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THE ACTS OF APOSTLES – Lesson 2: Chapter 2:14-3:26

6. November, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

The Church’s Mission in Jerusalem

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Beloved heavenly Father,
On the Jewish feast of Pentecost in 30 AD, You rained down upon Jesus’ disciples the baptismal fire of Your Holy Spirit, signifying the birth of the New Covenant Church.   We thank You for Your great gift and pray that we may grow in grace through the indwelling of the Spirit as holy children who are committed to living according to Your will for our lives.   Please send Your Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our lesson as the faithful remnant of Israel becomes the first Christian community in Jerusalem and moves forward, under St. Peter’s guidance, to fulfill the mission Jesus’ gave them at His Ascension “to carry the Gospel message of salvation to Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth.   We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.   Amen.

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It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 49:6

I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.   I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
Isaiah 66:18-19

Chapter 2: The Events of Pentecost Continued

It is fifty days since the Feast of Firstfruits and Jesus’ Resurrection.   According to the Jewish liturgical calendar, the count is now completed (Acts 2:1) and it is day of the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (Lev 23:15-16).   It is a pilgrim feast in which every adult male of the covenant (age 13 and older) must present himself before God’s holy altar at the Jerusalem Temple; and he must not come “empty handed” (Ex 23:14-16, 17; Dt 16:9-12, 16-17).   The morning Temple worship service is a required holy day of worship and rest for all generations (Lev 23:21).   After the offering of the morning communal sacrifice of the Tamid lamb (Num 28:26-31), the multiple prescribed communal sacrifices for Pentecost are offered (Lev 23:18-19), as well as the required individual offerings of two loaves of leavened wheat bread from every district of the pilgrims with the required profession of faith, recalling God’s mighty works in calling Israel to holy nationhood (Lev 23:17; Dt 26:4-11; Jewish Study Bible notes page 423).   In addition, there are the festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) of groups of the worshippers which are sacrificed with the fat and blood offered at the altar while the skinned body of the victim is taken to be cooked and eaten in the city that day are (Mishnah: Hagigah).   The pilgrim feast of Pentecost was a sacred annual festival that remembered the Theophany of God at Mt. Sinai, the giving of the Law, and the formation of the Sinai covenant with Israel.   The Jews viewed Pentecost as a covenant renewal ceremony (Jubilees 6:17-21) and the Babylonian Talmud (c. 250 AD) also identifies the feast with the “day the Torah was given” to Israel (Babylonian Talmud: Pes., 68b).(1)

Acts Part II: The Church’s Mission in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-8:4)

  1. Peter’s Pentecost homily (2:14-41)
  2. The Communal Life of the Jerusalem Community   (2:42-47)
  3. Teaching at the Temple & Persecution (3:1-6:15)
  4. Martyrdom of Stephen (7:1-8:4)

Acts 2:14-36 ~ St. Peter’s Homily on the Feast of Pentecost
When the Apostles and other disciples emerged from the Upper Room after the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13), they all began to joyfully profess Jesus’ Gospel of salvation.   The people in the crowd, Jews from provinces from across the Roman Empire who had traveled to Jerusalem to attend the pilgrim feast of Pentecost, all heard the message of the Gospel in their own languages and dialects.   So joyful and exuberant were the disciples that some in the crowd accused them of being drunk on “new wine” (Acts 2:13).   The Greek word gleukos is only found in Acts 2:13 in the New Testament and refers to new, sweet wine.   It is ironic that some in the crowd should accuse the disciples of being full of “new wine” since drinking the best of the new wine is one of the symbols of the Old Testament prophets for restored communion with the Lord.   This symbol of covenant union has been fulfilled in the “new wine” of the Eucharist which is a sharing in the life blood of Christ Jesus.

Drinking Wine

[examples in Scripture]

Covenant union:
Joy of drinking good wine

Jeremiah 40:12;
Isaiah 62:8-9

Rebellion:

Becoming drunk

Isaiah 5:11-12; 28:1;
Jeremiah 8:13; 48:26; 51:7;
Joel 1:5

Judgment:

Drinking the “cup of God’s wrath”

Joel 4:13;
Isaiah 51:17; 63:2-3;
Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26; 25:27-30

Restoration:

Rejoicing in the best “new wine” at the Master’s table

Promise: Zec 9:15-16

Filled: Luke 22:19-20;
1 Corinthians 11:23-32;
Revelation 19:7-9  

Acts 2:14-24 ~ The Prophecy of the Prophet Joel
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.   Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.   15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock [literally the third hour] in the morning.   16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says,  that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh.   Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.   18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.   19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.   20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’   22 You who are Israelites, hear these words.   Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.   23 This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.   But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.

Once again Peter exercises his role as the Vicar of Christ and the ordained leader of the Church (Mt 16:17-19) by addressing the crowd of Jews in the street outside the Upper Room.   This is the first of five homilies Peter will deliver giving the kerygma (Greek for “proclamation”) of the Gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:14-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43).

St. Peter’s Pentecost homily in Acts 2:14-41 can be divided into three parts:

  1. The Prophecy of the Prophet Joel 2:28-32 LXX [3:1-5 NAB] ( Acts 2:14-25 )
  2. King David’s Prophecies of the Messiah ( Acts 2:26-36)
  3. The Crowd’s Response to Peter’s Homily ( Acts 2:37-41 )

It is significant that verse 14 records that Peter stood up with the eleven Apostles.   He is one of the Twelve but here the emphasis is on Peter who is with but separate/stands alone from the eleven.
Question: What might be the significance of this distinction?
Answer: Perhaps it is because Peter is not simply one of twelve but the recognized leader of the eleven which is the first apostolic college of the Church.

Peter speaks as the leader of the apostolic body as he did in Acts 1:15 and continues to do in Acts 2:37; 3:4, 6, 12; 4:8, 13; 5:3, 8-9, 15, 29; chapters 10-11 and 15:7-11.   In Peter’s homily to the Jewish crowd at Pentecost, he preaches as Jesus taught the Apostles and disciples in Luke chapter 24, referring to Sacred Scripture that is fulfilled in Jesus the promised Messiah.   Peter quotes from several Scripture passages and applies them to the present situation.   He quotes from the book of the Prophet Joel and from the Psalms of David.   All quotes and references to Old Testament Scripture appear to be from the Septuagint (LXX) translation (some are the same in the Greek as in the Hebrew texts).     Peter alters some words in the passages slightly to fit the present occasion.

He begins his discourse by defending the disciples (men and women) and telling the crowd that they have not consumed too much wine (the accusation made in 2:13), pointing out that it is only “the third hour” or 9 in the morning our time.
Question: What is significant about the third hour or 9 in the morning?   What happens every morning at 9 AM but is especially important this morning.   See the Chart on the
Answer: It is the hour when the morning liturgy begins at the Temple and it is the reason there is such a large crowd of people in the street.   They are making their way to the Temple for the morning worship service and the observance of the Feast of Pentecost and its required sacrifices that must be made in addition to the morning Tamid sacrifice.

In his defense of the Apostles and disciples who are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter begins by quoting the Messianic prophecy from the book of the Prophet Joel in the Greek Septuagint translation (LXX). In 2:16 Peter says No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: Then he quotes from LXX Joel 2:28-32 (3:1-5 other translations like the NAB) ~ 17 It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says,  that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh.   Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.   18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.   19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.   20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’

Peter changes the first words of LXX Joel 2:28 (3:1 in the NAB), “in those days,” to “in the last days.”     This doesn’t refer to the “last days” after the Second Advent of Christ but to these “last days” that signal the Final Age of Man “putting the miracle of Pentecost in 30 AD in an eschatological context.   In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is a gift bestowed only on certain members of the covenant acting specifically as God’s agents.   Now, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not limited; it is eschatological in that it inaugurates the new age, the Final Age of man that will end in the “Day of the Lord” that is the Last Judgment.   He also adds “God” to verse 17 when Peter tells the crowd “God says that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh.”

Question: What is meant by “all flesh,” why is the wording important to this crowd, and what theme of Luke do these words support?   See the same wording in John the Baptist’s quote of Is 40:5 in Lk 3:4-6.
Answer: “All flesh” means God’s salvation if open to all humanity and not just to the Jews.   The wording points to Luke’s theme of universal salvation.

Question: The events at Pentecost 30 AD, not only fulfill the prophecy of Joel 3:1-5 but what other prophecy of universal salvation that was made when baby Jesus was dedicated at the Temple at the time of Mary’s purification?   See Lk 2:30-32.
Answer: Simeon’s prophecy of salvation being extended to the Gentiles when he held the baby Jesus in his arms at the Temple forty days after Jesus was born.

Acts 2:17 and Joel 3:1 ~ Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.

Visions and dreams are significant vehicles of prophetic activities in the Old and New Testaments including Acts.(2)   The prophecy in Joel speaks of both men and women (sons and daughters, servants and handmaids) being given the spiritual gift of prophecy through God’s Spirit in verses 17 and 18.   This was surely the case on the New Covenant Church’s Pentecost Sunday.   We know that the community of those praying in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary included Apostles and Jesus’ men and women disciples (Acts 1:13-14).
Question: Can you think of some examples where visions and/or dreams were prophetic communications from God to individuals?
Answer: Possible answer:

  • Joseph son of Jacob had several prophetic dreams in Genesis
  • The call of the prophet Samuel
  • The Prophet Nathan’s messages to David
  • The visions of the Prophet Daniel
  • The dream in which an angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife
  • The warning Joseph received in a dream to take the holy family into Egypt and later when it was safe to return
  • The visions of John in the Book of Revelation.

Question: What petition did Moses make to God that is fulfilled in this event?   See Num 1:24-29.
Answer: It was Moses’ prayer “that all the people of the LORD were prophets!   Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”   In the event of the Second Great Pentecost, Moses’ petition was fulfilled.

Peter’s point is that this prophecy of the “last days” (“days” in the context of an Age in salvation history) has been fulfilled in the presence of the crowd.
Question: How has the prophecy been fulfilled?
Answer: The the “sons and daughters” of the redeemed Israel, who are the obedient “servants and handmaids” of God, have been filled with God’s Spirit and have proclaimed the Gospel message of salvation to the Jews and to the Gentile converts in the crowd “representatives of “all flesh.”

Acts 2:19 and Joel 2:28-32 LXX (3:1-5 in the NAB) 19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.   20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid [manifest] day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’  
Question: What is the name that must be called in order to be saved?   See Acts 12:4; Rom 10:9-13.
Answer: Jesus!

“The great and splendid day of the Lord” the New American translation is in the Hebrew text translated “the great and terrible/awesome day of the Lord.”   In the LXX quoted by Peter, the word epiphane should probably be better translated “the great and manifest day of the Lord” (Johnston, The Acts of the Apostles, page 50).   The language of this passage is apocalyptic (see Amos 5:18, 20).   The “day of the Lord” no longer just refers to Yahweh, God of Israel’s final Day of Judgment (see Amos 5:18Mal 3:2, 19-21Joel 2:1-3Zep 1:14-18), but to the manifestation of the Christ in the Messianic Age (the Final Age of mankind) and to His Second Advent when He will return in glory to judge the nations.   It is interesting, that in Peter’s quote from the LXX that he does not include the last half of verse 21 (see Joel 3:5b in the Hebrew text; 2:32b in the LXX).   The significance of that omission will become clear later in its fulfillment in the response of the crowd to Peter’s homily.   The first part of verse 32 from Joel 2 LXX [3:5 NAB] “calling on the name” and “being saved” is also cited by St. Paul (Rom 10:13; also see echoes 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tim 2:22 and Heb 11:16), and it will be repeated throughout Acts (i.e., 4:12; 7:59; 9:14, 21; 22:16) and refers to Jesus Christ.

The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost inaugurates a new age, but it is not yet the climax of that age.   The climax of that age will come in Jesus’ Second Advent.   See the same imagery in Matthew 24:29-31 when Jesus said: Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.   And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.   And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Also see imagery similar to Matthew 24:29-31 in:

  • Daniel 7:13 for the Son of Man “coming in glory.”
  • Zechariah 12:10-14 linking “the tribes of the earth mourning” for the Messiah as in Mt 24:30 ~ I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition, and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Christ will return with the sound of the trumpet as in Matthew 24:31 (also Zeph 1:16 and Zec 9:14b).

Question: Who can be saved on this great Day of Judgment?
Answer: Only those who call on the name of Jesus will be saved.

Christians are defined as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus (see Acts 4:12; 9:14, 21; 22:16; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tim 2:22).   “Lord” no longer only refers to God the Father but also to God the Son (see Acts 3:16; Phil 2:11).   On Judgment Day people will be either saved or condemned according to whether or not they “invoke the name” by acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior:

  • There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).
  • … for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.   For one believes with the heart and so if justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved (Rom 10:9-10).

In Acts 2:22-24   Peter continues addressing the crowd: “You who are Israelites, hear these words.   Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.   23 This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.   24 But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death [Hades], because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”
For three years Jesus ministered to the “Israelites.”   This is the inclusive term for all descendants of the twelve tribes and includes Galileans, Jews from Judea, and all those living outside the Holy Land in the diaspora of the Gentile world.   Peter tells them that it was God’s Divine Plan that Jesus should suffer and die to be raised up from death.   This, he says, they should understand from the prophecies in Sacred Scripture (see  Lk 18:31; 22:22; 24:25-27, 44; and repeated in Acts 3:18; 4:28; 8:32-35; 9:22; 10:43; 13:39; 17:2-3; 18:5, 28; 26:22-23, 27; 28:23).

Question: What did St. Peter say about God’s plan for Jesus in 1 Peter 1:10-12, 18-21?
Answer: It was God’s divine plan since the foundation of the world that Christ should die as the unblemished victim of sacrifice in atonement for the sins of mankind.

