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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

An Outline of Luke

Luke's Gospel falls into a neat pattern that moves from the infancy narrative, in which we are among the righteous of Israel in Jerusalem, through the ministry in Galilee, back to the Jerusalem Temple, and finally to Jesus' death and resurrection. The Gospel leaves us with the disciples in Jerusalem awaiting the coming of the Spirit. Acts will take the Gospel from Jerusalem out into the world. Jerusalem forms a symbolic center to the Gospel, as much of the narrative takes place either in or on the way to the holy city. The major divisions in the story are clearly marked transitions in the unfolding of the plot:

Prologue ( 1, 1–4 ) Infancy Narrative ( 1, 5–2, 52 ) Preparation for the Public Ministry ( 3, 1–4, 13 ) The Ministry in Galilee ( 4, 14–9, 50 ) The Journey to Jerusalem ( 9, 51–19, 27 ) Teaching Ministry in Jerusalem ( 19, 28–21, 38 ) The Passion Narrative ( 22, 1–23, 56 ) The Resurrection Narrative ( 24, 1–53 )

Now it is time to read through Luke in detail. We will be looking to see how Luke develops a picture of Jesus, salvation, and Christian discipleship. Since Luke preserves important blocks of the teaching of Jesus, we will also be interested in how Luke presents the teaching of Jesus for Christians in his time. Discipleship requires doing the word as well as hearing it.

Prologue ( 1, 1–4 )

Luke introduces his Gospel with a prologue, because he considers that his work belongs alongside other Hellenistic literature. The prologue consists of a single complex Greek sentence that ends with the word asphaleia, “assurance.” Luke intends the orderly account of the events that constitute the Christian story of salvation to demonstrate the integrity of the Christian message that the church in his day proclaims. (A close parallel for this use of kathexes, “orderly,” appears in Acts 11, 4 . Peter is going to narrate the events that led him to baptize the Gentile Cornelius and his household and to share table fellowship with them. This account will persuade the leaders of the church in Jerusalem that God was operating behind those events.)

The Infancy Narrative ( 1, 5–2, 52 )

Structure of the Lucan Infancy Narrative

This section is built on an elaborate parallelism between Jesus and John the Baptist. In each case, Jesus is greater than the Baptist, who is only the forerunner of the Messiah. The most detailed parallels occur between the two angelic birth announcements (John, 1, 5–25 ; Jesus, 1, 26–38): (a) neither parent is expecting a child; (b) an angel appears, the parent is troubled and told not to fear; (c) the child is announced, his name given, and a statement is made about his future greatness; (d) the parent raises a question about how this can happen; (e) the angel gives an assertion that it will happen, and a sign; (f) Zechariah is forced to be silent; Mary's spontaneous answer affirms God's will. The birth announcements are followed by an episode that brings the two together and confirms the angel's statement to Mary, the Visitation ( 1, 39–56 ). In this episode the Baptist testifies to the presence of Jesus as savior by moving in the womb.

The next cycle recounts the births (John, 1, 57f ; Jesus, 2, 1–20) and circumcision/naming of the two children (John, 1, 57–80 ; Jesus, 2, 21–40). Each birth section includes an affirmation of the joy attending the birth. Each naming section concludes with an affirmation that the child grew. This cycle is followed by an episode that prefigures Jesus' last days, the Finding in the Temple ( 2, 41–52 ). Jesus will return to the Temple to teach before his death (see the outline of the Gospel). The narratives make it clear that God is responsible for the origins of both children. For the Baptist, God has overcome the barrenness of his parents, just as other barren women in the Hebrew Bible, like Sarah and Hannah, had been given children. For Jesus, God has done something even greater by bringing the child into existence in the womb of his virgin mother.

Songs of Salvation: The Canticles

These episodes contain several canticles, which have become a treasured part of Christian worship: Mary's Magnificat ( 1, 46–55 ); Zechariah's Benedictus ( 1, 68–79 ); the canticle of the angels ( 2, 13f ); Simeon's Nunc Dimittis ( 2, 29–32 ). Many scholars think that Luke has taken the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and perhaps the Nunc Dimittis from a Jewish Christian source. They employ a mosaic of expressions taken from the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish psalms and hymns from the time of Jesus. Mary's Magnificat is an individual song of praise, which seems to be modeled on the Song of Hannah (1 Sm 2, 1–10 ). After celebrating God's greatness toward the lowly handmaid, the second strophe (vv. 51–53 ), in a series of strong, active verbs, alludes to God's past deeds of salvation. The final verses (54f) relate the career of Jesus to the covenant God had made with Abraham. Scholars think that this hymn originated among Jewish Christians who identified themselves with the “poor ones,” the anawim, of Israel. The term designated those who were unfortunate, lowly, sick, downtrodden. The rich and powerful, those who feel no need of God, are opposed to the anawim (see Ps 149,4; Is 49, 13; 66, 2 ). The poor ones are the righteous remnant in Israel who know that they must look to God for salvation.

The Benedictus begins as a song of thanksgiving (vv. 71–75 ) recalling the dynastic oracle concerning the house of David (see 2 Sm 7, 12f ). The hymn affirms that Jesus will fulfill this messianic role. It then shifts to the form of an oracle concerning the destiny of the newborn child (vv. 76–79 ). The Baptist will prepare God's people for the coming Messiah. We are reminded that God comes to save the people out of merciful compassion. Luke will make the theme of mercy a central motif in the ministry of Jesus.

The Nunc Dimittis draws upon two passages of Isaiah (Is 40, 5; 49, 6 ). Simeon has now seen the salvation which they promised. The image of an aged patriarch blessed with a glimpse of God's promise is rooted in the Hebrew Bible (see Joseph, Gn 46, 30; Moses, Dt 32, 49–50; 34, 1–5 ; Anna and Tobit, Tb 11, 9.14 ). Verses 31–32 point to another important theme in Luke: God's salvation is given for all peoples. Endowed with the prophetic spirit, the aged Simeon not only recognizes the dawning of salvation, he also warns that Jesus' coming will bring about divisions. God's plan includes the rejection of the Messiah by his own people (see 4, 29; 13, 33–35; 19, 44.47f; 20, 14.17 ).

