimacy that describes deity so well to the human experience. His power and awesomeness are seen in nature; His love and mercy are seen in Christ.

▣ "infants" In Matthew 18 this obviously refers to new believers. Also notice John's use of "my little children" in 1 John to describe believers. Here it refers to Jesus' disciples, who are still immature in so many ways.

"this way was well-pleasing in Your sight" The Father reveals truth to believers to show that the gospel is not a human discovery and that no flesh will glory before God (cf. Eph. 2:9). God's gospel is based solely on His unchanging character of grace and mercy, not human performance or merit at any level.

10:22 In Luke 10:21 Jesus addresses the Father, but in Luke 10:22 He addresses the disciples. Because of this abrupt transition some Greek manuscripts added a descriptive phrase.

"all things have been handed over to Me by My Father" This is a recurrent theme in the NT (cf. Matt. 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35; 13:3; Eph. 1:20-22; Col. 1:16-19; 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus was the Father's agent in (1) creation, (2) redemption, and (3) judgment.

"no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son" This is the theological assertion that Jesus fully and completely reveals the Father (cf. John 1:14; 14:6,9-10; 17:25-26; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Only a personal revelation could fully reveal a personal God.

"and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" This shows how both the Spirit and the Son reveal the Father. Humans do not understand until their hearts and minds are quickened by Divine agency (cf. John 6:44,65; 17:2).

These words of Jesus in Luke 10:22 sound so much like John's Gospel (cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 379-380). This is evidence that John truly recorded Jesus' words. A good explanation of the difference between the words of Jesus, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, and John may be that John records the private conversations (cf. Luke 10:23), while the Synoptics record public teaching (parables).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:23-24
 23Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, 24for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them."

10:23 "Turning to the disciples, He said privately" This phrase shows the presence of "the crowd," or at least the seventy. The Gospels do not always tell us to whom Jesus directed His words.

▣ "Blessed" This is a beatitude like Matt. 5:1-12. Jesus is pronouncing the benefit of His choice to reveal to His disciples truths which they could have never had apart from Him.

These disciples had seen and heard the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. They lived during the culmination of God's OT promises. No OT prophet fully understood God's plan (cf. Heb. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), but in Jesus they (the disciples) now understand (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29; Col. 1:26-27; Heb. 1:2-3).

▣ "many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them" The Matthew parallel has "prophets and righteous men" (cf. Matt. 13:16-17). Surely the "kings" in Luke refers to the godly Kings of Judah, such as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah.

It is always shocking and humbling to me to realize that NT believers know more of the eternal plan and purposes of God than any OT person (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, etc.). The question then comes, "What are we doing with the knowledge?" With light comes responsibility (cf. Luke 12:47-48).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:25-37
 25And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" 27And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." 29But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' 36Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" 37And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."

10:25-37 This dialogue and parable of the Good Samaritan is discussed from an eastern perspective in Kenneth Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, pp. 33-56. It is so helpful to allow the culture of the original author to illuminate the text.

10:25 "lawyer" This refers to scribes (cf. Mark 12:28) and from Matt. 22:34, a Pharisee. Scribes developed during the exilic period and supplanted the Levites as interpreters of the written OT and oral traditions (Talmud) to the contemporary situation. They could be Sadducees or Pharisees. Most in Jesus' day were Pharisees. They will become the rabbis of our day. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SCRIBES at Luke 5:21.

▣ "stood up" This shows that they were in an official teaching session of Jesus.

▣ "test" This term implies evil motives on the scribe's part; Luke 10:29 seems to substantiate this. This term is used in the NT in the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction." See Special Topic at Luke 4:2.

▣ "what shall I do to inherit eternal life" This implies one great act or a series of human acts. This man, as most first century Jews (cf. Luke 18:18), based salvation on human actions and merits (keeping the Mosaic Law, cf. Lev. 18:5; Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:1-14). Luke, writing to Gentiles, asks about salvation instead of the greatest commandment of the Jewish Law. Since all humans are sinful (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23), they cannot be saved by their actions. This is where the gift of God in Christ's death and resurrection is crucial (cf. Rom. 5:6-11; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9). 

Notice that Jesus does not say here "trust Me," but describes how a person who has trusted Jesus will act (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Jews thought they were right with God because of their lineage (i.e., seed of Abraham) and obedience to the Mosaic Law and its interpretation in the Oral Tradition. Jesus tries to startle this man's thinking by highlighting "love," unexpected, outrageous love.

▣ "eternal life" "Eternal life" is a characterization used often by John to describe the life of the new age, God's kind of life. This question shows that this was a Pharisee because the Sadducees denied the resurrection. He was interpreting this phrase in light of his own background so, therefore, eternal life was a continuation of the present order.

10:26

NASB"How does it read to you"
NKJV, NJB"What is your reading of it"
NRSV"What do you read there"
TEV"How do you interpret them"

This man was a trained Bible interpreter, so Jesus asked him about his personal understanding of the question. Jesus even affirms his interpretation. There are two concerns here.

1. All believers need to be able to document what they believe from Scripture, not from culture, traditions, or denominational indoctrination. This man knew his Bible!

2. Though right on a theological truth, he missed the most important thing—salvation through faith in Christ.

 

10:27 "What is written in the Law" This refers to the Mosaic Law (Genesis - Deuteronomy). Every Jewish person in first century Palestine went to Synagogue school as a child. This man had further training in the OT. He knew the OT well, especially the writings of Moses.

Jesus is testing his knowledge just as he was trying to test Jesus.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT

▣ "he answered and said, 'You shall love the Lord your God’" This is from Deut. 6:4-5, called the Shema ("to hear so as to do"). This man possibly pointed to his phylactery, which contained this verse. It shows that primary focus is on our attitude of commitment toward God that includes everything we are.

▣ "and your neighbor as yourself" This is a quote from Lev. 19:18 in the Septuagint. Jesus linked theological truth to practical, ethical demands. It is impossible to love God and hate those made in His image (cf. 1 John 2:9-11; 3:15; 4:20).

It is impossible to love your neighbor (i.e., covenant brother or sister) as yourself if you do not love yourself. There is an appropriate self-love which is based on God's priority love for mankind. We are His creation, fashioned in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26,27). We must rejoice in our giftedness and accept our physical, mental, and psychological makeup (cf. Psalm 139). To criticize ourselves is to criticize our Maker! He can transform our fallenness into a reflection of His glory (i.e., Christlikeness).

Christianity involves a personal faith commitment to God through Christ. It starts as an individual volitional decision of repentance and faith. However, it issues in a family experience (so important in Eastern culture). We are gifted for the common good (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). We are part of the body of Christ. How we treat others reveals our true devotion to Christ. The oneness of God and mankind made in the image and likeness of God demands an appropriate response toward God and toward other humans, (i.e., especially those of the household of faith).

10:28 "do this" This is a present active imperative. We must act on our understanding of God's truth and will. Remember that Jesus was speaking to a scribe.

▣ "and you will live" This is not Jesus' affirmation of potential works-righteousness, but a response geared to the man's OT understanding (cf. Ezek. 20:11). For NT understanding of the place of the Mosaic Law in salvation see Gal. 3:6-14 and Rom. 3:20-21. The new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 is an internal, mercy-based covenant, not a performance-based covenant. Mankind was unable to choose the right and avoid the evil (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23). The Sermon on the Mount extends OT performance to attitude, yet it still demands holiness (cf. Matt. 5:48). The first truth of the gospel is mankind's inability and spiritual need (cf. Rom. 3:9-18). One only needs a Savior when they realize their need!

10:29 "who is my neighbor" This was a hot question in Judaism. Mostly it was Jews only, and often only certain Jews.

10:30 "A man" The implication was a fellow Jew. For guidelines on interpreting parables, see the contextual insights in Luke 8, B.

▣ "Jerusalem to Jericho" Jerome later called this highway "the bloody way" because of the violence which so often occurred there. It was a seventeen mile trip which descended 3000 feet.

10:31-32 "priest. . .Levite" These religious leaders were afraid of (1) thieves; (2) defilement (cf. Lev. 21 or Num 19:11); (3) involvement; and (4) time constraints.

10:33 "Samaritan" Jesus really shocked these Jews by using a hated Samaritan as the hero of the parable. Samaritans were half Jew and half pagan, resulting from the resettlement policies of the Assyrian exile of the northern ten tribes in 722 b.c. (i.e., fall of Samaria). They had developed a rival temple (Mt. Gerizim) and a rival text (the Samaritan Pentateuch).

10:34 "oil. . .wine" These were medicines of the day, oil for softening the skin and wine, with its natural alcohol, for killing infections.

"brought him to an inn" Today there are archaeological remains of two caravan-stop compounds about halfway between Jerusalem and Jericho.

10:35 "two denarii" One denarius was a day's wage for a laborer or soldier. This amount would pay for about 14 days' room and board.

▣ "when I return I will repay you" Apparently the man was a regular customer. His care and concern was consistent and persistent.

10:36 Here is the key point of the parable and Jesus' answer to this man's question in Luke 10:29.

10:37 "The one who took showed mercy toward him" The scribe could not bring himself to say "Samaritan."

▣ "Go and do the same" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative and a present active imperative. This verse links up contextually to Luke 10:28.

This extension of "neighbor" from OT "covenant partner" (i.e., fellow Jew) to the hated Samaritan would have shocked this lawyer/scribe. Yet, it is this very extension that characterized Jesus' teaching (and Luke's emphasis). The OT categories of national and racial emphasis are expanded into global spheres. The new paradigm is believer vs. unbeliever, not Jew vs. Gentile (cf. Rom. 3:22; 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). No NT author reaffirms OT national, racial, or geographical promises. Jerusalem is no longer a city in Palestine, but the "New Jerusalem" coming down out of heaven to a recreated earth (cf. Rev. 21:2). The new age is not Jewish!! The gospel is not about Israel but about Jesus!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 10:38-42
 38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." 41But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

10:38 "Now as they were traveling along" This is the way Luke structures this portion of his Gospel. Jesus is traveling to His divine destiny to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51,56,57; 10:38; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31,35; 19:1,11).

▣ "a village" From John 11:1 we know the village is Bethany, only two miles from Jerusalem on the Mt of Olives on the road to Jericho.

▣ "Martha" In Aramaic this means "lady," the feminine form of "Lord."

▣ "welcomed Him into her home" Martha was acting like the head of the house. Apparently Lazarus was not home. It was usual for the villagers around Jerusalem to welcome pilgrims into their homes during feast days. At certain times during the year the population of the Holy City swelled to two or three times its normal size. There were no accommodations available.

10:39 "Mary" In Hebrew this is Miriam, which means "bitter" (cf. Ruth 1:20).

▣ "was seated at the Lord's feet"A crowd must have followed Jesus to Bethany. It was highly unusual for a rabbi to teach women (another example of Luke's inclusive theme). Mary took advantage of the occasion to learn. "Sitting at the feet" was the common term for teaching situations (cf. Acts 22:3).

10:40 "was distracted" Apparently both women sat down to listen. Mary remained listening, but Martha's personality began to worry about the task of hostess.

▣ "Lord, do You not care" Martha agitated herself and then blamed her sister and then Jesus! The question expects a "yes" answer.

▣ "left me to do all the serving alone" Martha was majoring on a minor!

"tell her to help me" This is an aorist active imperative.

10:41 "you are worried and bothered about so many things" It was not that Martha's concern was inappropriate, but her attitude and anxiety were out of bounds. She missed a once-in-a-lifetime moment because of daily concerns.

10:42 Jesus may have used Martha's elaborate dinner preparations as a metaphor for life's priorities.

NASB"but only one thing is necessary"
NKJV"but one thing is needed"
NRSV"there is need of only one thing"
TEV"but just one is needed"
NJB"yet a few are needed, indeed only one"

The question is, to what does "thing" refer? It could refer to a simple meal versus an elaborate meal, or it could refer to Jesus' visit and teaching. The remainder of the verse implies the second option.

There are several textual variants connected to this statement. The NJB follows one variant that adds "a few are needed" (cf. MSS P3, א, B, L).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is this parable so significant?

2. Did Jesus answer his questions?

3. How is love related to salvation?

 

Passage: 

Luke 11

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Teaching About Prayer The Model Prayer Sayings on Prayer Jesus' Teaching on Prayer The Lord's Prayer
11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4 11:1-4
  A Friend Comes at Midnight     The Importunate Friend
11:5-13 11:5-8 11:5-8 11:5-13 11:5-8
  Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking     Effective Prayer
  11:9-13 11:9-13   11:9-13
Jesus and Beelzebul A House Divided Cannot Stand Sources of Jesus' Power Jesus and Beelzebul Jesus and Beelzebul
11:14-23 11:14-23 11:14-23 11:14-15 11:14-22
      11:16-20  
      11:21-22 No Compromise
      11:23 11:23
The Return of the Unclean Spirit An Unclean Spirit Returns   The Return of the Evil Spirit Return of the Unclean Spirit
11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26 11:24-26
True Blessedness Keeping the Word   True Happiness The Truly Blessed
11:27-28 11:27-28 11:27-28 11:27 11:27-28
      11:28  
The Demand for a Sign Seeking a Sign Request for a Sign The Demand for a Miracle The Sign of Jonah
11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32 11:29-32
The Light of the Body The Lamp of the Body Concerning Light The Light of the Body The Parable of the Lamp Repeated
11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36 11:33-36
The Denouncing of the Pharisees and Lawyers Woe to the Pharisees and Lawyers Against Pharisees and Lawyers Jesus Accuses the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law The Pharisees and the Lawyers Attacked
11:37-44 11:37-54 11:37-41 11:37-41 11:37-44
    11:42-44 11:42  
      11:43-44  
11:45-54   11:45-52 11:45 11:45-46
      11:46-51  
        11:47-48
        11:49-51
      11:52 11:52
    11:53-54 11:53-54 11:53-54

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 11:1-4

A. There are many textual variants of Luke 11:1-4 (and, for that matter, the whole chapter) which are attempts to harmonize Jesus' prayer in this context with Matt. 6:9-13, which was used liturgically in the church very early.

 

B. It is still surprising to modern readers and interpreters how differently the Synoptic Gospels record Jesus' life and teachings. These eyewitness accounts (i.e., Mark from Peter, Luke from interviews or written documents from eyewitnesses) are verified by their very differentness. We have essentially what Jesus said, but not the exact wording.

 

C. The doctrine of inspiration must cover the variety found within the four Gospels. Remember they are salvation tracts, not modern western biographies nor histories. We must be content with the trustworthiness of the differing accounts.

 

D. From 5:33 it seems that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray in a patterned way. Here, too, Jesus is setting a pattern (present middle [deponent] subjunctive). The different elements of this prayer were to be repeated emphases in regular prayer, not necessarily the exact words.

1. God's character magnified

2. God's reign increase

3. God's provision sure

4. God's forgiveness certain

5. God's presence effective

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:1-4
 1It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." 2And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

11:1 "while Jesus was praying in a certain place" Luke often records Jesus praying before significant events or teachings. This prayer emphasis is unique to Luke (although Mark mentions it twice, cf. Mark 1:35; 6:46). Matthew records Jesus telling His disciples to pray, but does not mention Jesus praying as much as Luke.

▣ "after He had finished" Jesus' regular prayer life impressed and interested the Apostles. It was the source of His fellowship and intimacy with the Father. Jesus' power, authority, and message came from this intimacy. The disciples were delegated the power, authority, and message, but to fulfill their assignment, they also needed Jesus' fellowship with the Father. This only occurs by faith through prayer.

"teach us to pray" This is an aorist active imperative. These disciples felt an urgency about this request. They needed Jesus' peace and composure.

"as John also taught his disciples" We know from John 1:29-41 that some of Jesus' disciples were first John the Baptist's disciples.

It was the task of the teacher (rabbi) to train his followers in all the ways and truths necessary to function independently at some point in the future (cf. Luke 5:33). Prayer establishes a life-long dependence on the Father. This was the key to Jesus' earthly mission (cf. Luke 10:21-24).

11:2 "And He said to them, 'When you pray, say’" It seems that one's attitude is more significant than one's words, however, this particular phraseology implies that the form may be repeated (cf. Matt. 6:9). Luke's version is much shorter than Matthew's (cf. Matt. 6:9-13). Jesus probably repeated His teachings on this subject several times and to different groups.

▣ "'Father’" The OT introduces the intimate familial metaphor of God as Father.

1. in Deuteronomy the analogy of God as Father is used (Deut. 1:31; 32:6)

2. this analogy is stated in Ps. 103:13 and developed in Ps. 68:5 (the father of orphans)

3. the nation of Israel is often described as YHWH's "son" (cf. Hos. 11:1; Mal. 3:17)

4. it was common in the prophets (cf. Isa. 1:2; 63:8; Israel as son, God as Father, 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 3:4,19; 31:9)

Jesus spoke Aramaic, which means that many of the places where "Father" appears as the Greek Pater it may reflect the Aramaic Abba (cf. Luke 14:36). This familial term "Daddy" or "papa" reflects Jesus' intimacy with the Father; His revealing this to His followers also encourages our own intimacy with the Father. The term "Father" was used sparingly in the OT (and not often in rabbinical literature) for YHWH, but Jesus uses it often and pervasively. It is a major revelation of our new relationship with God through Christ. Heaven is a family experience.

There are several ancient Greek uncial manuscripts that change "Father" (MSS P75, א, B, L) into the phrase found in Matt. 6:9, "Our Fahter who are in heaven" (MSS A, C, D, W). The UBS4 gives the short reading an "A" rating (certain). Luke's version of "the Lord's Prayer" is much more condensed.

▣ "hallowed be Your name" This is an aorist passive imperative. "Hallowed" comes from the root "be holy" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY at Luke 1:35) and refers to the character of God (cf. 2 Kgs. 19:22; Ps. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa. 1:4; 29:23 [used 28 times in Isaiah]). He is separated from evil. This term was used often in the Septuagint

1. of things, Gen. 2:3; Amos 2:12

2. of people

a. a firstborn, Exod. 13:2,12

b. Israel, Exod. 19:14

c. Priests, Exod. 19:22; 29:21; 2 Chr. 26:18

d. Levites, Neh. 12:47

 

▣ "Your kingdom come" This aorist active imperative refers to the reign of God in human's hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth. This is an eschatological emphasis (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21). The kingdom of God is spoken of in the Synoptic Gospels as

1. past (Luke 13:28)

2. present (Luke 17:21; Matt. 4:17; 12:28)

3. future (Luke 11:2; Matt. 6:10)

 

11:3 "Give us each day" This is another present active imperative. The Matthew parallel has an aorist active imperative. Verse 3 emphasizes our continual daily dependence on God.

This is one example of modern theologians asserting that Luke has a modified eschatology that envisions a delayed Second Coming. The argument runs like this: Matthew has the aorist, implying a once-for-all giving (i.e., eschatological fulfillment), but Luke has the present, implying a regular (daily) giving through time. This may be true. Paul, Luke's friend and missionary companion, also emphasizes a delayed Second Coming in 2 Thessalonians (one of Paul's early books).

▣ "each day" Luke uses the phrase kath' hēmeran often (cf. Luke 9:23; 11:3; 16:19; 19:47; 22:53; Acts 2:46,47; 3:2; 16:11; 17:11). It denotes repeated action.

▣ "daily" The Greek word translated "daily" (epiousios) is found only here and in Matt. 6:11. It is used of a master giving a slave enough food to accomplish the task he was assigned for that day (Koine papyri found in Egypt, cf. TEV). The emphasis here seems to be that

1. believers' need to trust God constantly

2. God provides for us on a daily basis (Greek idiomatic usage), not a once-for-all provision

This word may also carry the eschatological emphasis of "bread of the future or new age." This would imply that the kingdom is present now in believers (analogous to "eternal life" now). This is the "already-yet-future" tension of Jesus' preaching.

▣ "bread" There have been many theories as to the meaning of this word in this context:

1. physical bread

2. the bread of the Eucharist (cf. Acts 2:46)

3. bread as referring to the word of God (cf. Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4)

4. Jesus Himself (cf. John 6:41,48,51,58)

5. the Messianic bread (cf. Luke 14:15)

It seems to me the literal is best here, but it is used for God's provision of all believers' daily needs.

11:4 "And forgive us our sins" This is an aorist active imperative. This seems to refer to the finished work of God in Christ in the lives of believers (initial justification and sanctification) as well as the ongoing need for forgiveness (progressive sanctification, cf. 1 John 1:9).

The Greek term "sin" means "to miss the mark." The Matthew parallel has Jesus' Aramaic "debts," which is a Jewish idiom that Luke's Gentile readers would not understand.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION

▣ "For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us" Forgiving is a sign that we have been forgiven (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 10:8; 18:35; Luke 6:36; Col. 3:13; James 2:13; 5:9). Our forgiveness of others is not the grounds of our being forgiven, but the result and evidence of a new heart and a new mind (i.e., the new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-35). This phrase is the only one relating to human actions.

▣ "lead us not into temptation" This is a negated aorist active subjunctive ("don't ever"). The term "temptation" (peirazō) is a term that has the connotation in the NT of "to tempt with the view toward destruction." See Special Topis at Luke 10:25. Jesus told his disciples to pray for this very same thing in Luke 22:40,46. James 1:13 uses a different word (dokimazō) for test, which has the connotation of "to test with a view toward approval." God does not test us for destruction, but He does test us to strengthen us (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2,16; 13:3; Jdgs. 2:22; 2 Chr. 32:31; Matt. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12-16).

Several ancient Greek uncial manuscripts add a phrase from Matt. 6:13 (MSS A, C, D, W). The short text of Luke is found in MSS P75, אi*,1, C, L. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading an "A" rating (certain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:5-13
 5Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

11:5-13 This is a story not to illustrate God's reluctance to answer our prayers, but His willingness. This is called a contrasting parable. It is a fictitious account to highlight mankind's reluctance but God's willingness.

11:5

NASB, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"suppose one of you"
NKJV"which of you"

This is literally "who of you." Luke uses this often to introduce Jesus' teachings (cf. Luke 11:5,11; 12:25; 14:5,28; 15:4; 17:7). This literary introduction can be seen in the OT in Isa. 42:23 and 50:10.

This verse culturally expects an emphatic "no" answer (see Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant, pp. 119-141).

11:6 "for a friend of mine has come to me" Travelers might travel at night to avoid the heat in some Middle Eastern countries, but in others travel at night was dangerous and unusual.

▣ "I have nothing to set before him" It was a host's cultural duty to provide a meal.

11:7 "Do not bother me" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. Then the homeowner lists two reasons why he cannot get up.

11:8 This verse explains the point of the parable. Persistence is an important aspect of prayer (cf. Luke 11:9-10). This is not because God is reluctant, but because prayer develops intimacy with God. Our greatest need is God, not the answer to all our prayers (cf. Luke 18:1-6).

God invites His children to come to Him even in times and circumstances that may seem inappropriate. God is more available than any ancient host (cf. Ps. 23:5-6).

11:9 "ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened" These are all present active imperatives which speak of habitual, lifestyle commands (cf. Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13). It is important that one balance human persistence with God's responsive character. Believers cannot force God to do that which is not good for them. However, at the same time, they can bring any perceived need to their heavenly Father at any time and as often as desired. Jesus prayed the same prayer in Gethsemane three times (cf. Mark 15:36,39,41; Matt. 26:39,42,44). Paul also prayed three times about his thorn in the flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8). But the great thing about prayer is not that one receives a specific answer to his request, but that he has spent time with the Father!

Persistence (literally "shamelessness") is important (cf. Luke 18:2-8). However, it does not coerce a reluctant God, but reveals the level of interest and concern of the person praying. Neither one's many words nor his repeated prayers will motivate the Father to give that which is not in one's best interest. The best thing believers get in prayer is a growing relationship and dependence on God.

11:11-12 Both questions expect a "no" answer. Jesus used the analogy of a father and son to describe the mystery of prayer. Matthew gives two examples, while Luke gives three (cf. Luke 11:12, although there is some confusion in the manuscript tradition). The whole point of the illustrations was that God will give believers the "good things." Luke defines this "good" as "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Luke 11:13). Often the worst thing our Father could do for us is answer our inappropriate, selfish prayers! All three examples are a play on things that look alike: stone as bread, fish as eel, and egg as a coiled, pale scorpion.

11:11 "instead of a fish" The Semitic form of this would use "and instead" (cf. MSS P45,75, B), while the normal Greek idiom would require "not instead" (cf. MSS א, A, D, L, W). This clearly shows how later Greek scribes did not fully understand the Aramaic influence on the writers of the NT (even Luke) and changed the unusual Semitic forms to their common Koine Greek forms.

We do not have the exact words of Jesus. The Gospels are not video tapes, but Holy Spirit-inspired memories. Their differences do not affect inspiration or trustworthiness.

11:13 This is a First class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. In a rather oblique way this is an affirmation of the sinfulness of all men (cf. Rom. 3:9,23). The contrast is between evil human beings and a loving God. God shows His character by the analogy of the human family.

▣ "how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him" There is some question about the wording of this verse. It is important to look up the parallel in Matt. 7:11, which replaces "the Holy Spirit" with "good things." Manuscripts P45 and D of Luke 11:13 have "good gift" (as does the Greek text used by Ambrose). This seems to imply that this reference is more to spiritual gifts (cf. F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 53) than to the Holy Spirit Himself (there is no article). I do not know of one place in the Scriptures that we are to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit since we are given the Holy Spirit at salvation. The indwelling Spirit comes when Jesus is received. However, the manuscript attestation of "Holy Spirit" is overwhelming (cf. MSS P75, א, A, B, C, W).