Peter acknowledges that the Jews were responsible for the Messiah’s death at the hands of the pagan Romans, but their actions were also part of God’s plan:   24 But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death [Hades], because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” It is God who released Jesus from the state into which all the dead were destined to descend before the Resurrection of the Messiah “Hades in Greek and Sheol in Hebrew (also referred to in English translations as “the abode of the dead,” “the grave,” or “the netherworld” as in the NAB translation of Acts 2:27 and 31).     Both the righteous and the wicked went to Sheol/Hades in death.   It was a place of purification of sin, judgment for sinners, and a place to await the Messiah for the righteous.   See Sirach 3:1-12 where verse 7 refers to the promised liberation of the righteous from Sheol described in 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6.   Jesus describes the different conditions in Sheol for the righteous and the sinner in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31 (also see CCC 632-633).

Question: Why was it necessary that Jesus should descend to Sheol/Hades, the grave/abode of the dead and why couldn’t He be held there?
Answer: Upon His death Jesus descended into Sheol/Hades just like all humans because He was fully man, but Sheol/Hades could not hold Him because He was also fully God.

Acts 2:25-36 ~ King David’s Prophecies of the Messiah  
25 “For David says of him:  I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.   26 Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.   28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’   29 My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.   30 But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.   32 God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.   33 Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear.   34 For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said:  The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” 36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Continuing his theme of the prophecies that pointed to the coming of the Messiah and the new age Jesus was destined to inaugurate that are foretold in Sacred Scripture, Peter now turns to the Psalms of David.   According to Jewish tradition, King David was born and later died on the Feast of Pentecost c. 970 BC.

Peter begins by quoting first, without any additions or alterations, from Psalms 15:8-11 LXX (16:8-11 in the Hebrew translation in NAB) in Acts 2:25-28: For David says of him:  I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.   26 Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.   28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’   It is a psalm attributed to David in its title, and is therefore understood to be a reflection of David’s personal experience/understanding.

Question: Viewing this quotation from the perspective of Jesus’ Resurrection, what words and phrases appear to anticipate those God ordained events?
Answer: Even in His darkest moments on the Cross, Jesus did not despair because He knew God was with Him, and He knew the promise of His Resurrection.   His flesh was not abandoned to Hades nor did His Body suffer corruption.   Jesus knew that He was going to be resurrected and that He would ascend to the Father.

Acts 2:29 My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.  
According to a long standing Christian tradition, dating back to the 4th century AD when St. Helena went to the Holy Land to identify the sites associated with Christ and the early Church, the Upper Room was built above the tomb of King David.   Most modern scholars dismiss this tradition, but in St. Peter’s statement in verse 29 you can almost see him standing outside the house with the Upper Room and gesturing to the tomb of David on the first floor.   According the Scripture, David was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem (1 Kng 2:10).   According to the Jewish historian/priest Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), there could be no graves in the holy city of Jerusalem except those of David and his family and the prophetess Huldah (Antiquities of the Jews, 7.15.3; 13.8.4; Jewish Wars, 1.2.5).(3)

Acts 2:30 But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne…
Question: God made an eternal covenant with David.   What was the essence of that unconditional royal grant covenant?   See 1 Sam 7:1216; 23:5Ps 89:21, 29-30; 110:1-5; 132:11-18; Sir 45:25.   For more information on the differences between royal grant and conditional covenants see the document “The Covenant Treaty Format of the Old and New Testaments: Treaties with God as Sovereign Lord.”
Answer: The covenant was based on the unconditional promise that David’s throne would endure forever and his descendant would rule an eternal kingdom.

Question: Who first acknowledges that Jesus is the Messianic heir of David?   See Lk 1:32.
Answer: It is announced at His Incarnation to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

The Messianic title “son of David” was often given to Jesus by others in the Gospels (see Mt 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; Mk 12:35; Jn 7:42).

Acts 2:31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.
Since God’s anointed would not see “corruption” (Acts 2:27 and LXX 16:10) as is the case for all members of humanity, it can be assumed that David had foreknowledge of the Messianic heir’s resurrection from the dead.   Peter’s point is that this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth and proves He is the Davidic Messiah, as he states in verse 32:  God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.   Under the Law, two or more witnesses are needed to establish a fact in a court of law (Dt 19:15), and here all the members of the Christian community are testifying to the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.

Acts 2:33 Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear.   In fact, Peter tells them, they have proof of Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (position of honor and power) in what they have witnessed today in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!

34 For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said:  The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” David could not have been talking about himself in this psalm, Peter continues, because he did not go up to heaven but was buried and confined to the grave and corruption.   But Jesus did ascend to heaven (as the disciples witnessed).   And to make the point Peter quotes from Psalm 110:1 (109:1 LXX), the psalm most often quoted by Jesus and the interpretation of which He taught the Sadducees and Scribes in Luke 20:41-44.   Jesus taught that in this psalm David is referring to the Messiah and not to his earthly son because, Jesus says, “David here calls him Lord; how then can he be his son?” (Lk 20:44).
Acts 2:36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.   This is the conclusion of Peter’s argument from Scripture.   It is by the proof of His Resurrection that Jesus can be declared the “Lord” of whom Psalms 109:1 LXX (110:1 NAB) speaks and the Messiah referred to in Psalms 15:7-11 LXX (16:7-11 NAB) who was not abandoned to Sheol!

Acts 2:37-41 ~ The Crowd’s Response to Peter’s Homily
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”   38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.   39 For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.”   40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves [be saved] from this corrupt generation.”   41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.   [..] literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 326 (passive tense “be saved” and not “save yourselves”; Johnson, the Acts of the Apostles, page 58).

Moved by the force of the arguments offered in St. Peter’s homily, the Jews accept the proofs that Peter has offered from Scripture concerning the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth.     Realizing that they have indeed crucified their Messiah, the crowd cries out in horror “What are we to do, my brothers?” It is the same question the crowd asked St. John the Baptism in Luke 3:10.   The people are asking St. Peter what they can do to separate themselves from their failed generation.   Their plea picks up on a part of the Joel passage that Peter didn’t quote from the end of the last verse (2:32b LXX; 3:5b in NAB).

To be saved from a larger part of the generation means to become a select group of a remnant people.   Peter’s quote from the prophet Joel left out the last line of the prophecy, but that line is fulfilled in the plea of the crowd (see missing line in underlined text): Joel 3:5 in the Hebrew text of the NAB reads: Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the LORD; for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, as the LORD has said, and in Jerusalem survivors whom the LORD shall call.   But the Septuagint [LXX] translation of Joel 2:32 is even more appropriate to the event and reads: Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord.   For it will be in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem that there will be a remnant [estai anasozomenos], just as the Lord said, and they will be preached the good news [gospel = euangelizomenoi], those whom the Lord summons (Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, page 61). The Upper Room, if it was indeed above King David’s tomb, is located in what was called the “city of David” on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

Question: What is Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38-40?
Answer: Peter tells those who have responded positively to his Gospel message to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus.”   Through baptism by water and the Spirit they will be separated from their “corrupt generation” and become part of the faithful remnant of Israel that is ready to carry the Gospel message of the Messiah to the ends of the earth.

Repentance leads to baptism and baptism in the “name of Jesus” results in the forgiveness of sins (personal sin and original sin) and the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.   This is not in contradiction to the Trinitarian baptismal formula Jesus gave the Apostles in Matthew 28:19, but is a summation “in the “name” of Jesus implies baptism as Jesus’ instructed.   The indwelling of the Holy Spirit generates new life in the believer who is no longer a child in the family of Adam but becomes a new creature and an adopted son or daughter of God.   It is the rebirth that Jesus spoke of in John 3:3-7, 16-18.   The Apostles and disciples, obedient to Jesus’ command to baptize, will continue to make use of baptism by water and the Spirit as the sacred   ritual of initiation into the Kingdom of the Church (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 19:5).

Question: To whom is this promise of forgiveness and new life extended according to verse 39: For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call …?

Answer: The promise extends to all generations of mankind: from the people who were listening to Peter, to their descendants, and to the Gentiles in distant lands.   The promise of salvation is extended to whoever hears the message of the Gospel and responds in faith and belief.

Acts 2:40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves [be saved]   from this corrupt generation.”   The literal translation in the passive “Be saved” is a link to the “shall be saved” of Peter’s quote from Joel in Acts 2:21.
Question: Why does Peter call his generation “corrupt”/ “perverse”?   Who else used the same harsh language to define this generation and what other generation of the covenant people was also so harshly judged and why?   What did these two generations have in common?   See Mt 17:17; Lk 9:41; Num 14:27, 35Dt 32:5, 20.
Answer: Jesus judged His generation’s failure in the same way God judged the Exodus generation.   No two generations in the history of mankind had witnessed so many great works of God and yet so many still failed to put their faith and trust in God.

Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
The Exodus generation was also judged by God to be a perverse/corrupt generation.   The Exodus generation was the first generation of a corporate covenant with God.   All previous covenants were with individuals and their families.   At Mt. Sinai God make a covenant with an entire people who were united as one body in what we call the Old Covenant Church (see Ex 19:5 in the singular).   The New Covenant in Christ is the second corporate covenant in which all who profess Christ Lord and Savior are united in the Body of Christ which is the New Covenant Church (1 Cor 12:12, 27).

Question: What loss through a communal sin of the Old Covenant Exodus generation Church is reversed in the three thousand who were added on the day the New Covenant Church was born through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost?   See Ex 20:3-5; 32:1-8, 15-20, 25-28.
Answer: The newly formed covenant people of the Exodus generation broke their covenant with God when they made and worshipped the image of a golden calf, a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments.   In the battle that followed between the golden calf worshippers and the Levities who battled against them as God’s holy warriors, 3,000 Israelites were lost to the covenant people.   In response to St. Peter’s homily on Pentecost Sunday, 3,000 were added to the New Covenant people of God “restoring what had been lost in the first corporate covenant at Sinai.

Acts 2:42-47 ~ The Communal Life of the Jerusalem Community
42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to many wonders and to the prayers.   43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the Apostles.   44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.   46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the Temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.   They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.   And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Question: What three characteristics identified the members of the Jerusalem faith community?   See Acts 2:42-47 and CCC 949, 1329, 1342-43, 2624.
Answer:

  1. They were devoted to hearing and putting into practice the teaching of the Apostles.
  2. The lived communally as a family, sharing the goods in common.
  3. Their religious life was centered on the Eucharistic.

You will recall that many members of the early faith community were from the Galilee and had left their former occupations to follow Christ.   Those who lived in Jerusalem helped to support the Galileans and the poor who joined the community by selling property and material goods and sharing the money to support the community.   Although “breaking bread” suggests a typical Jewish meal in which the “father” or the one presiding over the meal broke the bread and pronounced a blessing before dividing the bread, for Christians it became the phrase to describe the Eucharistic meal and the Agape supper that came before as celebrated at this point in private homes, like the Upper Room (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 24:351 Cor 10:16; 11:20-34; Didache, 9:3-4).   They still attended daily liturgy in the Temple since at this stage they did not see a dividing line between Old and New Covenant worship “to them Christ was simply the fulfillment of what came before.

Chapter 3: Peter and John Teach and Heal in the Jerusalem Temple

Acts 3:1-4:22 is a story in five parts:

  1. The healing of a beggar who was lame from birth (Acts 3:1-10)
  2. Peter’s 2nd kerygmatic discourse (Acts 3:11-26)
  3. The religious authorities arrest Peter and John (Acts 4:1-4)
  4. Peter’s 3rd kerygmatic discourse before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5-12)
  5. The ruling of the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:13-22)

Acts 3:1-10 ~ The Healing of a Crippled Beggar
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the Temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer [at the ninth hour].   2 And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the Temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the Temple.   3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the Temple, he asked for alms.   4 But Peter looked intently at him as did John, and said, “Look at us.”   5 He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.   6 Peter said, “I have neither silver or gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”   7 Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.   8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.   9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him. [..] literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 326.

Please notice that ever since Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the Upper Room for the Last Supper, that these two are often paired together: Lk 22:8; Jn 13:22-24; 20:1-6; 21:20-21 (the “other/beloved” disciple is identified as John by the Church Fathers); Acts 1:13 (paired in the last list of Apostles); 3:1, 3, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14 and Gal 2:9.

Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the Temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer [at the ninth hour].
There could only be one altar of sacrifice to the God of Israel and one Sanctuary unlike the pagan gods for whom multiple altars and temples of worship were established.   The first Sanctuary was the one built by Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai (Ex 25-31 and 36-40).   The furnishings of the Sanctuary and the altar of sacrifice were copies of what Moses saw in the heavenly Sanctuary (Ex 25:1-9).   This was a movable Sanctuary that traveled with the Israelites during their forty years in the wilderness.   When David conquered Jerusalem, the Sanctuary was permanently settled in Jerusalem as the place God chose as “a home for His name” (Dt 12:10-12; 1 Kng 11:36; 1 Chr 6:6).   David’s son Solomon built the first Jerusalem Temple on the heights of Mt. Moriah in the 10th century BC (2 Chr 3:1-2).   The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC.   After the Jews returned from exile seventy years later, they built the second Jerusalem Temple.   When Herod the Great became the Roman appointed King of the Jews, he began a major building project to expand and beautify the Temple, making it one of the most beautiful buildings in the ancient world.   Each of the nine gates that led into the Temple precincts had huge double doors.   With the exception of the Corinthian gate that was made of bronze embellished with silver and gold, all the other gates leading into the Temple area were wooden doors that were completely covered with gold and silver on the front and back of each door (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 5.5.3 [201-204].

Question: See the chart in the Appendix to this lesson.   What happened at the Temple at three in the afternoon every day?   You will recall this is the same time Jesus gave up His life on the altar of the Cross (i.e., Mk 15:34, 37).
Answer: It was the hour of the afternoon Liturgical worship service when the second communal Tamid sacrifice was slain and the Temple doors opened for prayer and worship.