Virgin Birth and Christology in the Infancy Narrative

We have already seen that the canticles celebrate Jesus' coming as the fulfillment of all God's promises to the faithful people of Israel. The Benedictus pointed to Jesus as the anticipated Messiah of the Davidic house. The most striking Christological statements in the infancy narrative occur in the angelic birth announcement ( 1, 28–37 ). The announcement proceeds in two stages. Verses 32f parallel 2 Sm 7, . Jesus will inherit the Davidic throne and rule over Jacob's house forever as “son” of God. The second stage in the announcement moves beyond these messianic promises to the special sense in which Jesus is Son of God: Jesus is begotten through God's intervention. Some scholars suggest that Luke has created this two‐step process from older Christological affirmations like Romans 1, 3f . There, Jesus is “Son of David” during his earthly life and is designated “Son of God” through the power of the Holy Spirit when he is exalted to God's right hand at the Resurrection. The announcement to Mary speaks of God's Spirit overshadowing her and bringing into being a child who is Son of God from the time he is conceived. For Luke, Jesus is fully human but is never just another ordinary human being.

Mary's virginity serves to sharpen the Christological focus: the child to be born is God's Son. The step‐parallelism between the Baptist and Jesus provides additional literary evidence that Luke considers the birth of Jesus to be an even greater example of divine power than that of the Baptist. Mary is not like the barren woman, someone whose womb could unexpectedly open and produce a child. As a virgin, there is no human way for her to have a child without God's unique presence in that process. Ancient Greek biology taught that the spirit in a father's sperm gave shape to the material in a mother's womb. The more active the spirit, the more closely a child resembled its father. Thus Mary's virginity indicates a relationship between Jesus and God unlike that of any other human being. The honor that Mary enjoys is not due to the fact of her virginity but to her willingness to accept a role in God's plan for the salvation of humanity.

A second angelic announcement, that of the angels to the shepherds, accompanies the story of Jesus' birth ( 2, 1–20 ). Luke introduces this section with a reference to Caesar Augustus and the expansion of Roman rule indicated by the census. Historically, there was no worldwide census under Quirinius. When the Romans took over administration of Judea in ad 6, they took a census of that province. Residents of Galilee, which was still ruled by one of Herod's sons, would not have been obligated to return to an ancestral village in Judea. Matthean tradition claims that Jesus was born toward the end of the rule of Herod, the Great, who died in 4 bc. Though Luke lacks precise historical information in this scene, its Roman associations permit a symbolic contrast. Augustus emphasized the fact that his rule had brought peace in the world. The doors to the temple of war, pictured on coins, were shown closed. Luke uses the angelic announcement ( 2, 10–14 ) to show that the true source of peace lies elsewhere: in the Savior, Messiah, the Lord who has been born in the Davidic town, Bethlehem.

Preparation for the Public Ministry ( 3, 1–4, 13 )

Many of the themes in the ministry of Jesus have been anticipated in the infancy narratives. We have seen that Jesus fulfills God's promises of salvation, and we have heard some of the major Christological titles: Son of David, Messiah, Savior, Lord, and Son of God. The Spirit, which overshadowed Mary at his conception, will remain with Jesus throughout the ministry. Mary's Magnificat introduced the images for salvation as “reversal,” a lifting up of the poor ones, those who have no one but God to turn to in their need. We have seen the importance of thanksgiving, rejoicing, and prayer as well as the posture of the faithful disciple who hears the word of God. But we have also heard the warning that all of Israel will not rush to greet its Messiah with the same joy found in these stories. Before Luke begins to recount the public ministry, he introduces three additional blocks of material: (a) the Baptist's mission in preparing the way for Jesus and Jesus' baptism; (b) a genealogy, and (c) the temptation of Jesus.

The Baptist's Ministry ( 3, 1–22 )

Luke has gathered together traditions about John the Baptist from different sources. John is fulfilling the mission given him to serve as forerunner for God's Messiah. Luke has arranged his account so that the fiery preacher of repentance also serves as precursor to Jesus in the content of his message: (a) repentance and forgiveness, two of the effects of salvation in Luke, and (b) the requirements for dealing with material possessions: share with those who have nothing, avoid greed and injury to others, act fairly. The ethical section of John's preaching (vv. 10–14 ) illustrates the “good fruit,” which must come from repentance (v. 9 ). When we bear in mind the whole sweep of salvation history in Luke, the warning that God can raise up children of Abraham from the stones takes on a more ominous note. As the episode comes to a conclusion, the Baptist responds to speculation about his own status by separating himself clearly from the Messiah who is about to come with the Spirit and fire. John belongs to the age of prophetic figures. Jesus will inaugurate the messianic age. Luke then completes the story of the Baptist by reporting the fact that John was imprisoned by Herod Antipas before Jesus appears on the scene. This order creates some chaos in the account of Jesus' baptism, which follows it (vv. 21f ). For Luke, the baptism of Jesus can never suggest that Jesus was dependent upon the Baptist. Rather, the episode permits a divine affirmation that Jesus is son of God and provides the occasion for the Spirit to descend on Jesus and inaugurate his ministry.

Genealogy of Jesus ( 3, 23–38 )

This unusual genealogy corrects a misapprehension about Jesus. People may think he is the son of Joseph. The Christian community knows better. It traces Jesus' ancestry back to the first “son of God,” Adam, and thus links Jesus to the entire human race, not just to the house of David.