There is another variant in this text. The designation for God can be (1) "the Father from heaven" (cf. MSS P75, א, L) or (2) "the Father will give from heaven" (cf. MS P45 and the parallel in Matt. 7:11). As with most variants, the meaning of the text is not affected.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:14-23
 14And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." 16Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. 17But He knew their thoughts and said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18"If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 20But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. 22But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. 23He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters."

11:14 "a demon, and it was mute" Matthew 12:22 says the demon caused blindness as well as dumbness. Both Matt. 12:22-32 and Mark 3:2-30 record this same discussion in a different settings and locations.

There is a Greek manuscript variant here in the phrase "and it was mute." Most manuscripts omit "and it was" (cf. MSS P45,75, א, A*, B, L).

Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 158, says the full form reflects a Semitism used by Luke, but the shorter reading has overwhelming Greek manuscript attestation. The translation committee of the UBS3 put the phrase in brackets and gave it a "D" rating (with great difficulty). However, the UBS4 has it as a "C" Rating (difficulty in deciding). Scholars change their minds!

As with most of these variants, this does not affect the thrust of the verse or affect the meaning of the paragraph as a whole.

11:15 "But some of them said" Matthew 12:24 has "Pharisee," while Mark 3:22 has "scribes from Jerusalem."

▣ "Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons" Beelzebul is an OT fertility god (Ba’al BDB 127) of Ekron (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:2,3,6,16). The manuscripts of the NT differ between the spelling of Beelzebub and Beelzebul (cf. Mark 3:22 and Matt. 10:25). This is probably due to the Jews' attempt to make fun of idols by slightly changing their names. The term Zebub means "lord of dung." Zebul means "is exalted" and later became a title in Judaism for the chief of demons. It is found in the Vulgate and Peshitta translations.

The phrase "the ruler of the demons" identifies "Beelzebul" as Satan (cf. Luke 11:18). Although the OT is silent on the relationship between Satan and the demonic (see Special Topic: The Demonic in the To at Luke 4:1), interbiblical literature (affected by Zoroastrianism) identifies Satan as the head of demons.

Also the relationship between the OT fallen angels and the demonic is uncertain (cf. Rev. 12:9). I Enoch says the Nephilim of Genesis 6, who died in the flood, became the demonic seeking a physical body.

11:16 "to test Him" This term (peirazō, see note at Luke 11:4 and Special Topic at Luke 10:25) is used in the NT with the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction."

This paragraph seems to mix two separate issues:

1. exorcisms of Jesus

2. testing by those wanting a sign

The exorcisms themselves were the most relevant sign that could be given of Jesus' origin, authority, and power.

▣ "demanding of Him a sign from heaven" They had a sign, the exorcism, but they would not accept it (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22). The demand for signs became a major stumbling block to the Jews (cf. Luke 11:29-30; Matt. 12:38; John 2:18; 6:30).

This repeated insistence for a sign reminds us of Jesus' temptation (cf. Matthew 4; Luke 4), where Satan tempts Him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, apparently on a crowded feast day to impress the Jewish crowd (cf. Luke 4:9).

"He knew their thoughts" See notes at Luke 5:22; 6:8; 9:47; 24:38.

11:17-18 Jesus asserts the logical absurdity of His opponents. Why would Satan defeat his own servants (cf. Luke 11:18)?

11:18 "if" This is the first of three first class conditional sentences (cf. Luke 11:18, 19, 20) which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary/logical purposes.

The one in Luke 11:19 is an example of how the first class conditional is not true to reality, but to help the author make a strong, logical point. In reality, this statement is not true!

"his kingdom" Satan has a kingdom and wants to keep it and expand it. There is a spiritual conflict (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 4:14,27; 6:11-12,16; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9).

11:19 "by whom do your sons cast them out" The Jews were quite active in exorcisms (cf. Acts 19:13-16; see Josephus, Antiq.8.2,5). If they denied Jesus' power to exorcize demons, how did they explain Jewish exorcisms (esp. those using Jesus' name, cf. Luke 9:49-50; Mark 9:38-40)?

"So they will be your judges" At least these Jewish exorcists who were using Jesus' name recognized His power. This crowd (Matthew says Pharisees) had committed the unpardonable sin by calling light dark. They clearly saw and heard, but deemed it evil!

SPECIAL TOPIC: Exegetical Procedures for Interpreting "The Unpardonable Sin"

11:20 "by the finger of God" This phrase is used several times in the OT:

1. God as creator, Ps. 8:3

2. God as giver of revelation, Exod. 31:18; Deut. 9:10

3. God as redeemer, the plague which brought deliverance from Egypt, Exod. 8:19

This is an anthropomorphic phrase (see Special Topic at Luke 1:51). Humans have only earthly vocabulary to describe spiritual persons, events, and things. All our language about God is analogical and metaphorical. God is personal and, therefore, the Bible describes Him in human terms (physical, emotional, relational). God is an eternal Spirit, present throughout creation. He does not have a human body, though He can take that form (e.g., Gen. 3:8; 18:33; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14).

"then the kingdom of God has come upon you" The logic is overwhelming. If Jesus cast out demons by God's power, then He was the Messiah. The crowd's rejection of Him and His power and authority was a rejection of YHWH (cf. 1 John 5:10-12).

The casting out of demons showed the defeat of Satan and his kingdom. The eschatological event (cf. Isa. 24:21-23; Rev. 20:1-3) has come in the ministry of Jesus. The kingdom is present (cf. Matt. 12:28), yet future! This is the NT tension of the "already" and "not yet." Satan is defeated and is being defeated!

11:21-22 Jesus' power over the kingdom of Satan and his followers shows Jesus' God-given authority. The exorcism of Jesus and those He delegates clearly shows God's power over the evil one (even "a strong, fully armed" – perfect passive participle). Satan is helpless against Jesus, cf. Luke 11:22; 10:18).

11:22 "plunder" This may be an allusion to Isa. 53:12b ("He will divide the booty with the strong"). It (skulon) is a metaphor of military victory, the dividing of spoils (cf. Septuagint of Exod. 15:9; Num. 31:11,12,26,27; 1 Sam. 23:3).

11:23 This seems to contradict 9:50, but remember the ones to whom Jesus is speaking. In Luke 9:50 He is addressing His disciples about tolerance. Jewish exorcists or other disciples recognized Jesus' power and were using it to help people. However, here it is those who are trying to test Jesus (cf. Luke 11:16) who were rejecting His power and authority from God by asserting that He was using Satan's power. There are two totally different contexts and recipients!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:24-26
 24"When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' 25And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."

11:24-26 This passage has three possible meanings.

1. The Jewish exorcists performed exorcisms without personal faith, and the demonic spirit returned.

2. It is an allusion to national Israel in the sense of their rejection of idol worship without replacing it with a faith relationship to YHWH.

3. it referred to the preaching of John the Baptist, whom they accepted as being from God, while rejecting Jesus.

The last condition was far worse than the existential problem.

11:24 "the unclean spirit" See Special Topic: The Demonic at Luke 4:33 and the note on Exorcism at Luke 4:35.

"it passes through waterless places seeking rest" In the OT the demonic lived in uninhabited places (cf. Lev. 16:10; Isa. 13:21; 34:11).

The term "rest" (anapausis) is used in the Septuagint of Isa. 34:14 (according to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, vol. 2, p. 925), which describes the resting place of the Lilith (female night demon). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 4:1.

11:26 "seven other spirits" This is metaphorical for a more severe possession.

"the last state of that man becomes worse than the first" Evil, if not dealt with decisively by faith in Christ, can develop and progress. Evil can and will intensify because its ultimate goal is the destruction of the person.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:27-28
 27While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." 28But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it."

11:27 The parallel in Matt. 12:46-50 records the account of Jesus' mother and brothers seeking an audience with Him. Luke has recorded this earlier in Luke 8:19-21.

This shows us that the Gospels are not structured chronologically. This does not depreciate their historicity, but helps us remember that the Gospels are not modern, western cause-and-effect, sequential histories, nor are they biographies. They are gospel tracts for the purpose of salvation and Christian maturity. The main issue is the person and work of Christ.

11:28 "But He said" Jesus was appreciative of the woman's affirmation of approval, but He affirmed that an even closer relationship (even a blessing) exists between those who hear and follow (cf. Luke 6:46-49) His message more than those who simply have family ties (i.e., blood kin).

NASB"On the contrary"
NKJV"more than"
NRSV, TEV"rather"
NJB"more"

The Greek compound (men + oun) has several connotations. It addresses what has just been said and adds to it. It can (1) affirm it, (2) negate it, or (3) go beyond it (cf. Rom. 9:20; 10:18; Phil. 3:8). Option three fits this context best.

▣ "blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it" This is parallel to Luke 8:21. These are both present active participles. Together they reflect the Hebrew word shema, Deut. 6:4-6. Jesus' true family are those who hear and do God's will expressed in God's word! God wants a people who reveal and demonstrate His characteristics to the world.

Jesus is the one who is giving the word (Logos) and is the Word (cf. John 1:1). Believers are blessed when they hear and do the gospel.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:29-32
 29As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."

11:29 "this generation is a wicked generation" The Matthew parallel (cf. Luke 12:38-42) calls them "an evil and adulterous generation," which Luke's Gentile readers would not have understood in its OT connotation (i.e., faithless, idolatrous, e.g., Exod. 34:15-16; Deut. 31:16; Jdgs. 2:17; 8:27; Ezek. 6:9; 23:30; Hos. 3:1; 4:12; 9:1). This verse may refer to Luke 11:16.

"it seeks a sign"In Mark 8:11-12 Jesus refuses to give a sign! Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus as alluding to the sign of the prophet Jonah.

1. Matthew to his being in the great fish three days (i.e., Jesus' resurrection)

2. Luke to his preaching on Nineveh repenting (i.e., what the crowd should do)

They had heard Jesus' teachings and had seen the healings and the exorcisms performed by Him, but they wanted some ultimate sign to convince them to believe on Him. This is exactly the temptation of Matt. 4:5-7, to which Jesus would not succumb. However, in reality, He had given them sign after sign, but they would not or could not see!

▣ "yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah" The Matthew parallel (Matt. 12:38-42) emphasizes Jonah in the great fish three days as Jesus was three days in the grave (Hades). We must remember that this is three days by Jewish reckoning, not three twenty-four hour periods. Any part of a day, which for them was evening to evening (cf. Genesis 1), was reckoned as a full day.  Jesus' allusion to Jonah confirms the historicity of the prophet Jonah (as does 2 Kgs. 14:25). It is precisely the experience in the great fish that was used as the analogy. Also, Jonah's preaching resulted in the salvation of Gentiles (Luke's target audience was Gentiles).

Luke emphasizes the repentance of Nineveh at Jonah's preaching. In Luke Jesus is calling for the crowds' repentance in light of His teachings and miracles as the OT sign they sought (cf. Luke 11:32).

11:30 It was Jonah's preaching which God used to cause ancient Nineveh, the capital of the evil and cruel Assyria (Israel's enemy), to repent. The Matthew parallel uses Jonah in the great fish for three days and Jesus in the earth three days as the sign.

11:31 "The Queen of the South" This refers to the visit of the Queen of Sheba (a Gentile) to hear Solomon's wisdom recorded in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9.

▣ "something greater than Solomon is here" What a tremendous self-affirmation and the self-understanding of this carpenter of Nazareth. He saw himself as having greater wisdom (i.e., "something") than Solomon (cf. Luke 11:49,52).

Jesus, in His dialogs with different groups, clearly asserts that He is "greater than"

1. the temple, Matt. 12:6,8

2. Jonah, Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:31

3. greater than Solomon, Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:32

4. greater than Jacob, John 4:12

5. greater than John the Baptist, John 5:36

6. greater than Abraham, John 8:53

This is either the rambling of a mad man or the witness of incarnate deity! Each hearer/reader must decide.

11:32 "men of Nineveh" This is obviously the generic use of "men" as people.

▣ "something greater than Jonah is here" Notice again "something." Jesus' wisdom and message are greater than any OT wisdom and message. Jonah's message caused a pagan nation to repent. Jesus' message is greater than Jonah's, but these religious leaders will not repent and believe. Their condemnation is far worse because the message they heard was so superior!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:33-36
 33"No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays."

11:33-36 These same metaphors are used in Matt. 5:15; Mark 4:21; and Luke 8:16, but with different applications. Apparently Jesus used the same illustrations in different settings. Here they refer to mankind's attitudes and openness to God in Christ.

This is commonly called the unpardonable sin (see Special Topic at Luke 11:19). See notes below from my commentaries on the parallel contexts in Mark 3:29 and Matt. 12:31-32.

"Mark 3:29 "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit" This must be understood in its pre-Pentecostal historical setting. It was used in the sense of God's truth being rejected. The teaching of this verse has commonly been called "the unpardonable sin." It must be interpreted in light of the following criteria:

1. the distinction in the OT between "intentional" and "unintentional sins," (cf. Num. 15:27-31)

2. the unbelief of Jesus' own family contrasted with the unbelief of the Pharisees in this context

3. the statements of forgiveness in Mark 3:28

4. the differences between the Gospel parallels, particularly the change of "son of man," (cf. Matt. 12:32; Luke 12:10) to "sons of men," (cf. Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:28)

In light of the above, this sin is committed by those who, in the presence of great light and understanding, still reject Jesus as God's means of revelation and salvation. They turn the light of the gospel into the darkness of Satan (cf. Mark 3:30). They reject the Spirit's drawing and conviction (cf. John 6:44,65). The unpardonable sin is not a rejection by God because of some single act or word, but the continual, ongoing rejection of God in Christ by willful unbelievers (i.e., the scribes and Pharisees).

This sin can only be committed by those who have been exposed to the gospel. Those who have heard the message about Jesus clearly are the most responsible for its rejection. This is especially true of modern cultures that have continual access to the gospel, but reject Jesus (i.e., America, western culture).

▣ "never has forgiveness" This statement must balance with Mark 3:28.

▣ "but is guilty of an eternal sin" This was a willful rejection of the gospel (i.e., the person and works of Jesus) in the presence of great light!

There are many variants related to the phrase "an eternal sin." Some ancient Greek manuscripts (1) changed it to a GENITIVE phrase (i.e., hamartias) - C*, D, W; (2) added "judgment" (i.e., kriseōs) - A and C2 (cf. KJV); or (3) added "torment" (i.e., kolaseōs), minuscule 1234.

It was shocking to the early scribes to talk about an "eternal sin." Robert B. Girdlestone, in his book Synonyms of the Old Testament, has an interesting comment on the word "eternal":

"The adjective aiōnios is used more than forty times in the N.T. with respect to eternal life, which is regarded partly as a present gift, partly as a promise for the future. It is also applied to God's endless existence in Rom. 16.26; to the endless efficacy of Christ's atonement in Heb. 9.12, 13.20; and to past ages in Rom. 16.25, 2 Tim. 1,9, Titus 1.2.

This word is used with reference to eternal fire, Matt. 18.8,25. 41, Jude 7; eternal punishment, Matt. 25.46; eternal judgment or condemnation, Mark 3:29, Heb. 6.2; eternal destruction, 2 Thess. 1.9. The word in these passages implies finality, and apparently signifies that when these judgments shall be inflicted, the time of probation, change, or the chance of retrieving one's fortune, will have gone by absolutely and for ever. We understand very little about the future, about the relation of human life to the rest of existence, and about the moral weight of unbelief, as viewed in the light of eternity. If, on the one hand, it is wrong to add to God's word, on the other we must not take away from it; and if we stagger under the doctrine of eternal punishment as it is set forth in Scripture, we must be content to wait, cleaving to the Gospel of God's love in Christ, while acknowledging that there is a dark background which we are unable to comprehend" (pp. 318-319).

Matt. 12:31-32 This reference to blasphemy against the Spirit is often called "the unpardonable sin." From the parallel in Mark 3:28 it is obvious that "Son of Man" was not a title for Jesus in this context but a generic use of the Hebrew idiom "sons of men" or "mankind." This is supported by the parallelism of Matt. 3:31 and 3:32. The sin discussed was not the sin of ignorance, but of willful rejection of God and His truth in the presence of great light. Many people worry about whether they have committed this sin. People who desire to know God or are afraid that they have committed this sin have not! This sin is the continuing rejection of Jesus in the presence of great light, to the point of spiritual callousness. This is similar to Heb. 6 and 10."

11:34

NASB, NJB"clear"
NKJV, NIV"good"
NRSV"healthy"
TEV, REB"sound"

See note at Matt. 6:22-23 at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GENEROUS/SINCERE (HAPLOTES)

11:36

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"rays"
NKJV"bright shining"
TEV"its brightness"
REB, NIV"shines"

This word normally means "lightning" (cf. Luke 17:24; 24:4), but here it denotes "a bright shining" (see Harold Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised (p. 57).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:37-41
 37Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you."

11:37 "a Pharisee asked" Remember this context deals with the Pharisees' rejection of Jesus. This account (cf. Luke 11:37-41) illustrates their spiritual blindness to the major truths and nit-picking legalism based on Talmudic regulations (human traditions, cf. Isa. 29:13). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES at Luke 5:17.

▣ "lunch" The terms ariston and deipnon distinguish between a meal about noon (or earlier, cf. Matt. 22:4; John 21:12,15) and a larger meal about 4 p.m. (cf. Luke 14:12). This first term is used here for an early meal in the mid-morning.

11:38 "When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal" Apparently Jesus, on purpose, left out this expected rabbinical ceremonial procedure in order to bring the Pharisee into dialogue (this parallels Jesus' actions on the Sabbath).

The word wash is baptizō, where it means to ceremonially purify by washing. Modern interpreters must be careful of using etymology to dogmatically define Greek words and then insert their technical definition (dying by means of immersion) into every place that word is used. This context is not referring to immersion, but the Jewish ritual of pouring a certain amount (two hen eggs) of water over the elbow until it drips off the fingers and then again over the fingers until it drips off the elbow.

There is a good article in Robert B. Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 152-157 on the Hebrew thaval and the Greek baptizō.

11:39 "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter" Jesus wanted to discuss the Pharisees' orientation of minute details (Talmud) as a sign of being spiritual. The heart is the key to all religious acts. God knows the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 2:7; 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 6:30; Ps. 7:9; 44:21; Pro. 15:11; 21:2; Jer. 11:20; 17:9-10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27).

11:40 This question expects a "yes" answer.

▣ "You foolish ones" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR FOOLISH PEOPLE

11:41

NASB"charity"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"alms"
TEV

This verse seems to imply that if the inside of the cup is loving and obedient, then it will show in outward manifestations of love to the poor and needy, not legalisms and elitisms (cf. Luke 11:42; Micah 6:8). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALMSGIVING

"then all things are clean for you" This was a radical statement for those brought up under kosher rules (cf. Leviticus 11). However, Jesus modified the OT requirement (cf. Mark 7:1-23), thereby showing He is Lord of Scripture (i.e., its only true interpreter, cf. Matt. 5:17-48). This truth is used as an illustration for Peter in Acts 10:9-16. Paul followed this understanding of ceremonial defilement (cf. Rom. 14:14,20; 1 Cor. 10:25-26; 1 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:42-44
 42"But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it."

11:42 "'woe to you’" This reflects an OT prophetic curse formula using a funeral dirge (cf. Luke 11:42,43,44,46,52; Matt. 23:13-36).

▣ "pay tithe on" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHING

▣ "yet disregard justice and the love of God" It is extremely important that we do not let rituals or liturgical acts blind us to God's will for His people, which is

1. love for God (cf. Deut. 6:4-6; Luke 10:27)

2. justice towards humans (cf. Lev. 19:18; Luke 10:27)

 

▣ "but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" They strained at a gnat and swallowed the camel (cf. Matt. 23:24). Is tithing the spices of the kitchen more important, more spiritual, than how we live and love?

An early church heretic, Marcion (early second century in Rome), rejected the OT and only accepted a modified Gospel of Luke and certain letters of Paul as inspired. Since he rejected the OT, the phrase, "but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" is omitted in codex Bezea (D), but included in most earlier Greek manuscripts and versions, so probably its omission in MS D was due to his influence.

11:43 "For you love the chief seats in the synagogues" These were places of prominence. The chief seats were on a semi-circular bench around a place where the Torah was kept, facing the congregation (cf. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 167). See parallel in Matt. 23:1-12.

▣ "and the respectful greetings in the market place" Apparently there were standard phrases and titles used by religious leaders for one another, spoken in public. This phrase, therefore, rebukes their pride in their positions in the synagogue and society. They loved being recognized and praised!

11:44 "'For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it’" Physical contact with the tomb made one ceremonially unclean (cf. Lev. 21:1-4; Num. 19:11-22) for one week (rabbinical interpretation), however, in this case the people would not realize it, therefore, the Jews white-washed the tombs in order to avoid this type of inadvertent ceremonial defilement (cf. Matt. 23:27). Jesus accuses these self-righteous, legalistic leaders of being the real cause of spiritual defilement!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:45-52
 45One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." 46But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering."

11:45 "One of the lawyers" This refers to a scribe (see Special Topic at Luke 5:21) whose major task was to interpret the oral (Talmud) and written (OT) law. They took the place of the local Levites as instructors and interpreters of the Law and became the religious experts for people to consult about daily matters (binding and loosing). Most scribes in Jesus' day were also Pharisees.

▣ "you insult us too" The Greek term hubrizō means "violent mistreatment" (cf. Matt. 22:6; Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thess. 2:2). It is common in the Septuagint ("to insult," cf 2 Sam. 19:44; II Macc. 14:42 and "to be haughty," Jer. 31:29). These Jewish religious leaders felt the sting of Jesus' comments (cf. Matthew 23).

11:46 "For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear" There is a word play (cognate accusative) in this verse. The verb and noun (twice) of "burden" are used. This refers to rabbinical nit-picking interpretations of the Torah developed in the Oral Traditions (later codified in the Talmud). These religious rules and procedures were so complicated and contradictory that normal working people could not do them (cf. Matt. 23:4; Acts 15:10).

NASB"while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers"
NKJV"you yourselves do not touch the burden with one of your fingers"
NRSV"you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them"
TEV"you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads"
NJB"burdens that you yourselves do not touch with your fingertips"

They did meticulously perform their rabbinical interpretations, yet would not make any exceptions for others or even take time to help others.

The word "touch" is found only here in the NT (not in the Septuagint or the Egyptian Papyri). M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 1, p. 187, says it is a medical term used of lightly touching a sore. If this was the general connotation, then these religious leaders would not even sympathize with the plight of the common person ("people of the land") as they tried to keep the meticulous rules of the Pharisees.

11:47 "you build the tombs of the prophets" The parallel in Matt. 23:29-33 is striking! In the OT God's people would kill God's prophets (i.e., reject their message) and then build large tombs for them to honor their memory. The building of monuments to God's spokesmen is not what God wanted. He desires obedience to His message. As the leaders of the OT killed the prophets, these leaders will kill Jesus and His followers (cf. Matt. 23:34).

11:49 "For this reason also the wisdom of God said" There is no place in the OT where this is quoted. Therefore, many believed that Jesus was referring to Himself as "the Wisdom of God" (cf. 1 Cor. 1:24,30; Col. 2:3), which would be an allusion to Pro. 8:22-31. This OT text is the background to John 1:1-14.

▣ "prophets and apostles" This seems to refer to OT and NT speakers for God. This is a panorama of how the Jews received God's spokespersons (death and persecution).

11:50 "may be charged against this generation" This is a shocking verse. Jesus was the culmination of Jewish theology, history, and hope. To miss Him was to miss everything! Ultimate truth had come and now they were rejecting Him (cf. Luke 11:14-26,29-36)! See full note at Luke 11:31.

This may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by Titus.

11:51 "from the blood of Abel" This refers to the first premeditated murder in the Bible, recorded in Gen. 4:8.

▣ "to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God" This refers to the incident recorded in 2 Chr. 24:20-22.

It is possible that Jesus chose one example (i.e., Abel) from Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew canon, and one (Zechariah) from 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew canon, to illustrate the ongoing problem of the Jews (cf. Deut. 9:6,7,13,24,27; 31:27).

The altar referred to is the sacrificial altar at the entrance to the temple, while the "House of God" refers to the building itself, which had two major chambers, the outer one called "the Holy Place" and the inner one called "the Holy of Holies."

Abel's death was an evidence of the fall (cf. Genesis 3), while Zechariah's death showed a willful disregard for God's special dwelling place (the temple). The Jews now were plotting (cf. Luke 11:53-54) to murder Jesus also.

11:52 "For you have taken away the key of knowledge" The Jewish leaders who should have recognized Jesus ("the key of knowledge") not only missed Him, but led others into their willful blindness in God's name (cf. Matt. 23:13). This is shocking condemnation of the religious elite of Jesus' day.

When we share Christ we use the "keys of the kingdom" (cf. Matt. 16:19). When believers live godless or arrogant lives, they become like the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 23:13-15) who hinder people seeking God.