Acts 3:2 And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the Temple called “the Beautiful Gate’ every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the Temple.  
The identification and location of the “Beautiful Gate” has been a highly debated topic for Bible scholars.(4)  This man’s deformity prevented him from attending worship in the inner courts of the Temple, and he counted on the generosity of those coming to the Temple to support himself (Lev 21:16-18; Dt 15:21; Mal 1:8, 13; Mishnah: Kelim, 1:5).   He was crippled from birth and was now over forty years old (Acts 4:22).
Acts 3:5-6 He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.   6 Peter said, “I have neither silver or gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”  
The gift Peter had to give the man was beyond any monetary contribution.   Peter’s mention of “silver or gold” may be a reference to the beautifully embellished gate they were standing near that was covered with silver and gold.
Question: What promise did Jesus make His disciples in John 15:16, 25-27 and 16:23-24 that was fulfilled in Acts 3:6-8?
Answer: Through the power of the Holy Spirit they would testify about Him and that whatever they ask in the name of Jesus they will receive through the power of the Spirit.

For the ancients the “name” of a person was inseparable from the person himself and expressed the true moral essence of that person (see for example Ex 3:13).   By invoking the “name of Jesus,” Peter has brought the life-force of Jesus into action.

Question: What other requirement is there for the active power of Jesus to be manifested in the invocation of His name?   See Mt 8:10-13; Acts 4:16; 19:13-17.
Answer: Genuine faith in both the one receiving the healing and the one calling on the power of Jesus’ holy name and also submission to the will of God for both.

Jesus asked for faith when He worked His miracles (see Mt 8:13; 9:1-2Mk 5:36-43; 10:51-52; Lk 17:14-19).   Miracles require faith, without which the miracle loses its true significance since faith requires the submission/sacrifice of the whole person “mind and heart “to the will of God for his/her life.

Acts 3:7 Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.   8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.
Jesus healed the lame and the sick in fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing   (Is 35:5-6).   It is the same power Jesus gave the Apostles when He sent them on their first missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel (Lk 9:1-2), and that power and fulfillment continues in the Messianic Era as the crowds at the Temple witness the miracle of the healing of the man who was lame from birth.   As in Jesus’ acts of healing, what Peter did was not simply as act of mercy, but it was a sign of Christ’s power in affirming the Apostle’s mission in proclaiming the Kingdom.

Acts 3:8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.   Those who were deformed in any way were not allowed into the Temple past the outer courts.   There were three inner courts: the first was Court of the Women, the second was the Court of Israel and the third was the Court of the Priests where the sacrificial altar was located.   Notice that the healed man now enters into the Temple proper.
Question: What does his healing signify beyond the physical restoration?
Answer: He has also been restored to communal worship.

Acts 3:11-26 ~ Peter’s Homily to the Jews at the Temple
11 As he clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”   12 When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently as us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?   13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him.   14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.   15 The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.   16 And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you.   17 Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; 18 but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.   19 Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, 20 and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.   22 For Moses said:  A prophet like me will the Lord, you God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.   Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’   24 Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.   25 You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham,  In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’   26 For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Peter, John and the restored man have entered the gate and are now in Solomon’s Portico, a colonnade running along the inner side of the wall enclosing the outer court on the eastern side of the Temple.   It had rows of columns 27 feet high and a roof of cedar and was used as a place to gather and to discuss Scripture (also see Jn 10:23 and Acts 5:12; The Archaeological Study Bible, page 1742).   In verses 12-26 Peter puts the miracle of healing the lame man in the context of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   This is Peter’s 2nd kerygmatic discourse as he proclaims the Gospel to the Jewish crowd in the Temple.
Question: How does Peter begin by putting the healing of the lame man in the proper perspective?
Answer: Peter tells the crowd that is was not their miracle by which the man was healed, but it was Jesus the Messiah who healed him.

Peter tells the crowd they should be amazed.   The prophet Isaiah listed the lame among those to receive Messianic healing (Is 35:3, 5-6; Lk 7:22) and are among the outcasts that Jesus said are to be invited to banquets (Lk 14:13, 21) and by extension those to whom Jesus will extent the invitation to attend the eschatological banquet at the end of time.

Acts 3:13-14 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him.   14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  
In verse 13 Peter recalls God’s words to Moses in the event of the burning bush in Exodus 3:15 when He told Moses how to explain His identity to the children of Israel: God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD [Yahweh], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”   It is the God of Israel who sent Moses to liberate the Israelites from the Egyptians who also sent His servant Jesus to liberate them from sin and death.   The use of the word “Servant” identifies Jesus with the “Suffering Servant” prophecies of Isaiah (52:13-53:12).   This is the same Jesus that they denied and handed over to be crucified instead of the murderer Barabbas (Mt 27:20-23; Mk 15:11-15; Lk 23:18-25).

The words “Holy One” and “Righteous One” in verse 14 are titles of God (see Lev 11:44-45; Ps 78:41/ 77:41 LXX; 99:5/98:5 LXX; 103:1/102:1 LXX; Is 43:3; 49:7; etc.).   Jesus said no one is good/righteous but God (Lk 18:19).   Jesus is identified by the title “Holy One” by the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:35 and the demons who knew His true identity addressed Him as “holy one of God” (Lk 4:34).   In using these titles for Jesus, Peter identifies Jesus not as a human Messiah but as God.   He makes the same claim in the next verse when he calls Jesus the “author of life,” making the contrast between the one who gives life (Jesus) and the murderer Barabbas who takes it away:   15 The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.   And in his next statement, Peter links the lame man’s healing to Jesus Resurrection in verse 15: 16 And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you.

Despite his harsh assessment of the Jew’s rejection of Jesus, Peter mercifully tempers that judgment by saying: 17 Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did …
Question: What statement did Jesus make from the Cross that expresses this same mercy to His Jewish kinsmen? See Lk 23:34.
Answer: Jesus asked God the Father to forgive them because they didn’t understand what they were doing.

Acts 3:18-21 but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.   19 Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, 20 and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.
Peter makes another reference to the suffering Servant prophecies of Isaiah 53, a teaching Jesus also gave to the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24:25-27, and to the other prophecies of the prophets fulfilled in Jesus, which Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 24:27, 44-47 and during the forty days before His Ascension.   Peter then calls the crowd to repentance and conversion, which is a turning away from sin and a turning back to God, and to receive forgiveness for their sins.   They must repent, convert their hearts to Christ and through Him be purified of their sins if they want to be a part of the universal restoration promised by the prophets (ie., Is 56:1-8)

Question: Why does Peter say Jesus has ascended to heaven?
Answer: It is God’s divine plan in order for the Messiah to effect the universal restoration of mankind spoken of by the prophets.   When that restoration is completed, the Messiah will return.

Acts 3:22 For Moses said:  A prophet like me will the Lord, you God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.   Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’
Peter quotes from Deuteronomy 18:15 and 19, identifying the prophecy as fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the supreme prophet.   It is the prophecy God gave Moses that one day He would send a great prophet to the Israelites, from among their own people, and anyone who did not listen God’s prophet would be cut off from the covenant people and thereby cut off from God.
Question: At the epiphany of the Transfiguration, what did the divine voice of God the Father say from heaven to those who witnessed the event?   See Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7 and Lk 9:35.
Answer: In each of the accounts in the Gospels, God identifies Jesus as His Son and includes the command “Listen to him.”   It is the same command concerning the promised divine prophet.

Acts 3:24-26 Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.   25 You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham,  In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’   26 For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
God made a three-fold covenant with Abraham, the patriarchal father of the Jews, in which He promised a kingdom, many descendants, and a world-wide blessing (Gen 12:1-3).
Question: How is the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham fulfilled in Jesus?   See Gal 3:13-14, 29.
Answer: Peter’s point is that the promise of the world-wide blessing made to Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.   It is the blessing of the extension of God’s covenant relationship beyond Israel and the gift of salvation to the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham, the children of the Old Covenant who are now the children of the New Covenant Kingdom in Christ Jesus.   They are the ones chosen to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth.   In this way, all who believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, became the true descendants of Abraham and the heirs of the covenant promises.

Acts 3:26  For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Israel was always intended to be God’s vehicle of salvation extended to the Gentile nations of the earth (Is 42:6; 49:6; 66:18-19).   Jesus the Messiah came to call a redeemed Israel to fulfill this mission.   If they want to receive this blessing, they need to turn away from evil, repent their sins, turn to Christ to be saved and blessed to carry forth the mission that is their destiny.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: After hearing Peter’s homily in Acts 2:38-40, the crowd realizes that they have killed God’s Son who is their promised Messiah, and in their heartfelt distress they ask St. Peter what they can do to be saved from their “corrupt generation. “   What does Peter’s answer to the crowd mean to us and how does that answer reverberate down through the generations?
Answer: What it means to us is that there is nothing so horrible, no sin so great, that God will not be willing to accept genuine repentance, whether from the repentance of one who then submits to the Sacrament of Baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ,” or the repentance of a baptized Christian who returns to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.   There can be no restoration of fellowship with God without genuine repentance of sins.   Those who repent and are baptized became a part of the “faithful remnant” of their corrupt generation.   All Christians of every generation are called to be the “faithful remnants” of their corrupt generations.

Question: What miracles of faith have you witnessed in your life?   Do you walk daily with God in seeking His will for your life or are you only a sporadic visitor or sometime companion, calling on God only in times of distress and using God like a lucky “rabbit’s foot” when you are fearful or unhappy?   That kind of relationship with God often leads not to faith but to disappointment and unbelief.   What are some good “faith practices” that encourage a more trusting and intimate relationship with God?

Acts of Apostles – Lesson 1: Introduction and Chapter 1:1-2:13

4. November, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

Prologue and
The Preparation for the Church’s Mission

Lord,
Your mission statement to the Church to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth is the same mission that every professing Christian accepts in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  In that sacrament our souls are sealed by the Holy Spirit in the sacred covenant bond of that commissioning as we willingly take up the same mission You gave to the Apostles and disciples at the time of Your Ascension into the heavenly realm.  In our study of Acts of Apostles, inspire us with the stories of Your faithful disciples and Apostles that we too, empowered by Your Holy Spirit, might march forth in our homes, communities and nations to advance the cause of the Gospel and Your gift of eternal salvation.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Mark 16:15-16

All Scripture passages quoted in this study are from the New American Bible unless otherwise designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBGE or IBHE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English or Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English).  The designation CCC indicates a reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  A table of the Catechism reference pertinent to the lesson will be found in a table at the end of each lesson.

Introduction

Jesus’ marching orders for the ministers of His Church that are quoted in the Scripture passages above have come to be known as “the Great Commission.”  The book of Praxeis Apostolicon in Greek and Acta [Actus] Apostolorum in Latin, literally ACTS [OF] APOSTLES, is the story of some (not all) of the courageous Apostles and disciples of Jesus who accepted that holy mission and began to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to the most remote corners of the Roman world.

Acts of Apostles is Part II of St. Luke’s two volume work on the mission of the Messiah.  In Part I of his Gospel, St. Luke presented Jesus’ mission to establish the Kingdom of God in bringing salvation to the “lost sheep of Israel” and to mankind in general.  In Part II St. Luke presents an historical account of the Church’s development from the Ascension of Christ to St. Paul’s journey to Rome and his house arrest in Rome awaiting his hearing before Caesar.  St. Luke places his story in the context of world history.  In his Gospel he provided the names of the civil and religious leaders (Lk 3:1-2), just as he does in Acts where St. Luke also identifies political leaders who are well known from secular sources.  But most importantly, St. Luke presents the compelling story of how Jesus’s Apostles and disciples carried forward the mission of the universal Kingdom under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  It is the book that comes between the Gospels and the Epistles and is the hinge upon which the New Testament turns from the Old Covenant fulfilled in Christ and the New Testament Church which is sacramentally the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

The Author:  According to a tradition that has never been seriously challenged, St. Luke is the author of the two volumes of the Gospel According to Luke and Acts of Apostles.  In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul identifies Luke as “the beloved physician”: Greetings from my beloved friend Luke, the physician, and also from Demas (Col 4:14)We also know from Paul’s letters to St. Timothy and to Philemon, Apphia and Archippus that Luke was with Paul during his imprisonment in Rome (2 Tim. 4:11 and Philemon 24).  In fact the author of Acts identifies himself as a companion on many of St. Paul’s journeys as implied by his use of the first person plural in many passages; see Acts 16:10-17 (ten times); 20:5-15 (12 times); 21:1-18 (26 times) and 27:1-28:15 (33 times).  These accounts also provide many accurate geographic details and historic details that testify to the presence of the writer when these events took place.

By eliminating other companions of St. Paul named in Acts, we are left with St. Luke as the one who must have been Paul’s companion during the last visit to Jerusalem, in Caesarea and in Paul’s journey to Rome.  In addition, we have the testimony of the Church Fathers like St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (d. 180/200 AD) who wrote defending St. Paul as an “apostle” on the testimony of his conversion experience recorded by St. Luke: Neither can anyone contend that Paul was not an Apostle, when he was elected to it, nor can anyone prove Luke guilty of falsehood, when he announces the truth to us most diligently  … that all who follow Luke’s later testimony in which he treats of the acts and doctrine of the Apostles, having an unadulterated rule of truth, may be saved (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.15.1).  Luke is also named as the author of Acts in the Muratorian Fragment that is dated to c. 155 AD: The Acts of the Apostles, however, were written by Luke in one book addressed to the most excellent Theophilus; and he makes it clear that these events took place in his presence, for he omits the passion of Peter, as also the journey of Paul when he went from the city [Rome] to Spain (Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. I, page 107).

Other than St. Paul’s identification of St. Luke as a physician (Col 4:14) and mention of Luke being with Paul in Philemon 24 and 2 Timothy 4:11, we have very little information about him.  It is believed that he was a Gentile of Greek origin (his name is Greek).  We have the testimony of both Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea in the Holy Land and St. Jerome that Luke was a Gentile from Syria and a member of the Church at Antioch, the faith community where believers in Christ were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26) and the faith community that sponsored St. Paul’s missionary journeys:  But Luke, who was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession, and who was especially intimate with Paul and well acquainted with the rest of the Apostles, has left us, in two inspired books, proofs of that spiritual healing art which he learned from them.  One of these books is the Gospel, which he testifies that he wrote as those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered unto him … The other book is the Acts of the Apostles, which he composed not from the accounts of others, but from what he had seen himself (Eusebius, Church History, III.4.6; also see Jerome, Commentary on Matthew, preface).