Temptation of Jesus ( 4, 1–13 )

Jesus goes to the desert under the impulse of the Spirit. The temptations Satan poses are challenges to Jesus' identity as “Son of God,” which has been the central title in Luke's narrative to this point. Temptation, in this sense, is not an impulse toward some sinful act. Rather, as in the testing of Abraham by the demand that he sacrifice Isaac, temptation puts the person before a crisis that will demonstrate whether the individual's faith in God can be destroyed. Jesus refuses to use his status as Son for personal gain. Though Satan is silenced, the story ends on an ominous note; though Jesus' ministry will undermine demonic power ( 10, 18; 13, 16 ), Satan may yet return. In Luke 22, 31f Jesus speaks of a confrontation with Satan on behalf of his disciples; though they will be seriously tested by the events of the Passion, Jesus has prayed that their faith will not fail. When the temptations are finished, Jesus has demonstrated that he is the obedient Son of God who will carry out God's plan of salvation—whatever the cost.

The Ministry in Galilee ( 4, 14–9, 50 )

The introduction to this section ( 4, 14f ) highlights the power of the Spirit active in the ministry of Jesus ( 1, 35; 3, 22; 4, 1.14.18 ).

In Nazareth and Capernaum ( 4, 16–44 )

Luke's sources had Jesus' ministry begin in Capernaum (see Mk 1, 21–35 ). Luke has reordered events (v. 23 refers to the Capernaum tradition) to open with a sermon in Nazareth that depicts Jesus as the one who fulfills what the Hebrew prophets foretold (vv. 17–21 ). Throughout Luke‐Acts, programmatic announcements occur in synagogues and at the Temple. Jesus announces the joyous freedom of the Year of Jubilee (combining Is 61, 1–11 and Is 58, 6 ). Luke's genealogy has prepared readers for the skepticism attributed to those who think that Jesus cannot possibly be the messiah, since he was considered to be Joseph's son ( 3, 23; 4, 22 ). Once again, Luke previews the story yet to come. Jesus points to Hebrew prophets Elijah and Elisha, who were directed to assist persons who were not Israelites. These words provoke a deadly hostility in the hearers (vv. 25–30 ).

The rest of the chapter consists of healing stories that illustrate the liberation Jesus has just announced. The demons acknowledge that Jesus is “from God.” However, the popular acclaim, which results from the miracles, makes it so difficult for Jesus even to move about that he leaves for synagogues in Judea (vv. 42–44 ).

Jesus Gathers Disciples ( 5, 1–39 )

Jesus' activities in Nazareth and Capernaum come before he has any disciples. This arrangement provides those who are called with some reason for following Jesus. By the time he gathers his first disciples, Jesus already has a reputation as healer and teacher. Simon Peter's call to follow Jesus is linked with a tale of a miraculous catch of fish. Peter's acknowledgment that he is a “sinner” would make the ancient reader think of stories like those in Homer that he or she heard at school. Mortals cannot see the gods, but certain events make their presence evident. So Peter, viewing the catch, announces that he is unworthy to be in the presence of the divine ( v. 8 ). Peter's reaction to the catch is also similar to the “fear” exhibited at the appearance of the angels in the birth announcement stories. Like the angel, Jesus first tells Peter not to be afraid. Then he states what Peter's future destiny is to be: “from now on you will be catching men” (v. 10 ). The Christian reader knows of Peter's role as missionary apostle in Acts. Peter and the sons of Zebedee, James and John, respond as exemplary disciples. They will leave everything to follow Jesus.

Jesus continues to establish his authority through healings, first of a leper (vv. 12–16 ), then of a paralyzed man (vv. 17–26 ). When Luke took over the account of the healing of the paralyzed man, it was already a controversy story over Jesus' authority to forgive sins (see Mk 2, 1–12 ). The reader already knows that Jesus has the power to heal anyone he wishes. In this case, the miracle becomes both an occasion to free the man from sin through forgiveness and a demonstration of the authority by which Jesus can claim that the man's sins have been forgiven. Its introduction (v. 17 ) recalls the boy Jesus in the Temple ( 2, 46–47 ): there are Pharisees and scribes gathered from the villages of Galilee and Judea as well as Jerusalem. The crowd goes home praising God, but the Pharisees and scribes have become suspicious of Jesus. His offer of forgiveness appears to be a blasphemous attempt by a human being to seize a power that belongs to God (v. 21 ). Luke's reader knows that Jesus is not just any human being but the obedient Son of God. Jesus would never seize any power that rightly belongs to God (see 4, 5–8 ).

As Jesus calls his next disciple, the toll collector Levi, he incurs further complaints from the Pharisees and scribes. They go to Jesus' disciples to ask why he eats with persons who are considered sinners. Jesus first cites a proverb in defense of his actions and then insists that the goal of his mission is to call sinners. He is not out to preach to the righteous.

Jesus is accused of not instructing his disciples in piety as a true teacher would do. The disciples of both the Baptist and the Pharisees fast. Jesus' disciples do not. Jesus' defense consists of a brief parable and a string of proverbs ( 5, 33–39 ). The first employs a human analogy: it is impossible to fast at a wedding. The abundance of the wedding feast was also a common metaphor for the time of salvation. When Jesus is no longer present, Christians will fast (v. 35 ). The proverbs demonstrate the absurdity of trying to mix the old ways of life with the new time of salvation. Persons accustomed to the old may find it difficult to accept the new (v. 39 ).

Jesus then defends his disciples against charges of breaking the Sabbath ( 6, 1–5 ), first by appeal to Scripture (1 Sm 21, 1–6 ), then by insistence upon his authority as Son of Man (compare 5, 24 ), and finally on humanitarian grounds: it is always right to preserve rather than destroy life (vv. 6–11 ). The section concludes with the choice of the Twelve from the larger group of disciples who will share Jesus' mission and serve as witnesses to what Jesus has done and said.