Jesus, not human knowledge, is the key of wisdom (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). Jesus has the keys of death and hades (cf. Rev. 1:18). Jesus is the true descendant and promise of David (cf. 2 Samuel 7 and Rev. 3:7).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 11:53-54
 53When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.

11:53

NASB, NRSV"began to be very hostile"
NKJV"began to assail Him vehemently"
TEV"began to criticize him bitterly"
NJB"began a furious attack on him"

The first term, deinōs, means "terrible," "vehement," or "dreadfully" (cf. Matt. 8:6). It was used in the Septuagint in Job 10:16 and 19:11 in the same sense.

The second term, enechō, means to fix upon in the sense of to hold a grudge (cf. Mark 6:19). The anger and hatred of the religious leaders, both Sadducees and Pharisees, which is so evident the last week of Jesus' life in Jerusalem, started much earlier (cf. Mark 6:19; Luke 11:53). This settled opposition was instigated by Jesus' pointed condemnation of their hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and arrogance.

NASB"to question Him closely on many subjects"
NKJV, NRSV"to cross-examine Him about many things"
TEV"ask him questions about many things"
NJB"tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions"

The verb apostomatizō is used only here in the NT. It is not used in the Septuagint, but is used in classical and late Greek literature in the sense of rote memory or repeating what someone else has said. It seems to imply a rapid series of questions so as not to give Jesus a chance to think through His answers. The whole purpose was to catch Him in a misspoken response, so they could condemn Him (cf. Luke 11:54) as He so powerfully condemned them! But they could not (cf. Luke 20:26).

11:54 "to catch Him in something He might say" This word literally means "to hunt wild animals." Jesus had become a serious theological problem. They must eliminate Him (cf. Luke 20:20) to maintain their leadership.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the Lord's Prayer, as recorded in Matthew and Luke, different?

2. How do we reconcile Luke 11:4 and James. 1:13?

3. Is God reluctant to hear our prayers and we must continue asking over and over?

4. Why is it so significant that they were calling Jesus Beelzebul?

5. Why was Jesus so angry with the religious leaders of first century Judaism?

 

Passage: 

Luke 12

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Warning Against Hypocrisy Beware of Hypocrisy Encouragement of Disciples A Warning Against Hypocrisy Open and Fearless Speech
12:1-3 12:1-3 12:1-3 12:1-3 12:1-3
Whom to Fear Jesus Teaches the Fear of God   Whom to Fear  
12:4-7 12:4-7 12:4-7 12:4-5 12:4-7
      12:6-7  
Confessing Christ Before Men Confess Christ Before Men   Confessing and Rejecting Christ  
12:8-12 12:8-12 12:8-12 12:8-9 12:8-9
      12:10 12:10
      12:11-12 12:11-12
The Parable of the Rich Fool The Parable of the Rich Fool Parable of the Rich Fool The Parable of the Rich Fool On Hoarding Possessions
12:13-21 12:13-21 12:13-21 12:13 12:13-15
      12:14-15  
      12:16-20 12:16-21
      12:21  
Care and Anxiety Do Not Worry On Anxiety Trust in God Trust in Providence
12:22-34 12:22-34 12:22-31 12:22-28 12:22-31
      12:29-31  
      Riches in Heaven  
    12:32-34 12:32-34 12:32
        On Almsgiving
        12:33-34
Watchful Servant The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant On Watchfulness Watchful Servants On Being Ready for the Master's Return
12:35-40 12:35-48 12:35-38 12:35-40 12:35-40
    12:39-40 The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant  
12:41-48   12:41-48 12:41 12:41-46
      12:42-46  
      12:47-48 12:47-48
Jesus the Cause of Division Christ Brings Division On the End of the Age Jesus the Cause of Division Jesus and His Passion
        12:51-53
  Discern the Time   Understanding the Time On Reading the Signs of the Times
12:54-56 12:54-56 12:54-56 12:54-56 12:54-56
Settling With Your Accuser Make Peace with Your Adversary   Settle With Your Opponent  
12:57-59 12:57-59 12:57-59 12:57-59 12:57-59

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BRIEF OUTLINE OF TO WHOM JESUS ADDRESSES HIS WORDS

Luke 12:1-12 disciples

Luke 12:13-21 a person in the crowd

Luke 12:22-53 disciples

Luke 12:54-56 the crowd (also Luke 13:1-9)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:1-3
 1Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

12:1 "after so many thousands of people had gathered together" The term "thousands" reflects an OT term "myriad" (cf. LXX Gen. 24:60; Lev. 26:8; Num. 10:36; Deut. 32:30), which usually denotes tens of thousands. Here it seems to mean a very large number. This continues the Synoptic Gospels' emphasis on "the crowd." Huge numbers of people came to hear Jesus.

1. the common people

2. the sick

3. the curious

4. disciples

5. the religious elite

One reason it is hard to interpret Jesus' words is because modern interpreters are not sure to which group in the crowd Jesus is talking. Jesus' teachings are received only by those with open ears and receptive hearts (i.e., the parable of the soils, cf. Luke 8:4-15).

▣ "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees" This is a present active imperative ("be on your guard," NJB) of a word used often in the Septuagint (e.g., Gen. 24:6; Exod. 10:28; 34:12; Deut. 4:9) and used only by Luke in the NT (cf. Luke 17:3; 20:46; 21:34; Acts 5:35; 20:28). It seems to refer to an attitude of "nit-picking" legalism (cf. Luke 11:37-52) instead of the love and care for the poor and needy people in God's name (cf. Luke 11:41; 12:33; 18:22).

The term "leaven" (zumē) is used in two senses in both the OT and the NT:

1. a sense of corruption and, therefore, a symbol of evil

a. Exod. 12:15; 13:3,7; 23:18; 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 6:17; Deut. 16:3

b. Matt. 16:6,11; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 5:9; 1 Cor. 5:6-8

2. a sense of permeation and, therefore, influence, not a symbol of evil

a. Lev. 7:13; 23:17; Amos 4:5

b. Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21

Only context can determine the meaning of this word (which is true of all words!).

▣ "hypocrisy" This comes from two Greek words, "to judge" and "under" (cf. Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15). This was a theatrical term that speaks of "actors playing a part behind a mask" (cf. LXX II Macc. 5:25; 6:21,24; IV Macc. 6:15,17). The following context shows that the secrets of these religious leaders' hearts will one day be clearly revealed (cf. Luke 12:2-3).

In the Matthew parallel (cf. Matt. 16:12) the leaven refers to the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but here in Luke it is related to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Each inspired Gospel writer had the editorial right to select from Jesus' words, sayings, and miracles and choose those that best communicated the gospel to his readers. They also had the editorial right to arrange Jesus' sayings and miracles for theological (not chronological) purposes. They even had the limited right to modify or adapt His words and actions within certain boundaries. This accounts for the differences among the four Gospels. I do not believe they had the editorial right to invent words, actions, dialogs, or events! They all used various sources for their Gospel. These Gospels are not western histories or biographies, but evangelistic tracts targeting certain people-groups.

12:2 "covered up" This is a periphrastic perfect passive indicative. Sinful humans attempt to completely conceal their sins and bad attitudes, but they cannot.

The future passive indicative in Luke 12:2 ("will not be revealed. . .will not be known") point toward an eschatological judgment (cf. Luke 12:40,45-47). Jesus knew the true motives and thoughts of the human heart and mind, and one day all will know! The divine judgment will reveal the true intents and thoughts of the unbelieving heart.

12:3 In context this may refer to the scheming and plotting of the Pharisees (cf. Luke 11:53-54) and the Sadducees (cf. Matt. 16:6) against Jesus (and possibly also the Herodians, cf. Mark 8:15).

"proclaimed upon the housetop" In Palestine the houses had flat roofs that were used as places to eat, sleep, and socialize in hot weather. This then is a metaphor of people talking to their neighbors and the report spreading all over town.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:4-7
 4"I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

12:4 "My friends" This is the only use of this phrase in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus often talks about "a friend," but only here does He say "My friends." However, it occurs three times in John 15:14-15. What a tremendous affirmation of His disciples, not just Lord, but friend!

"do not be afraid" "Do not be afraid" is an aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive. "Fear" (Luke 12:5) is another aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive. The second and third "fear" in Luke 12:5 are aorist passive (deponent) imperatives.

There is obviously an intended word play in these two verses. The difference between these forms is only an accent mark. The subjunctive mood denotes a contingency. In light of human choices and their consequences the imperative gives God's inspired directive! Fear is not and should not characterize believers, but rather awe and respect toward God, which are always wise and appropriate. Circumstances and even evil people are temporary, but God and His judgments are permanent and affect the body (physical and temporal) and the soul (spiritual and eternal).

"kill the body" Earthly enemies can terminate our physical life, but only God can give eternal life (cf. Matt. 10:28)!

12:5 "who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell " This is referring to God the Father. In the OT monotheism was affirmed by attributing all causality to YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 5:18; Isa. 30:26; Hos. 6:1). Further progressive revelation asserts that God allows evil to exist to serve His purposes (cf. A. B. Davidson, An Old Testament Theology, pp. 300-306).

However, sometimes we say that God sends no one to hell, that humans send themselves by their unbelief. This again, is the mystery of predestination and human free will. Humans are responsible for their choices and actions. God is the One who will make them responsible. The mystery is why some do not believe!

See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE at Luke 2:14.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM

▣ "hell’" The term Gehenna is an abbreviation of the OT phrase "the valley of Hinnom." It was the site of the worship of the Phoenician fire god, Molech (which is a corruption of the Hebrew term for king, MLK, BDB 572). This worship is mentioned often throughout the OT (cf. Lev. 18:12; 1 Kgs. 11:7; 2 Kgs. 23:10; 2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 32:35; Ezek. 16:20). This place was called Topeth (burning) and is described in 2 Kgs. 16:3; 21:6; 23:10; Jer. 7:32; 19:4-6; 32:34-35. The Jews turned this area south of Jerusalem into the garbage dump for the city because they were so ashamed their ancestors used it for idolatry (offering their children as sacrifices for the fertility of crops, herds, and people). See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Luke 16:23.

▣ "fear Him" This is an aorist passive (deponent) imperative (cf. Luke 12:5b, repeated for emphasis). It is used in the sense of reverence for God as being the high and holy Creator/Redeemer/Judge.

12:6 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents" Sparrows were not used as sacrifices, but were eaten by the poor (cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 594).

The "two cents" is the Greek term assarion, which comes from the Latin as. It was a small brass coin worth about one tenth of a denarius. These birds were very inexpensive. See the parallel in Matt. 10:24-33.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: COINS IN USE IN PALESTINE IN JESUS' DAY at Luke 15:8.

▣ "Yet not one of them is forgotten before God" This is a periphrastic perfect passive indicative. Usually sparrows were sold four for two cents and they received one free. Even the free one is not forgotten by God (cf. Matt. 10:29-30). God truly loves human beings because they were created in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).

God is not only the creator, but the provider and sustainer of all life (cf. Neh. 9:6; Matt. 5:45; Col. 1:17). He is moving all creation toward His purposes.

For a good discussion of the doctrine of "Providence," see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd edition, pp. 412-435.

God has a special relationship of care for those who trust His Son (i.e., Father). Believers can trust God's provision in every area of life (cf. 1 Pet. 5:7).

12:7 "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered" This is a perfect passive indicative. This does not mean that God literally keeps track of every hair on our heads, but is metaphorical (cf. OT idiom in 1 Sam. 14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11; and 1 Kgs. 1:52, see Archer Bible Commentary, vol. 28A, p. 960) of every problem, every need, every aspect, and every situation of believers' lives being a concern to Him.

▣ "Do not fear" This is a perfect middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. Fear is a characteristic of fallen, guilty humanity, but should not be of believers!

Christians must be careful not to interpret this paragraph as a general promise that nothing bad will ever happen to them. This is untrue in history and in the first century. This is a promise that God will be for us at eschatological judgment! The next paragraph also speaks of eschatological judgment, as well as contemporary judgments. The thrust of them both is God is with us and for us, but we live in a fallen world. Bad things happen (see John William Wenham, The Goodness of God)! The world has rejected God's Son; it will reject, persecute, and kill His followers (cf. Matt. 10:21-22; John 16:2), but God will be with them in time and will set everything straight when time is no more! My favorite book on this subject is Hannah Whithall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. It has been a blessing.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:8-12
 8"And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 11When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

12:8 "everyone" I love the inclusive pronouns used to describe the gospel invitation, like John 3:15-16 ("whoever") and 1:12 ("as many as") as well as Rom. 10:9-13 ("whosoever"). In this verse "everyone" shows the extent of the love of God (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; and 2 Pet. 3:9).

However, "everyone" is limited to those who truly believe and receive the gospel. Passages like Matt. 7:21-23 show that there are those who speak with their lips, but not their hearts (cf. Isa. 29:13).

▣ "who confesses Me before men" The term "confesses" (aorist active subjunctive) translates the Greek work homolegeo. It is used in 1 John 1:9 for believers confessing their sins to God. However, this same term is used in Matt. 10:32 and Mark 8:38 for believers' public affirmation of trust in Jesus. We cannot institutionalize this verse into a set liturgical form, but all humans who profess, share, and live their trust in and knowledge of Christ fulfill this verse. Mark 8:38 puts this same saying of Jesus into an eschatological context.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION

▣ "Son of Man. . .Son of Man" I believe one of the problems dealing with the interpretation of the "unpardonable sin" in Luke 12:10 is that we mistakenly identify these two phrases. The term "Son of Man" in Luke 12:8 applies to Jesus, but the term "Son of Man" in Luke 12:10, because of the parallels in Matt. 12:31-32 (Son of Man) and Mark 3:28-29 (sons of men), is used generically to speak of mankind (cf. Luke 12:9; Matt. 12:31a). The "unpardonable sin" is the rejection of Jesus in the presence of great light. We know this because the other two contexts (i.e., Matthew and Mark) also follow the Beelzebul controversy. See extensive notes at Luke 11:33-36 and Special Topic at Luke 11:19.

"before the angels of God" This is a circumlocution for God's presence (cf. Luke 15:7,10). This verse is a theological affirmation of the power of Jesus' intercession to God on behalf of believers (cf. Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1).

12:9 "denies" The term (aorist middle [deponent] participle) means "to deny," "to disclaim," "to disown," "to renounce," or "to refuse." It is used in the same sense in the Septuagint (cf. Gen. 18:15; IV Macc. 8:7; 10:15; Wisdom 12:27; 16:16). It is a word that has the connotation of rejection of Jesus. It is the culmination of unbelief and rejection! The temporal refusal of the gospel has eternal consequences.

12:10 "everyone" The inclusive term is used in both Luke 12:8 and Luke 12:10. The gospel is as wide as all humanity, but judgment is also as wide as all of those who say "no"!

12:11 The verbs of Luke 12:11 are subjunctives (contingency), which implies that this specific persecution will not happen to every believer, but it will surely happen to some!

"authorities" See Special Topic: Archē at Luke 1:2.

"do not worry" This is an aorist active subjunctive with the negative particle which implies do not even start to be worried.

"about how or what you are to speak" This cannot be a proof-text for a preacher's lack of personal study and preparation to preach on Sundays! This is a promise to those believers going through persecution and public trials.

12:12 "for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say" In times of persecution God will provide special help for these powerful witnessing opportunities (cf. Luke 21:15; Matt. 10:16-20).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:13-21
 13Someone in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." 14But He said to him, "Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?" 15Then He said to them, "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions." 16And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. 17And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' 18Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' 21So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

12:13 "Someone in the crowd said to Him" Apparently this man broke into Jesus' teaching session to ask a trivial question related to family inheritance. He did not think anything unusual about this because these were common questions addressed to rabbis, and it seems to relate to Deut. 21:15-17.

12:14 "But He said to him, "Man’" This is a mild reproach (cf. Luke 22:58,60; Rom. 2:3; 9:20).

"who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you"Jesus is rejecting the idea that He is just another rabbi or local Levite. His task of proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God took precedence over all other issues of life.

The term "arbitrator" is used only here in the NT and not at all in the Septuagint, but it is common in Greek literature. The verb form ("divide") is used in Luke 12:13 by Jesus' questioner. Because of the rareness of the term several other terms are found in the Greek MSS, but UBS4 gives this reading (MSS P75, א, B. L) a "B" rating (almost certain).

12:15 "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed" This is a very emphatic statement in Greek (a present active imperative and a present middle imperative, both plural). Greed (or covetousness) is the attitude and lifestyle of "more and more for me at any cost" (cf. Rom. 1:29; Eph. 4:19; 5:3; Col. 3:5)! It is the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil! Greed kills (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

12:16 "And He told them a parable" The following context deals with right and wrong attitudes toward earthly possessions. This parable emphasizes the false security that money and possessions provide. There was a Roman proverb that says, "Money is like sea water, the more you drink, the more you want!" The problem here is not money, but the love of money, the priority of money, the self-sufficiency that money seems to provide (cf. Mark 8:36-37).

12:17 "he began reasoning to himself" This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative. It can be understood in two ways.

1. the rich man of Jesus' parable began to reason (NASB)

2. the rich man reasoned within himself over and over again

 

12:19 "soul" This is the Greek term psuchē, which reflects the Hebrew term nephesh. This refers to our being, our self, our personhood (cf. Acts 2:41; 3:23; Rom. 13:1) or life force connected to this planet, this physical sphere of existence.

▣ "take your ease" The theological emphasis here is on the frailty and presumption of human plans (cf. Pro. 27:1; James 4:13-15). True life is much more than physical prosperity!

12:20 "You fool" This man was not a theological atheist, but he lived his life in practical atheism, as so many in the church today (cf. Ps. 14:1; 53:1). The NT book of James is a good NT commentary on the priority of wealth!

This is a different word for "fool" (aphrōn, cf. Luke 11:40; 12:20; 1 Cor. 15:36) and not the word "fool" (mōros) of Matt. 5:22, which reflects the Aramaic raca. Jesus Himself uses mōros in Matt. 23:17,19. See SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR FOOLISH PEOPLE at Luke 11:40.

▣ "required" This is surprisingly a plural. It is literally "they require your soul."

1. Luke often uses this form without focusing on the "they" (cf. Luke 6:38; 12:11,20; 16:9; 23:31).

2. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 176, thinks it is a circumlocution of the rabbis to avoid using God's name, therefore, a form of the OT "plural of majesty."

3. Michael Magill, NT Transline (p. 239) thinks it refers to angels (cf. Luke 16:22).

 

▣ "and now who will own what you have prepared" This is a penetrating question for materialists (cf. Ps. 39:6; 49:10; Eccl. 2:18-23).

12:21 "rich toward God" It is so hard to keep time and eternity in proper balance in a fallen world with the residual effects of the fall in all of us (cf. Luke 12:33; Matt. 6:19-34).

Surprisingly MS D (fifth century) and some Old Latin versions (a,b,d from the fourth and fifth centuries) omit Luke 12:21. The UBS4 gives its inclusion an A rating (certain), because it is found in MSS P45,75, א, A, B, L W, and many Old Latin versions.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:22-32
 22And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span? 26If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! 29And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."

12:22 "And He said to His disciples" Apparently Jesus directed His teachings to different groups in this large audience (the sick, the curious, the religious leaders, the disciples). This paragraph is paralleled in Matt. 6:25-33, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The pronoun "His" is missing in some very early MSS (P45,75, B) and two Old Latin versions c and e). However, its inclusion follows Luke's writing style and it is found in MSS א, A, D, L, W. The UBS4 cannot decide between its inclusion or exclusion, so it puts it in brackets.

"do not worry about your life" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually implies stop an act in process. The disciples were worrying (cf. Luke 12:11,22,25,26) about physical needs (cf. Matt. 6:25,27,28,31,34).

The term life is psuchē, as in Luke 12:19 and 23, which denotes the self.

12:23 This is the theological summary. Believers are co-inheritors (cf. Rom. 8:17) of all things (cf. Luke 12:31-32).

12:24 "Consider the ravens" Even these unclean birds (cf. Lev. 11:15) were provided for by God (cf. Ps. 147:9) and even used by God (cf. Gen. 8:7; 1 Kgs. 17:4,6). This verse may reflect Job 38:41.

"how much more valuable you are than the birds" This is the second time Jesus has made this statement (cf. Luke 12:7; Matt. 10:31).

12:25 "which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life's span" The term pēchus is literally "cubit." It is the distance between a man's elbow and his longest finger. It is usually about 18 inches long. It is used in two different ways in Greek.

1. it can be used of size (cf. John 21:8; Rev. 21:17)

2. it can be used of time (cf. Matt. 6:27; Luke 12:25)

The same dual meaning is found in the Greek term hēlikia (NKJV, "add one cubit to his stature"). It can refer to size (cf. Luke 19:3; Eph. 4:13) or time (cf. John 9:21,23; Heb. 11:11). Both terms seem to refer to time in this context.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CUBIT

12:26 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

12:27 "consider" This is an aorist active imperative. The term is made up of the preposition kata plus the verb to understand or comprehend (cf. Matt. 7:3), which denotes very carful consideration. Luke uses it often in his writings (cf. Luke 6:41; 12:24,27; 20:23; Acts 7:31,32; 11:6; 27:39).

▣ "lilies" This refers to the anemones, crocuses, or irises of Palestine. In Song of Songs 5:13, this flower is used for the color of a woman's lips.

NASB, NKJV
NET, NIV,"how they grow: they neither toil nor spin"
NJB, NRSV
(footnote),
REB"they never spin or weave"

The NASB follows MSS P45,75, א, A, B, L, W, while the NJB follows MS D. The UBS4 gives the first option a "B" rating (almost certain). This is also the wording of Matt. 6:28.

"not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these" Nature reflects the beauty and design of its creator. Nature is part of the revelation of God (cf. Ps. 19:1-6). The beauty, intricacy, and power of nature is becoming a way of asserting evidence of the existence of God (cf. Rom. 1:19; 2:14; see Mere Creation, ed. William A. Dembski and The Battle of Beginnings by Del Ratzsch.

12:28 "if" This is another first class conditional sentence (cf. Luke 12:26).

"the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace" This reflects an OT idiom of the transitory nature of grass (human life) compared to God (cf. Isa. 40:6-8; Job 8:12; 14:1-2; Ps. 37:2,20; 90:5-6; 102:11-12; 103:15-17; James 1:10-11; 1 Pet. 1:24-25).

"how much more will He clothe you" This is the repeated theme of Luke 12:24b. Humans are more important than grass.

"You men of little faith" This is a compound term "little" plus "faith." It is used especially by Matthew (cf. Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:80), but only here in Luke. It is not used at all in the Septuagint or the Koine Egyptian Papyri. Even flawed, weak, and worrying believers are valuable to God.

12:29 "do not seek what you will eat" This is a present active imperative which relates to the next two phrases, "what you will eat" and "what you will drink" (both aorist active subjunctives). The pronoun "you" is placed first in the Greek sentence to emphasize the God's provision for believers/disciples.

"do not keep worrying" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually denotes stopping an act in process (cf. Luke 12:11; Matt. 6:31).

This Greek word meteōrizō is used only here in the NT. In Greek literature it means "to lift up" ( cf. Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 405). It is used several times in the Septuagint in this same sense. Because of this some scholars (Luther) want to translate it as "do not be high minded." However, we must remember the linguistic principle that context determines meaning, not etymology or lexicons. "Worry" fits this context best.

12:30 "For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek" God knows what humans need (cf. Matt. 6:32); He will provide in His time and in His way. This is often called the doctrine of Providence. God provides the physical needs of all life on this planet (cf. Matt. 5:45). Jesus is God's agent in this role in Col. 1:17 and Heb. 1:3. For a good discussion of this concept see Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 412-435.

"your Father" This surely goes back to Jesus' teaching on prayer (cf. Luke 11:2,13; also note 6:36).

12:31 "But seek His kingdom" This is a present active imperative. When we have God, we have everything, but without Him even physical life is fearful and anxious!

Several early Greek manuscripts have "The Kingdom of God" (cf. MSS P45, A, D1, W, and most Old Latin versions, as well as the Vulgate and Syriac translations, cf. NKJV), but most English translations (NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB, NIV) have "His kingdom" (cf. MSS א, B, D*, L, and the Coptic version) Context makes the pronoun antecedent obvious. The UBS4 editors give the pronoun a "B" rating (almost certain). The papyri manuscript P75 omits both.

12:32 "do not be afraid" This is another present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act in process. Jesus said this often (cf. Matt. 17:7; 28:10; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; 12:32; John 6:20; Rev. 1:17).

▣ "'little flock"" This is the only use of this term in the NT. It emphasizes the significance of the Christian community (cf. Luke 13:18-21). This term is used in Isa. 40:11 (and 40:14 in the LXX) for God as Shepherd (cf. Psalm 23.) In Zechariah 13 the Messiah ("My Shepherd," "My Associate") is depicted as the smitten shepherd of God. Jesus spoke of Himself as "the Good Shepherd" in John 10:11-18.

"for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom" The term eudokeō is used in the Synoptic Gospels predominately for God the Father being "well-pleased" with the Son (cf. Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; and 2 Pet. 1:17).