Dating Acts of Apostles:  In his Gospel, St. Luke named six different men who were political and religious figures when St. John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries.  Included in that list was Pontius Pilate, who St. Luke correctly identified as the Prefect of Judea.  An archaeological find made during an excavation, led by Italian archaeologist Dr. Antonio Frova, effectively put to rest the doubt that Pilate was the governor of Judea at the time of Christ. The artifact is now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem as inventory Number AE 1963 no. 104.  Pilate’s name appears in the Latin inscription on a 2′x3′ (82 cm x 65 cm) limestone stela found in 1961 at Caesarea Maritima that links him to the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. The inscription refers to him as Prefect (Praefectus civitatium) rather than Procurator, which is what the Roman historian Tacitus calls him.  In Acts St. Luke also named certain men who were in power during the time the events in Acts of Apostles took place; for example: Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia; Felix who was a governor of Judea and Drucilla his wife; King Herod Antipas II and his sister Bernice; and Festus who succeeded Felix as governor of Judea.   The historical information about these important people and other historical events recorded in secular documents help us date Acts of Apostles.

The narrative of Acts begins with Jesus’ assumption into heaven in 30 AD and concludes with St. Paul under house arrest in Rome circa 62 AD.   We have a number of historical references within Acts to which firm dates can be fixed and historical evidence concerning the dates in the lives of the important figures mentioned by Luke.

Historical references:

  1. A world-wide famine (Roman world) is predicted by a     Christian prophet in Acts 11:27-28 during the reign of the Roman emperor     Claudius (ruled 41-54 AD).  We know from the writings of Jewish historian     Flavius Josephus that a famine ravaged the Roman world during the reign of     Emperor Claudius and during the rule of Judean procurators Cuspius Fadus and      Tiberius Alexander between 44-48 AD (Antiquities     of the Jews, 20.5.2).
  2. The Roman emperor Claudius issued an edict expelling the     Jews from Rome in 50 AD, which sent Aquila and Priscilla to Corinth, where     Paul met them.  This event is recorded by Luke in Acts 18:2.  It is also     recorded by the Roman historian Suetonius in his history of Claudius (Claudius,      25.4).
  3. Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus heard Paul preach the     Gospel in Cyprus and was moved to accept Christ (Acts 13:7-12).  There are     three Roman officials with the cognomen “Paulus” who served in Cyprus.  An     inscription discovered in Cyprus names a Quintus Sergius Paulus as     proconsul during the reign of Caligula (Caligula ruled 37-41 AD).  There     is also Latin inscription discovered in Rome that refers to a Lucius     Sergius Paulus who held an administrative post in Cyprus during the reign     of Claudius (41-54 AD).  Another inscription was also found in Cyprus     naming a third Roman of that same Paulus family who served as Procunsul     around the year 50 AD (probably too late for Paul’s visit).
  4. St. Paul was tried by the Roman Proconsul Gallio in Acts     chapter 18:12-16.  An inscription was discovered in Delphi in central     Greece by archeologists that contains a proclamation of Emperor Claudius.     This first century inscription refers to Gallio as the Roman Proconsul of     Greece in the year in which it was issued.  That year corresponds to 52     AD, which is the approximate date of Paul’s Corinthian trial.  We know from     other Roman documents that Gallio served for only one year as the proconsul     of Achaea (proconsuls often served only for a year).  This is another     independent chronological confirmation of the date of Paul’s visit to Macedonia     and Greece.
  5. In Acts 24:1-27 Paul appeared before Marcus Antonius Felix     who was Procurator of Judea from 52-60 AD.  Paul gave his testimony of     Christ to Felix, his Jewish wife Drucilla, a sister of King Herod Agrippa II     who was born in 38 AD.  She and her son by Felix died in Pompeii in 79 AD     during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  Paul’s appearance before Felix had     to be before he left office in 60 AD.  Since Luke says Felix imprisoned     Paul for two years before Festus succeeded him (Acts 24:27).  Therefore,     Paul would have been imprisoned from c. 58/59-60/61 (Luke would have     counted two years without the concept of a zero-place value).
  6. After Felix’s dismissal, Porcius Festus was procurator of     Judea from 61-62 AD.  Festus would have interview Paul as soon as he     assumed his office, which makes Paul’s interview with Festus in Acts 25 in     61 AD.
  7. In Acts 25:13-26:23 Paul gave his witness to Procurator     Festus, Herod Antipas II and his sister Bernice.  Herod Antipas II lived     from 27- c. 98/100 AD.
  8. Bernice sister of Herod Antipas II was born c. 28 AD and     probably died in the destruction of Pompeii in 79 AD with her sister since     she completely disappears from the historical record after that date.

These examples are dramatic confirmations of Luke’s historical accuracy.  Since it is almost impossible that some later writer could have discovered this information on his own, Luke’s record decisively points either to his personal knowledge of those events or to personal knowledge of his immediate sources. When Luke records that Gallio presided over Paul’s trial in Corinth, that the Proconsul Paulus heard the Gospel in Cyprus, and that Felix and Festus interviewed Paul in Caesarea, it is because he has direct knowledge of those events.(1)

We can also look to significant historical events that are not recorded in St. Luke’s Acts of Apostles:

  • Acts makes no mention of the great fire that destroyed three-fourths     of Rome in 64 AD or the resulting horrific persecution that followed when     Christians were blamed for starting the fire.
  • The deaths of Sts. Peter and Paul in 67 AD are not     recorded (some scholars list the date as 64 AD); these are individuals     around which the Book of Acts revolves.
  • Nor does the narrative mention the revolts in the Roman provinces     that began to plague the Roman Empire, including the great Jewish Revolt     that began in 66 AD.
  • Absent is the mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and     the Temple.  The Jewish Revolt resulted in the total destruction of     Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD, when four Roman legions effectively     ended Biblical Judaism and Old Covenant worship forever and scattered     enslaved Jews into the distant parts of the empire.

These omissions help to date Acts not later than the period of 63/64 AD.

Main themes: In his Gospel and in Acts, St. Luke intends to tell the story of the establishment of Jesus’ Kingdom of God on earth as a result of God’s divine plan for mankind’s salvation (i.e., Lk 1:33; 4:43; Acts 1:3; 8:12).  The fact that Jesus, the promised Prophet, Messiah, and rightful Davidic King, is the fulfillment of God’s word to Israel is supported by the number of times St. Luke quotes directly from Israel’s sacred Scriptures or alludes to passages of the prophets throughout the Gospel of Luke and in Acts.  But what is different in Acts is that the divine activity is now attributed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the narrative.  Not only do the events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection fulfill the Torah and the prophets (i.e., Lk 9:22; 17:25; 24:7, 25-27, 44-47), but the stages of the Church’s life do as well (Acts 1:16-22; 3:21, 24; 13:40; 15:15; 17:3; 28:25-27).

A secondary theme is the universality of the divine message of the Gospel.  We first see the movement from salvation to Israel to a universal salvation in the prayer of St. Simeon when Jesus is dedicated as an infant at the Jerusalem Temple.  St. Simeon holds the Christ child and prays: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel (Lk 2:29-32; emphasis added).  It is this same theme of the universal nature of Christ’s gift of redemption and salvation that Jesus repeats to His Apostles and disciples at the end of Luke’s Gospel when He says: Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Lk 24:46-47; emphasis added).

For St. Luke the most significant turning point in God’s divine plan occurs with the inclusion of the Gentiles in the call to universal salvation.  St. Luke attributes this opening up of salvation to the Gentiles as the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:1-11:18), as he also does the revelation St. Peter receives from the Holy Spirit to offer Christian baptism to the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18) and the missions of St. Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles in Asia Minor and Greece (Acts 13:2-4).

Summary Outline of the Gospel of Luke

  Biblical Period   # 12 The Messianic Age
  Covenant   New Covenant in Christ Jesus
  Focus   The Mission of the  Church to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth under the  guidance of the Holy Spirit
  Scripture   1:1————————–2:14——————————8:4————————-10:1————————-15:36——28:31
  Division of Text   Prologue &
Preparation for the Church’s Mission
  The Church’s Mission in Jerusalem   The Church’s Mission in Judea and Samaria   The Beginning of the Church’s Mission to the Gentiles   The Church’s Mission to the Gentiles
  Topic   -Prologue
-Promise to send the Holy Spirit
-Ascension
-Prayer and action
-Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
   -Peter’s Pentecost homily
-Church’s communal life
-Teaching at the Temple & persecution
-Martyrdom of Stephen
   -Philip’s mission to Samaria
-Saul’s conversion
-The Church at peace
   -Cornelius & first Roman baptisms
-The Church in Syria
-Herod’s persecution
-Paul & Barnabas’
-Council of Jerusalem
  -St. Paul’s missionary journeys
-Paul’s return to Jerusalem
-Paul’s arrest
-Paul imprisoned
-Paul sent to Rome & house arrest
  Location   Jerusalem   Samaria
Judea
  Joppa Antioch Jerusalem   Asia Minor Greece
Jerusalem
Caesarea
Malta and Rome
  Time   30 AD – 62 AD
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Time line: AD
30                         34                                     43                     44                                    45-49                      50

-Crucifixion         -Stephen martyred        -Barnabas        -James Z. martyred       -Barnabas               -Council of
-Resurrection     -Paul’s conversion          & Paul in         -Peter in prison               & Paul’s                   Jerusalem
-Ascension                                                    Antioch                                                    first missionary
-Descent of the Holy Spirit                                                                                            journey
on Feast of Pentecost

 

Outline of Acts of Apostles Part I

  1. The Prologue and Preparation for the Mission of the Church (Acts 1:1-2:13)
    1. Prologue
    2. Promise to send the Holy Spirit
    3. Ascension of the Christ
    4. Prayer and action
      1. The Community in prayer waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit
      2. Peter directs the appointment of Matthias
    5. Descent at of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

Chapter 1: The Preparation for the Church’s Mission

Acts 1:1-5 ~ The Prologue
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught 2 until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles whom he had chosen.  3 He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  4 While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In the introductory prologue, St. Luke connects Acts of Apostles with his Gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the “Apostles whom he had chosen (Lk 24:44-53).

Question: Who is Theophilus to whom Luke’s second volume is dedicated?  See Lk 1:1-4.
Answer: He is the same man to whom he dedicated his Gospel.

Theophilus, a name meaning “God-lover/ lover of God,” is an unknown early Christian who may have provided the funds for the handwritten copies of this work, as he may have done for Luke’s Gospel (Lk 1:3).  In St. Luke’s Gospel dedication, we learned that the contents of the work were meant to support the catechesis that Theophilus had received Just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us (Lk 1:2), so Theophilus may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received (Lk 1:4).

In Acts 1:2 Luke sees all of Jesus’ ministry as directed by the Holy Spirit, including the instructions to the Apostles (as he also expressed in his Gospel in Lk 4:1, 14, 18, 36; 10:21).  This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the Church.  We are reminded that is it by the Holy Spirit that Jesus commissioned the Apostles after His Resurrection (Jn 20:23-24).

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them by many proofs [tekmerion] after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 

The Greek word tekmerion suggests convincing signs or evidence of His resurrection (see the same Greek word in Wis 5:11 and 19:13).  Included in these “signs” would be touching Jesus’ wounds (Jn 20:27), eating meals with His disciples (Lk 24:42-43; Jn 21:12-14), and appearing and disappearing without physically passing through doors (Jn 20:19).

Question: Jesus taught His Gospel of salvation and the coming of the Kingdom for three years.  For how many days after His Resurrection did He teach the Church
Answer: According to Acts 1:3, the resurrected Christ taught His Church for forty days between His Resurrection and His Ascension.

Question: Forty is a significant number in salvation history.  How many other significant “forty” time periods do you recall in Scripture?
Answer: To name only a few:

  • There were forty day periods of rain in the Great Flood     (Gen 7:4, 12, 17; 8:6)
  • Forty years Israel ate manna (Ex 16:35; Dt 29:5)
  • Moses spent two forty-day periods on Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:18     and 34:28)
  • The Israelite spies spent forty days scouting Canaan (Num 13:25)
  • The children of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness     (Num 14:34; Dt 1:3)
  • Jesus was in the wilderness forty days after His baptism     being tested by Satan (Lk 4:1-2); to name a few.

In the significance of numbers in Scripture, forty is a number symbolizing both testing and consecration.  See the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.”

Question: To how many men and women did Jesus appear during this time?  See Lk 24:13-15, 33-49; Jn 20:11-23, 26-27; 1 Cor 15:3-7.
Answer: He appeared to Mary Magdala, to the eleven Apostles and to the men and women disciples who were with them.  He appeared privately to Peter and His kinsman James and to over 500 people at one time.

Question: What did Jesus do during those forty days between His Resurrection and Ascension?
Answer: He spent the time teaching the Church by speaking about the kingdom of God. 

In the Gospels Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God.  St. Luke mentions the “Kingdom” over 30 times in his Gospel.  In Acts the Church takes up the message of the proclaiming the “Kingdom” (Acts 1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31).

Acts 1:4-5 While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

To remain in the city of Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit is the same command Jesus gave the disciples in Luke 24:49.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit was foretold by St. John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 and is now promised by Jesus.  The Apostles, obedient to Jesus command to baptize (Mt 28:19) and His teaching that one cannot enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (Jn 3:5), will use water baptism and a sacramental sign of spiritual re-birth and initiation into the Kingdom (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18, 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5).

Notice that in this passage the unique relationship of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealed once again to us as in Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:16-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22) and the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36).  If Jesus had stayed on earth, His physical, human presence would have been limited by time and space which would have limited the spread of the Gospel.  But after His Ascension to the Father, His spiritual presence could be everywhere through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit most clearly in His homily at the Last Supper, recorded by St. John in John chapters 14-17.  The Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Comforter, will be sent so that Christ will dwell within the lives of His disciples through a spiritual baptism and to dwell within body of the Church in the Eucharist and to comfort to guide and to teach: But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.  For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you (Jn 16:7).