Sermon on the Plain ( 6, 17–49 )

Jesus' first major sermon sounds familiar notes of reversal from the Magnificat as well as the opening of his ministry ( 4, 18 ). The Kingdom is good news for the poor and oppressed, and divine judgment against the wealthy and prosperous. As the stories of Christian missionaries in Acts will demonstrate, Christians must expect rejection and persecution for preaching about Jesus (see Acts 7, 52 ). Juxtaposing the command to love enemies with sayings on persecution provides a concrete context in which that love is to be practiced (vv. 27–30). The love command covers all forms of mercy since it is to be modeled on the mercy of God. Examples point to general ethical precepts: give to one who asks; lend to those who cannot repay; treat others as you would be treated. Judgment sayings strengthen this ethical teaching. We are judged by the judgments we make about others (vv. 37–42 ).

Jesus Is the Promised Savior ( 7, 1–9, 18 )

Jesus' ministry in Galilee continues with a series of traditional miracle stories told so that they testify to Jesus' identity: (a) cure of the centurion's slave indicates that there is greater faith among the Gentiles than in Israel ( 7, 9 ); (b) the widow's son evokes the allusions to Elijah and Elisha in the opening sermon ( 4, 25f ); awestruck, the people acknowledge that a great prophet has arisen ( 7, 16 ). Further miracles demonstrate the truth of Jesus' reply to the Baptist's disciples, that he is indeed the one to come (vv. 18–23 ). Luke edits his sources to draw a distinction between those who received John's baptism and also receive Jesus with praise, and those who reject the plan of God—the lawyers and Pharisees (vv. 28–30 ). The call of Levi ( 5, 27–32 ) illustrated the conversion of tax collectors. This contrast prepares the reader for the sharp contrast between the Pharisee Simon, who failed to show Jesus the hospitality due an honored guest, and the sinful woman, who anoints Jesus and whose sins are forgiven ( 7, 36–50 ). The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector makes a similar point ( 18, 9–14 ).

Examples of women who followed Jesus ( 8, 1–3 ) and Jesus' mother as model disciple, one who hears and keeps the word of God ( 8, 19–21 ), frame the instruction about discipleship provided by the parable of the sower ( 8, 4–15 ), the lamp ( 8, 16–17 ), and a general warning to be careful how one hears the word (v. 18 ). The interpretation of the sower parable indicates the threats to discipleship: (a) some will not believe the initial preaching; (b) some will be turned from discipleship by temptation, cares, riches, and pleasure; and (c) still others will lack the patient endurance necessary to bring forth the harvest.

Another series of miracles emphasizes Jesus' power to save. The disciples are rescued from the storm ( 8, 22–25 ); the Gerasene saved from the multitude of demons that made it impossible for any human bonds to restrain him (vv. 26–37 ). The concluding instructions are pointed toward Christians as well: go and declare what God has done for you (vv. 38f ). The healing of Jairus's daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage focus on the faith of the recipients (vv. 40–56 ). Jesus expands his mission of preaching and healing by sending out the Twelve ( 9, 1–6 ). The brief notice about Herod's perplexity raises expectations about Jesus' true identity. If he is not the Baptist returned, then he must be like one of the great prophets of old such as Elijah ( 9, 7–9 ). This section concludes with the feeding of the five thousand ( 9, 13–17 ). As Luke shapes the story, this miracle represents food for the hungry ( 6, 21 ) as well as a response to Satan's challenge to turn stones into bread ( 4, 3f ). Jesus does live by the word of God alone.

The Messiah Who Must Suffer ( 9, 18–50 )

None of the external opinions about Jesus' identity capture the truth that Jesus is the Messiah who must suffer. Luke applies this insight to the followers of Jesus by insisting that the disciple must be ready to take up the cross “daily” ( 9, 23 ). Not only does God affirm Jesus' sonship at the Transfiguration (as in Mark 9, 7 ), but Moses and Elijah also converse with Jesus about his coming departure from the world at Jerusalem ( 9, 30f ). Luke has omitted Markan material critical of the disciples from the Passion prediction (Mk 8, 33 ), the Transfiguration (Mk 9, 6 ), and the healing of an epileptic boy (Mk 9, 28–29 ). In doing so, Luke brings the dramatic theophany of the Transfiguration into closer proximity with the predictions of the Passion. God prevents the disciples from understanding what Jesus has said to them. Their arguments over greatness and jealousy of a outsider who uses Jesus' name ( 9, 46–50 ) show that they are not yet ready to follow Jesus in suffering.

The Journey to Jerusalem ( 9, 51–19, 27 )

The journey to Jerusalem is the time of preparation for the disciples. Teachings of Jesus, especially extended narrative parables, dominate this section of the Gospel. Miracles underline Jesus' conflict with the Pharisee teachers over the merciful application of the Law ( 13, 10–17; 14, 1–6 ); they point to the virtues of faith and gratitude (shown by a Samaritan, 17, 11–19 ), and they anticipate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem ( 18, 35–43 ). We will pick out some of the key themes in this section.

Criticism of the Pharisee Opponents of Jesus

The shape of this criticism was anticipated by the story of the sinful woman in the house of a Pharisee ( 7, 36–50 ). Luke sharpens the charges and also generalizes them to apply to Christians as well: (a) it is hypocritical to use the Law to condemn in one case what one's actions in another approve; applications of purity regulations demonstrate this principle ( 11, 37–44 ); (b) lack of love of God leads to self‐aggrandizement and even persecution of those sent by God ( 11, 45–52 ). The Pharisees are persistently pictured as driven by love of money, desire for honor among others, and self‐justification that stems from their application of the Law. The first two characteristics ( 16, 14f ) reappear in Acts as typical of magicians and false prophets in paganism (see Acts 8, 9–25 ).