In this context the focus is on the Father's will to make us part of His family and Kingdom (cf. Eph. 1:5,9). Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 260, call this verb "a characteristically Jewish Greek verb." It occurs often in the Septuagint. Luke knew the Septuagint well.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:33-34
 33"Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

12:33 "Sell your possessions" This is an aorist active imperative. It is not a universal command, but deals with the priority structure of our lives (cf. Luke 14:33; 18:22; Matt. 19:21; 1 Cor. 13:3). If God is not priority, everything and anything else must be eliminated from first place (cf. Matt. 5:29-30). This recurrent theme clearly shows the radical aspect of the Christian commitment. God must be first! All else is idolatry. However, many people in the Bible—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jewish Kings, Zachaeus, Joseph of Arimathea, are wealthy. Wealth is not the problem, but the priority of wealth!

"and give to charity" This probably refers to 11:41. Love for the poor and needy is evidence that God has changed one's perspective and worldview. Luke's Gospel emphasizes Jesus' love for the outcasts and ostracized of society. See Special Topic: Alms at Luke 11:41.

"make yourselves money belts" This is another aorist active imperative. The term ballantion is used only by Luke in the NT (cf. Luke 10:4; 12:33; 22:35,36). It is used in the Septuagint for a bag or purse (cf. Job 14:17; Pro. 1:14).

John uses a different term, glōsskomon, for the disciples' money box (cf. Luke 12:6; 13:29). This term originally referred to a box used to store musical reeds or mouthpieces.

Matthew and Mark use the term zōnē which refers to

1. a girdle (cf. Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6; Acts 21:11; Rev. 1:13; 15:6 and the Septuagint for priestly sash in Exod. 28:4,39,40; Deut. 23:14) or

2. a money belt (cf. Matt. 10:9; Mark 6:8)

 

The rest of the verse lists several characteristics of the money bag of generous believers (cf. Matt. 6:19-20).

1. will not wear out

2. will not fail or be exhausted

3. thief cannot steal

4. moth cannot corrupt

Ancient sources of wealth were

1. weight of precious metals or jewels

2. expensive clothing adorned with gold, silver, or jewels

3. food stores

Security was a major problem. Thieves could steal, mildew destroy, and insects or rodents could eat. This list was a way of describing believers' secure inheritance with God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:4-5), which was evidenced by generosity while here on earth.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:35-38
 35"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves."

12:34 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be" This is a summary statement. One's relationship to God is observable by how he/she handles their earthly resources. For modern, western believers, priority commitments are clearly seen in their checkbooks and calendars. We fool ourselves into thinking that by giving to God of the excess of our wealth and a few hours out of our week in gathered worship, we are NT disciples!

12:35

NASB"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit"
NKJV"Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning"
NRSV"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit"
TEV"Be ready for whatever comes, dressed for action and with your lamps lit"
NJB"See that you have your belts done up and your lamps lit"

This verse has a main verb and two related participles (periphrastic).

1. the present imperative of eimi ("let be")

2. the perfect passive particle, "having your loins girdled" (a symbol for constantly being ready for action)

3. the present passive participle, "keep burning" (but used as a middle voice, referring to oil lamps)

These are all idioms for being ready for strenuous activity at any moment (cf. Luke 12:36; Matt. 25:1-13). These relate to the activity of servants waiting for their master's return, as believers wait for the return of Christ (cf. Luke 12:37-38,43).

12:37 "truly I say to you" See Special Topic: Amen at Luke 4:24.

"he will gird himself" This shocking reversal of roles reminds one of Jesus' actions in the upper room in washing the disciples feet (cf. John 13:4). The standard treatment of slaves is stated in Luke 17:7-10.

12:38 "the second watch" The Romans divided the night into four watches (6-9, 9-12, 12-3, 3-6, cf. Matt. 14:25; Mark 13:35), but the Jews divided the night into three (6-10, 10-2, 2-6, cf. Jdgs. 7:19).

▣ "whether. . .even" This verse is a third class conditional sentence (kai + ean, twice), which speaks of potential action.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:39-40
 39"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."

12:39 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence (ei + an + subjunctive), which makes a false assertion to emphasize a false conclusion. It is often called the "contrary to fact condition." Example: "if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming (which he did not), he would not have allowed his house to be broken into (which it was)." Some other examples of this construction in Luke are 4:26; 7:39; 17:6; 19:23.

▣ "what hour the thief was coming" This metaphor is common in the NT in dealing with the any-moment return of the Lord (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; and Rev. 3:3; 16:15). There is a tension in the NT between the "any-moment return of the Lord" and "some events must occur first." See Special Topic below.

Only the Father knows the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7)!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANY-MOMENT RETURN OF JESUS VERSUS THE NOT YET (NT PARADOX)

"he would not have allowed" There is an addition of several words from the parallel of this saying in Matt. 24:43 that is found in MSS אi1,2, A, B, L, W. The shorter reading is found in P75, א*, D. The UBS4 gives the shorter reading a "B" rating (almost certain).

"broken into" This is literally "dug through." Robbers were called "mud diggers" because they dug through the mud-thatched walls of homes and businesses.

12:40 "You too, be ready" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. This is our responsibility (cf. Luke 21:36; Mark 13:33)!

SPECIAL TOPIC: NT TERMS FOR CHRIST'S RETURN

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:41-48
 41Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?" 42And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

12:41 This is exactly the question that modern interpreters ask of Jesus' teachings, "Who are they directed to?" There were many different groups in the crowds that followed Jesus; a crucial element of interpretation is "which group is addressed?"

12:42-48 This is paralleled in Matt. 24:45-51, but is not found in Mark. It is these sayings and teachings (those common to Matthew and Luke, but not Mark) that are assumed to have been contained in a list of Jesus' sayings that modern biblical scholars called "Quelle," from the German for "source." This list has never been found, but it is logically necessary for at least one current theory (the two-source theory, see Introduction to Luke) related to modern understanding of the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels.

12:42 Notice how the steward is characterized:

1. the faithful

2. sensible

3. in charge of the other servants

These seem to be referring to either the Twelve or later church leaders. It must be emphatically stated that every believer is a called, gifted minister, so Jesus' words may refer to alert and diligent believers who live every day in light of the Second Coming!

12:43 This is the repeated emphasis from Luke 12:35-38.

"blessed" This is the term used in the Beatitudes (makarios, cf. Luke 6:20-22; Matt. 5:3-11). Jesus regularly used it to pronounce a type of person blessed, privileged, or happy (cf. Luke 1:45; 6:20-22; 7:23; 10:23; 11:27,28; 12:37,38,43; 14:14,15; 23:29).

12:44 "Truly" This is the term alēthōs used in the sense of the Hebrew "amen." See SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN at Luke 4:24. Luke was writing to Gentiles who would not have understood the Hebrew term.

12:45 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

12:46 "and will cut him in pieces" This was an OT form of capital punishment (cf. LXX of 2 Sam. 12:31; 1 Chr. 20:3). It is used literally in the LXX of Exod. 29:17; Ezek. 24:4. Here it is used figuratively to intensify the eschatological judgment even on those who claim to know and serve Jesus! This term appears in the NT only here and in Matt. 24:57. Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 165, provide an inscription which also uses the term figuratively.

12:47-48 This seems to assert degrees of punishment. Verse 47 implies that humans are punished in accordance with the best light they have (cf. James. 4:17). Verse 48 implies that everyone has some light and has not lived up to it (cf. Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14). For other passages on the seeming degrees of punishment see Luke 10:12-15; 11:31-32; Matt. 18:6,7. See SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTs at Luke 10:12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:49-53
 49"I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

12:49 "I have come to cast fire upon the earth" The word "fire" is placed first in the Greek sentence for emphasis (see Special Topic at Luke 3:17). In John 3:17-21 it states that Jesus did not come the first time as Judge, but as Savior. After being among fallen humans, He now wishes eschatological judgment was already present (cf. Luke 12:49b). Gospel hearers are divided into two, and only two, groups by how they respond to Jesus and His message (cf. Luke 24:44-49).

"how I wish it were already kindled" Some see this as

1. a second class conditional sentence (cf. Bass-Debrunner-Funk, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, pp. 359-360)

2. a Semitic idiom (cf. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, p. 123)

3. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 182, takes ti as "how" and ei as "that" (hoti), but also admits, "it is not clear what this passage meant"

4. George M. Lamsa's translation of the ancient Syriac (Aramaic) manuscripts is "and I wish to do it, if it has not already been kindled"

Jesus wants the Kingdom of God to be manifest on the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10), even though there will be a great cost to Himself and others (the loss of unbelievers eternally and the persecution of believers temporarily).

12:50 "I have a baptism to undergo" The Greek has "a baptism to be baptized with." From Mark 10:38 it is obvious that this does not refer to Jesus' water baptism, but to

1. the persecution and rejection of His preaching

2. His testing in Gethsemane

3. His crucifixion on Calvary

Jesus saw Himself as the fulfillment of Gen. 3:15 (the Promised Seed) and Isaiah 53 (Suffering Servant). He saw Psalm 22 as foreshadowing His own experience.

"how distressed" This term means a mental pressure (cf. Phil. 1:23). Jesus' struggle is so clearly seen in Gethsemane (cf. Mark 14:32-42; Matt. 26:36-46; and Luke 22:40-46).

Salvation may be free, but it was not cheap!

A good discussion of this verse is found in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 472-475. This is a good resource book for difficult texts, both OT and NT. I commend it to you!

12:51 "Do not suppose that I came to grant peace on earth" See the parallel in Matt. 10:34-39. Even the close family relationships in a Jewish home will experience division over Jesus. There is a priority commitment needed to follow Him! Believers form a new family, the family of God (cf. Luke 8:21; 11:27-28)!

12:53 This may be a poem or dirge. It may be an allusion to Micah 7:6, because of the Matthew parallel (cf. Matt. 10:35,36), which quotes Micah 7:6.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:54-56
 54And He was also saying to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'A shower is coming,' and so it turns out. 55And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, 'It will be a hot day,' and it turns out that way. 56You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?"

12:54 "He was saying to the crowds" Notice Jesus expressly states the group He is addressing (see note at Luke 12:41).

"When you see" Jesus offers a series of weather forecasting signs (Luke 12:54-55) that this Palestinian audience knew well. They could predict the weather, but were blind to the coming judgment of God. They missed God's Messiah (cf. Luke 12:56)!

12:56 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Luke 6:42.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 12:57-59
 57"And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent."

12:57-59 This is paralleled in Matt. 5:25-26. This brief teaching fits the general topic of eschatological judgment, but it does not fit well into this context. Luke is selecting, arranging, and adapting Jesus' words from

1. Mark

2. Quell

3. his unique sources (cf. Luke 1:1-4)

4. Paul

The Gospels are not chronological, sequential, cause-and-effect biographies. They are targeted, evangelistic tracts (see Fee and Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth pp. 127-148).

12:59 "cent" This is the term lepton. It was the smallest Jewish coin and was made of copper (cf. Mark 12:42). It was worth about 1/64 of a denarius. See Special Topic: Coins in Use in Palestine in Jesus' Day at Luke 15:8.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the "leaven of the Pharisees"?

2. Describe the difference between the NT term "Hades" and "Gehenna."

3. How does one confess Jesus Christ publicly?

4. How does one explain Luke 12:33?

5. What is the central truth of Luke 12:35-41?

6. Are there degrees of heaven and hell?

 

Passage: 

Luke 13

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Repent or Perish Repent or Perish On Repentance Turn From Your Sin or Die Examples Inviting Repentance
13:1-5 13:1-5 13:1-5 13:1-5 13:1-5
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree   The Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
13:6-9 13:6-9 13:6-9 13:6-9 13:6-9
The Healing of a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath A Spirit of Infirmity A Crippled Woman Healed Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath Healing of a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath
13:10-17 13:10-17 13:10-17 13:10-13 13:10-13
      13:14 13:14-17
      13:15-17  
The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven The Parable of the Mustard Seed Parables of Mustard Seed and Yeast The Parable of the Mustard Seed Parable of the Mustard Seed
13:18-19 13:18-19 13:18-19 13:18-19 13:18-19
  The Parable of the Leaven   The Parable of the Yeast Parable of the Yeast
13:20-21 13:20-21 13:20-21 13:20-21 13:20-21
The Narrow Door The Narrow Way On the End of the Age The Narrow Door The Narrow Door: Rejection of the Jews, Call of the Gentiles
13:22-30 13:22-33 13:22-30 13:22-23a 13:22-24
      13:23b-30  
        13:25-27
        13:28-29
        13:30
The Lament Over Jerusalem   Words to Herod Antipas Jesus' Love for Jerusalem Herod the Fox
13:31-35   13:31-33 13:31 13:31-33
  Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem Lament Over Jerusalem 13:32-33 Jerusalem Admonished
  13:34-35 13:34-35 13:34-35 13:34-35

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:1-5
 1Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

13:1 "there were some present" This phrase (an imperfect indicative) can mean

1. they were always in the crowd

2. they had just arrived

 

"the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices" We do not have any other historical reference of this account, but because of the tendency of the Galileans to be rabble rousers and the personality of Pilate, it is surely factual. Why mention it except to establish a historical point of reference?

Apparently these Galilean Jews came to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice at the temple, and something went terribly wrong that involved the Roman government, not just temple police (i.e., special Levites). Most commentators assume they were involved in the "zealot" movement (free Palestine from Rome at any cost).

13:2 "And He answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate’" Old Testament theology tended to relate the problems in life to personal sin (cf. Deut. 27-28), however, the Book of Job, Psalm 73, and Jesus in this passage (see also John 9) assert that is not always the case.

It is hard theologically to know the reason for problems or persecutions in this world.

1. It could be punishment for personal sin and rebellion.

2. It could be the activity of personal evil.

3. It could be the results of living in a fallen world (statistical evil).

4. It could be an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Jesus is asking questions the Jewish hearers would relate to #1 and the traditional theology of the rabbis (cf. The three friends of Job). The presence of problems, persecutions, and hard times is not a sign of God's wrath. However, the crucial issues relate to the lack of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus! Bad things happen! Two good books that have helped me in this area are Hannah Whithall Smith's The Christian's Secret of A Happy Life and John Wenham, The Goodness of God.

An added thought, these Galileans were in the temple area, but the temple (the great Jewish hope) could not save them.

13:3 "but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" This is a third class conditional sentence. It is a Present active subjunctive followed by a Future middle indicative. This is emphasizing the need for personal repentance (cf. Luke 13:3,5; 15:7,10; 17:3,4; Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19; 20:21). Repentance is the turning from sin and self, while faith is turning to God. The term "repent" in Hebrew means "a change of action." The term repent in Greek means "change of mind." Both are required. Notice that both are initial and ongoing (see note at Luke 13:5). See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

13:4 Here is another local historical incident that Jesus' hearers knew about personally. Jesus intensifies His truth statements by these historical illustrations of personal (intentional, Luke 13:1-2) and natural (unintentional, Luke 13:4) contemporary events.

NASB"culprits"
NKJV"sinners"
NRSV"offenders"
TEV, NJB–omit–

This is literally the term "debts" as in Matt. 6:12, which was a Jewish idiom for sin or sinners. Luke does not use the term in his version of the Lord's Prayer (cf. Luke 11:2-4) because his Gentile readers would not normally comprehend this idiom.

13:5 This verse is parallel to Luke 13:3. Verse 3 has a present subjunctive, while Luke 13:5 has an aorist subjunctive. This seems to refer to a decisive act of repentance (and faith) versus the ongoing need for repentance in Luke 13:3. Both are necessary.

"perish" This is the future middle indicative form of the term apollumi. See Special Topic at Luke 19:10.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:6-8
 6And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' 8And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"

13:6 "A man" The NASB 1970 has "a certain man" (tis). This is a literary marker for Luke's introducing a parable of Jesus (cf. Luke 10:30; 12:16; 13:6; 14:16; 15:4; 16:1,19; 19:12).

"had a fig tree" The fig tree was often used as a symbol of Israel (cf. Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7). However, in the account in Matt. 21:19ff, the fig tree is a symbol of Israel's leaders only. In the OT allusion from Isaiah 5, the bad fruit came from God's special vineyard. This context seems to refer to national Israel as a whole, whose spiritual life and priorities were characterized in her leaders.

13:7 "for three years" It takes several years for a fruit tree of any kind to start producing fruit. That time had passed by three years. God was patient, but there is a limit to His longsuffering.

13:8-9 This symbolizes the patience and mercy of God, however, Luke 13:9 shows the reality of judgment. God wants a righteous people who reflect His character. This passage, like John 15:2-6, is a warning against unfruitful lives in His people! God takes obedience seriously (cf. Luke 6:46). This is not works-righteousness, but true salvation evidenced by godly living (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). Salvation is not a product, a ticket to heaven, or a fire insurance policy, but a changed and changing life of godliness! Eternal life has observable characteristics (cf. Matthew 7).

13:9 "and if" This is the Greek compound kai ean, which makes this a partial third class conditional sentence (potential action). Its being incomplete was a way of making the supposed conclusion stand out.

"but if not" This is a first class conditional sentence (ei de mē ge), which assumes it will not bear fruit even with further special care (cf. Luke 3:9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:10-17
 10And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness." 13And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, "There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day." 15But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16"And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?" 17As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.

13:10 Many of Jesus' teachings and miracles were done in synagogues on the Sabbath for two unrelated reasons:

1. Jesus fulfilled all Jewish requirements. Sabbath worship was surely one of these (cf. Gen. 2:2-3; Exod. 20:8-11).

2. He acted on the Sabbath to instigate dialog with the religious leaders who cherished their rules and traditions over people.

 

13:11 "a woman" Luke uniquely records Jesus' ministry to women. This was shocking to Jewish sensibilities! See Special Topic: Women in the Bible at Luke 2:36.

"a sickness caused by a spirit" Obviously this was a case of demon possession. The NT makes a distinction between someone being demonized and someone being diseased, although demons often do cause disease. See Special Topic at Luke 4:33.

▣ "bent double" This is a Greek medical term for "a bent spine." Luke was a Gentile physician (cf. Col. 4:14) or at least a highly educated man.

13:12 "When Jesus saw her" Jesus does this (1) out of compassion for this lady and/or (2) to engage the religious leaders in theological dialog. She does not expect or ask Him to act on her behalf.

▣ "Woman, you are freed from your sickness" This is a perfect passive indicative. Jesus usually never lays hands on people for exorcism. Apparently at His word the demon fled, but Jesus laid hands on her to increase her faith and to enable her to stand erect (cf. Luke 13:13).

13:13 "and He laid His hands on her" See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAYING ON OF HANDS in the Bible at Luke 4:40.

13:14 "But the synagogue official, indignant" This man asserts that there are six other days of the week on which this could have legally occurred (according to rabbinical Oral Traditions' interpretation of Exod. 20:9 and Deut. 5:13), but this lady had been attending synagogue services weekly for eighteen years in her pitiful condition and had not been helped by Jewish rules, Jewish healers (scribes), or synagogue worship! See SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH at Luke 6:1.

13:15-16 Jesus exposed this man and all who think like him (plural, hypocrites). The rabbis had great compassion in their oral traditions for the human treatment of animals on the Sabbath (cf. Luke 14:5), but were restrictive in their treatment of humans. Jesus illustrates the fallacy of the rabbinical system's legalism without compassion for people. We must be careful of our rules. They often become more important then people. People are priority with God. Only people are eternal. God made creation for fellowship with people! Our rules often say more about us than about God!

13:15 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Luke 6:42.

13:16 This verse obviously links the demonic and Satan (see Special Topic at Luke 4:2). He is the chief demon (cf. Luke 11:15,18). This woman was bound in a worse way than any oxen (cf. Luke 13:15). Verse 16 expects a "yes" answer.

13:17 "all His opponents were being humiliated" This shows the presence of many religious leaders in the synagogue. This one "ruler of the synagogue" spoke on behalf of many who were present.

The word "ashamed" (imperfect passive indicative) is used only here in the Gospels, but is used nine times by Paul (i.e., Romans, I and 2 Corinthians). Luke must have heard it often in Paul's sermons. It was used often in the Septuagint (esp. Isa. 45:16). Luke knew this Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible well. He was influenced by its terminology and idioms.

"the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things done by Him" What a contrast: religious leaders embarrassed, but the common people (people of the land) rejoicing over Jesus' words and deeds (cf. Luke 9:43; 13:17; 18:43; 19:37)! Again, the hearts of the hearers determines the response (e.g., the parable of the soils, cf. Luke 8:4-15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:18-21
 18So He was saying, "What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches." 20And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."

13:18 "What is the kingdom of God like" Here are two parables that imply the smallness and insignificance of the kingdom then, but, one day, its pervasiveness and power.

13:19 "the birds of the air nested in its branches" A mustard seed grew to about ten feet tall. This OT quote is a symbol of the pervasiveness, protection, and provision of the kingdom of God (cf. Ezek. 17:23; 31:6; Dan. 4:12,21).

13:21 "leaven" This is not a symbol of evil in this context, but a sign of pervasiveness. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LEAVEN at Luke 12:1.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:22-30
 22And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. 23And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, 24"Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know where you are from.' 26Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; 27and He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.' 28In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 30And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last."

13:22 Here again is Luke's emphasis on Jesus traveling on His way to Jerusalem to His divine appointment (cf. Luke 9:51; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11,28; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29).

13:23 "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved" This was a highly discussed issue among the rabbis (cf. Matt. 7:13-14). They argued whether all the Jews would be saved from God's wrath on Judgment Day or just certain sects within Judaism (their own). This question may also relate to the OT concept of "remnant" (cf. Isa. 10:20-23; 16:14; Micah 2:17; 4:6-8; 5:7-9; 7:18-20). The tragedy of ancient Israel was that although they were the special chosen nation of YHWH, most never had a personal faith relationship with Him. Israel's history is one of judgment, restoration, and judgment again. The prophets only saw a faithful remnant (sh’r) returning from Assyrian and Babylonian exile.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE REMNANT, THREE SENSES

13:24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door" This is a Present middle (deponent) imperative - plural. The term "strive" means "to enter an athletic contest." We get the English word "agony" from this Greek term (cf. Luke 22:44). This is not emphasizing works righteousness, but that following Jesus costs. Jesus, not Jewish legalism, is the door to salvation (cf. Luke 13:25-26; John 10:1-3,7; Galatians). In Matt. 7:13 it is a narrow gate that leads to a path, but here it is a narrow door that enters the house.

▣ "for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" This asserts that many of those who thought they were certain of entrance into the kingdom will be surprised (cf. Luke 13:28; Matt. 8:12). This is a shocking verse for legalists of all ages and cultures. Salvation is not human effort, but a response of personal faith to God's gift and provision—Jesus (cf. John 10:1-18; 14:6). The picture here may be of many people wailing outside a small door and trying to enter all at once. At the moment of the Parousia there will be no time to prepare or act (cf. Matt. 15:1-13).

13:25 This is very similar to the eschatological parable of preparation and persistence found in Matt. 15:1-13. Whenever one encounters Jesus, that is the time of salvation. People must not put off the spiritual decision that needs to be made today. In this parable, when the host of the feast recognizes that the time for the meal has come, He locks the door so that no more guests may come in.

Humans do not initiate spiritual decisions. They can only respond to God's initiation (cf. John 6:44,65). God has spoken through Christ. They must respond now or be locked out of the Messianic banquet.

13:26 "we ate and drank in Your presence" Often Jews trusted in their racial ancestry (cf. Luke 3:8; John 8:31-59) or religious performance (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). Knowing Jesus in the flesh or simply calling on His name (liturgically or flippantly) is not equivalent to a personal faith relationship (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13).

13:27

NASB"I do not know where you are from"
NKJV"I do not know you, where are you from"
NRSV, NJB"I do not know where you came from"
TEV"I don't know where you came from"

Verses 25 and 27 are parallel, but Luke 13:27 seems to have dropped the pronoun "you" (humas) in the ancient Greek manuscripts P75 (early third century), B (fourth century), L (eighth century), and 070 (sixth century). The question comes, "Was it originally an exact parallel?" Many other ancient texts have it (cf. MSS א, A, W, and most early versions). Jesus' words to these hearers paralleled His words to the religionists of Matt. 7:21-23! Religious rules, actions, and liturgy, without personal faith, were a horrible tragedy to national Israel and a modern tragedy to legalists!

M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, p. 192, asserts that the phrase ("where are you from") relates to the speaker's birthplace or family. If so, this may refer to the Jewish preoccupation with Abraham as their ancestor (cf. Matt. 3:9; John 8:33,37,39). The two Jewish hopes were (1) their racial ancestry and (2) their Mosaic temple (cultus). Jesus depreciates both and replaces them with personal faith in Himself as the only way to be right with God.

▣ "all you evildoers" This seems to be a quote of Ps. 6:8 (cf. Matt. 7:23).

13:28 "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" This is used for eschatological rejection (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:15; 25:30; Rev. 18:19). These Jews are grieving (see Special Topic at Luke 10:13) because

1. Abraham and the Patriarchs will be with Jesus

2. these Jewish leaders will not be with Jesus

3. Gentiles from all over the world will be with Jesus

 

NASB"but yourselves being thrown out"
NKJV"and yourselves thrust out"
NRSV"and you yourselves thrown out"
TEV"while you are thrown out"
NJB"and yourselves thrown out"

The imagery of a locked entrance (cf. Luke 13:24-25) is changed and intensified to an extraction. Some who thought they were in will be cast out. The image has switched from a house owner to the Kingdom of God.