Acts 1:6-12 ~ The Ascension of Jesus
6 When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.  8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.  10 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.

Acts 1:6-7 When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.
The Apostles and disciples may be expecting the Messianic Kingdom to be a political fulfillment like the Davidic Kingdom and liberation from their Roman oppressors.  But what the disciples are asking might also concern what He prophesied concerning the completion of His mission in the “coming of the Son of Man.”  His mission will not be completed until He returns in judgment. His discourse about His Second Advent and the Last Judgment is recorded in the Gospels  (Mt 24:29-44; 25:31-46; Mk 13:24-37; Lk 21:25-28).  Notice that Jesus does not rebuke them for their question which He has always done in the past when they are in error,  and He gives them the same answer He gave in those Gospel discourses  (see for example, Mt 24:3, 36, 42-44; Mk 13:32).  That part of His mission is under the Father’s authority. St. Paul spoke of this unknown “hour” in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 ~ Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.

Question: Why must they wait in Jerusalem and what marching orders for the spread of the Gospel did Jesus give His disciples in verse 8?
Answer: They must wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Then they will be empowered to spread the Gospel.  They must start in Jerusalem, then go to the rest of Judea, north into Samaria and finally to the “ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:9 When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. 

Question: What vision of the prophet Daniel in Daniel 7:13-14 do the disciples witness in Jesus’ Ascension?
Answer: They see what Daniel saw: the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven where He will go into the presence of the Father to be given power and authority over all nations.

Question: Look at a liturgical calendar of the Church and count the days from Feast of the Resurrection to the Feast of the Ascension.  How does the Church count the forty days between Easter and the celebration of Christ’s Ascension?
Answer: The Church counts the days as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero-place value, beginning the first day of the count with Easter Sunday.

Acts 1:10-12 While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.
Travel on the Sabbath was restricted to not more than 3/4th of a mile or about 1000 meters.  The Mt. of Olives was within this distance from Jerusalem.  Two angels appeared and told the disciples that Jesus will return in the same way they saw Him leave.  Then, obedient to Jesus’ instructions, they returned from the Mt. of Olives to Jerusalem.

Question: If Jesus will return in the same way that He left, to what physical site will He return?

Answer: He will return to the Mt. of Olives, east of the city of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 13:7-9 is a prophecy that is fulfilled in the death of Jesus.  Zechariah writes about God’s Shepherd and the scattering of His disciples.  The scattering of the Shepherd’s “sheep” in verse 7 is quoted in Matthew 26:31.  Verses 8-9 are fulfilled in the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem in the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 AD and the enslavement of 3/4th of the Jewish population by the Romans.  Chapter 14 describes the final fight for Jerusalem and the return of God to save His city.  Read Zechariah 14:4-9 ~ 4 That day his feet shall rest upon the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the east.  The Mount of Olives shall be cleft in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain shall move to the north and half of it to the south.  5 And the valley of the LORD’s [YHWH's] mountain shall be filled up when the valley of those two mountains reaches its edge; it shall be filled up as it was filled up by the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.  Then the LORD [YHWH], my God, shall come, and all his holy ones with him.  6 On that day there shall no longer be cold or frost.  7 There shall be one continuous day, known to the LORD [YHWH], not day and night, for in the evening time there shall be light.  8 On that day, living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea, and half to the western sea, and it shall be so in summer and in winter.  9 The LORD [YHWH] shall become king over the whole earth; on that day the LORD [YHWH] shall be the only one, and his name the only one (Zech 14:4-9).

Question: How is the description of the return of the LORD similar what the angels told the disciples in Acts 1:11 and the description of the new heaven and new earth at the end of time in Revelation 21:1-22:5?
Answer: The angels told the disciples that God the Son will return to the Mt. of Olives in His Second Advent.  It is a return that is prophesied in Zechariah 14:4.  In St. John’s vision of the end of the Age of Man and the return of Christ, the prophecy in Zechariah chapter 14:4-9 will be fulfilled in Revelation 21:1-22:5:

  The Return of the Divine King
That day his  feet shall rest on the Mount of Olives, which is opposite Jerusalem to the  east.
Zechariah 14:4
They said, “Men  of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?  This Jesus who  has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you  have seen him going into heaven.”  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the  mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem …
Acts 1:11-12
Zechariah 14:4-9 Revelation 21:1-22:5
14:6-7 On that day  there shall no longer be cold or frost.  7   There shall be one continuous day, known to the LORD [YHWH], not day  and night, for in the evening time there shall be light. 21:22 The  city [Jerusalem] had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the  glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
22:5 Night  will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God  shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.
14:8 On that day,  living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea, and half to  the western sea, and it shall be so in summer and in winter. 22:1 Then  the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal,  flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of its  street.
14:9 The LORD  [YHWH] shall become king over the whole earth; on that day the LORD [YHWH]  shall be the only one, and his name the only one. 22:3b The  throne of God and the lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.    4 They will look upon his  face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

 

Question: In the creation of the new heavens and earth at the end of time there will be no seasons.  In what other time in salvation history were there no seasons?  See Gen 8:18-22.
Answer: In the Creation/pre-flood era there was no seasons “it was always spring/summer.

Prayer and Action within the Jerusalem Community

Acts 1:13-14 ~ Prayer within the Jerusalem Community
13 When they entered the city they went to the Upper Room where they were staying, Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  14 All these devoted themselves with one accord [homothumadon] to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
The Apostles and the men and women disciples, in the presence of the Virgin Mary, will remain in prayer as the first Christian community.  Notice that Jesus’ “brothers,” meaning His kinsmen, have also taken their place within the community of believers.

The Upper Room where they were staying was probably the same Upper Room where they celebrated the Last Supper (Mk 14:15; Lk 22:12).  It will become the regular meeting place for the Jerusalem church (Acts 1:13; 12:12) and was probably in the home of Jesus’ disciple, Mary of Jerusalem, the kinswoman of His disciple Barnabas and the mother of John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark (Acts 12:12; Col 4:10).

Verse 13 is Luke’s second apostolic list and the fourth in Scripture (see Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:13-14).  As in all the lists, Peter is named first as befits his role as the chosen leader of the Apostolic College.  Verse 14 records that they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, using the Greek word homothumadon, which is perhaps better translated “united,” emphasizing the spiritual unity of the community.

Question: Who are the “some women” who are in prayer with the community?  See Lk 8:1-3; 23:49; 23:54-56; 24:1-10, 22.
Answer: The women are probably the seven women disciples, who with the Virgin Mary, accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem from the Galilee: Mary Magdala, Mary of Cleopas, Joanna, probably Susannah, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and Salome the mother of the Apostles James and John.

It is significant that St. Luke includes that the first Christian community is praying in the midst of the Virgin Mary, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  For Luke, this is the first mention of Mary by name since the infancy narrative (see Lk 1:27, 30, 34, 38, 39, 41, 46, 56; 2:5, 16, 19, 34).  St. Luke uses her name more than any other Gospel writer (see Mt 1:16, 18, 20; 2:11; 13:55; Mk 6:3).

Question: Why is it fitting that the Apostles and disciples of Jesus should be praying, gathered around the Virgin Mary, at this time as they await the coming of the Holy Spirit?  See Lk 1:35.
Answer: It is fitting that the disciples of Jesus Christ should be praying with the Virgin Mary awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit since the Holy Spirit’s first appearance on this critical stage of salvation history was at the Incarnation as the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin which led to the birth of Jesus.  So too is she present now at what will be the Spirit’s activity in the birth of the Church.

With the disciples and Mary are Jesus’ “brothers,” which refers to His kinsmen.

Question: Who are Jesus’ kinsmen that are named in the Gospels and Epistles?  See Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3; Gal 1:18-19.
Answer: They are James, Joseph/Joses, Simon/Simeon and Judas/Jude .

Cleophas, the Emmaus disciple who had the encounter with Christ in Luke 24:13-35, should probably be included among those kinsmen who were praying.  According to early Church historian, Hegesippus (early to mid-2nd century AD), he was the brother/brother-in-law of St. Joseph and the father of Simon/Simeon (Church History, Book IV, chapter 22).  Jesus’ kinsmen James and Simeon will become the first two Christian Bishops of Jerusalem, and men both will be martyred for their faith in Christ Jesus.(2)  Jesus privately visited James after His resurrection (1 Cor 15:7).  Paul met with Peter and James on his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion (Gal 1:18-19).  Paul identified James as one of the “pillars” of the Church along with Peter and John (Gal 2:9).  James presided over the Council of Jerusalem with Peter in Acts 15.  Paul visited with James on his last trip to Jerusalem and reported his success with the Gentiles in Acts 21:18.    Clement of Alexandria called him “James the Just” because of his piety.   James wrote the New Testament Letter of James and his kinsman Jude who is probably also present (Jude verse 1) is credited by most Church Fathers and Bible scholars with writing the Letter of Jude .

Acts 1:15-26 ~ Action within the Jerusalem Community: Choosing Judas’ Successor
15 During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place).  16 He said, “My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.  17 He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry.  18 He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out.  19 This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language  Akeldama,’ that is, field of Blood.  20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms:  Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’  And:  May another take his office.’  21 Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.  24 Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”  26 Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven Apostles.

It is clear that Peter is leading the community and making the decisions.  It cannot be supported that any other Apostle was Jesus’ designated successor as the leader of the Church:

  • Peter is named first in every list of the Apostles (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:13-14; Acts 1:13).
  • He is the only Apostle given a title = Kepha, meaning     “Rock,” which is translated into Greek as “Petros” and into English as     “Peter.”
  • He is given the “keys of the kingdom” and the power to     “bind and loose” by Jesus (Mt 16:18-19).
  • Jesus tells Peter it is his responsibility to “strengthen     your brothers” (the other Apostles and disciples) after they are all     tested during Jesus’ Passion (Lk 22:32).
  • Jesus commands Peter to feed the “lambs” and to both tend and     feed the “sheep,” meaning to guide and teach the community of believers     and to lead and teach the other ministers of the Church (Jn 21:15-17).
  • Peter is shown as the leader of the Apostles: in the     selection of Judas’ replacement (Acts 1:15-25); in speaking to the crowds     after the miracle at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40); in leading the witness for     Christ at the Jerusalem Temple (Acts 3:1-7, 12-26); in addressing the     Sanhedrin when the Apostles were arrested (Acts 4:8-12); in judging sin     within the community (Acts 5:3-11); in miraculous healings like Jesus     (Acts 5:15-16); in the decision to extend the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-48); in opening the Council of Jerusalem (15:6-12); and in many     other acts including the deference by the other Apostles (see for example Jn 20:4-7).
  • Peter is most frequently named Apostle: he is named by his     title “Kepha/Petros” 94 times in the Gospels and 160 times total in the     Gospels and Epistles.  The next most frequently named Apostle is John who     is named 30 times in the Gospels and Epistles.

… there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place.  That the Christian community was composed of 120 people is significant.  Mishnah: Sanhedrin 1.6 records the necessity of a minimum of 120 people to form a legitimate Synagogue.  In other words, according to Jewish custom they were a legal community.

Acts 1:16 He said, “My brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
That the Scripture had to be fulfilled is Luke’s testimony that divine will is at work in these events.  David was considered to be a prophet and in Luke’s Gospel Jesus refers to David’s prophecy of the Messiah in Psalms 110:1.  Also see other references to the prophetic character of the Psalms in the Gospel of Luke and Acts (Lk 20:41-44; 24:44; Acts 1:20; 2:29-30; 13:33; 28:25 and also see Rom 1:2).  The Psalms, like all Scripture is understood to be prophetic and therefore can be ascribed to the Holy Spirit.    The reference is probably to Psalms 41:10 in the Greek Septuagint: Even the friend who had my trust, who shared my table, has scorned me (in some translations it is 41:9).

Acts 1:17  He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry.
That Judas was “numbered” or “counted” among the Twelve recalls Luke 22:3 ~ Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve …
That Judas was allotted a share in this ministry, reminds us of the share of the Twelve tribes of Israel in their inheritance in the Promised Land and the share or portion of the priestly ministers which was God (Num 18:21-26).  The portioning out of the land of Israel to the tribes was determined by lot as was the priestly towns (Num 16:14; 26:55; 33:53) and the assignments for the priests in the daily worship services (Lk 1:9; Mishnah: Tamid, 3:1; 5:2).

Acts 1:18-19 He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out.  19 This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language  Akeldama,’ that is, field of Blood. 
Judas has gained property and lost his apostolic office as well as his place in the Kingdom, while the Apostles, in contrast, have given up everything to follow Christ (Lk 18:28) as will the Jerusalem community who willingly sell their property and turn the money over to the local faith community for the sake of the Kingdom (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-37).
Question: In verses 18-19 Luke recounts Judas’ end.  What additional information is found in Matthew 27:5-10?
Answer: Matthew includes that Judas hanged himself after throwing down the money the chief priests had paid him to betray Jesus in the Temple.  It was the priests who used his blood money to purchase a parcel of land in his name for the burial of foreigners.

There is no conflict in the two accounts.  According to tradition, Judas hanged himself from the tower of the Temple and when his body began to decompose it fell from the noose and burst apart on the rocks below the Temple’s retaining wall on the land that became Judas’ “inheritance” “”the field of blood.”  The “blood” in the name of the field refers to Judas’ blood.
That Judas is described as becoming a dishonored corpse may a reference to Wisdom 4:19 in which the wicked, who bring about the death of the righteous …shall afterward become dishonored corpses and an unceasing mockery among the dead.