Luke is using the Pharisees as characters to warn Christians about dangers that they face. We should not take a superior attitude as though such failings only happen to persons who reject Jesus' teaching. Legalistic condemnation of one group for actions that our own practices tolerate in another context, such as racism or other forms of discrimination, cannot be acceptable Christian behavior. Nor can we claim to be Christians and yet spend our lives pursuing money, social status, and other forms of power over others.

Warnings about Judgment

Luke does not anticipate the return of Jesus in judgment in the immediate future. Consequently, warnings to be watchful apply to both Jesus' opponents and Luke's Christian readers. Jesus speaks prophetic woes against unrepentant cities ( 10, 13–15 ). Demands for a sign only prove that there was more wisdom among Gentiles in the past than among God's people in the present ( 11, 29–32 ). Hypocrisy can never be hidden from God's judgment ( 12, 1–3 ). The stories of faithful and unfaithful servants warn against presuming that the delay in Jesus' return means that all restraints are removed ( 12, 35–48 ). Although they can read the signs of the weather, Jesus' contemporaries are unable to see what is before them in Jesus ( 12, 54–56 ). People must not fall into the false confidence born of the tragedies that happen to others. The fact that we have not suffered the disasters that happen to others does not mean that those who suffer are worse that we are, or that God is more pleased with us ( 13, 1–5 ). The parable of the barren fig tree provides an alternate reading of the situation. It could be that we are like the tree being given its one last chance ( 13, 6–9 ). The narrow door and shut door warn that Jesus' audience could be excluded and replaced with foreigners in the Kingdom ( 13, 22–30 ). Framing the parable of the servants entrusted with the master's wealth with the parable of the ruler who had gone into a distant country emphasizes the problem of discipleship in a time of delay ( 19, 11–27 ). Delay need not mean the absence of the Kingdom. Luke preserves sayings that point out the presence of the Kingdom for Jesus' disciples as well as its sudden arrival ( 17, 20–37 ). Luke expands the traditional saying about the coming of the Son of Man in judgment with another affirmation that the Son of Man must first suffer and be rejected by his own generation ( 17, 25 ).

Discipleship: Renunciation, Devotion, and Suffering

The journey opens with sayings that warn would‐be disciples that they must be completely devoted to the Kingdom ( 9, 57–62 ). Such disciples renounce normal human ties to family. They are the ones sent to heal and to preach the approach of the Kingdom ( 10, 9 ). Their words are equivalent to the words of Jesus ( 10, 16 ). Luke 10, 17–20 acknowledges the potential dangers that the disciples face. However, Satan's fall from heaven indicates that the mission is weakening evil's power over humanity. Stories of the apostles in Acts will illustrate the certainty of divine protection. Sayings against anxiety require the disciple to have confidence in the generosity of others ( 12, 22–34 ). Luke's addition to the traditional saying—sell possessions, give alms, and so provide yourself with heavenly treasure (v. 22 )—points to one way in which the material needs were met.

The church's economic teaching reminds Catholics that they have a moral obligation to work for a society that provides for the needs of its weakest members. The good news for the poor depends upon consistent efforts by all Christians to help those who are disadvantaged. Our social programs should not make such people feel despised or rejected. Jesus and the early church welcomed such people into the community in addition to providing food and clothing for them.

The Martha and Mary story ( 10, 38–42 ) also illustrates a discipleship that abandons the cares of this world, even the obligations of hospitality, for the one thing necessary to salvation—hearing and keeping the word of Jesus (also see 11, 27–38 ).

Disciples must also expect division. Jesus' ministry brings division even within families ( 12, 49–53; see also 2, 34f ). Jesus challenges disciples to recognize the full cost of being a disciple: both suffering and patient endurance to follow Jesus to the end are required ( 14, 25–33 ). The slave can never tell the master, “I quit” ( 17, 7–10 ).

Discipleship and Material Possessions

Riches can be a major hurdle to becoming or remaining a disciple of Jesus ( 8, 14; 18, 18–25 ). Disciples have left everything to follow Jesus ( 18, 26–30 ). Lucan parables demonstrate the folly of being possessed by wealth: the rich farmer dies before he can build his barns ( 12, 13–21 ), and the rich man who cannot see the poor Lazarus at his door is so blind to his sinful behavior that he thinks he can bargain even with Abraham from hell ( 16, 19–31 ). Alongside the call for renouncing everything, Luke presents another way in which Christians can use material possessions: they can share them with the unfortunate as the Good Samaritan does ( 10, 30–36 ). Instead of feasting with friends, they can provide for the poor, lame, homeless persons who have no resources ( 14, 12–24 ). Luke presents the parable of the dishonest steward as a warning to Christians that they cannot mix service to God with the pursuit of wealth ( 16, 1–13 ). The final episode in the travel narrative, the parable of the pounds ( 19, 11–27 ) draws on a common experience in a world without instant communications, uncertainty about the fate or return of those on a journey. Luke recognizes that Jesus may not return in judgment for a long time. Disciples must remain faithful stewards of what God has given them.

Prayer in the Life of Disciples

The infancy narrative showed the exemplary piety of those righteous persons for whom the Messiah came. Jesus frequently turns to prayer ( 3, 21; 6, 12; 9, 18.28; 11, 2; 22, 32.41; 23, 46 ), and he instructs the disciples about prayer as a response to their request to be taught as the Baptist had taught his disciples ( 11, 1; see also 5, 33 ). Luke follows the Lord's Prayer ( 11, 2–4 ) with the parable of the persistent friend (vv. 5–8 ) and instruction on the efficacy of prayer (vv. 9–13 ). The issue of efficacy returns in the parable of the importunate widow ( 18, 1–6 ). If an unjust judge with no moral conscience can be badgered into hearing the widow, how much the more quickly will God respond to the pleas of the suffering lowly ones? After all, God is not withdrawn, waiting for humans to come begging, but is actively seeking those who are lost (see chapter 15 ).