13:29 "recline at the table in the kingdom of God" This refers to the imagery of the Messianic banquet (cf. Isa. 25:6-8; 55:1-2; 65:13-14), often referred to in the book of Revelation as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (cf. Rev. 3:20; 19:9). This is an inaugural event of the beginning of the consummated Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 14:15; 22:16,30).

13:30 Verses 25-27 refer to Jesus' hearers. Some respond to Him, some think they have responded to Him, and many openly reject Him. The eschatological consequences for rejecting Him are severe.

Verse 30 relates to the evaluation of believers within the Kingdom. Those who seemed so prominent here will not be in heaven (cf. Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31). God's ways of evaluation are different from human ways (cf. Isa. 55:8-11). Motives and attitudes will one day be known and rewarded.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 13:31-35
 31Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, "Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You." 32And He said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.' 33Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. 34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"

13:31 Was this an act of kindness or a way to get Jesus out of town so that He could not condemn them and increase His disciples?

"Go away, leave here" This is an aorist active imperative followed by a present middle (deponent) imperative.

"Herod" See note at Luke 9:7.

"wants to kill you" This is ironic because, in reality, the Pharisees (see Special Topic at Luke 5:17) and Sadducees (see Special Topic at Luke 20:27) also wanted Jesus dead. Perhaps the Pharisees were hoping Herod would kill Him and save them the trouble and blame.

13:32 "Go and tell" This is an aorist passive (deponent) participle used in the sense of an imperative plus an Aorist active imperative. However, this is a good example of an imperative used as a literary device (not literally). Jesus is not asking these Pharisees to serve as His messenger to Herod.

"I cast out demons and perform cures" This may relate to 9:7. Herod knew of Jesus and wanted to question Him.

"today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal" This phrase clearly shows that Jesus knew that it was God's will for Him to die in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 13:33; John 5:36; 17:23; 19:28) and no one (Herod) could stop God's redemptive plan. Luke's Gospel has been emphasizing Jesus' determined travel to Jerusalem since 9:51.

It is possible that this phrase is an apocalyptic idiom of Luke 3:5, which refers to a period of persecution (cf. Dan. 7:25; 8:14; 12:12; and possibly Luke 4:25).

13:34 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" The doubling is a Semitic way of showing intensity (cf. Gen. 22:11 and LXX Gen. 22:1). However, in most NT examples it shows mild reproach.

"the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her" This is another expression of God's repeated attempt to call His people to repentance (cf. Hos. 11:2). The Jewish people killed these "sent" messengers by stoning, which was the Mosaic punishment for blasphemy (they were thought to bring a false message). Now the city will kill "the Son" (cf. Luke 20:9-18).

"How often I wanted to gather your children together" This is another phrase which shows God's repeated attempts at communication and fellowship. Notice that Jesus expresses Himself as YHWH.

▣ "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings" This is a feminine metaphor used by Jesus for Himself. Deity is neither male or female (cf. Gen. 1:2; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11; Ps. 17:8; 36:7; Isa. 49:15; 16:9-13; and Hos. 11:1-4). God is an eternal, omnipresent Spirit. He made both males and females and incorporated the best in Himself. Humans call God "He" because of His personality and the ancient tradition from the Jewish patriarchal culture.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHADOW AS METAPHOR FOR PROTECTION AND CARE

13:35 "your house is left to you desolate" The metaphor of "your house" is reminiscent of Luke 11:21-26. This verse is not directed to Jewish leadership only, but the inhabitants of Jerusalem who represented all of Israel. God's repeated overtures of love had been repeatedly and violently rejected. Now come the consequences.

But, please remember that the consequences of their sin, and our sin, were paid for through Christ's death on our behalf in this very city just condemned. Jesus is God's open door of forgiveness for whosoever will (cf. John 1:12; 3:16). That door is open as long as life remains and time remains!

"desolate" This term is not found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P45,75, א, A, B, L, W, or the Greek texts used by Epaphanus and Augustine. This same textual problem occurs in Matt. 23:38. The UBS4 rates the addition of "desolate" in Matt. 23:38 as "B" (almost certain) but its omission here as "B" (almost certain). It seems to have been added later (MS D) to clarify the meaning of the Greek phrase, or possibly as an allusion to Jer. 22:5. For many it is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 (cf. Luke 21), which foreshadows the destruction preceding the Second Coming. Jerusalem's destruction in the lifetime of these hearers was a powerful witness of the trustworthiness of Jesus' words.

"you shall not see Me until the time when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’" This is an allusion to Ps. 118:26 in the Septuagint.

This has a double reference: (1) it refers to Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:38) and (2) it refers to the Second Coming. Notice that Jesus comes as the prophets came "in the name of the Lord," which means YHWH's representative. This judgment pronouncement was not permanent, but conditional. God's heart breaks for His rebellious people (cf. Hos. 11:8-9; Rom. 9-11; Zech. 12:10).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Are illnesses and problem in life a sign of God's displeasure?

2. Is Israel still the major thrust of God's redemption of all the earth?

3. Why was Jesus in such controversy with the Pharisees over the oral law?

4. How many people will be saved?

5. Is God masculine or feminine?

 

Passage: 

Luke 14

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Healing of the Man with Dropsy A Man with Dropsy Healed on the Sabbath Healing a Man with Dropsy Jesus Heals a Sick Man Healing of a Dropsical Man on the Sabbath
14:1-6 14:1-6 14:1-6 14:1-3 14:1-6
      14:4-5  
      14:6  
A Lesson to Guests and a Host Take the Lowly Place On Humility Humility and Hospitality On Choosing Places at Table
14:7-14 14:7-14 14:7-11 14:7-11 14:7-11
        On Choosing Guests to be Invited
    14:12-14 14:12-14 14:12-14
The Parable of the Great Banquet The Parable of the Great Supper The Great Dinner The Parable of the Great Feast The Invited Guests Who Make Excuses
14:15-24 14:15-24 14:15-24 14:15 14:15-20
      14:16-24  
        14:21-24
The Cost of Discipleship Leaving All to Follow Christ Conditions of Discipleship The Cost of Being a Disciple Renouncing All that One Holds Dear
14:25-33 14:25-33 14:25-33 14:25-33 14:25-27
        Renouncing Possessions
        14:28-33
The Tasteless Salt Tasteless Salt is Worthless   Worthless Salt On Loss of Enthusiasm in a Disciple
14:34-35 14:34-35 14:34-35 14:34-35 14:34-35

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

PRINCIPLES FOR INTERPRETING PARABLES (See full notes at the Introduction to Chapter 8)

A. Look to the context that precedes and follows to determine

1. the recipients of Jesus' words

2. the purpose of the parable

 

B. Determine the major theme (themes are usually linked to the number of main characters).

 

C. Do not press minor details into theological interpretations (parables are fictitious stories).

 

D. Avoid allegorizing and spiritualizing unless something in the text demands it.

 

E. Do not build doctrine solely on parables; they serve best as illustrations.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:1-6
 1It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. 2And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" 4But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. 5And He said to them, "Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" 6And they could make no reply to this.

14:1

NASB"one of the leaders of the Pharisees"
NKJV"one of the rulers of the Pharisees"
NRSV"of a leader of the Pharisees"
TEV, NJB"of one of the leading Pharisees"

The NASB seems a bit interpretative; he was a local religious leader, who was a Pharisee.

▣ "on the Sabbath" This was a continuing controversy between the written Law of Moses and the rabbinical interpretations of it known as the Oral Law, which was later codified in the Talmud. Jesus had continually confronted the Phraisees on their nit-picking rules that superceded and depreciated people (cf. Luke 4:31ff; 6:6ff; 13:10ff). This paragraph looks like a purposeful confrontation either on the part of Jesus or on the part of the Pharisees. See Special Topic at Luke 6:1.

"to eat" Notice Jesus continues to try to engage the Pharisees in dialog. He eats with them (cf. Luke 7:36; 11:37). He worships with them. He performs miracles before them. In many ways Christianity is an extension of Phariseeism, as is rabbinical Judaism. Pharisees were lifestyle practitioners of their faith. They were serious about God's word and will. The missing elements were

1. personal faith in Jesus

2. salvation as a gift of God's grace (to all)

3. not trusting in human performance as a means of being right with God

Luke uses meals and the dialogue which accompanies them as a literary way for Jesus to present truth (cf. Luke 5:29; 7:36; 9:13; 10:39; 11:37; 14:1; 22:14; 24:30, much in the same way John uses dialogues). Eating was an intimate and important social event for family, friends, and community in the first century Mediterranean world.

▣ "they were watching Him closely" This is a periphrastic imperfect middle. They continued to watch Jesus for the purpose of finding something He said or did by which to condemn Him, both to the Jewish population and to the Romans.

14:2 "dropsy" Notice that Jesus does not heal this man based on his faith, but as a sign to religious leaders (just like the women in Luke 13:10-17) with whom He was still trying to work (cf. Luke 14:3). Dropsy was a retention of fluid that resulted in swelling (the term is from the root for "water"). It usually was the result of other physical problems. It is only mentioned here in the NT, which is appropriate for a physician (cf. Col. 4:14), although it is used by non-physicians in Greek literature. The rabbis said this disease was caused by serious sin, which may add to the drama of the moment. Some commentators think this man was planted there by the Pharisees to trick Jesus into doing something disallowed by the Oral Traditions on the Sabbath.

14:3-4 Jesus is asking these experts in the Mosaic Law a practical question. These were not cold hearted men, but they were committed to worshiping YHWH through a system of rabbinical discussions (Shammai and Hillel), which interpreted OT texts. In the long history of these religious debates, the priority of human beings was lost. Jesus tries to restore the central place of mankind, made in the image of God. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5) and the Sabbath is made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath (cf. Mark 2:27). Legalism and self-righteousness are still alive and well among very sincere and committed religious people.

14:3 "the lawyers" See special Topic at Luke 5:21.

14:5 "He said to them, 'Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day’" There is a manuscript problem here:

1. the term "son" (uios) is found in the ancient Greek manuscripts P45,75, A, B, and W

2. the term "donkey" (onos) is found in MSS א and L

The two words have a very similar ending. The manuscript evidence supports "son" (UBS4 gives it a "B" rating, meaning "almost certain"), while the context supports "donkey." If one follows the principle of the most unusual being the most ancient attestation, then "son" is to be preferred, but the major thrust of Jesus' statement is that the Jews had greater compassion for animals than for humans (cf. Luke 13:15).

14:6 Jesus' questions (Luke 14:4) and examples (Luke 14:6) were so devastating that these religious leaders could not respond. Their rules had become more important than people!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:7-11
 7And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, 8"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this man,' and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

14:7 This account is unique to Luke's Gospel. Jesus was not the only guest at this meal. In the first century Palestinian setting, weddings and meals were a community event. Some were invited to eat (cf. Luke 14:12-14), but many others came to stand around and listen, even participate in the dinner conversation.

▣ "they had been picking out the places of honor" One would have to be acquainted with the Orient to understand the confusion in the seating arrangement at all their social events. The right people had to be in the right place (i.e., social and religious elite) before the meal could begin. Verses 7-14 deal with a lesson, not in proper etiquette or procedures, but in humility (cf. Luke 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; Job 22:29; Pro. 29:23). The opposite of humility is addressed in Luke 11:43; 20:46; Matt. 23:1-12; Mark 12:38-40.

14:9 "and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place" The only place to recline that was left by this time was at the end of the table. This role reversal (common in Jesus' teachings) is also emphasized in Luke 13:30.

14:11 The NASB Study Bible (p. 1491) makes a good comment here, "a basic principle repeated often in the Bible (see Luke 11:43; 18:14; 20:46; 2 Chr. 7:14-15; Pro. 3:34; 25:6-7; Matt. 18:4; 23:12; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6)."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:12-14
 12And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

14:12 "do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors" This account is found only in Luke. This is a present active imperative with the negative particle, which usually means "stop an act already in process." Jesus often gives truth that is diametrically opposed to what is normal, cultural, or expected (cf. Isa. 55:8-9).

14:13 Jesus reflects His own ministry by denoting the people whom the OT prophecies predict will be ministered to by the Messiah (cf. Deut. 14:28-29; 16:11-14; 26:11-13; Isa. 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 42:7,16; Jer. 31:8). Kingdom people care about the needy, ostracized, sick, and poor. Fellowship with God is evidenced by care, concern, and ministry to these kinds of people. This type of ministry characterized Jesus' life and should characterize the life of all Kingdom people.

14:14 Throughout Luke's Gospel Jesus "blesses" (makarios, cf. Luke 6:20-22; 7:23; 10:23; 11:27-28; 12:37-38; 14:14; 23:29) as well as warns (i.e., "woes," cf. Luke 6:24-26; 10:13; 11:42-52; 17:1; 21:23; 22:22) His hearers.

This blessing is reserved for the eschatological judgment. It is based on selfless actions now which reflect a new attitude toward God (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Jesus is using the term "righteous" in the sense of Matt. 6:1, which involved almsgiving (see Special Topic at Luke 11:41), prayer, and fasting (see Special Topic at Luke 5:33). Judaism saw these as meritorious acts to be rewarded by God. The motive for religious actions is crucial. God looks at the heart first!

The NASB Study Bible (p. 1491) has a helpful summary of the Scriptures related to the resurrection of all vs. the resurrection of some. "All will be resurrected (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). Some hold that the resurrection of the righteous (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 20:4-6) is distinct from the 'general' resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12,21; Heb. 6:2; Rev. 20:11-15)."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:15-24
 15When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" 16But He said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' 19Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' 20Another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' 21And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' 22And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' 23And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'"

14:15 "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God" This was obviously a heartfelt outburst, but Jesusrecognizes in it the Jewish self-righteous attitude that expected to be blessed. This entire context involves the Jews' expectation of God's love (Israel's chosenness, cf. John 8:31-59).

▣ "eat bread in the kingdom of God" It is obvious that this was a Pharisee speaking because they expected a physical after-life (see Special Topic at Luke 5:17). The Messianic banquet is a very common metaphor in Scripture to describe personal, joyful fellowship with God in heaven (cf. Luke 13:29; Ps. 23:5; Isa. 25:6-9; Matt. 8:11-12; 26:29; Rev. 19:9). One must realize the social bond and intimate fellowship involved in eating together in the Mediterranean world.

14:16-24 This is a parallel to Matt. 22:2-14, although the details differ (in Matthew it is a wedding feast).

14:17 It seems to have been the custom in Palestine of Jesus' day for formal invitations to a banquet to be sent early, and on the day of the dinner (or feast) the servants were sent to tell the guests that all was ready (table set, food hot), to come now.

14:18 "'But they all alike began to make excuses" The excuses were:

1. bought a piece of land

2. bought oxen

3. just got married

Although these things are not improper actions, they show an attitude of false priorities, lack of commitment, and a sense of personal rejection or belittling of the host.

14:21 These social meals were very expensive. Preparations were made based on those invited, who were expected to be there. There was also the loss of respect to the host who had graciously invited them.

The host's first thought was to invite the needy of the community (cf. Luke 14:21). This list has OT Messianic implications. When this was still not enough, even the travelers and aliens who were passing by were invited (cf. Luke 14:23). This second category may be a way to refer to "Gentiles" (see Kenneth Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, pp. 100-103).

14:23 Maybe this is an answer to the question of how many will be saved in Luke 13:23. God's house will be filled (i.e., Gentiles and foreigners will be invited and will rush to Jesus for salvation).

14:24 "none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner" This is a summary word by Jesus. It obviously refers to national Israel (cf. Luke 14:15; Romans 9-11). The Gentiles had been included; Israel had failed to fulfill her missionary mandate of Gen. 12:3 (cf. Exod. 19:5-6; Eph. 2:11-13). Now the host (God) closes the door!!

Throughout her history Israel had rebelled against YHWH (cf. Acts 7); only a faith remnant was truly right with God. Salvation has always been an act of grace and mercy from God. However, God wanted a righteous, separate people to be witnesses of His character to a fallen world (cf. Ezek. 36:22). It is this desire for personal righteousness that confused Israel (and still confuses legalists). The righteousness was the result, the evidence of a personal faith relationship with God, not the basis of that relationship!

Oh, the tragedy in time and eternity of legalism and self-righteousness!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:25-33
 25Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions."

14:25 "Now large crowds were going along with Him" This is an imperfect tense. These large crowds characterize Luke's Gospel's structure of Jesus' ministry since 9:51 as He travels to Jerusalem to die.

14:26 "If" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "anyone" What a wonderful word! Thank God for the Bible's invitations to "anyone," "everyone," "as many as," and "whosoever"! However, there are also demands and requirements. Notice it comes contextually after Luke 14:21! All are welcome!

"comes to me" This is the personal requirement for salvation (much like John's Gospel). Faith (see Special Topic at Luke 1:45) in Jesus is key to forgiveness and a personal relationship with God. We were created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) to know Him and fellowship with Him (cf. Gen. 3:8). Life without Him is futile and empty (i.e., Mark 8:36). As Augustine said, there is a God-shaped hole in every human being, and we will never be happy until we find peace with Him.

▣ "hate his own father" This is a Hebrew idiom of comparison (cf. Gen. 29:31,33; Deut. 21:15; Mal. 1:2-3 [Rom. 9:13]; John 12:25). It is obvious that this cannot be taken literally because of Jesus' statement of honoring your father and mother in Matt. 15:4, which reflects the Ten Commandments. This section speaks of death to self (cf. Gal. 2:20) and earthly priorities. In the Near East commitment to family superceded every other commitment, but Jesus must become believers' first priority (cf. Luke 12:49-53; Matt. 10:34-39).

▣ "even his own life" Jesus sets the pattern of ministry (cf. Luke 9:23; 17:33; 1 John 3:16).

▣ "he cannot be My disciple" This point is emphasized in Luke 14:27 and 33. It is difficult to balance the grace of God so clearly demonstrated in the parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24) with the radical call to a complete sacrifice of self in Luke 14:25-33. Both are true. Grace initiates and provides, but receivers must make a life-altering, priority choice! Followship (Luke 14:25) is not the same as discipleship. Just as in the parable of the soils, germination is not the same as fruit bearing!

14:27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross" This refers not to problems believers face, but to death itself (cf. Luke 9:23-26; Matt. 10:34-39; 16:24; Gal. 2:20). It was the custom in Palestine of the first century for condemned prisoners who were to be crucified to carry the cross beam to the place of crucifixion.

14:28-32 This speaks of the need to recognize the cost of followship! No quick decisions! The gospel is absolutely free, but it costs everything that we are and have (cf. Matt. 13:44-46). In light of this, western modern Christianity is a weak manifestation of "what's in it for me" cultural religion! Modern western Christians have turned biblical faith into a weekly event, a place we park our car for a few hours instead of a 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week relationship of service to Christ. We only give the leftovers of our busy lives and plans to Him. We worship and praise Him with peripherals and non-essentials. This is why we have such large, beautiful church buildings and elaborate organizations and programs and NO SPIRITUAL POWER, NO CHANGED LIVES, NO WHATEVER-IT-TAKES ATTITUDES!! God forgive us for cultural, peripheral, easy believism!

Just one additional thought, this emphasis on counting the cost of discipleship must also relate to the age one receives Christ. One must be old enough to

1. know the Scriptures

2. know that they violated them

3. understand the gospel

4. be able to access the "cost of discipleship"

If "decisions" are made too early they result in confused Christians or perpetual "pre-Christians"!

14:31 "will not first sit down and consider where he is strong enough" This does not mean estimating our own resources, but our deliberate conscious choice of the cost of followship.

14:33 Before we dismiss this as hyperbole, reread the context and parallels (cf. Luke 9:23-26,61-62; 12:33; 15:22). Biblical faith is a serious priority commitment. Nothing, nothing, nothing must be above Him (family, nation, livelihood, one's own life). If anything precedes Him, give it away. Whatever is left, use it for Him! See F. F. Bruce, answers to Questions, p. 54.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 14:34-35
 34"Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

14:34 "salt is good" Because of the extreme value of salt in the ancient world

1. for healing and cleansing

2. for preserving food

3. for flavoring food

4. for sustaining moisture in humans in very dry climates

Salt was a prized possession. It was often used to pay soldiers' wages. Christians are called the "salt of the earth" because of their penetrating and preserving power in a lost world. Believers are salt. It is not an option. The only choice is what kind of salt will they be. Salt can become adulterated and useless. Lost people are watching.

14:35 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" This referred to the fact that unless the Holy Spirit aids believers' insight they cannot understand spiritual truth (cf. Matt. 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). However, it also implies a willingness of the individual to hear and respond.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus continue to confront the religious leaders about their Oral Traditions?

2. Explain the metaphor and purpose of the Messianic Banquet.

3. Does Jesus want us to be poor and without family ties to be true disciples?

4. How are Christians "salt"?

Why are they "salt"?

What is their purpose in the lost world?

 

Passage: 

Luke 15

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Parables About the Lost
(15:1-32)
  Three Parables of God's Mercy
(15:1-22)
The Parable of the Lost Sheep The Parable of the Lost Sheep The Lost Sheep The Lost Sheep The Lost Sheep
15:1-7 15:1-7 15:1-2 15:1-3 15:1-3
    15:3-7    
      15:4-7 15:4-7
The Parable of the Lost Coin The Parable of the Lost Coin The Lost Coin The Lost Coin The Lost Drachma
15:8-10 15:8-10 25:8-10 15:8-10 15:8-10
The Parable of the Lost Son The Parable of the Lost Son The Lost Son The Lost Son The Lost Son (The Prodigal) and the Dutiful Son
15:11-24 15:11-32 15:11-24 15:11-20a 15:11-13
        15:14-20a
      15:20b-24 15:20b-24
15:25-32   15:25-32 15:25-32 15:25-30
        15:31-32

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Luke 14:25-35 sets the stage that many in the crowd, on hearing the cost of discipleship, ceased to follow Jesus. Luke 15 shows that the religious and social outcasts continued to come to Him.

 

B. These three parables have four foci:

1. the lostness of man

2. God's active love for all men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9)

3. the Savior's mission of seeking and saving (cf. Mark 10:45)

4. the self-righteous reaction of the religious leaders (cf. Luke 15:2, typified in the older brother, 25-32)

 

C. Notice the main characters in the parables were people who were looked down on by the religious authorities: shepherds, women, and rebellious children.

 

D. Three parables, which are unique to Luke (Matt. 18:12-14 uses the "lost sheep," but in a context referring to disciples, not Pharisees), disclose Jesus' understanding of God's seeking and saving character and purpose (the restoration of all fallen, sinful humanity to full fellowship with Himself, cf. John 4:23; Luke 19:10).

 

E. Luke 15 and 16 have a series of five parables. Remember chapter divisions are not inspired.

 

F. There is one resource I have found especially helpful in the interpretation of the parables in Luke: Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, Eerdmans, 1983. It is not so much the author's supposed chiasms as his knowledge of Near Eastern society and customs that has brought such insight to this eastern genre.

 

PRINCIPLES FOR INTERPRETING PARABLES

(for a full discussion, see Introduction to Chapter 8)

A. Look to the context that precedes and follows to determine the purpose of the parable.

 

B. Determine the major theme (occasionally themes).

 

C. Do not press minor details into theological interpretations.

 

D. Avoid allegorizing and spiritualizing unless something in the text demands it.

 

E. Do not build doctrine on parables.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 15:1-2
 1Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."

15:1 "all" Luke often uses hyperbole (i.e., use of "all" in Luke 3:16; 4:15; 9:1) to accentuate the impact that Jesus had on the outcasts of Palestine. Surely not every outcast and sinner approached Jesus, but many did (cf. Luke 1:65,66; 2:1,38,47; 3:15,20; 4:5,15; 6:26; 7:16,17,29; etc.).

▣ "tax collectors" These Jews worked for the Romans (or Herod) and their salary usually came from over-taxing their countrymen. They were hated and ostracized by the local people. Jesus even called one of them to be an Apostle, Levi ( cf. Matt. 9:9-10).

▣ "sinners" This refers to either

1. openly immoral persons

2. persons who were outcasts because of their occupation

3. common villagers who did not completely follow the Oral Traditions

It was very difficult for common people to fully observe all the rabbinical rules.

These two groups characterized all those rejected by the religious elite of Jesus' day (cf. Luke 5:30; Mark 2:16). The sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, zealots, Essenes) of Judaism even excluded each other as acceptable to God. Religion had become a status based on performance or exclusive party affiliation.

▣ "were coming near Him" This PERIPHRASTIC IMPERFECT implies this was a normal occurrence. They found acceptance with Jesus, which they never found with the other religious leaders. It is interesting that this same Greek VERB is used for approaching God in Heb. 7:19 and James 4:8. These people were seeking God (cf. 2 Chr. 15:2); the Pharisees were claiming to seek Him, but in reality, they were clinging to their traditions (cf. Isa. 29:13) and leading people away from God (cf. Matt. 23:16,24; Rom. 2:19).

"to listen to Him" This is a present infinitive. These outcasts wanted to hear Jesus' teachings.

15:2 "the Pharisees and the scribes" This is the same order as Luke 5:30; usually the order is reversed i.e., Luke 5:17,21). They were probably part of an official delegation sent from Jerusalem to spy on Jesus. They were hoping to find something to officially charge Him with in court. In Jesus' day most scribes (Mosaic lawyers) were Pharisees. See Special Topics: Pharisees at Luke 5:17 and Scribes at Luke 5:21.