Acts 1:20 For it is written in the Book of Psalms:  Let his encampment [camp] become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’  And:  May another take his office.’  These passages are from the Psalms of David but Luke has altered the first quotation to be in the singular instead of in the plural to better fit Judas (“Let his camp” instead of “Make/let their camp”).   See the more complete passages below (Acts quote is underlined):

  • Make their camp desolate, with none to dwell in     their tents. For they pursued the one you struck, added to the pain     of the one you wounded.  Add that to their crimes; let them not attain to     your reward.  Strike them from the book of the living; do not count them     among the just! (Ps 69:26-29/25-28; virtually the same as in LXX)
  • Set a sinner against him, and let the devil stand at     his right hand.  When he is judged, let him go forth condemned; and let     his prayer become sin.  Let his days be few: and let another take his     office of overseer (Ps 109:6-8 LXX).

It is only ten days or less until Pentecost.   Peter seems to have an urgent desire to replace Judas before the coming of the Holy Spirit to return the number of Apostles to twelve.
Question: What does Peter’s decision to replace Judas signify, and why might he feel the necessity of doing so before the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the redeemed Kingdom of the new Israel?  How was the number twelve symbolically significance for the old Israel?
Answer: His decision signifies that he understood the symbolic significance of the leadership of the Twelve among the disciples and for the redeemed Israel of the New Covenant Church.  He understood that the Church was a reconstituted Israel and just as the kingdom of Israel was “fathered” by twelve tribes in the Theophany at Sinai, so should be Church of the newly redeemed Israel have a full apostolic council of Twelve spiritual fathers when God comes again to dwell among His covenant people (see Lk 22:30).

In the significance of numbers in Scripture, twelve is the number of “divine perfection in government.”  The significance of the number twelve has been related to the restoration of the new/redeemed Israel from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in His selection of the Twelve Apostles.  Jesus also linked the twelve tribes physically fathered by twelve men to His Apostles and the importance of the number twelve in Luke 9:17 and 22:30.  The symbolic integrity of the group was shattered by Judas defection.  Judas not only sinned against Jesus but also against his apostolic office.  That office must be filled before the coming of the Holy Spirit in order for the Twelve of the new Israel to be present at the birth of the Kingdom of the Church just as the twelve tribes of Israel were present at the birth of the Kingdom of Israel at Sinai.   After the coming of the Holy Spirit, it will no longer be necessary to symbolically maintain the number twelve.  The apostolic office of the Magisterium will grow with the growth of the Church.

Question: What qualification did Peter place upon the one who would take Judas’ place?  See verses 21-22.
Answer: The candidate had to have been a witness to the full extent of Jesus’ ministry from the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism by St. John the Baptist and continuing to Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the Apostles and disciples and His Ascension.

Question: The two candidates who were proposed and accepted by Peter were the disciples Joseph/Justus Barsabbas and Matthias.  How did they determine which candidate the Holy Spirit selected for the office and why?  See Ex 33:7; Lev 16:8; Num 26:55; 33:54; 1 Sam 14:41; Josh 19:1-14; Mic 2:5; Jonah 1:7-8 and Lk 1:9.
Answer: Since the Holy Spirit has not yet come to the Church, they used the Old Covenant method of determining God’s will through the drawing of lots.  Matthias is selected.

Casting lots was a way of determining the will of God prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit.  After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, all such decisions will be determined by prayer and discerning the will of the Holy Spirit for the Church locally and universally.  Matthias is not mentioned again in the New Testament.  There is a Judas Barsabbas who Luke names as a leader in the Church in Jerusalem: Then the Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.  The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers (Acts 15:22).

Chapter 2:1-13 The Coming of the Holy Spirit

Three times a year, then, every male among you shall appear before the LORD, your God, in the place which he chooses: at the feast of Unleavened Bread, at the feast of Weeks [Pentecost], and at the feast of Booths.
Deuteronomy 16:16

He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages.
Mark 16:15-17

Luke 2:1-13 ~ The Holy Spirit Gives Birth to the Church at Pentecost
1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.  2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.  3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  6 At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  7 They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?”  8 Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?  9 We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”  12 They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?”  13 But others said, scoffing, “they have had too much new wine.”

The annual Feast of Weeks was known by its Greek name, “Pentekoste hermea” (fiftieth day), in Jesus’ time (this Greek designation for the Feast of Weeks also occurs in Tobit 2:1 and 2 Mac 12:32 both written in Greek.  It was one of the three “pilgrim feasts” where every adult male of the covenant was required to present himself before God’s holy altar in Jerusalem (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13).  The covenant legislation for this annual pilgrim feast is found several times in the Torah of Moses (see Ex 23:16; 34:12; Lev 23:15-21; Num 28:26-31 and Dt 16:9-12).  On St. Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, he was eager to be in the holy city to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost with the Jerusalem community (Acts 20:16).

Each of the seven annual feasts celebrated the liberation of the Exodus and the creation of the free covenant people of the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai.  Pentecost was the second harvest festival.  The first was the Feast of Firstfruits and the offering of the first of the barley harvest that celebrated the Israelites as the “Firstfruits” of God’s covenant people in the Promised Land.  The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost was the offering of the first of the wheat harvest.  The Feast of Weeks/Pentecost celebrated the Theophany of God at Mt. Sinai when God made a covenant with the children of Israel.  The focus of the feast is confirmed in the 2nd century BC Book of Jubilees, which identifies the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost as a covenant renewal feast (Jubilees 6:17-21) and the Babylonian Talmud (c. 250 AD) identifies the feast with the “day the Torah was given” to Israel (Babylonian Talmud: Pes., 68b)

Question: According to Leviticus 23:15-16, how was the day of the celebration of the Feast of Weeks, called “Pentecost” in Jesus’ time (meaning 50th day), determined?  Of the seven annual God ordained feasts, only the feasts of Fristfruits and Weeks/Pentecost were not given specific dates in Leviticus chapter 23.  The Feast of Firstfruits was to be celebrated on the day after the Sabbath of the holy week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread “always to fall on the first day of the week (Sunday).
Answer: Seven full weeks were to be counted from Firstfruits and on the fiftieth day was the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost, as the ancients counted with no zero-place value.  Therefore, the Feast of Pentecost also fell on the first day of the week, a Sunday.

Later the Pharisees altered the day of Firstfruits to the specific date of Nisan the 16th and therefore also altered the day Pentecost fifty days later so the two feasts no longer always fell on the first day of the week (Sunday) and could not be associated with the Resurrection of Jesus or the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Christians on Sunday of Pentecost.  Flavius Josephus noted this change when he wrote: … for the festival, which we call Pentecost, did then fall out to be the next day to the Sabbath … (Antiquities of the Jews, 13.8.4 [252]).(3)

Question: For how many days since the Ascension had the 120 members of the Church been in prayer together?  How many days was it since the Resurrection of Jesus?
Answer: They prayed for nine days and on the tenth day it was the Feast of Pentecost; it was fifty days since Jesus’ Resurrection.

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise [sound] like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 
Notice that it is the sound that fills the house not the wind.  The sound was “like” the sound of a driving wind.  This description of the loudness of the sound recalls the Theophany at Mt. Sinai: On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning and a heavy cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that the people in the camp trembled (Ex 19:16-19).  The comparison between the sound and a driving wind also recalls the Creation event when a great “wind” hovered over the waters of Creation (Gen 1:1-2).

Acts 2:3  Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.  In this event the prophecy of St. John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 is fulfilled: I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  The event also is the fulfillment of the prophecy by the 6th century BC prophet Ezekiel: I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statues, careful to observe my decrees (Ez 36:26-27).  And it is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to Nicodemus: Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I told you,  You must be born from above’ (Jn 3:5-7).

Fire is a repeated symbol of Theophany in Scripture.  For example:

  • Abraham’s experience of God in the burning torch of     covenant formation (Gen 15:17).
  • Moses’ experience of God with the burning bush (Ex 3:2-4).
  • Israel’s experience of God in the pillar of fire (Ex 13:21-22).
  • God’s fiery presence on Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:18; 24:17; Dt 4:12).

Also see Ex 14:24; Dt 4:24, 33, 36; 5:4; 10:4; 2 Kng 2:10-12; Ps 7:9/13 LXX and Ps 28/29:7 LXX: The voice of the Lord flashes forth in flames of fire.

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.  The Holy Spirit manifests Himself by indwelling each member of the assembled community in the Upper Room and giving them the gift of speech to preach the Gospel message of salvation (also see Mk 16:17; Acts 10:45; 19:6; 1 Cor chapters 12-14).

Acts 2:5-11 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  6 At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?”  8 Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?  9 We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 11 both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Question: Why were there devout Jews from across the Roman Empire and Gentile converts in Jerusalem at this time?
Answer: Pentecost was a pilgrim feast and only devout Jews from across the empire would make the difficult journey.

Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) testifies that large crowds of Jews from across the Roman world came to Jerusalem at Pentecost (Antiquities of the Jews, 14.13.4 [337-8]; 17.10.2 [254]; Jewish Wars, 1.13.3 [253]; 2.3.1 [42-43]).  The Jews from these different provinces and cites represent the Gentile lands into which the lost 10 tribes of Israel were dispersed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC, those Jews who did not return to Judah at the end of the Babylonian exile, and Jews living in other lands all governed by Rome.  These “sheep” of God’s flock that were “lost” will be gathered together in the New Covenant of the Good Shepherd as prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel: For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered … I will make a covenant of peace with them … (Ez 34:11-25).

Question: What time of the morning is it that the miracle occurred and how might that time account for the large crowds of people in the street?  Hint: What time did the morning liturgical worship service begin at the Temple?  See Acts 2:15 and Luke Lesson 16 handout 2.
Answer: It was the third hour Jewish time, which is 9 AM our time.  It was the time when the gates of the Temple opened for the holy day morning prayer service and the sacrifices of the feast day of Pentecost.  Large groups of people would have been on their way to the Temple.

The people recognized that the men were Galileans who were proclaiming Jesus the Messiah.  Perhaps they were recognized by their clothes or their accents.  The crowds were amazed that they heard the one language of the Gospel message preached in each of their own dialects by the Galilean Christians.

Acts 2:12-13 They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?”  13 But others said, scoffing, “they have had too much new wine.”
The Apostles and disciples poured forth from the Upper Room into the street proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.  They were filled with such joy and ecstasy by being filled with the Holy Spirit some of the crowd thought they were filled with “new wine.”  It is in some ways an observation that has prophetic overtones.  In the symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets, drinking  new wine” is the symbol of rejoicing in fellowship and covenant union with the Lord God (see Is 25:6-8; 62:8-9; 65:13; Jer 31:12; 40:12 and Jesus’ gift of the wine of the new covenant in His blood in Mt 26:27; Mk 14:24 and Lk 22:19-20).  Looking forward to the promised spiritual restoration of the exiles who returned to Judah after the exile, the late 6th century BC prophet Zechariah wrote: The LORD shall appear over them, and his arrow shall shoot forth as lightening.  The LORD God shall sound the trumpet, and come in a storm from the south … They shall drink blood like wine*, till they are filled with it like libation bowls, like the corners of the altar.  And the LORD, their God, shall save them on that day, his people, like a flock.  For they are the jewels in a crown raised aloft over his land (Zech 9:14-16).  *Verse 15 is difficult to translate and can also be read “they will drink blood like wine and make a noise,” meaning as though under the influence of wine (see NJB note “n” page 1585), which is what some in the crowd suggest concerning the disciples.  See the document “The Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets.”

Question: On the day of the second great Pentecost (the first great Pentecost was the Theophany of God at Mt. Sinai and God’s covenant formation with Israel), how did God reverse the sin that caused the scattering of the family of man across the face of the earth in the event of the Tower of Babel?  Compare Acts chapter 2 to Genesis chapter 11.

Answer:
  Tower of Babel   2nd Great Pentecost
  Language is used to promote a human agenda (Gen 11:3-4).   Language is used to announce the mighty works of God (Acts 2:14-41).
  God causes the confusion of  tongues into many different languages (Gen 11:7).   God causes many different languages to be understood in  one Gospel message (Acts 2:5-11).
  The result is disunity (Gen 11:6-7).   The result is unity (Acts 2:41).
  At the Tower of Babel God scattered the human family  across the face of the earth in judgment (Gen 11:9).   Pentecost is the beginning of the reunification of the  family of mankind as God sends men and women to gather into the New Covenant Church  of Jesus Christ a redeemed people from across the face of the earth (Acts 1:8; 2:37-41).
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

How were the Old Covenant annual feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and Pentecost fulfilled by Jesus and the birth of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Church?  The first three feasts came within an 8-day period with Passover on the 14th of Nisan, Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st and Firstfruits on the day after the Sabbath of the holy week of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:4-14).  Weeks/Pentecost is then celebrated 50 days from Firstfruits (Lev 23:15-16).  See handout #4.
Answer:

The crucifixion and death, in the Resurrection, and in the descent of the Holy Spirit God fulfilled four Old Covenant sacred annual feasts:

  1. Passover                      -Prefigured Christ as mankind’s Passover sacrifice.
  2. Unleavened Bread      -New Covenant sacrifice of the Last Supper and the crucifixion of
  3. Firstfruits                    -Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the day after the Old Covenant
  4. Weeks/Pentecost         -Descent of God the Holy Spirit and the birth of Christ’s Kingdom of the New Covenant Church.

The miracle of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost in 30 AD is the beginning of the Age of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Church, the Final Age of man, and the great harvest of souls into God’s heavenly storehouse.  In the liturgical calendar of the Old Covenant annual feasts, the break between the first four annual feasts and the last three annual feasts is the long summer harvest.  The “long harvest” is the present season in salvation history.  This great harvest will continue until the Son of God returns to claim His Church and brings an end to time as we know it.  It is at that time that the last three of the seven annual Jewish feasts will be fulfilled.

Next week: St. Peter’s Holy Spirit inspired homily on the New Covenant Feast of Pentecost!