Jesus' Teaching Ministry in Jerusalem ( 19, 28–21, 38 )

Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem brings the narrative back to its beginning.

The Messiah Comes to City and Temple ( 19, 28–48 )

The Messiah who should have brought peace to Jerusalem will not be able to do so ( 19, 41–44 ). Luke has revised the story of Jesus' entry (Mk 11, 1–10 ) so that the crowd consists of followers testifying to the works Jesus has done in Galilee (v. 37 ). Jesus proceeds directly to the Temple so that the entry reflects the Greek version of Mal 3, 1 , “the Lord whom you seek shall suddenly come to his own temple.” But Jesus has not come to set up the kingdom of David ( 19, 11; Acts 1, 4 ). The conclusion of the acclamation resembles the angelic announcement that peace is coming to God's faithful ( 2, 14 ). Here, the city is the object of a prophetic lament—peace comes in the heavens, not on earth (v. 38). Allusion to Hb 2, 11, the stones crying out from the walls against a nation that plunders the people ( 19, 39f ), heightens the narrative sense of a city about to meet its divine destiny. Jesus purges the Temple so that it can be a place of prayer as well as the location for Jesus' teaching in Jerusalem ( 19, 45–48 ).

Jesus Teaches Daily in the Temple ( 20, 1–21, 4 )

A traditional series of pronouncement stories (Mk 11, 27–12, 44 ) provides the content of Jesus' teaching now that he has returned to “his Father's house” ( 2, 49 ).

The Authority For Jesus' Actions. Jesus responds with a counterquestion hinting that those who reject him do not believe the Baptist either. Compare Jesus' answer ( 20, 8 ) with his response to the Council when they demand to know whether Jesus is Messiah ( 22, 67 ). If Jesus speaks they do not believe; if Jesus asks a question they do not answer.

Wicked Tenants. Christians have traditionally read this parable as an allegory for the replacement of Israel as God's covenant people. Today we recognize that neither Jesus nor Luke think that a faithful God would give up on the Jewish people. Jesus directs this tale at his opponents. Luke has expanded the narrative with the owner's soliloquy and increasing violence against servants. Luke also adds an image of persons being crushed by the rejected stone (compare 2, 34 ), which intensifies the judgmental overtones of the saying.

Tribute Due God and Caesar. Luke's addition of verse 20 intensifies the hostility implied in the question. Jesus' opponents are seeking evidence for charges of stirring up political rebellion to bring against Jesus at trial (see 23, 2–5 ). The spies pose their malicious question under the guise of pious flattery. Jesus, they say, teaches the truth and exhibits a godlike impartiality toward persons. Again, Jesus responds with a counterquestion. He forces the opponents to acknowledge that they are carrying coins with Caesar's image and they utter Caesar's name. Jesus' reply serves as a judgment against their failure to pay God the honor due God. Readers know that Jesus' disciples have left coins and human positions of honor behind. They recognize that only God claims our loyalty. Thus, this passage does not teach the doctrine of separate powers of church and state that has traditionally been attached to it.

Resurrection of the Dead. The final challenge receives a double answer. The absurd case based on a hypothetical reading of levirate marriage (that is, that a man must marry his dead brother's wife if she had not yet borne children [see Dt 25, 5; Gn 38, 8 ]) probably came from the debates between Sadducees and Pharisees over resurrection. Jesus' first answer affirms that the “children of God” (note the contrast with the woman who dies childless) are resurrected to an angelic existence. His second answer ( 20, 37f ) points to the revelation of God to Moses. If God is God of the patriarchs, they must be living.

Jesus Challenges the Opposition. Having silenced those who came to question him, Jesus poses challenges of his own. The question about how David's Son can be greater than his ancestor draws upon Psalm 110, 1 , a text frequently used in early Christianity to speak of Jesus' exaltation. The warning about the scribes ( 20, 45–47 ) invokes the Lucan contrast between the wealthy and the oppressed poor. Jesus emerges as advocate for the poor. Finally, the comment on the widow's offering ( 21, 1–4 ) repeats the contrast between a poor person and the wealthy. The radical gift of the widow condemns the abundance that stands behind the gifts of the rich. Jesus is not approving the poverty in which the widow lives, but he is asserting that her acts demonstrate a piety greater than that of the rich.

Fate of the Temple and the Coming End‐Time ( 21, 5–38 )

The Jerusalem teaching ends with Luke's version of the apocalyptic sayings in Mark 13 . He has recast the traditional material to support the view that the end‐time is not about to come by separating the destruction of the Temple ( 21, 5–7 ) from events which signal the end‐time.

Even traditional signs of the end, false messiahs and rebellions, do not point to an immediate second coming (vv. 8–11 ). They are part of a time of persecution. God protects the Christian who must face hostility or even death from Jews, Gentiles, and even family ( 21, 12–19 ). The fall of Jerusalem does not lead to the end‐time. Instead, it inaugurates a new stage in salvation history. Jerusalem will be overrun until the age of the pagans reaches its conclusion ( 21, 20–24 ). After all these events the Son of Man will return in glory ( 21, 25–28 ). The Christian who lives in the world between Jesus' ascent to heaven and the second coming can remain confident that Jesus' words will never pass away ( 21, 29–33 ). Christians remain watchful and pray for strength to endure and appear before the Son of Man ( 21, 24–36 ).

The Passion Narrative ( 22, 1–23, 56a )

The Passion narrative is not a court record of what happened but a narrative shaped by the conviction that Jesus is the suffering Messiah, the obedient Son who has been raised by God. Apologetic motifs dominate Luke's version of the Passion. Political charges ( 23, 2.5.18f ) are false and recognized as such by Pilate, who declares Jesus innocent three times (vv. 4, 14f. 22 ). Pilate yields to pressure from Jewish leaders, to whom he hands over Jesus for crucifixion ( 23, 23–26 ).