▣ "began to grumble" This is an imperfect active indicative, which denotes repeated action in past time (cf. Luke 5:30).

This is a compound (dia + gogguzō) used only here and in Luke 19:7. Both involve the grumbling of the religious elite. In the Septuagint this compound was used of the Israelites who grumbled at Moses and even YHWH during the Wilderness Wandering period (cf. Exod. 15:24; 16:2,7,8; Num. 14:2).

"This man" This is often used in the Gospels in a derogatory sense as a way to not use the person's name (cf. Mark 14:71).

▣ "receives sinners" This present middle (deponent) indicative means Jesus continuously made the choice to include these people. He may have sponsored this meal and specifically invited them. This same criticism is seen in Luke 5:27-32 (cf. Luke 7:34).

Jesus' reception of the outcast, needy, and sick is one of the OT Messianic signs these religious leaders should have recognized (see note at Luke 14:13). The surprising aspect of these three parables is not only the type of people addressed (shepherds, women, rebellious children), but also the implication that Jesus receives and forgives sinners. This is the unique domain of God (cf. Mark 2:1-12)! This is a powerful evidence of Jesus' self-understanding (i.e., Incarnated Deity).

▣ "and eats with them" This is a present active indicative. Often wealthy Jews fed the poor of their community by giving alms to the local synagogue (see Special Topic at Luke 11:41). However, they never ate with them. To eat with someone in this culture showed full acceptance and fellowship. Jesus loved/loves sinners and tried/tries to reach them for God, which changes them from being sinners to guests and friends. In a sense these eating events foreshadow the Messianic banquet. Some who think they will be there, will not.

This is the theological setting of all three parables in Luke 15. The parallel in Matt. 18:12-13 also shows the heart of God.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 15:3-7
 3So He told them this parable, saying, 4"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' 7I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

15:4 "What man among you" Jesus is referring to herdsmen. These were some of the vocations ostracized by the Pharisees because their jobs prevented them from observing all the rules and regulations of the Oral Traditions. Those rejected by the religious leaders were welcomed by Jesus. As a matter of fact, it was to shepherds that the first announcement of the birth of the Messiah was made (cf. Luke 2).

▣ "leave the ninety-nine" This is a very specific number. The shepherd would count the sheep as he put them in an enclosure for the night. Every sheep was important to the shepherd. A flock of one hundred sheep was considered a medium sized flock. The ninety nine were not left alone, but with other shepherds or still in the enclosure. The metaphor of God as Shepherd is common in the OT (cf. Psalm 23; 80:1; Isa. 40:10,11). It is also used of false leaders (cf. Ezek. 34:1ff; Isa. 56:9-12). There is even a wounded Messianic shepherd in Zechariah 13. Jesus calls Himself "the Good Shepherd" in John 10.

▣ "in the open pasture" This term means uninhabited pasture land.

▣ "the one which is lost" This may be an allusion to Isa. 53:6. Sinful Jews are identified as lost sheep (cf. Jer. 50:6; Matt. 9:36; 10:6).

15:5 "lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing" One of the beautiful works of art depicting Jesus is of a shepherd with a lamb on His shoulders. This shows the loving care of the shepherd.

15:6 "Rejoice with Me" This aorist passive (deponent) Imperative is repeated in Luke 15:9 and is paralleled in Luke 15:23 (literally as "be merry," aorist passive subjunctive). This command reflects the desire of God who wants to accept and rejoice over all who return to Him through a repentant faith response to His Messiah, His Son.

15:7 "repents" This is a present active participle denoting ongoing action. The Greek term metanoeō means "a change of mind." The matching Hebrew term means a "change of action." Both are involved in repentance. It is interesting that Matthew and Luke mention "repentance" so much more than Mark and John, who do not mention the word at all. See Special Topic at Luke 3:3.

The gospel can be summarized as (1) repent and (2) believe/faith/trust (i.e., Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21). Luke mentions the need to repent often (cf. Luke 5:32; 10:13; 11:32; 13:3,5; 15:7,10; 16:30; also notice Acts 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 20:21; 24:47; 26:20).

▣ "joy in heaven over one sinner" This shows God's heart and the priority of people being saved. In the three parables of this chapter the gospel's purpose is clearly revealed (the restoration of the image of God in humanity, cf. Gen. 1:26-27, and humanity's restored fellowship with God, cf. Gen. 3:8).

▣ "who need no repentance" This is irony, not doctrine, like Luke 5:31-32; Matt. 9:12-13 and Mark 2:17. Those who knew they were in spiritual need readily came to Jesus, but the religious elite felt no such need. Jesus eats, fellowships with, and forgives those who came (and come) to Him in faith and repentance.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 15:8-10
 8"Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!' 10In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

15:8 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

▣ "ten silver coins" This Greek word drachma, is used only here in the NT. It was a day's wage for a soldier or laborer (similar to a dēnarius). These were this woman's status symbol and possibly her dowry. Near Eastern custom informs us that this may have been a headdress.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COINS IN USE IN PALESTINE IN JESUS' DAY

"and search carefully until she finds it" This is not meant to denote a universalism (in the end all will be saved). The details of a parable cannot be forced into theological doctrine. As Rom. 5:18 must be interpreted in the context of Romans 1-8, so too, small phrases cannot be used to teach truths that are clearly denied in the immediate context (cf. "sinner who repents," Luke 15:7, 10). If all exercised repentance and faith, all could be saved, but the mystery of evil is that even in the presence of great light, many will not respond (i.e., the Pharisees). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE UNPARDONABLE SIN at Luke 11:19.

I believe that Jesus' death covers all sin, but the gospel demands an initial and continuing faith response.

▣ "light a lamp" The poorer homes of this time had no windows and thus no natural light.

15:9 This repeats the theological emphasis of Luke 15:6-7.

15:10 "the angels of God" This is a rabbinical way of referring to God (as is "joy in heaven" in Luke 15:7). Matthew has many of these phrases that refer to God without mentioning His name (circumlocutions).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 15:11-24
 11And He said, "A man had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. 13And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' 20So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate."

15:11 "two sons" These will typify the Jews who heard Jesus: (1) the common people and (2) the religious leaders. Their response to the lostness of all humans (in this context, Israelites) before God will be very different. One group rejoices in the potential salvation of all humans, but the other is offended by God's love for all humans.

15:12 "give me the share of the estate that falls to me" This did not belong to him until his father's death. It would involve one-third of the estate with two thirds going to the oldest son (cf. Deut. 21:17). This shows a rebellious, unloving, independent spirit. This very question would have been unheard of in eastern culture. This implies a desire for the father's death (cf. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant, pp. 142-206).

"So he divided his wealth between them" There are several cultural and legal reasons for an early inheritance to be given, but not at the request of a son! The father's actions in allowing this inappropriate and culturally unheard of request does not denote God's character, but is a literary device to accentuate God's undeserved and overwhelming love and forgiveness later in the parable.

As for the older son, his silence at both the brother's request and the father's action would be unforgivable in eastern culture. He should have vigorously protested. He also will be singled out for censure at the conclusion of the parable. As a matter of fact, he represents the attitudes of the Pharisees. (Will they accept sinners like God does, or will he reject his brother?)

15:13 "gathered everything together" To transfer the farm assets into cash meant to (1) disrupt the farm and even jeopardize its future existence and (2) sell them at a very reduced price.

If land was involved, the buyer did not take possession until after the father's death. The father would have use of it until then.

"and went on a journey" This represents the younger son's seeking independence from the family. He will do it his way!

NASB"there he squandered his estate with loose living"
NKJV"there he wasted his possession with prodigal living"
NRSV"there he squandered his property in dissolute living"
TEV"where he wasted his money in reckless living"
NJB"where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery"
PESHITTA
(Syriac)"there he wasted his wealth in extravagant living"

This is from the verb sōzō (save) with the alpha privative (one who cannot save). All English translations translate asōtōs, an adverb which occurs only here in the NT, as immoral, godless, riotous living (cf. Luke 15:3 and the LXX of Pro. 7:11; 28:7). However, the fifth century Syriac (Aramaic) version denotes one who is careless or thoughtless with his resources (German Bible Society's Greek - English Lexicon of the Septuagint, lists "wastefulness" as a translation option for asōtia, p. 69), but not necessarily immoral (cf. Kittel, vol. 1, p. 507 and Louw and Nida, vol. 1, p. 753).

15:15 "he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country" The key interpretive issue is the word "hired" (kollaō). It is used predominately by Luke and Paul. It can mean "associate with" (cf. Acts 5:13; 9:26; 10:28), "cleave to" (cf. Matt. 19:5; Luke 10:11), or "join" (cf. Acts 8:29; 17:74). It originally meant "to glue." Did this young foolish Jew hire himself out for wages or did he cling desperately to a local, non-Jewish farmer for life? The question is one of desperation. How desperate was the young man? How much in need?

Possibly "the citizen" was trying to get rid of the Jewish young man by asking him to feed pigs! Perhaps he was so hungry, so desperate, so in need, that he would do anything just to survive.

15:16

NASB, NKJV"he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods"
NRSV"he would have gladly filled himself with the pods"
TEV"he wished he could fill himself with the bean pods"
NJB"he would willingly have filled himself with the husks"

The first two translations follow the ancient Greek manuscripts P75, א, B, D, L, and Augustine's Greek text, which has the verb gemizō and the word "stomach." However, the last three follow the ancient Greek manuscript A and the Old Latin Vulgate and Syriac versions, which have the verb chortazō and excludes the word "stomach." Usually when א and B agree over A, modern textual critics follow the former manuscripts. However, the UBS4 gives the second option a "B" (almost certain) rating. It is somewhat surprising that the NASB (1995) follows KJV.

As usual, this variant does not affect the meaning of the passage.

▣ "the pods" There were apparently two types of this carob bean (cf. Bailey, Poet and Peasant, pp. 171-172). One is found in Syria, which is sweet and eaten by the general population. The other is a wild carob which is a short plant with black, sour berries. It does not provide enough sustenance for life. It is these wild berries that the young man wanted to eat, but he knew they would not help his hunger.

"and no one was giving anything to him" In context this may mean that other servants would not let him eat the pigs' food. Here is the problem of a cruel world. This is a situation that this young man did not plan for, now he was in life-threatening need (cf. Luke 15:17).

15:17

NASB, TEV,
NJB"he came to his senses"
NKJV, NRSV,
PESHITTA"he came to himself"

This is a Hebraic idiom of (1) acceptance of responsibility and repentance or (2) a person's internal thought process, an epiphany (cf. Luke 18:4, the exact Greek phrase). Verses 18-19 imply meaning #1.

"hired men" There were several levels of servants in rural village life of the Near East (cf. Bailey, Poet and Peasant, p. 176):

1. doulos, a domestic servant who lived with the master

2. paides, slaves who performed menial tasks but lived on the farm

3. misthos, temporary, hired workers who did not live on the farm

In context #2 fits best as the desire of the son.

15:18 "against heaven" This is another circumlocution which refers to God. See note at Luke 15:10.

15:20 "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him. . .and ran. . .and embraced him and kissed him" The father's expectancy and unusual actions reflect the intensity of his love.

The last two actions, "embraced him" and "kissed him," may reflect the Septuagint of Gen. 33:4; 45:14-15, which denotes reunion. The last action, "kissed him," could be a sign of forgiveness from 2 Sam. 14:33. This compound term, kata + phileō, implies fervent affection (cf. Luke 7:38; Acts 20:37).

When interpreting parables one must look for the central truth (usually in what would be culturally shocking or unexpected) and not push (allegorize) all the details. The father's actions in allowing the young man's initial request which jeopardized the whole family, was morally and culturally inappropriate. They must not be attributed as characteristics of God. God will not give us what would destroy us! He does, however, give us the freedom to destroy ourselves! However, the father's unconditional forgiveness and gracious restoration of such an undeserving person is surely a characteristic of God. Remember the parable's larger context is the unforgiving and non-accepting attitude of the Pharisees (i.e., the older brother, Luke 15:25-32, especially Luke 15:28).

15:21 There is a Greek manuscript variant in the verse. Some ancient texts at the end of the sentence have "your son," but others add the remaining phrase from Luke 15:19 ("make me as one of your hired men"). Scribes tended to fill out phrases, therefore, UBS4 gives the shorter text an "A" rating (certain).

15:22 The intensity of the moment is carried by the three aorist active imperatives. The slaves are commanded to do these things immediately!

▣ "best robe" This was a sign of position in the family.

▣ "a ring" This was a sign of his restored family position and authority.

▣ "sandals" This was a sign of a son of the owner, not a hired servant.

15:23 "the fattened calf" The Jews ate red meat only at very special occasions. This was the most valuable meat available.

Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant/Through Peasant Eyes, makes the comment that by implication the killing of the fatted calf involved the whole community. There would be too much meat just for the estate. If so, this implies that the father solves the problem of the young son's acceptance back into the community by this feast (cf. pp. 181-187).

Also notice that this lavish banquet for the rebellious son is the unexpected element of the parable. Table fellowship was a Jewish metaphor for heaven (eschatological banquet). The shock is that the younger son (symbolizing the tax collectors and sinners) is the object of the feast, while the older son (symbolizing the religious leaders) refuses to attend and makes the point that there is no feast for him. This role reversal is typical of Jesus' teachings.

15:24 This parallels Luke 15:6-7 and 9-10. Heaven rejoices at the restoration of sinners!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 15:25-32
 25"Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' 28But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began imploring him. 29But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' 31And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'"

15:25 "older son" If the prodigal represents lost and fallen humanity, then the older son represents the self-righteous attitude of religious leaders.

This parable has two main truths:

1. God's joy over one who repents

2. God's pain when part of His spiritual family will not forgive and accept other parts of the sinful family

In many ways nothing has changed. Sin and unforgiveness still live in the church building! There are two types of estrangement:

1. open rebellion

2. hidden superiority and jealousy

Each of these sons, for opposite reasons, was out of fellowship with the father.

15:28 God loves Pharisees also!

15:29 "I have been serving you" This shows the son's pent-up anger and resentment, possibly even jealousy and envy. The older son feels he deserves the father's love because of his obedience and continuance (i.e., self-righteous legalism, cf. parable at Matt. 20:1-16).

▣ "never given me a young goat" This was a less expensive animal than the fattened calf. He feels neglected.

15:30 "this son of yours" This phrase shows the depth of the older sons anger and continued rejection of his brother.

▣ "with prostitutes" This was only speculation on the elder son's part.

15:31 "all that is mine is yours" The remaining inheritance belonged completely to this son. The life and livelihood of the younger son was, in reality, in the hands of the older brother. The younger son was completely at the older brother's mercy once the father died.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the major thrust of these three parables?

2. Which son represents you?

3. Why is there no conclusion to the last parable?

 

Passage: 

Luke 16

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Dishonest Steward The Parable of the Unjust Steward The Dishonest Manager The Shrewd Manager The Crafty Steward
16:1-13 16:1-13 16:1-13 16:1-8 16:1-4
        16:5-7
        16:8
        The Right Use of Money
      16:9-12 16:9-12
      16:13 16:13
The Law and the Kingdom of God The Law, the Prophets, and the Kingdom of God Teaching About the Law Some Sayings of Jesus Against the Pharisees and Their Love of Money
16:14-18 16:14-18 16:14-15 16:14-15 16:14-15
        The Kingdom Stormed
    16:16-17 16:16-17 16:16
        The Law Remains
        16:17
        Marriage Indissoluble
    16:18 16:18 16:18
The Rich Man and Lazarus The Rich Man and Lazarus The Rich Man and Lazarus The Rich Man and Lazarus The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
16:19-31 16:19-31 16:19-31 16:19-31 16:19-22
        1623-26
        16:27-31

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Luke 16 is related contextually to Luke 15:

1. Both were addressed to Pharisees, 15:2-3; 16:14;

2. The additional audience was the disciples, 14:33; 16:1;

3. The parables of these two chapters were designed to rebuke the attitudes of the religious leaders and to reveal to the disciples God's redemptive and seeking heart;

4. The unifying issue of Luke 15 was God's love for lost sinners, while Luke 16 focuses on the Pharisees' love for money, 16:14-15. (Luke 16 is unified by a rabbinical play on "mammon" or money.)

 

B. The parable (16:1-13) has caused much controversy in interpretation, for it seems to praise fraud. However, it must be understood that this is a certain type of parable (i.e., a contrasting story) which illustrates a positive truth by a negative example (cf. Luke 18:1-8).

1. The keys to a proper interpretation of the parable

a. who is speaking in Luke 16:8a, Jesus or the landowner of the parable?

b. verses 8b-13

(1) Jesus' comments on the problem of the love of money

(2) the early churches' comments (the author of the gospel)

(3) a separate literary unit?

2. Do not read too much into the details of the parable. Look for the central truth(s).

3. There are similarities between the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Steward:

a. a merciful father/landowner

b. in one, a son is unfaithful; in the other, a well paid steward is unfaithful;

c. in both, neither offers excuses for his sins but throws himself on the mercy of the father/debtors

 

C. This chapter does not have an obvious unifying theme. It is often hard to see the literary units. Is Luke 16:13 an independent saying? How are Luke 16:16-17 and 18 related to the larger context?

Luke seems to have combined several unrelated sayings of Jesus, but why and how remains uncertain. The overarching theme is the inappropriate priority of self, wealth, and this world order.

D. The account of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is the fifth parable in a series (Luke 15-16). It seems to have been designed illustrate the truths of Luke 16:8b-13 and 14. The improper love of money is the issue in Luke 16.

The Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing were like Lazarus' brothers (Luke 16:29). They had the Law and the Prophets, but they chose not to respond in the appropriate way! They believed in a future physical life with God, but they missed the fact that faith in Jesus is the key to this future life. There is a surprise reversal awaiting the religious leaders of Jesus' day.

E. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes, is a thought-provoking and helpful structural and cultural approach to interpreting the parables in Luke.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:1-9
 1Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' 3The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.' 5And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. 9And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."

16:1 "disciples" The term mathētēs meant "learners." The NT does not focus on decisions, but on disciples (cf. Matt. 28:19). Christianity is an initial decision of faith and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21) followed by a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Jesus is warning the disciples about the attitudes and actions (i.e., "Leaven of the Pharisees," cf. Luke 12:1) of the religious leaders.

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"There was a"
NKJV"There was a certain"
TEV"There was once a"

The Greek term tis or ti often introduces parables in Luke (cf. Luke 7:41; 10:30; 14:16; 15:11; 16:1,19; 19:12; 20:9 [MS A]). Notice that in this series of five parables in Luke 15-16, tis introduces three of them.

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"manager"
NKJV"steward"
TEV"a servant who managed"

The Greek term oikonomos could refer to

1. a person hired to manage an estate (cf. Luke 12:42; 16:1,3,8)

2. an administrator or steward (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10)

3. a city treasurer (cf. Rom. 16:23)

This may have been an educated slave or a hired freed person.

NASB"reported"
NKJV"an accusation"
NRSV"charges"
TEV"was told"
NJB"was denounced"

This term is from the same root as "devil" [diabolos, dia plus bollos], which literally meant "to throw across" or metaphorically "to accuse."

▣ "squandering" This same word (diaskorpizō) was used of the Prodigal Son (cf. Luke 15:13).

"possessions" This same word is used in Luke 14:33.

16:2 "Give an account of your stewardship" This is an aorist active imperative. From the context the steward was possibly guilty of loaning money or property (usury, cf. Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:36; Deut. 23:19). The Talmud assigned an amount to be legally charged by a loaner in Baba Bathra 10:4. This steward exceeded this amount, possibly even by the amount to which he later reduced the bill.

▣ "you are no longer a steward" Notice that the man was not jailed or whipped, but dismissed! This would have been surprising to the original hearers. It would have said something significant about the merciful character of the landlord.

16:3-4 The man reviewed his employment options to himself.

16:4

NASB, TEV"I know what I shall do"
NKJV"I have resolved what to do"
NRSV"I have decided what to do"
NJB"Ah, I know what I will do"

This phrase was an idiom for sudden insight! He, like the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:17), came to himself and chose to act decisively.

▣ "they" This refers to the master's debtors (cf. Luke 16:4), for whom he has reduced their contractual obligations to the landlord.

16:6

NASB, NKJV,
NJB"a hundred measures of oil"
NRSV"a hundred jugs of olive oil"
TEV"a thousand barrels of olive oil"

This was literally "100 bath," which was a Hebrew liquid measure. The amount is uncertain but one bath equaled approximately 8 to 9 gallons. Apparently there were differing standards of the measure in Palestine in Jesus' day. Besides, Jesus often used exaggerated numbers (hyperbole) in His parables for emphasis or shock value.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

16:7

NASB, NKJV,
NJB"a hundred measures of wheat"
NRSV"a hundred containers of wheat"
TEV"a thousand bushels of wheat"

This was literally "100 kor," which was a Hebrew dry measure. The amount is uncertain but one kor equaled approximately ten to twelve bushels.

16:8

NASB, NRSV"his master"
NKJV, TEV,
NJB"the master"

The Greek text does not have "his," but "the." The antecedent of this title has caused great discussion among commentators. It is either (1) Jesus referred to as "Lord" or (2) the landowner of the parable referred to as "lord." In context it is the landowner (cf. Luke 16:3,5). It depends on where the parable stops.

"He had acted shrewdly" This phrase is the interpretive crux of the parable. The man's decisive action in the face of impending crisis is extolled, not the manner of his actions.

The same landowner who dismissed the steward in Luke 16:2 praised him in Luke 16:8. This is the twist (main point) of the parable. Presumably the village tenant farmers were praising the landowner for his generosity and he, in turn, commented about the actions of the steward.

The steward was praised because he recognized the coming disaster and his guiltiness. He acted swiftly, gambling on the mercy of (1) the debtors (cf. Luke 16:4-5) or (2) the landlord. This reflects sinners who recognize their guilt and coming judgment and quickly respond to Jesus' offer of forgiveness and mercy (cf. Luke 16:16).

▣ "The sons of this age. . .the sons of light" This was a Hebrew idiom. Hebrew, being an ancient language, had few adjectives and, therefore, used "son of. . ." as an adjectival idiom.

The Jews saw two ages (cf. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34-35), the current evil age (cf. Gal. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2) and the age to come (cf. Matt. 28:20; Heb. 1:3; 1 John 2:15-17). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME at Luke 9:2. Believers live in the tension-filled time in which these ages have been overlapped (the two comings of Christ). Believers live in the "already and not yet" tension of the Kingdom of God and often they do not handle it well.

NASB"more shrewd in relation to their own kind"
NKJV"more shrewd in their generation"
NRSV"more shrewd in dealing with their own generation"
TEV"much more shrewd in handling their affairs"
NJB"more astute in dealing with their own kind"
PESHITTA"wiser in their generation"

This verse is contrasting how unbelievers act in a crisis situation and how believers should act (cf. Luke 16:1). However, the interpretive issue is how does this relate to Luke 16:9? What exactly is Jesus saying? See comments at Luke 16:9.

16:8 Jesus wants His followers to live wisely (cf. Matt. 10:16), but often they are foolish!

16:9 This verse is ironic sarcasm.

1. make friends by means of the wealth of unrighteousness

2. when it fails (Vulgate and NKJV have "when you fail")

3. they (cf. Luke 16:4) will receive you into the eternal dwellings

a. temporal setting – people of this world, "their homes" (cf. Luke 16:4)

b. eschatological setting, (1) people of God; (2) angels; or (3) God Himself, "eternal dwelling"

The point is, "Act now"!

NASB"make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness,"
NKJV"make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon"
NRSV"make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth"
TEV"make friends for yourselves with worldly wealth"
NJB"use money, tainted as it is, to win friends"

This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. "Mammon" was an Aramaic word for "riches," which was personified as a god in the Babylonian Talmud and in the nation of Syria. The word originally meant "to entrust something to someone." This is a summary of what the unjust steward did.

This may be sarcastic because of Luke 16:13. The contrast was between evil stewards who prepared for a physical future and kingdom people who did not prepare for the spiritual future.

▣ "they will receive you into the eternal dwellings" The Jews (Pharisees) believed in an afterlife of physical bliss (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 140:13; Isa. 25:8; 26:19; Dan. 12:2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:10-13
 10"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

16:10 "a very little thing" This referred to earthly wealth or stewardship. Humans reveal their character in their daily choices and actions.

▣ "in much" This is uses twice in this verse. It refers to heavenly wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19-34).

16:11 "if" This is a first class conditional which was assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Believers must use the things of this world to (1) help people come to know Christ and (2) to help believers.

"entrust" There is a word play between "faithful" (pistos, Luke 16:10,11,12) and "entrust" (pisteuō, Future active indicative). Believers are stewards (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-5; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10). The question is what kind of stewards (cf. Matt. 5:13-15).

The rhetorical question of Luke 16:11 expects a negative answer (as does Luke 16:12). People who do not know God cannot be faithful even in small things. An unstated contrast is the point of the parable. Smart people can get other people whom they have bribed to help them in this life (cf. Luke 16:4), but they have no resources for the next life ("eternal dwellings").

16:12 "if" This also is a first class conditional sentence. This rhetorical question is negated. Unbelievers are unfaithful in all things.