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: If the first four sacred annual Old Covenant feasts were fulfilled in Jesus’ first Advent, what about the remaining three feasts?  The Feast of Trumpets was the beginning of a new year and was celebrated by the blowing of trumpets.  The feast signified the gathering of God’s people to prepare for the Day of Atonement.  The Feast/Day of Atonement came ten days later and was a solemn assembly for accountability to God in the repentance of sins and the promise of forgiveness.  The Feast of Tabernacles was the final harvest celebration (fruit harvest) and a memorial of the Tabernacle in the wilderness when God first dwelled among His people.  In what way might the last three Old Covenant annual feasts be fulfilled in the Second Advent of Christ?  See 1 Thes 4:16; Rev 20:11-12 and 21:1-22 and match those passages to the possible fulfillment of the three remaining feasts.
Answer:

  • The Feast of Trumpets: For the Lord himself, with a     word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of     God, will come down from heaven … (1 Thes 4:16).
  • The Feast of Atonement: Next I saw a large white throne     and the one who was sitting on it.  The earth and the sky fled from his     presence and there was no place for them.  I saw the dead, the great and     the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened.  Then     another scroll was opened, the Book of Life.  The dead were judged     according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls (Rev 20:11-12).
  • The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths): Then I saw a new     heaven and a new earth … I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming     down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.     I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is     with the human race … I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the     Lord God almighty and the Lamb (Rev 21:1-22).

Question: Most movements don’t survive beyond the lives of their founders unless the movement is supported by an army and an established political power base.  Christianity had neither.  Why then, did Christianity survive after the Ascension of Jesus and after the death of the eyewitnesses to His Resurrection to cover the entire earth?  What does Christianity offer that no political system or other religious system or philosophy can offer?

Endnotes:

1.  Some scholars have suggested that Luke discovered this     information from another source, but this is highly unlikely.  First,     ancient writers included historical details if those details were part of     their immediate sources, but research in the modern sense was not     practiced. Second, there were very few records for a writer to consult     even if he was interested in doing so.  Most of the provinces of the Roman     Empire did not maintain permanent archives.  Pliny the Younger, the Roman     governor of Bithynia at the beginning of the second century AD, states in     a letter that there existed no record of his predecessors in office, even     though Bithynia had been a Roman province for a hundred years.  Third,     although Gallio’s proconsul term was undoubtedly recorded in the archives     of the Roman Senate, ordinary citizens much less a non-Roman would not     have had access to the Senate’s archive.  Only a Roman of high rank had     access to the official archives.  After 64 AD, no Christian would have     been allowed in those archives, even one of high rank, since by that time     being a Christian was punishable by death as the deaths of many Christian     martyrs attests.  Fourth, another way that a later Christian writer could     have discovered the date of Gallio’s proconsulship was if his name had     been on a locally minted coin.  However, the province of Greece never     placed the names of its proconsuls on coins during this period, while     local Corinthian coins contain only the names of city magistrates.  Thus     it is almost impossible that someone of a later generation could have     discovered Gallio’s name and date in some historical source and used that     information in writing the book of Acts. The reference to Gallio’s term as     proconsul is either from Luke’s personal knowledge of those events, or it     is from his immediate eyewitness sources. The same can be said about     almost every other social and political fact that is found in the book of     Acts. If a particular fact belongs to the middle of the first century,     this is the same as saying that the writer of Acts, or his immediate     sources, had personal knowledge of that fact.

2.  Flavius Josephus records the martyrdom Jesus’ kinsman St. James     (first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem, martyred 62 AD) as the work of the     High Priest Annas, son of Annas and brother-in-law of Joseph Caiaphas who     brought about Jesus’ crucifixion (see Antiquities of the Jews, 20.9.1     [200] and Eusebius, Church History, 2.23).  Jesus’ kinsman St. Simeon/Simon     succeeded St. James as Bishop of Jerusalem and was crucified in c. 107 AD     by order of the Emperor Trajan and was carried out by Proconsul Tiberius     Claudius (Eusebius, Church History, III.33.22).

3.  The Samaritans and the Jewish sect of the Karaites reject     Nisan the 16th as the feast day for Firstfruits.  They claim that the     divine instructions in Leviticus are clear in the command that the Feast     of Firstfruits was always to celebrated within the seven-day feast of     Unleavened Bread on the first day of the week, the day after Shabbat     HaGadol (the Great Sabbath) of the holy week of Unleavened Bread.  It is     their belief that the Pharisees changed the date of Firstfruits and the     observance of Shabbat HaGadol (also mentioned in the Gospel of John 19:31).   The Karaites and Samaritans are the only Jews who continue to     observe Firstfruits as a feast within the seven day celebration of     Unleavened Bread.

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 14

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 14

19. June, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 14: Chapter 22
The Preparation for the Passover and the Last Supper

Lord of Mercy,
The cup of the New Covenant which the Christ anticipated when He offered Himself to the disciples at the Last Supper is the same cup accepted by Him from Your hands in His agony in the garden at Gethsemane and in the final drink in His last moments on the Cross.  In accepting His cup of suffering, He made Himself “obedient unto death.”  Give us the same courage to take up our daily crosses of obedience in serving Christ and His Church.  And in receiving the gift of Your Son in the Eucharistic Bread of Life and the cup of His Precious Blood, help us to persevere in holiness so that we might also present our lives to You as a pure and holy sacrifice.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit “One Holy and Eternal God forever and even.  Amen.

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Christ’s death is both the Paschal sacrificed that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the “blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church 613

It was God’s plan to set the sacrifice and resurrection of the Christ and the redemption of mankind that would open the gates of heaven (CCC 1026) within the context of three annual sacred feasts.  These feasts remembered the salvation and redemption of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and the celebration of the Israelites as the “First Fruits” of the covenant people in the Promised Land (Ex 12-13; Lev 23:4-14):

  • The Passover sacrifice on Nisan 14th (Lev 23:4-5)
  • The pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread on Nisan 15th      ” 21st (Lev 23:6-8)
  • The feast of Firstfriuts on the day after the     Sabbath (Saturday) on the first day of the week (Sunday) during the holy     week of Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:9-14).

Contrary to Sacred Scripture and almost 2 thousand years of Christian tradition, some scholars have suggested:

  1. That the Passover sacrifice did not take place on the Thursday of Holy Week; instead the Passover sacrifice took place on Friday as Jesus was dying on the Cross.(1)
  2. That Jesus did not celebrate the sacred meal of the Passover victim at the Last Supper at the time appointed by the Sanhedrin and the Temple hierarchy.
  3. That those at the Last Supper only consumed the bread and wine that became His Body and Blood and not the entire ritual meal of the Passover.
  4. That Jesus only suffered three hours on the Cross instead of seven.

There is absolutely nothing in either sacred Scripture or in our Sacred Tradition to support such theories:

  1. St. John’s Gospel sets the countdown to the Passover sacrifice as six days from Jesus’ dinner in Bethany the day before He rode into Jerusalem on Palm/Passion Sunday, identifying the Passover sacrifice that must be kept on the 14th of Nisan as Thursday (as the ancients counted).
  2. The date of the Passover and all the annual feasts were set by the religious hierarchy according to the lunar calendar.  That Jesus would use another calendar is preposterous “it would be a violation of the Law.  The 1st century AD Jews knew that the solar calendar was more accurate than a lunar calendar, but they were obligated under the Law to set all the feast days according to the lunar calendar (Num 28:11, literally = at the new moons).  The sacred feast of the Passover victim had to be celebrated after sundown on the first day of Unleavened Bread on the first full moon after the spring equinox on the 15th of the lunar month (Ex 12:8; Lev 23:6; Num 28:17). (4)  Jesus announced His commitment to the Law “until all things have taken place” (Mt 5:18-19), and He also announced His support of those of made those decisions who sat on the “chair of Moses” (Mt 23:1-3).  It was necessary that the first sacred meal of the New Covenant was to take place on the night the Old Covenant sacred meal was celebrated.  Jesus would never have encouraged His disciples to violate the Law in an illicit Passover meal.
  3. All the Gospels agree that Jesus’ Last Supper took place on the night the Old Covenant people celebrated the eating of the Passover sacrifice and that Jesus and those assembled with Him ate the meal beforeHe offered Himself, Body and Blood, in what had been the unleavened bread and the wine of the sacred feast (Mt 26:21; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:14-15; Jn 12:1; 13:26b).
    Some of the confusion over the day of the Passover sacrifice comes from the Jewish leaders’ refusal to enter Pilate’s Praetorium to prevent becoming ritually unclean and unable “to eat the Passover” (Jn 18:28).  However, St. John’s Gospel always refers to the entire 8-days from the Passover sacrifice to the Sacred Assembly at the end of the feast of Unleavened Bread as “Passover,” as does the Jewish Mishnah and Jews today.  The faithful brought their festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) to the Temple during the holy week of Unleavened Bread and ate communal meals at noontime with family and friends in the city of Jerusalem (Dt 12:5-7, 11-12; Lev 6:17/24-23/30; 7:11/7:1-34/24; Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:1-1:6; Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4).  If a Jew became ritually unclean on the day of the Passover sacrifice, he could ritually immerse at one of the Jerusalem mikvot (ritual cleansing pools) and be declared ritually clean again by sundown, at which time the Passover meal began (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:8E).  But if he became ritually unclean on the first morning of Unleavened Bread, he would not attend the required morning Sacred Assembly at the Temple (Lev 23:7-8; Num 28:18) nor could he present his communion hagigah sacrifice.
  4. 4. Mark 15:25 states that Jesus was crucified at the third hour “9 AM our time.  Then, after Jesus was crucified, darkness fell from noon to the ninth hour “3 PM our time; and at the ninth hour “3 PM, He gave up His spirit (Mt 27:45-50; Mk 15:33-37; Lk 23:44-46).  The confusion is over the misinterpretation of John 19:14 where St. John records that it was “about the sixth hour” when Jesus was being tried by Pilate, which some scholars have interpreted to be noon Jewish time.  The other Gospels, however, record that Jesus was with Pilate just after dawn.  John’s Gospel is in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels is John is using Roman time.  The sixth hour Roman time is from dawn (6 AM) to 7 AM.  It is inconceivable that Jesus was still being tried by Pilate at noon, since “all the world” turned totally dark at noon.  Would the superstitious Romans have continued with the crucifixion of Jesus?  Then too, there needs to be time to have Jesus mocked by the soldiers, His walk to Golgotha and His crucifixion (see the chart on the Crucifixion compared in the Gospels in the Chart section of the website: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Harmony-Crucifixion.htm.

Wednesday, Nisan the 13th

It is now Wednesday of Jesus’ last week teaching in Jerusalem.  Jesus told His disciples “You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Mt 26:1-2; also see Mk 14:1).(2) As the ancients counted, Wednesday is day #1 and Thursday is day #2 in agreement with the countdown to Passover given by St. John in Jn 12:1.  Wednesday was Jesus’ last day of teaching in the city of Jerusalem and when He left the city, He went to the home of His friend Simon in the village of Bethany on the Mt. of Olives to have dinner with His friends (Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9).  It was at dinner that an unnamed woman disciple (probably Mary of Bethany), anointed His head(Mt 26:7; Mk 14:4).  You will recall that Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus feeton the Sabbath dinner Jesus shared with His Bethany friends earlier in the week at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus (Jn 12:1-11).  At the Saturday anointing, Jesus instructed Mary to save some of the ointment for His burial (Jn 12:7).  On Wednesday when some protested that the woman was wasting the ointment, Jesus told them She has done what she could.  She has anticipated anointing my body for burial (Mk 14:8).  Those who objected that the expensive ointment was being wasted were probably taking up the protest Judas made at the Sabbath dinner when he said it would be better if the ointment was sold and the money given to the poor.  St. John records that He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal from the contributions (Jn 12:6).  See the chart in Matthew Lesson 24 on the comparison between the accounts of the two dinners at Bethany on Saturday and Wednesday of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem http://agapebiblestudy.com/Matthew_Gospel/Matthew_Lesson_24.htmor handout 2 of Matthew Lesson 24.

Judas left the dinner party at the home of Simon the (former) Leper.  If it was after sundown, it was already the next day, Thursday.  He immediately went to the chief priests to betray Jesus (Mt 26:14-16; Mk 14:10-11).  When Jesus first predicted His betrayal by one of the Twelve at the beginning of the second year of His ministry, near the Passover (Jn 6:4), St. John wrote: Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve?  Yet is not one of you a devil?  He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve (Jn 6:70-71).

The Apostle Judas Iscariot was the son of a man named Simon (Jn 6:71; 13:26) and was probably from the Judean village of Kariot (ishmeans man as in ish Kariot “man of Kariot”).
Question: What do we know about Judas’ character from the Gospels?  See Jn 6:70-71; 8:44; 12:4-6; 13:26-29 and Mt 26:15.
Answer: Jesus said he had an evil nature.  He was the treasurer of Jesus’ community, but he was a thief and stole from the contributions collected for the poor.  His offer to betray Jesus for money reveals his motive and shows that he loved money more than he loved Christ.

It is ludicrous for some to suggest that Judas was really loyal to Jesus and was trying to bring about His Kingdom more quickly.  This theory is clearly not supported by Scripture.  Also, that “Satan entered Judas” (Lk 22:3; Jn 13:27) is not to say that Judas didn’t have the freedom of will to choose to be faithful to Jesus or to betray Him.  His final decision to reject Jesus was the moment Satan used his influence over Judas.  Judas has now become one of the “enemies” who rejected the king in Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Coins, and his fate will be the same “death (Lk 19:27).
Question: What is the significance of Judas being identified as one of the “Twelve,” twice in John 6:70-71?  What is the warning for us today?  See Acts 20:29-30.
Answer: Judas was one of those personally selected by Jesus to be one of the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant Church.  Each man Jesus called had the free will choice to accept or reject his divine election.  Judas didn’t believe that Jesus was the divine Messiah, yet he stayed until he found the opportunity to receive a material reward for betraying Jesus.  That Jesus chose him, knowing Judas would betray Him (Jn 6:70), is a warning to us that not all those who profess Christ in the Church leadership are worthy of the office.  There will be wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:29-30)!

Chapter 22: The Passion Narrative

Luke 22:1-6 ~ The conspiracy
1 Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, 2 and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people.  3 Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve, 4 and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them.  5 They were pleased and agreed to pay him money.  6 He accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd.