Conspiracy to Kill Jesus ( 22, 1–6 )

Luke blames only certain Jewish leaders for the plot that costs Jesus his life ( 22, 1–2 ). Acts 1, 16–20 reports a legend that divine retribution took the life of Jesus' betrayer, Judas.

The Last Supper ( 22, 7–38 ) Jesus is aware of the suffering he is about to undergo. It provides a symbolic interpretation of the cups of wine and bread at the Passover meal. A new covenant will be made in the death of Jesus. As the Jews had been told to remember the Exodus during Passover, Jesus tells his disciples to remember his death as the new focal point of salvation history.

The second element in the Last Supper scene is the farewell speech. Such speeches were delivered by dying patriarchs to their children, encouraging them to remember the ancestor's example by remaining faithful to the Law and then predicting their failures to do so. Luke creates Jesus' speech out of four independent sayings: (a) oracle against the betrayer ( 22, 21–23 ); (b) the disciples' place in the Kingdom (vv. 24–30 ); (c) prophecy of Peter's denial and eventual restoration (vv. 31–34 ), and (d) a saying about two swords (vv. 35–38 ). Jesus sets the disciples an example in his death. The worst sin committed by a disciple is Judas's betrayal, which is rendered even more heinous by the echoes of covenant sacrifice associated with the meal.

Division and backsliding are set themes in betrayal stories. Luke relocates the dispute about greatness (see Mk 10, 42–45 ) to the Supper, where it forms a contrast with Jesus' example as “one who serves” ( 22, 27 ). The sayings critique cultural patterns of benefactor and client obligations that dominated social relationships in ancient society (vv. 22–25 ). Jesus' earlier instructions to invite persons to your banquet who cannot repay you rather than invite those, like you, who can afford to give banquets, and Jesus' own appearance as slave rather than master, provide additional illustrations of the Lucan theme of reversal in the Kingdom.

Beyond the ominous events of Jesus' death, Judas's betrayal, and Peter's denial, the discourse presents images of fulfillment. The Twelve who stand by Jesus will occupy the twelve thrones of the tribes of Israel. (Judas will be replaced; see Acts 1, 15–26 ). The meal anticipates a future celebration with Jesus in glory—a communal celebration with Jesus, not the ranked banquets of those whose idea of greatness Jesus rejects. Before this banquet can occur, Jesus must suffer to enter glory. Satan makes the threatened return ( 4, 13 ) in Judas ( 22, 3 ) and in testing Peter. Jesus' prayer prevents the sifting of the disciples from being more severe ( 22, 31f ; for sifting as an act of judgment see Amos 9, 9 ). This perception that the future will be more difficult than during Jesus' life appears in the saying about the swords. Jesus cancels the earlier rules against taking provisions ( 22, 35–36; see also 10, 1–12 ), meaning that missionaries may now provide themselves with purse, knapsack, and sandals.

Arrest of Jesus ( 22, 39–53 )

Jesus demonstrates his fidelity to God as obedient Son in prayer before his Passion. Luke deflects criticism of the disciples for failing to stay awake by alluding to their grief. They are warned that they must pray to avoid being tested. Jesus exhibits his freedom from fear over his fate in his words to those who come to seize him. He is no robber in hiding. They could have taken him publicly in the Temple, but the present hour of darkness is permitted by God's plan (v. 53 ).

Trial of Jesus ( 22, 54–23, 25 )

Fulfillment of Jesus' predictions provides further evidence that God's will, not the plan of his enemies, controls the events around Jesus' death. Luke puts the story of Peter's denial before the trial of Jesus begins. Jesus reminds Peter of the earlier prediction by looking at him; Peter breaks down in tears. When Jesus' captors challenge him to prophesy as a form of mockery ( 22, 64 ), readers have evidence from the Peter episode to show that Jesus is a true prophet. Luke does not report a legal trial by Jewish authorities. The false accusations and the verdict have been fixed before the Passion even begins. Jesus responds to the question about his messiahship with a judgment saying about the Son of Man. The Sanhedrin concludes that Jesus claims to be “Son of God” ( 22, 66–71 ). Readers know ( 22, 42 ) that Jesus will suffer death as the obedient Son of the Father.

Luke's version of the trial before Pilate insists that Jesus was innocent of the charges of stirring up political rebellion used to secure his death. Luke adds the geographical note, “from Galilee where he began even to here” ( 23, 5 ), and then clears Jesus from guilt in Galilee by having him appear before Herod (vv. 6–12 ). That scene represents the climax of the earlier accounts of Herod's reaction to Jesus, which shifted from fascination to opposition ( 9, 9; 13, 31–33 ). Herod desires a miracle, but all he sees is the silent prisoner who is the object of violent accusations and mockery. Ironically, the incident creates peace between the old enemies, Herod and Pilate (v. 12 ). Even though Pilate persists in affirming Jesus' innocence, he is manipulated by the angry crowd into handing Jesus over for crucifixion. The leaders who orchestrated Jesus' death are really the ones fostering rebellion. They ask for the release of a known murderer and rebel ( 23, 25 ).

Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus ( 23, 26–56a )

As he is led to his death, Jesus prophesies the terrible fate awaiting Jerusalem once more ( 23, 26–32; 19, 41–44 ). Scorned and considered a criminal, Jesus is able to offer salvation to the repentant sinner ( 23, 39–43 ). The crowd challenges Jesus to save himself from his fate, which, as it turns out, is the entry into paradise for both himself and those who repent and are forgiven (see 22, 28–30 ; the disciples who feast with Jesus in the Kingdom are those who have endured with him in his trials). This episode shows the reader that God's mercy can be experienced even in the midst of brutal hostility. Apocalyptic signs accompany Jesus' death, which is witnessed by the women and other followers from Galilee. The centurion proclaims Jesus' innocence while the crowd laments ( 23, 44–48 ).