▣ "that which is another's" Many interpreters see this as a reference to God's ownership of all things. Believers are stewards of everything and owners of nothing. This is true of the gospel and worldly resources.

"that which is your own" There is a Greek manuscript variant involving the pronoun. UBS4 text says "you" (humeteron) an "A" rating (certain, cf. MSS P75, א, A, D, W, and the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenean versions).

But, other modern, eclectic Greek texts such as Nestles' 21st Edition have "our" (hēmeteron, i.e., the Father's and the Son's, cf. MSS B and L). The effect on meaning is negligible, but it gives the opportunity to discuss how the NT was copied and why variants like this occurred. Often one person read a Greek text while several others wrote down what he read. Therefore, words that sound alike were often confused. The pronunciation of these two pronouns was very similar, thus the variant! See Appendix Two.

16:13 "no servant can serve two masters" One cannot have two priorities (i.e., self and God). One must choose between this world's goods or spiritual treasures (cf. Matt. 6:19-34; 10:34-39; 1 John 2:15-17). "You cannot serve God and wealth."

"hate . . . love" This was a Hebrew idiom of comparison (cf. Gen. 29:31; Deut. 21:15; Mal. 1:2-3; Luke 14:26; 16:13; John 12:25; Rom. 9:13). God and His kingdom must be priority.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:14-15
 14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’"

16:14-18 This may be a separate unit of thought inserted by Luke from Jesus' teachings at another time. It is related to the parable in Luke 16:1-13 and 19-31. The central issue is worldly wealth and the priority of self. See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH at Luke 12:21.

16:14 "Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money" This is a unifying theme of Luke 16. It shows that although the disciples were addressed in Luke 16:1, the Pharisees were equally a target for this truth (cf. Luke 15:2) and the next parable (Luke 16:19-31).

NASB"and were scoffing at Him"
NKJV"and they derided Him"
NRSV"and they ridiculed him"
TEV"they made fun of Jesus"
NJB"and jeered at him"

This is an Imperfect active indicative, implying (1) a repeated action or (2) the beginning of an action in past time. It is a compound idiom "to turn up the nose" (cf. Luke 23:35). This same term is used in the Septuagint in Ps. 2:4; 21:8; 34:16. This set the stage for the parable of Luke 16:19-31. The Pharisees heard and understood His teachings about money, but rejected them in light of their traditional understanding of money as a sign of divine blessing (cf. Deuteronomy 28).

16:15 "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men" This could refer to either public, weekly almsgiving or ostentatious giving in the temple (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Luke often records Jesus' teachings about this kind of self righteousness (cf. Luke 10:29; 16:15; 18:9,14). This was the problem of the Pharisees!

▣ "God knows your hearts" We must remember that God knows the motives of the human heart, which determine the appropriateness or inappropriateness of every action (cf. 1 Sam. 2:7; 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 6:30;Ps. 7:9; 44:21; 139:1-4; Pro. 15:11; 21:2; Jer. 11:20; 17:9-10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27).

"for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God" Here is the surprising role reversal theme again. The Pharisees were thought of as the best of the best, but God judges by a different standard (cf. Matt. 5:20,48). God Himself is the standard and all fall short (cf. Rom. 3:23). Salvation must be a grace gift because fallen humanity cannot obtain it by merit (cf. Rom. 3:21-31; Galatians 3). God provided a way through His Messiah; all are welcomed through Him, but they would not come!

NASB"detestable"
NKJV, NRSV"abomination"
TEV"worth nothing"
NJB"loathsome"

In the Septuagint this term (in its various forms) relates to

1. idolatry (idol and its worship)

2. eschatological event or person (Daniel)

Here it is an idiom of that which pulls fallen humanity away from YHWH. It is worldliness versus spirituality. It is the priority of the immediate versus the eternal. It is humans' desire for independence from God.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:16-17
 16"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail."

16:16-18 As a commentator I feel so unsure about the meaning of these verses. They seem so unrelated and out of place. I am sure they are sayings of Jesus, but why Luke chose to put them into this context remains a mystery to me. Here is a good place to remind interpreters that clear texts must interpret difficult texts. It would be inappropriate to use these verses, or for that matter Luke 16, as the only biblical support for any doctrine or application. The overall meaning of Luke 15-16 is clear, but we must not push the details into doctrine.

16:16 "The Law and the Prophets" These were two of the three sections of the Hebrew Canon. Therefore, this phrase refers to the entire OT being in effect (cf. Luke 16:29; 24:44; Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Acts 13:15; 28:23).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DIVISIONS OF THE HEBREW BIBLE

"until John" John the Baptist was the last OT prophet and the first preacher of the New Age (cf. Matt. 11:13). He was the theological and temporal watershed between the Old Covenant in Moses and the New Covenant in Christ.

"the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached" The NASB, NRSV, and TEV include the term "gospel" or "Good News" in their translations, but this is not in the Greek text. It comes by implication from the verb "to preach" (euangelizō), which means "to proclaim good news" (cf. Luke 4:18; 9:6).

For "the kingdom of God" see Special Topic at Luke 4:21.

NASB, NJB"everyone is forcing his way into it"
NKJV"everyone is pressing into it"
NRSV"everyone tries to enter it by force"
TEV"everyone forces their way in"

"Everyone" is a hyperbole but it refers to those who hear the gospel.

This refers to the enthusiasm of the religious outcasts (i.e., the verb is a present middle [deponent] indicative) in accepting the teachings of Jesus versus the stand-offishness and rejection of the religious leaders. This saying of Jesus is used in a very different sense in Matt. 11:12.

It is possible that the verb is not middle but passive, denoting that those who hear the gospel preached are urged (by the Spirit) to respond in repentance and faith (NET Bible, p. 1856).

The Septuagint uses this same verb in a passive sense in Gen. 33:11 and Jdgs. 19:7. It may be used in a passive sense in Matt. 11:12.

16:17 Jesus, though asserting a new day had come with the proclamation of His gospel, nevertheless affirmed the stability and eternality of the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-20). Jesus rejected the Oral Tradition of the Jews and its interpretations (cf. Matt. 5:21-48) and even changed some OT requirements (cf. Mark 7:19, food laws; Matt. 19:7-8, divorce and remarriage), thereby showing His superiority, even over Scripture!

NASB, NRSV"one stroke of a letter"
NKJV"one tittle"
TEV"the smallest detail"
NJB"one little stroke"

The word kepaia literally means "a horn," which in this context, refers to the small points or lines that distinguished one Hebrew letter from another (cf. Matt. 5:18). Therefore, the TEV expresses the meaning well. However, remember how Jesus commonly used hyperbole. This probably means the OT is God's revelation and it remains so. It is a permanent reflection of God's character and purpose. It surely does not mean that detailed observance of all OT ceremonial and cultic requirements is God's will for all humans. Verse 16 has asserted that a new day of openness and availability has arrived in Christ. Acts 15 clearly shows that Gentiles (Luke's audience) do not have to become practicing Jews to become Christians. See Paul's discussion of the purpose of the OT in Galatians 3 (www.freebiblecommentary.org).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:18
 18"Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery."

16:18 "everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" This must be understood in the light of the context, as one example of the Jewish leaders trying to circumvent the obvious purpose of the Mosaic Law (cf. Luke 16:16-17 and the passage in Deut. 24:1-4), with the interpretations of their Talmudic, rabbinical traditions (Hillel, very liberal and Shammai, very conservative).

▣ "commits adultery" Does remarriage mean that one commits adultery? Was Jesus discussing Moses' statements found in Deut. 24:1-4? Moses wrote this to protect the rejected women of his day, who were so vulnerable to abuse. The only appropriate reason given for the dissolution of a marriage was sexually inappropriate behavior (Shammai, cf. Matt. 5:32). If a woman was put away the community assumed she was dismissed for sexual infidelity (she was stigmatized as an adulteress). This interpretation is confirmed by the passive voice verbals ("causes her to commit adultery) of Matt. 5:32 and 19:9.

For more information on divorce go to www.freebiblecommentary.org and click on "Controversial and Difficult Texts," then click on the "Christian Home" (audio lessons).

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 16:19-31
 19"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' 27And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house—28for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!' 31But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’"

16:19-31 "there was a rich man" This is the fifth in a series of parables in Luke 15 and 16. It is a highly unusual parable because

1. it has no introduction

2. it has no explicit application

3. a person is specifically named.

However, the context demands that it be interpreted in light of Luke 16:8b-13. It is a parable. One cannot force the details to give believers theological answers in the area of the intermediate, disembodied state of the dead or a description of hell (because the text has hades, not Gehenna).

Luke often introduces parables by tis ("a certain _____," cf. Luke 15:11; 16:1,19). See note at Luke 16:1.

▣ "rich man" The Latin tradition called him Dives which is the Latin term for "rich." There are several other names given to this rich man found in different geographical areas and periods (cf. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, pp. 165-166).

▣ "he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen;" Purple was a very expensive dye derived from shellfish. This was an extravagantly rich man with beautiful outer garments and soft undergarments. He dressed in this type of clothing often (imperfect middle indicative).

16:20 "Lazarus" This was the Hebrew name "Eleazar" (BDB 46), which meant "God is my help." This is a purposeful word play on the name. Nobody helps this poor man but God! This is part of the literary plot not an actual person.

▣ "was laid" This is a pluperfect passive indicative, which denotes regular begging. Poor and sick people always begged in rich neighborhoods or public places (cf. Acts 3:2).

▣ "covered with sores" This is a perfect passive participle of helkos (cf. LXX Exod. 9:9,10,11; Lev. 13:18). Luke would have noticed this detail in Jesus' parable.

16:21 "longing to be fed" This is the same word used of the Prodigal Son with the pigs in Luke 15:16. There is similarity between these two parables (cf. Contextual Insights, B. 3.).

▣ "with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table" All people in this culture ate with their hands. The very wealthy used white bread to wipe their hands and then threw it on the floor (cf. Matt. 15:27).

The word "crumbs" is in italics, which denotes it is not in the Greek text but is implied by the context. The word does appear in the parallel from Matt. 15:27 and is included in MSS אi2, A, D, W. However, it is missing in MSS P75, א*, B, L. The UBS4 gives it exclusion a "B" rating (almost certain).

▣ "even the dogs were coming and licking his sores" This showed that Lazarus was too weak to fend off these scavenging animals. Dogs were not house pets in this time and culture, but street mongrels.

16:22 Notice the contrasts in this verse:

1. one apparently unburied (by implication), one properly buried

2. one carried by the angels, one's transportation unmentioned

3. one with Abraham in paradise, one in torment apart from Abraham

Notice the commonalities.

1. both die

2. both are conscious

It is not stated why the poor one is accepted and the wealthy rejected, but in the larger context it is related to how they used their wealth (or lack of it). Their spiritual lives were not revealed by the physical circumstances (cf. Deuteronomy 28 vs. Job and Psalm 73). The rich man's lack of concern for the poor illustrated his selfish, earthly priorities.

One can learn the priorities of modern, western people by their checkbooks and calendars!

NASB, NKJV"Abraham's bosom"
NRSV"to be with Abraham"
TEV"to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven"
NJB"into Abraham's embrace"

This is a parable, not a teaching passage on heaven or how one gets there! This parable has nothing to say about heaven or hell. It uses the OT concept of sheol (BDB 982) or hades (the holding place of the dead which the rabbis said was divided into a righteous section called "paradise" and a wicked section called tartarus).

Abraham's bosom was an idiom for eating next to Abraham at a feast. This would be a reference to a welcoming meal for Jews into the righteous side of hades (paradise, cf. Luke 23:43).

16:23 "In Hades" Hades was equivalent to the OT Sheol which referred to the realm of the dead. It was distinct from Gehenna, which was the term Jesus used to describe "eternal punishment." Gehenna was from two Hebrew words, "ge – valley" and "henna" – a contraction of "sons of Hinnom" (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:10; 2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31). This was the valley south of Jerusalem where the Phoenician fire god (Molech, BDB 574) was worshiped by child sacrifice. The Jews turned it into a garbage dump. It was distinct from Hades. This term is only used one time outside the words of Jesus (cf. James. 3:6).

See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Luke 3:17.

▣ "He lifted up his eyes" The OT described reality in the language of description, using the five senses. This type of phenomenological language was based on God being "up" and the dead being in the ground (where they were buried). This is not anti-scientific, but pre-scientific. I Enoch 22-23 and IV Ezra 7:75-78 are Jewish inter-testamental documentation of the belief in a division of Sheol before Judgment Day.

▣ "being in torment" Many have used this passage to assert that there is suffering for the wicked now (cf. Luke 16:25,28), even before Judgment Day (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:4-15). There are some OT passages of fire being related to Sheol, but remember that this is a parable. The details are not always meant to convey doctrinal truth. It is best to seek a central truth unless Jesus interprets the parable at a typological level (cf. Parable of the Soils or Wicked Tenants). There is no other NT text which teaches this truth.

16:24 "Father Abraham, have mercy on me" In a sense this was an attempt to use his Jewishness for favors. Rabbinical theology often asserted the merits of being Abraham's descendants. He was said to guard the realm of punishment lest any Jew be led there.

▣ "send Lazarus" The rich man still thought of Lazarus as a slave to do his bidding.

16:25 Again an unexpected role reversal! The rich man's wealth was supposed to be a sign of God's love (cf. Deuteronomy 28).

16:26 This verse expresses the pain and surprise that many will feel when they discover who is with God and who is not! It also denotes the permanency of the division at death ("fixed," perfect passive [implication by God] indicative). There are no second chances. Jesus is surely addressing this to Pharisees who trusted so confidently in their supposed religious standing with God.

NASV, NRSV"a great chasm"
NKJV, NJB"a great gulf"
TEV"a deep pit"

This term chasma is used in the Septuagint for a deep pit or hole (cf. 2 Sam. 18:17, where Absalom was buried).

16:27-29 "they have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them" Notice that these brothers were not damned because of their wealth, but because of their rejection of biblical revelation and its claims on their daily lives (i.e., "Let them hear them," aorist active imperative). Humans are spiritually responsible for the light they have from natural revelation (cf. Psalm 19; Romans 1-2) and special revelation (cf. Ps. 19:7-13; 119; Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 12:48; 2 Tim. 3:15-17).

16:28

NASB, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"warn"
NKJV"testify"

This is the compound term dia plus marturomai, which denotes an earnest warning or solemn testimony (cf. LXX Exod. 19:10; Deut. 4:26; Zech. 3:7). This very term is used only here in the Gospels, but often by Luke to describe Christian witness in Acts (cf. Acts 2:40; 8:25; 10:42; 18:5; 20:21,23,24; 23:11; 28:23).

"this place of torment" In context this place refers to hades, not Gehenna. It is current, not future. This is the only place in the NT that speaks of the torment of the unbelieving dead before Judgment Day. Since the details of parables are often just part of the story, one cannot use parables as the only source for a biblical doctrine.

The term "torture" is a metaphor from metallurgy. Harold K. Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, has an interesting note as to the source of this metaphor:

"Noun, lapis Lydius, a species of stone from Lydia, which being applied to metals was thought to indicate any alloy which might be mixed with them, and therefore used in the trial of metals; hence, examination of a person, especially by torture; in N.T. torture, torment, severe pain, Mat. 4.24; Lu.16.23, 28.

Verb, to apply the lapis Lydius or touchstone; met. to examine, scrutinise, try, either by words or torture; in N.T. to afflict, torment; pass. to be afflicted, tormented, pained, by diseases, Mat. 8.6, 29, et al.; to be tossed, agitated, as by the waves, Mat. 14.24" (pp. 66-67).

16:29 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action.

16:30 "repent" The Hebrew term for repentance meant a change of action. The Greek term meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change. It does not mean a total cessation of sin, but a desire for its end. As fallen humanity we live for ourselves, but as believers we live for God! Repentance and faith are God's requirements of the New Covenant for salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). Jesus said "unless you repent, you will all perish" (cf. Luke 13:3,5). Repentance is God's will for fallen humanity (cf. Ezek. 18:23,30,32; 2 Pet. 3:9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

The mystery of the sovereignty of God and human free will can be clearly demonstrated by repentance as a requirement for salvation. However, it is also a gift of God (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). There is always a tension in the biblical presentation of God's initiating grace and mankind's needed response. The new covenant, like the old covenant, has an "if – then" structure. There are several terms used in the NT which relate to the concept of repentance. The classical text is 2 Cor. 7:8-11. The terms are:

1. "sorrow," [lupe] Luke 16:9,10,11, which was morally neutral

2. "regret," [metamelomai] Luke 16:8,10, which meant "sorrow over past acts." It was used of Judas (cf. Matt. 27:3) and Esau, (cf. Heb. 12:16-18)

3. "repentance," [metanoeō] Luke 16:9,10,11, which meant a change of mind, a new character, a new direction of life.

It is not sorrow that characterized repentance, but a willingness to change to conform to God's will.

6:31 There are two conditional sentences in this verse.

1. The first one is First class, denoting that Moses and the Prophets are speaking.

2. The second is third class, denoting that these brothers should have listened to God's revelation. This is exactly the point of the parable of the unjust steward. These brothers did not understand the need for decisive action immediately! They are really the focus of the parable.

Lazarus' being raised from the dead did not convince the hard-hearted religious leaders in Jerusalem. It only forced them to plan Jesus' death (cf. John 11:46; 12:9-11). A miracle is not automatically the answer to mankind's spiritual need (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 13:13-14).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How do each the paragraph divisions of the chapter relate to the theme of the use of money? (1-8a; 8b-13; 14-18; 19-31)

2. Why is wealth dangerous?

3. What is the central truth of the parable (Luke 16:1-8a) and (9-31)?

4. Who is speaking and to whom are they speaking in Luke 16:8a and 8b?

5. Are verses 19-31 a parable or a historical account? Why?

6. Can we base our theology of the intermediate state on the details of this passage? (Luke 16:19-31)

 

Passage: 

Luke 17

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Some Sayings of Jesus Jesus Warns of Offenses   Sin On Leading Others Astray
17:1-4 17:1-4 17:1-4 17:1-3a 17:1-3a
        Brotherly Correction
      17:3b-4 17:3b-4
  Faith and Duty   Faith The Power of Faith
17:5-6 17:5-10 17:5-6 17:5 17:5-6
      17:6  
      A Servant's Duty Humble Service
17:7-10   17:7-10 17:7-10 17:7-10
The Cleansing of Ten Lepers Ten Lepers Cleansed Ten Lepers Cleansed Jesus Heals Ten Men The Ten Victims of Skin-Disease
17:11-19 17:11-19 17:11-19 17:11-13 17:11-19
      17:14a  
      17:14b-19  
The Coming of the Kingdom The Coming of the Kingdom The Kingdom is Among You The Coming of the Kingdom The Coming of the Kingdom of God
17:20-37 17:20-37 17:20-21 17:20-21 17:20-21
    The End of the Age   The Day of the Son of Man
    17:22-37 17:22-30 17:22-25
        17:26-30
      17:31-36 17:31-37
      17:37a  
      17:37b  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR's INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:1-4
 1He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

17:1 "He said to His disciples" The context remains the same. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees (cf. Luke 15:2; 16:14), but at this point he addresses the disciples again (cf. Luke 16:1; 17:5).

▣ "It is inevitable" We live in a fallen, rebellious world. Get ready!

NASB"stumbling blocks"
NKJV"offenses"
NRSV"occasions for stumbling"
TEV"things that make people fall into sin"
NJB"causes of falling"

The term is skandalon, which in the LXX, translated a Hebrew term (BDB 430) "snare" (cf. Jos. 23:13; Jgds. 2:3; 8:27), which denoted a baited trap stick. It can also be understood as a "stumbling block" (cf. Lev. 19:14; 1 Sam. 25:31; Ps. 119:165). The Anchor Bible (vol. 28A, p. 1138) notes that in time it came to mean to impel someone to "apostasy" or "abandonment of allegiance (to God or to His word as proclaimed by Jesus)."

▣ "but woe to him through whom they come" This is paralleled in Matthew 18. Disciples are addressed and warned (cf. Matt. 18:4-6,8-10). Jesus is referring to both the Pharisees and sinning believers. True believers are responsible for their brothers and sisters in Christ (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Cor. 8-10; Gal. 6:1-4).

Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:19, even asserts that these false teachers and their followers are manifested so that the true believers are clearly revealed.

17:2 "if" This is a First class conditional sentence which, in this context, reaffirms the inevitability that stumbling blocks will come and, so too, will judgment.

▣ "a millstone" In the OT grain was ground by hand mills, usually one flat stone (cf. Job 41:24) and one handheld rubbing stone (cf. Jdgs. 9:53). By NT times grinding was done by two round stones (18 to 20 inches). Wooden pegs held them in place and allowed the top one to rotate. The ground grain would work its way out around the edges.

It is possible that Jesus is referring to a larger pair of stones rotated by two men (cf. Matt. 24:41) or en even larger one pulled by animals (cf. Jdgs. 16:21).

"thrown into the sea" Jews, being semi-desert dwellers, were always afraid of large bodies of water. Even Solomon's fleet was manned by Phoenicians, not Jews. Drowning was a terrifying prospect.

The severity of the warning is surprising. It could possibly be

1. a way of showing how important these new believers are to God

2. a way of referring to apostasy or causing these new believers to renounce their new faith (see Special Topic at Luke 6:46)

3. simply an eastern hyperbole, so common in Jesus' teachings

 

▣ "one of these little ones" This is not referring to children, but to new believers (cf. Matthew 18 and I Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, chapter 46).

NASB, NRSV"to stumble"
NKJV"offend"
TEV"to sin"
NJB"the downfall"

This is the term skandalizō, which literally meant a baited animal trap trigger (the noun is used in Luke 17:1). It came to be used metaphorically of something that caused someone to be tempted, an impediment in one's spiritual or moral growth, or an occasion for sinning.

It is often used of someone taking offense to Jesus or the gospel (cf. Matt. 11:6; 13:57; 1 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11), but this does not fit in this context if it is addressing believers. If, however, the target audience is Pharisees, then this connotation is right on target.

If believers are the audience, then it refers to godly living and forgiveness (cf. Luke 17:3-4). The Christian community must be one of openness, godliness, forgiveness, and fellowship. Wounded believers are a major problem (cf. 1 Cor. 8:12), then and now!

17:3

NASB, NRSV"Be on guard"
NKJV"Take heed to yourself"
TEV"So watch what you do"
NJB"Keep watch on yourselves"

This is a present active imperative, which denotes an ongoing command. Believers must guard their actions and personal choices (cf. Heb. 2:1; 2 Pet. 1:19). We are our brothers' (lost and saved) keeper!

 Luke uses this term literally, "take heed to yourselves" (prosechete heautois) often in his writings (cf. Luke 12:1; 17:3; 21:34; Acts 5:35; 20:28 and just the verb in Luke 20:46).

▣ "If. . .if" These are Third class conditional sentences, which speak of potential action. It is amazing to me how much the Bible talks about forgiving as evidence of forgiveness (cf. Matt. 6:12,14-15; 18:21-35; Luke 6:38).

"your brother sins, rebuke him" This is an Aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. This is paralleled in Matt. 18:15-18 and is discussed in Gal. 6:1-5. As the family of God, we are responsible for one another.

"if he repents" This is an aorist active subjunctive with ean, which denotes a third class conditional sentence. See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

"forgive him" This is an another aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. Believers are not to hold grudges or become bitter towards each other. Forgiveness always cleanses two hearts!

17:4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day" This is a third class conditional sentence. Peter asks this question in the parallel in Matt. 18:21-22.

▣ "returns to you seven times, saying 'I repent’" This may reflect the OT term for repent (shub, "turn") and the Greek word "repent" (metanoeō). Fellowship and restoration are not affected by numbers (7 x 70 in Matt. 18:21-22), but by an attitude of acceptance, which is modeled by a gracious God and a sacrificial Messiah. Believers are to emulate the love and forgiveness of the Trinity (cf. 1 John 3:16).

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

"forgive him" This is a future active indicative used in the sense of the aorist active imperative of verse 3.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:5-6
 5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.

17:5 "Increase our faith" This is another aorist active imperative denoting urgency. In light of Jesus' statements in Luke 17:1-4, the Twelve felt a need for even greater faith to fulfill the ideals and requirements of the New Covenant, the gospel, and the New Age! This does not refer to saving faith, but daily faith, faithfulness in working with people—imperfect, impatient, often unloving, ungrateful believers and unbelievers!

17:6 "If you had faith" The initial phrase of this conditional sentence is first class, which is assumed to be true, but the second phrase is introduced with "an," which denotes a second class. The implication would be that Jesus knows they have faith, but will they use it appropriately (i.e., interpersonal relationships)?

▣ "like a mustard seed"A good source of quick but accurate information about the animals and plants of the Bible is United Bible Societies' Helps For Translators: Fauna and Flora of the Bible.

The article on "mustard" (sinapi) is on pp. 145-146. The seed referred to by Jesus is from the common black mustard plant. The seed is not actually the smallest (orchid), but was proverbial in Palestine for its smallness.

"mulberry tree" The exact type of tree that Jesus is referring to is uncertain. Only Luke uses the name of these related and often confused trees in the NT:

1. mulberry tree (sukaminos) – brought from Persia. It is referred to only here in the NT (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures, vol. 2, p. 226, calls it a "black mulberry")

2. sycamore tree (sukomorea) – a large tree (cf. Luke 19:4; A. T. Robertson calls it a "white mulberry")

The context demands a large tree in contrast to the very small seed. The meaning is that a little faith can affect large or great things (a Matthew parallel [17:20] has mountain instead of a tree).

Theologically it must be stressed that it is not the amount of faith, or the enthusiasm, or commitment which a person has that causes the results, but the object of his faith. Human faith is not the key, but faith in Jesus. He is the source of the effectiveness!

▣ "Be uprooted and be planted by the sea" This is obviously a hyperbolic idiom. Trees cannot be planted in the sea. It expresses the impossible, similar to 18:25. But what is impossible for humans is possible for God!

These are both aorist passive imperatives. Faith in Christ makes a visible difference in one's situation and attitude. In context these believers loving and caring for each other was very difficult, but faith in Jesus would enable them to love and forgive one another.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:7-10
 7"Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? 8But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? 9He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

17:7-10 This is an entirely new literary unit. This is a very important statement that reminds us that all of our works and efforts do not merit God's love. This is a truth that is often forgotten, especially by church workers. God always acts in grace, never as a reward for human merit. Believers are slaves who have been turned into children. We must love and care for the rest of the family.

17:7 There is a series of rhetorical questions here. This is typical of Jesus' teaching in the Synoptic Gospels. In Luke's Gospel notice: 2:49; 5:21-23,34; 6:32-34,46; 7:24-26; 9:25; 11:5-7; 13:2-4; 14:28,31,34; 16:11-12; 17:7-9,17-18;18:7-8; 22:27,48,52.

Verse 7 contextually expects a "no" answer. MS D even adds the MĒ particle.

17:8 This question expects a "yes" answer (use of ou).

17:9 This question expects a "no" answer (use of MĒ).

17:10 Is this text saying

1. that the slave, after his long day in the field, should go and eat first before serving the owner's meal (TEV, NJB)

2. that he should sit down with the owner and eat (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NIV)

3. even that he should be served by the owner (cf. Luke 12:37, which would be another dramatic reversal of roles so characteristic of Luke)

There is surely ambiguity here, but the intent of the paragraph is clear.

The very opposite of this is found in Luke 12:37. Eastern literature often approaches truth by presenting the opposites! Modern western interpreters often miss the significant differences between eastern and western literary forms. See SPECIAL TOPIC: EASTERN LITERATURE at Luke 9:50.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:11-19
 11While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" 19And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well."

17:11-19 This is a new topic.

17:11 "While He was on the way to Jerusalem" Remember we are in a larger literary unit unique to Luke's Gospel, structured as Jesus' journey from Galilee to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:51-19:28).

NASB"He was passing between Samaria and Galilee"
NKJV"He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee"
NRSV"Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee"
TEV"he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee"
NJB"he was traveling in the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee"

"Between" or "through" (i.e., dia with the accusative) is found in MSS א, B, and L.

 1. Jesus is moving south, so Galilee should have been listed first

 2. by this time, Jesus should be far more to the south than the border of Galilee and Samaria

 3. Jesus is moving eastward along the border to take a traditional route south to Jerusalem

This reaffirms my contention that Luke is not primarily in chronological order, but in theological order.

17:12 "ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him" These diseased people (lepers) were forced to live in isolated, communal settings where all normal social barriers were removed (cf. Num. 5:1-3). It seems in this context that the lepers were made up of Jews and Samaritans. The rabbis assert that this was a divine illness sent by God on sinners (cf. 2 Kgs. 5:25-27; 15:5; 2 Chr. 26:16-23).

17:13 "Master" This is the Greek term epistatēs. See note at Luke 5:5. It was a title of respect. Whether it had theological implications is hard to know. These men had hope that Jesus could and would help them. They must have heard about Him.

17:14 "Go and show yourselves to the priests" The lepers had to act (an aorist passive [deponent] participle used in an imperatival sense and an aorist active imperative) in faith on Jesus' pronouncement that they were cleansed although their skin was still diseased (cf. Lev. 13:14 and 2 Kgs. 5:8-14).

This may have been Jesus' attempt to witness to the priests of Jerusalem even before His arrival. It also shows that Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law in His attentiveness to these Levitical regulations.

17:15 Only one cured leper turned back to give thanks, as did Naaman in 2 Kgs. 5:15.

17:16 "And he was a Samaritan" This seems to be an editorial comment by Luke or his source. The hatred between the Jews and Samaritans began after the Assyrian exile of the Northern Ten Tribes in 722 b.c. The subsequent imported Gentile population married the remaining Jewish population and the Judean Jews considered them religious half-breeds and refused to have any social or religious contract with them whatsoever. Jesus used this intense bias in two different parables that speak of God's love for all men (cf. Luke 10:25-37). This context also speaks of believers' need to love and forgive one another (cf. Luke 17:1-6).

17:19 "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well" This construction is parallel to Luke 17:14 (aorist active participles used in an imperatival sense and a present middle [deponent] Imperative).

Notice that faith is the hand that received Jesus' power. The man's faith did not cure him; Jesus cured him by means of his faith (cf. Luke 7:9,50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42; Mark 5:34; 10:52; Matt. 9:22,29; 15:28).

The verb is a perfect active indicative implying the cure remained. The verb is sōzō, the normal term for salvation in the NT, however, here it is used in its OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15). Surely this man was both physically and spiritually saved (purposeful ambiguity). What a tragedy physical healing would be which resulted in eternal death! The man's request and gratitude reveal his faith in Jesus. But what of the other healthy nine?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:20-21
 20Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."

17:20 "Now having been questioned by the Pharisees" They had been present in the crowd which followed Jesus. They were present at all of Jesus' public teaching times and miracles.

▣ "when the kingdom of God was coming" The Pharisees (see Special Topic at Luke 5:17) were particularly interested in the afterlife, in contradistinction to the Sadducees (see Special Topic at Luke 20:27), who denied it. This is similar to the questions asked by several disciples in Mark 13:4. Luke's Gospel is unique in that it divides Jesus' eschatological discussion into two separate passages, Luke 17:20-37 and Luke 21. In both Matthew and Mark this eschatological passage is in one chapter (cf. Matthew 24 and Mark 13). Jesus may have repeated these teachings in different places at different times.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21.

▣ "not coming with signs to be observed" This is a medical term for closely watching the symptoms and making a diagnosis. Here it is used of careful observation. Luke uses it often to denote the Scribes (see Special Topic at Luke 5:21) and Pharisees watching Jesus to find something with which to condemn Him (cf. Luke 6:7; 14:1; 20:20).

17:21 "nor will they say, 'Look, here it is or, "There it is"’" This introduces Luke 17:23 (cf. Matt. 24:23,26). The implication is that Jesus' return will be seen and known by all (cf. Luke 17:24; Matt. 24:27).

NASB"the kingdom of God is in your midst"
NKJV, TEV"the Kingdom of God is within you"
NRSV, NJB"the Kingdom of God is among you"

This is used in a sense of (1) within each of you or (2) among you (plural). In The Jerome Biblical Commentary, NT, p. 150, the three exegetical choices of the ancient church are mentioned.

1. within you ― the Gospel of Thomas

Hippolytus

Origen

Athanasius

Ambrose

Jerome

Bede

2. in your midst ― Ephraem

Cyril of Alexandria

Theophylat

3. within your grasp ― Tertullian

Cyprian

This refers to their personal faith response to Jesus, therefore, options #2 and 3 fit this context best. Option #1 would not apply to Pharisees! It would seem to be a "Gnostic" type theological statement. Jesus' personal presence brought the kingdom, and His personal return will consummate it. It is the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth. When Jesus prays in the Lord's Prayer that "His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" (cf. Matt. 6:10), He is praying for the kingdom to come. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Luke 4:21.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 17:22-37
 22And He said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23They will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!' Do not go away, and do not run after them. 24For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day. 25But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32Remember Lot's wife. 33Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 36 [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left."] 37And answering they said to Him, "Where, Lord?" And He said to them, "Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered."

17:22 "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man" The phrase "the days will come" seems to imply times of trials, persecution, illness, etc. Although post-millennialists (see The Meaning of the Millennium, Four Views, ed. By Robert Glouse) have asserted that things are going to get better and better and then the Lord will return, the Bible seems to teach that things are going to get worse and worse before the Lord's return (cf. Dan. 12:1; Rom. 8:18-23).

▣ "the Son of Man" This seems to be a self-designation used by Jesus that comes from Ezek. 2:1 and Dan. 7:13, which implies both human and divine qualities. See fuller note at Luke 6:5 and Special Topic at Luke 5:24.

"you will not see it" Jesus is addressing the disciples in Luke 17:22-27. Therefore, this must denote

1. they will be killed and suffer persecution before His return

2. there will be a delay in the Parousia (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2)

3. it will come suddenly with no advance signs or warning

Jesus clearly admitted that He did not know the time or date of His return (cf. Matt. 24:36), but this phrase implies a delay.

17:23 "They will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!’" This verse is related to Luke 17:24, which assures the believers that Jesus will have a public, visible coming of which none of His disciples will be ignorant.

NASB"Do not go away, and do not run after them"
NKJV"Do not go after them or follow them"
NRSV"Do not go, do not set off in pursuit"
TEV"But don’t go out looking for it"
NJB"Make no move; do not set off in pursuit"

These are both aorist active subjunctives used in the sense of imperatives. The aorist subjunctive with the negative particle means "do not even start." Believers are not to get caught up in end-time frenzy or fanatical speculation on supposed physical manifestations.

17:24 This verse is paralleled in Matt. 24:27, but is absent in Mark 13. It is asserting that Jesus' return will be visible and obvious to all, no secret coming! Matthew 24:40-41 (Luke 17:27) in context refers to those who are killed in judgment ("as in the days of Noah"), not a select group of Gentile believers or the visible church.

 There is a Greek manuscript variant related to the close of the verse. Some ancient Greek texts have "in His day" (cf. MSS א, A, L, W, and the Vulgate and Syriac Versions). However, several other ancient manuscripts do not have it (cf. MSS P75, B, and some Coptic Versions). Textually it is impossible to choose between these manuscripts, however, the phrase is found only here in the NT and may have caused scribes' confusion. The most unusual reading is probably original. See Appendix Two. But as so often is the case with these variants, the thrust of the passage is not affected by either choice.

17:25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation" Jesus has revealed this message several times to His disciples (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:9,12,22-23; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31; 9:12; Luke 9:22,44; 12:50; 13:32-33; 18:32-33). A suffering Messiah was unexpected by the Jews of Jesus' day (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23), but the OT passages, as well as NT, are specific.

1. Genesis 3:15

2. Psalm 22; 118:22

3. Isaiah 8:14; 52:13-53:12

4. Zechariah 12:10

5. Luke 2:34

6. Matthew 21:42-46

7. Acts 2:23

 

▣ "this generation" Jesus used this phrase to refer to those contemporary Palestinian Jews who heard Him speak, but did not believe (cf. Luke 7:31; 9:41; 11:29,30,31,32,51; 16:8; 17:25; 21:32; Acts 2:40). "He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). This phrase is used in such a way as to clearly reveal that the way people respond to Jesus determines their destiny. The kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus' incarnation and will be consummated at His return.

17:26 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah" Noah's life is described in Genesis 6-9. The emphasis here is the continuation of the normal activities of life before the flood (cf. Luke 17:27-30; Matt. 24:36-39). Only eight people prepared for God's coming Judgment (cf. Gen. 7:7,13).

17:28-29 "Lot" Lot's life in Sodom is described in Gen. 12:5,13-14,19.

17:30 "It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" This context asserts several things about the Second Coming:

1. that it will be visible and public (cf. Luke 17:23,24)

2. that there will be normal social life (cf. Luke 17:27)

3. that it will be sudden

4. that it will be unexpected

This same revelation is described in Matt. 16:27; 24:29-44; 1 Cor. 1:7; 1 Thess. 4:12-18; 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7; and Rev. 11:15-19; 19:1-21.

17:31-32 This context has three examples which emphasize that believers should not be unduly concerned with worldly possessions or entanglements. These are used in other contexts with different applications. This leads me to believe that Jesus used the same teachings in different settings and in different ways. The three mentioned are

1. the person on the roof (cf. Matt. 24:17)

2. the man in the field

3. the negative example of one who turned back, Lot's wife (cf. Gen. 19:26)

Matthew 24 seems to combine the problems which will be present at the Second Coming with the problems related to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general (later Emperor), Titus in a.d. 70. Verses 31-32 (cf. Matt. 24:17-18) may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in the sense that some took Jesus' warnings and fled, but others did not act and were killed. Whatever the context (a.d. 70 or end-time) this is a context of the fate of unprepared, unexpecting unbelievers!

17:33 "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it" The term "keep" in the middle voice, means to acquire, gain, or earn. Jesus' call to discipleship was a call to personal abandonment (cf. Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:16). It is a radical decision of self denunciation (cf. Luke 9:24; Matt. 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25).

The term "life" is literally the term psuche, often translated "soul," but it refers to the entire person. See note at Luke 12:19.

This same teaching is found in Luke 9:24 and Matt. 10:34-39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25, which deals with the need for ultimate commitment to Jesus alone.

17:34 "on that night" This refers to the night of the Lord's return (cf. Luke 17:30).

▣ "two in one bed" The Greek idiom can mean a man and his wife.

17:34-35 These two examples are often used as a proof-text for a secret rapture of believers (by dispensational premillennialists). However, in this context, it seems to emphasize the separation of the lost and saved at the Second Coming, by the angels (cf. Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27). In this context it is the judgment on the unprepared, the unbelieving ("as in the day of Noah," cf. Matt. 24:40-41). I do not believe in a secret rapture, but rather the visible return of the Lord, along the lines of 1 Thess. 4:13-18.

17:36 Verse 36 is not found in the early Greek manuscripts P75, א, A, B, L, or W. It comes from Matt. 24:40 and seems to be included in this parallel passage by a later scribe. The UBS4 committee rated its omission as "certain."

17:37 The exact meaning of this statement is uncertain. It is obvious the people who heard Jesus speak understood what He meant. It possibly

1. relates to the destruction of Jerusalem , as do Luke 17:31-32

2. is a common proverb (cf. Matt. 24:48)

3. means the spiritually dead attract God's judgment

The term "eagle" (aetos) is also used in a similar way in Matt. 24:28. The OT background is that the birds of prey (vultures) are attracted to battles and slaughter (cf. Job 39:26-30; Ezek. 39:17; Hab. 1:8). This implies an end-time judgment scene.

If it is true that Luke, like Matthew 24, refers to the fall of Jerusalem (cf. Luke 17:31-35), then it is possible that "eagle" may refer to the Roman army, whose standards were topped with eagles.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this chapter is primarily written for the disciples or the Pharisees?

2. Why did the Jews hate the Samaritans?

3. Will the Second Coming be expected or unexpected, visible or secret?

4. Does the NT use the term "rapture"?

Define the concept in your own terms.

 

Passage: 

Luke 18

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Widow and the Judge The Parable of the Persistent Widow The Unjust Judge The Parable of the Widow and the Judge The Unscrupulous Judge and the Importunate Widow
18:1-8 18:1-8 18:1-8 18:1-5 18:1-5
      18:6-8 18:6-8
The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector Pharisee and Tax Collector The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14 18:9-14
Little Children Blessed Jesus Blesses Little Children From Galilee to Jerusalem
(18:15-19:27)
Blessing the Children
Jesus Blesses Little Children Jesus and the Children
18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17 18:15-17
The Rich Ruler Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Ruler The Rich Ruler The Rich Man The Rich Aristocrat
18:18-23 18:18-23 18:18-25 18:18 18:18-23
      18:19-20  
      18:21  
  With God All Things are Possible   18:22-23 The Danger of Riches
18:24-30 18:24-30   18:24-25 18:24-27
    18:26-27 18:26  
      18:27 The Reward of Renunciation
    18:28-30 18:28 18:28-30
      18:29-30  
A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus A Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection The Passion Foretold Again Jesus Speaks a Third Time About His Death Third Prophecy of the Passion
18:31-34 18:31-34 18:31-34 18:31-33 18:31-34
      18:34  
The Healing of a Blind Beggar Near Jericho A Blind Man Receives His Sight A Blind Man Healed Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar Entering Jericho: the Blind Man
18:35-43 18:35-43 18:35-43 18:35-36 18:35-43
      18:37  
      18:38  
      18:39  
      18:40-41a  
         
      18:41b  
      18:43  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus' teaching is often illustrated by parables.

 

B. Parables (OT mashal, BDB 605 II) take many forms.

1. proverb (Luke 4:23)

2. story (Luke 15 and 16)

3. allegory (Luke 8:4-15)

4. simile (Luke 13:19,21; 17:6)

5. contrast (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8)

 

C. For guidelines on the interpretation of parables, see the introduction to Luke 8.

 

D. This chapter is connected by the question of saving faith.

1. First parable (Luke 18:1-8), will the Son of Man find faith (persistent, prayerful faith) when He returns?

2. Second parable (Luke 18:9-14), the wrong kind of faith (self-righteous) versus repentant faith (the sinner, tax collector).

3. Parabolic example (Luke 18:15-17), Jesus and childlike faith without which no one can enter the kingdom.

4. Parabolic example (Luke 18:18-30), priority faith (rich, young, moral ruler). Jesus and the Kingdom must be number one!

5. Jesus' sacrificial death (Luke 18:31-34) is the key to eternal life which is received by faith.

6. Prophetic example (Luke 18:35-43) of the blind receiving their sight (physical and spiritual), which is the work of the "suffering" Messiah by faith (cf. Luke 18:42).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:1-8
 1Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' 4For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'" 6And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"

18:1 "Now He was telling them a parable" This is an antithetical or contrasting parable similar to Luke 11:5-13. It is a story that relates to the exact opposite of what God is truly like. The pronoun "them" refers to the disciples (cf. Luke 16:1; 17:5,22,37; 17:37).

▣ "that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" Notice the Greek terms:

1. dei, which means "ought" or "necessary."

2. pas, here in adverbial form (pantote), which means "always."

This phrase is a mandate to keep on praying and not become discouraged (cf. Eph. 6:18). In several parallel passages in Paul's writings, persistent prayer is linked to thanksgiving (cf. Phil. 4:6; Col. 1:3; 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17-18).

Prayer is a worldview; thanksgiving is an attitude; both dictate believers' actions toward people and circumstances.

"not to lose heart" The Greek term is egkakeō (cf. 2 Cor. 4:1,16; Gal. 6:9; Eph. 3:13; 2 Thess. 3:13), which is probably the same as ekkakeō, which literally means "not to give in to the bad," but metaphorically to be faint, to be remiss, or to be slothful.

18:2 "a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man" He was not swayed by God's opinion or mankind's opinion. His judgments were based on personal interest or personal preference.

18:3 "a widow" Again Luke shows Jesus' concern and care for the socially powerless and/or ostracized. Widows were often taken advantage of in Jewish society (cf. Exod. 22:21-24; Deut. 10:18; 24:17). Luke is characterized by Jesus' interaction with and care for women.

▣ "give me legal protection" This could mean vindicate or give me justice (cf. Luke 18:7 and 8).

18:4 "for a while he was unwilling" This is an imperfect active indicative, which denotes the judge's ongoing refusal to act on behalf of the widow.

"even though" This is a first class conditional sentence (cf. Robert Nanna, A Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament, vol. 1, p. 123), which asserts the reality of the statements of Luke 18:2.

In a sense this is similar to Luke 15:17. This judge had an epiphany; he came to himself. He began to realize the consequences of his decision.

18:5 "wear me out" This literally meant "to blacken one's eye" (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27). Here it is used metaphorically of someone or something that continually bothers.

18:7 "not" This is a double negative, which was a strong way of expressing "no, never under any circumstances."

1. Our heavenly Father is exactly the opposite of the unrighteous, inattentive, self-seeking judge. 

2. His delay has a beneficial purpose (i.e., full number of the elect, cf. Rom. 11:25; John 10:16).

 

▣ "who cry to Him day and night" This phrase characterizes the persistent prayers of the elect (cf. Luke 11:9-13; Matt. 7:7-12). Persistence does not overcome God's reluctance, but it demonstrates trust and conviction.

▣ "His elect" This is an OT way of referring to God's people, especially as servants (cf. Isa. 42-43; 44:28-45:7).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Election/predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

▣ "who cry to Him day and night" This is a way of expressing continual action (i.e., always). The order of "day and night" reflects a Gentile idiom, while 2:37, "night and day," reflects a Hebrew idiom. Luke was a researcher. He used his sources' idioms, yet he was also an editor and compiler and at times his own idioms become part of his Gospel (cf. Acts 9:24; 20:31; 26:7).

▣ "will He delay long over them" This is the second of two rhetorical questions in Luke 18:7 which contrast God and the attitude of this wicked judge. The first question expects a "yes" answer and this, the second question, a "no" answer.

The Greek "delay" (makrothumeō, put wrath far away) is ambiguous and may mean one of two things:

1. help for the persistent elect to grow in faith

2. more time for the wicked to repent (cf. Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9)

3. the NASB (1970) has a marginal alternate translation, "and yet He is longsuffering over them," which denotes the patience of God with sinners

 

18:8 This is a surprising conclusion to this parable. It seems to be unrelated to the story. Jesus' return will be the mechanism of God's bringing justice to the elect (cf. Rev. 6:9-11).

What then does the prepositional phrase en tachei mean: (1) suddenly or (2) quickly? Is this a contrasting parable or a parable of differing motives for a delayed adjudication?

Many commentators assert that Luke's Gospel suggests a delayed Second Coming and tries to prepare a Gentile audience for this surprising development (ex. 12:35-48; 17:22-30).

▣ "when the Son of Man comes" This is an emphasis on the eschatological coming of the Messiah as Judge. The term "Son of Man" is primarily drawn from Ezek. 2:1 and Dan. 7:13, where it combines human and divine qualities. See Special Topic at Luke 17:22.

▣ "will He find faith on the earth" The NT emphasizes the physical, bodily return of Jesus Christ. However, it does not tell us when or how. It does tell us to be actively involved in the kingdom's work and to be ready moment-by-moment for His coming. This phrase seems to reflect this two-pronged piece of advice.

"Faith" has the definite article. This is

1. the belief that God will answer their prayers for help (cf. Luke 18:7). His best answer will be sending His Son back into the world a second time to set all things straight as He promised.

2. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, p. 204, takes kai as "yet" (cf. John 9:30; 16:32), which implies not a direct contrast to the wicked judge, but gives reason for God's delay in answering His elect (the faith development).

3. Kenneth E. Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes, pp. 127-141, thinks it relates to the soon-coming event of Passion Week, described in Luke 18:31-34. These disciples will need persistent prayer and faith development very soon.

4. This is faith in Christ or Christianity.

The emphasis may be on what believers are praying for. Are they asking God repeatedly for personal things or kingdom things? If personal things, then believers are more like the unrighteous judge than they want to admit.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: LUKE 18:9-14
 9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' 13But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' 14I tell you this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

18:9 "He also told this parable" This is the second parable about persistence in prayer.

▣ "to some people" Parables are addressed to the Pharisees and disciples in Luke 15-17, but here to "people" (i.e., the crowd, also note 15:3; 19:11). Context implies the ones addressed were Pharisees (cf. Luke 16:14-15). Parables are always told in public settings. They either make clear or hide truth, depending on the heart of the hearer!

▣ "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous" The term "trusted" is a perfect active participle of the term peithō, which is translated in the NT as "persuade," "trust" or "be assured." Jesus addresses those Jews (and all people) who think they are right with God based on their ancestry, attitudes, and actions. The Jews of Jesus' day considered (1) prayer (cf. Matt. 6:4-5), (2) almsgiving (cf. Matt. 6:2-4), and (3) fasting (cf. Matt. 6:16-18) as acts which brought personal righteousness (cf. Matt. 6:1).

The former parable dealt with a judge who did not believe in or respect God. This parable deals with those who outwardly seem to believe and respect God, but in actuality were trusting in their own goodness and performance. They felt God owed them! They expected to be fully compensated for their righteous acts (almsgiving, fasting, and prayer, as well as their keeping the rules of the Oral Tradition of the elders).

Self-righteousness may be the most dangerous sin of "religious" people (cf. Luke 10:29; 16:15; 18:9,14).

18:9 "and viewed others with contempt" The Greek term exoutheneō is used only by Luke (cf. Luke 18:9; 23:11; Acts 4:11 [LXX]) and Paul (cf. Rom. 14:3,10; 1 Cor. 1:28; 6:4; 16:11; 2 Cor. 10:10; Gal. 4:14; 1 Thess. 5:20). This judgmental attitude is the major problem of legalistic, religious people. God is longsuffering, but often those who claim to know Him and belong to Him are just the opposite!

The term "others" in the NASB is literally "the rest," which denotes the Pharisees' judgmental attitude. From their perspective all others were unacceptable and out of the love of God. Only their group (sect) was righteous! In this specific case, this Pharisee even stands off from all the other worshipers. He may have seen himself as even more righteous than other Pharisees.

18:10 "the temple to pray" There were three times of daily prayer in Judaism of the first century. Nine a.m. and three p.m. were the times of the daily sacrifice at the temple (the continual). The religious leaders of Jeru