Joseph, a member of the Council, buries Jesus as an act of piety. He represents the righteous of Israel who sought the Kingdom of God (v. 51 ). The women prepare to anoint the body, but they are interrupted by the Sabbath. The burial scene shows that Jesus was buried with honor, not like a criminal, and that the place was known to his followers. Luke is telling us that when the women return to complete the anointing, there can be no possibility that they have mistaken the place of burial.

Resurrection of Jesus ( 23, 56b—24, 53 )

Jesus' departure takes place in Jerusalem on the third day ( 24, 21.51 ). Luke has rewritten traditional stories about the empty tomb and about mealtime appearances of the Risen Lord in order to create a sequence of three scenes. Luke arranges these scenes so that the Resurrection faith is more and more explicitly spelled out. The Gospel concludes with the disciples offering prayer and praise in Jerusalem while waiting for the Holy Spirit to initiate the next stage in the drama of salvation, the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the whole world.

The Women at the Tomb ( 23, 56b—24, 12 )

The first of the three scenes opens when the women return to the tomb. Angels chide them for seeking the living among the dead (compare 20, 38 ). Instead of a simple proclamation of the Easter faith as one finds in Mark 16, 6b , Luke's angels remind the women of Jesus' predictions of the Passion and Resurrection. The women report that the angels said Jesus was alive ( 24, 22f ). When Luke repeats variants of a scene, we can expect the subsequent accounts to expand on hints in the first version.

Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus ( 24, 13–35 )

Confirmation of the women's report about the tomb had not yet led to disciples seeing the Risen Lord. In the second scene, Luke uses a folktale motif: the appearance of a divine being disguised as a stranger who must be shown hospitality. Jesus expands on what the angels at the tomb said, and he interprets Moses and the Prophets in order to demonstrate that the suffering of the Messiah was God's plan. Then a new theme comes in: the manifestation of Jesus in the breaking of bread. (John 21, 1–14 contains a variant of the manifestation of Jesus in the guise of a stranger at a meal.) The Messiah has suffered, entered into glory, and now renews his presence to the disciples in the meal.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples in Jerusalem ( 24, 36–43 )

Luke knows the tradition that Jesus had appeared to Peter ( 24, 34; see 1 Cor 15, 5 ) but recounts only the appearance to the disciples at a meal. The third appearance confirms the fact that the Jesus who appears is the crucified one, raised up by God, not some ghost or other psychic phenomenon. The body that was missing from the tomb has been taken up by the risen Jesus.

That bodily transformation distinguishes Christian belief in resurrection from theories about the immortality of the soul or reincarnation. Neither near‐death experiences nor so‐called psychic phenomena provide support for our Christian faith in resurrection.

Jesus Commissions the Disciples ( 24, 44–49 )

In the third scene, as in the previous two episodes, Luke reminds us that the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to fulfill Scripture (vv. 44–46 ). The story then takes up the central element in all resurrection appearance stories: commissioning the recipients. These stories all point to the future mission of the disciples and founding of Christian communities in which Jesus continues to be present. The commission in verses 47–49 is a prelude to the story of the first apostles, which Luke will tell in Acts. The disciples' mission to preach repentance and baptism to all nations in Jesus' name, beginning from Jerusalem, continues the preaching that occurred during Jesus' ministry and reflects a new stage in salvation history. (Matthew 28, 19f reports a variant tradition in which the disciples are to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe Jesus' teaching.)

Jesus Departs ( 24, 50–53 )

The ending of the Gospel reflects the departure that Jesus discussed with Moses and Elijah ( 9, 31 ), as well as showing the Son of Man in glory at the right hand of God ( 22, 69 ). Jesus' resurrection appearances are understood to be from his place of glory with God ( 24, 26 ). The stories have introduced ways in which Jesus will now be present to the church, through the Spirit promised by the Father (verse 49), and in the breaking of the bread (verse 35). The church's mission will be to take Jesus' teaching throughout the world.

Things We Have Learned from Luke

Jesus Is Savior for All Peoples

From the very beginning, Luke shows that the hopes that poor, weak, suffering, righteous persons have are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. The Gospel shows that women as well as men; foreigners and Gentiles as well as Israelites; sick, weak, sinful, and despised persons as well as the well‐off and respected people can come to Jesus. God seeks to reverse the situation of the poor and suffering. Consequently, Jesus comes as a suffering, servant Messiah, not as a liberator or king, who will take his place with the powerful of this world. Jesus' parables reveal that the love and mercy of God prompts this gift of salvation.

Disciples Participate in the Mission of Jesus

The disciples do not simply preach about Jesus or the Kingdom of God, they also participate in the reversal of roles, status, and concerns that the coming of salvation brings. Some disciples renounce everything that ties them to the social structures of the world. Others use their material resources in ways quite different from those around them. They do not seek exchanges between friends, which would create obligations to reciprocate. They do not try to pile up wealth or to indulge themselves and their friends in consuming luxurious goods. Their lives are not dominated by concern for acquiring and preserving material things. Instead, they aid people who will never be able to repay them. They give away wealth to meet the needs of other people.

Their only “anxiety” is acquiring heavenly treasure. All disciples are willing to follow Jesus' example of suffering service rather than demanding that others honor and serve them.

Prayer and Worship Are the Center of Christian Life

Even acts of mercy and compassion would not establish a relationship with God if people did not praise God in worship and ask God's assistance in meeting the challenges that the life of discipleship poses. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus sets the example. He worships with others in the synagogue and withdraws for prayer at critical moments. The disciples turn to prayer and praise after the Resurrection. Luke also contains examples of prayer in the Lord's Prayer and the canticles of the infancy narrative. Jesus warned disciples in the garden that they would have to pray to be spared testing, a reminder of the last petition of the Lord's Prayer. In Acts, the early community will continue to follow the example set by Jesus.


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