Question: What was the agreed upon price for delivering Jesus to His enemies (see Mt 26:15).   What is the connection between the amount the chief priests paid to Judas and allegory of the Shepherds inZechariah 11:4-17 that was written after the return from the Babylonian exile?  What is the connection to Exodus 21:32 and to Jesus?
Answer: Thirty pieces of silver.  It is the same wage in Zechariah 11:12.  In the allegory, the prophet becomes the “good shepherd” of God’s flock which is being “slaughtered” by bad shepherds.  He is the defender of the people exploited by their religious leaders.  The religious leaders/bad shepherds value the service of the good shepherd contemptuously at thirty pieces of silver, the legal compensation for a gored slave (Ex 21:32).  The prophet-shepherd is a type of Christ whose mission to save God’s people is appraised by the false shepherds of the Old Covenant as the base price for a damaged slave  “just as the false shepherds who are the chief priests who seek Jesus’ death value the worth of Jesus’ death with the same sum.

Thursday, Nisan the 14th  ~ The day of the Passover Sacrifice
Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household.  If the household is too small for the animal, he must join with his neighbor nearest to his house, depending on the number of persons.  When you choose the animal, you will take into account what each can eat.  It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats.  You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight”
[literally = between the twilights = noon]. Exodus 12:3-6 NJB; [..] = IBHE, vol. I, page 170

The Jewish Talmud is composed of the Mishnah and the Gemarah.The Mishnah is the sacred Oral Tradition of the covenant people which was the knowledge imparted to the priesthood that was not recorded in Scripture and includes the priestly practice of worship in the Jerusalem Temple.  It is the authoritative source of halacha (Jewish law) second only to the Bible itself.  The Gemarah is the commentary on the Mishnah (there is a Jerusalem and a Babylonian Gemarah).  The section Mishnah: Pesahim records the ritual requirements for the observance of the Passover sacrifice and the feast of Unleavened Bread.  The knowledge recorded in the Mishnah was written down after the destruction of the Temple and was completed in its final editing c. 220 AD.  We will be referring to the Mishnahfrequently in this part of the lesson.

Luke 22:7-13 ~ Preparations for the Passover
7 When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb [the word "lamb" is not in the Greek text], 8 he sent out Peter and John, instructing them, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”  9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make the preparations?”  10 And he answered them, “When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water.  Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and say to the master of the house, The teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  12 He will show you a large upper room that is furnished.  Make the preparations there.”  13 Then they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them, and there they prepared the Passover.
[..] = IBGE, vol. IV, page 234.  Literal translation is “And the Feast of Unleavened Bread, being called Passover, drew near.”  Both lambs and goat kids were the acceptable sacrifice.

St. Mark identifies the day: On the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they kill the Passover, his disciples said to him, “Where do you desire that going we may prepare that you may eat the Passover?” (Mk 14:12; literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 140).  The Passover and the weeklong celebration of Unleavened Bread are listed as two separate feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex 12-13; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25), and only Unleavened Bread is listed as the pilgrim feast (Ex 23:14-17;34:18-23; Num 28:16-17 NAB; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13); however, in Jesus time (30 AD) the names of the two feasts were used interchangeably to refer to the entire 8 holy days.  Josephus (37-100 AD) records that in his time the term “Passover” came to mean the celebration of both feasts as one festival: As this happened at the time when the feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover … (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1).  Like Josephus, St. John refers to the two feasts as “Passover” as does the Mishnahand as do Jews today.  Actually, modern Jews do not keep the Passover.  They keep the feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th-21st (and a day longer in the diaspora) because there is no Temple or sacrificial altar where the Passover victims can be offered.

It is important to note that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament, the victim is never referred to as the Passover “lamb” as it is in many English translations where the word “lamb” is added.  The animal could be a lamb or a goat-kid.  The instructions for the selection of the victim in the first Passover in Egypt required the people to select A flock-animal, a perfect one, a male, a yearling shall be to you.  You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.  And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month.  And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [twilights] (Ex 12:5-6, IBHE, vol. I, page 170).  The first Passover sacrifices began at noon = “between the twilights” is between dawn and dusk of a day which is noon.  This is why the Mishnah declared a Passover sacrifice was invalid if it occurred before noon or after sunset (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:3 G-I).

Question: The Gospel of Mark tells us Jesus sent two disciples to prepare the room (Mk 14:13).  According to Luke 22:8, who were those disciples?
Answer: Sts. Peter and John Zebedee.

It was the practice of the residents of Jerusalem to generously open their homes to Jewish pilgrims during the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and to provide rooms for the sacred meal of the Passover victim, a meal that had to be eaten within the walls of the holy city on the night after the Passover sacrifice.  Sundown the day of the sacrifice was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th, the beginning of the seven-day pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17;2 Chr 8:13).

Luke 22:12 He will show you a large upper room that is furnished.  Make the preparations there.
Question: In whose home might the meal have taken place?  Whose house was the regular meeting place for the Apostles in Jerusalem and what disciples were associated with that house?  See Acts 12:12 and Col 4:10.
Answer: The house of Mary of Jerusalem was their regular meeting place; she was the mother of John-Mark and the cousin of the disciple Barnabas.

The owner of the banquet chamber must have already secured the Passover goat-kid or lamb for Jesus, perhaps on the 10th of Nisan when the Passover lambs and kids were chosen for sacrifice in the first Passover (Ex 12:3).  Choosing the Passover lambs and kids on the 10thof Nisan was a requirement that was no longer observed in the first century AD (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5).  However, that does not mean that Jesus, who clarified and fulfilled in His ministry the covenant commands and prohibitions, failed to keep this obligation like His contemporaries.  It is either an amazing coincidence that His Messianic ride into Jerusalem was on the 10thof Nisan, the day according to the commands of Exodus 12:3 that the Passover victim was to be selected, or it was the God ordained first step in the plan to fulfill the greater exodus redemption that the first Passover liberation prefigured.

The animal for the Passover sacrifice had to be an unblemished male lamb or goat-kid not younger than eight days and not older than a year (Ex 12:5; Lev 22:27).  The animal had to be large enough to feed not less than ten people and not more than twenty (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [423]).  If there were more than twenty people, two groups were formed with a separate Passover victim for the second group, or if the Passover victim was not large enough to feed a designated group, in addition to the Passover sacrifice a festival “free-will” communion hagigah offering from either the flock or the herd (male or female) was necessary (Mishnah: Hagigah, 1:1-1:6;Lev 3:1-17; 7:11-21; Dt 12:5-7, 11-13).  Adding the festival hagigahin addition to the Passover sacrifice allowed for everyone to be adequately fed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4).  The communion hagigah festival peace offerings were the way the people ate together for the entire week long celebration of Passover/Unleavened Bread after the morning Tamid service in meals of joyous celebration (Jn 18:28): A. A festival offering derives from the flock of sheep or from the herd of oxen, from lambs or from goats, from males or from females.  B. And it is eaten for two days and the intervening night [to the night of the fifteenth of Nisan] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4).

When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room had already been arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15a).  However, as Jesus told them, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19).  They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet’s four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume in their individual cups during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C).  They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings (see Jn 2:6 where there were 6 stone jars each holding 20-30 gallons of water for the ritual washings at the wedding banquet in Cana).  They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal.  And if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B).  Jesus’ mother, the mother of the Zebedee brothers, Mary Magdalene and several other women disciples from the Galilee had accompanied Jesus and the Apostles to Jerusalem (Lk 8:1b-3; 23:55).

In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, had been removed from the premises (Ex 13:7).   According to the Law, prior to noontime on the day of the Passover sacrifice it was necessary for the covenant people to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven had been removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).  They were also required to begin their fast at noon: On the eve of Passover [meal]from just before the afternoon’s daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A).  The “afternoon’s daily whole offering” is the afternoon Tamid worship service (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8) and the “eve of Passover” refers to the Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread after the morning Passover sacrifice.  The Mishnahand the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as “Passover,” as does the Gospel of John and as in the case of the modern Jewish celebration.  The Mishnah refers to the “nights of Passover”, plural (Mishnah: Pesahim, 4:4 III A).

On Thursday, Nisan the 14th, the Passover sacrifice took place at the Jerusalem Temple after the afternoon Tamid service, which was moved forward an hour.(3)  One victim was offered per each group of 10  ” 20 people.  The lambs and kids offered in sacrifice were skinned and the bodies returned to the different households/groups that had brought the animal for sacrifice.  The body was taken back to where the groups were going to hold the sacred meal in Jerusalem and roasted on a pomegranate spit.  The other food item were prepare for the meal: the unleavened bread, the sweet mixture of chopped apple, figs and red wine (haroset), the two kinds of bitter herbs.  There was also holy water in stone vessels for ritual purification and red wine.  Four cups of communal red wine were to be ritually offered during the meal in addition to individual cups of wine.  The meal began at sundown and only those members of the covenant who were in a ritual state of purity could attend the meal.

All the Gospels and two thousand years of Christian tradition agree that the Jewish festival of the Passover, when the Passover victims were slain, took place on the Thursday of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, the day before His crucifixion on Friday (Jn 19:31).  Those of the covenant community who were offering the Passover sacrifice for their family and friends gathered at the Temple with their Passover victims at noon for the afternoon Tamid worship service.  The sacrificial ceremony of the Passover lambs and kids began immediately after the body of the afternoon Tamid lamb was placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:3).

The Passover Liturgical Service at the Temple

On the day of the Passover sacrifice, it was necessary for the afternoon Tamid lamb to be offered an hour earlier than the normal ninth hour/three o’clock in the afternoon (Antiquitues of the Jews, 14.4.3 [65]; Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1B) to give enough time for the many Passover victims to be sacrificed from 3-5 PM in the afternoon (ninth hour to the eleventh hour Jewish time): So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [423]).

The sacrifices of the Passover goat-kids and lambs took place from the ninth hour (3 PM) to the eleventh hour (5 PM) at which time the Temple services were normally completed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:8B).  There was an exception to the timing of the service if the day of the Passover sacrifice fell on a Friday, Preparation Day for the Sabbath.  In that case, the Tamid was offered even earlier so that there was enough time for the people to prepare for the Sabbath restrictions:  If, however, the eve of Passover [meal]coincided with the eve of the Sabbath [Friday], it [the Tamid] was slaughtered at half after the sixth hour [12:30 PM] and offered up at half after the seventh hour [1:30 PM] (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:1D). This fact absolutely refutes the claim by some scholars that Jesus died just as the Passover victims were beginning to be sacrificed at the Temple at 3 PM on what Christians call Good Friday.  The Passover was not on Friday, but if it had been, all the animals were sacrificed from 1:30-3:30 PM. 

During the Passover and the daily afternoon liturgy the Temple services, all activity was completed by 5 PM (the eleventh hour Jewish time) to give enough clean-up time before sundown and the beginning of the next day (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:8B).  The only other change in the liturgical service of the afternoon Tamid during the Passover was in the offering of the incense.  The incense was not offered until after the afternoon Tamid lamb was laid on the altar fire in the normal daily liturgy of the afternoon service.  However, on Passover the incense was offered at the conclusion of the all the Passover sacrifices.  The offering of the community’s prayers in the burning of the incense was always the climax of any worship service.

On the day of the sacrifice, the lamb or goat-kid for the Last Supper was taken to the Temple, probably by Peter and John.  It was not necessary for everyone to attend the sacrifice.  A relative or even one’s slave (if he was a Jew) could present the animal for sacrifice since the Passover sacrifice was not a pilgrim festival (Mishnah: Pesahim, 8:1-8:4).  The groups that represented their households assembled at the Temple with their animals at noon.  The different groups were divided into three large divisions in fulfillment of Exodus 12:6: And the whole assembly of the congregations of Israel shall slaughter it … (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5A-B):

  • “whole” = division #1
  • “assembly” = division #2
  • “congregation” = division #3

After the afternoon Tamid was placed on the altar fire, the first division came forward with their animals into the Court of the Priests.  As soon as they entered the courtyard the doors were locked.  The priests blew three blasts on the silver trumpets as the signal that the lambs and goat-kids were to be sacrificed. The leader of each group carried a sacrificial knife with which to slit the throat of the animal, while a Levite collected its blood in a chalice (a silver shekel from year two of the first Jewish Revolt depicts an engraved image of the sacrificial chalice).  The Levite then handed the chalice to a priest who tossed/splashed (zarak) the blood against the base of the altar (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:5-5:6; 2 Chr 30:16).  If the size of the Passover victim was not sufficient to feed the numbers of people included in one group, then a free-will festival sacrifice, a male or female animal from the flock or herd, was also sacrificed at the same time and its blood was collected and splashed against the altar (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-6:4)

While the sacrifices were taking place, the Levitical choir sang the Hallel Psalms 113-118, also called the Egyptian psalms.  Psalms 113-117 recounts the story of the Exodus liberation, while Psalm 118 gives joyous thanksgiving to God the Savior and speaks of the Messiah as “the stone which the builders rejected” which “has become the cornerstone,” the verse Jesus quoted to the chief priests after the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Lk 20:9-18).  As the Levitical choir sang the first line of each verse of the Hallel Psalms, the people repeated every opening line but to the other lines the people responded with “Hallelujah,” “Praise God, Yahweh!”  However, when the Levitical choir came to the 118th Psalms, the congregation not only repeated the first line but also repeated three additional lines that promised the coming of the Messiah (Mishnah:

Pesahim, 5:7): We beg you, Yahweh, save us [Hosanna]!  We beg you, Yahweh, give us victory!  Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming! (Ps 118:25-26 NJB; emphasis added).The first line of Psalms 118:26 contains the words the crowd shouted on Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, as recorded in Matthew 21:9.  This line can also be translated “Blessed is He who is coming in the name of the LORD [literally the divine Name YHWH = Yahweh]!” as Jesus quoted this line inMatthew 23:39, applying the passage prophetically to Himself.

The Egyptian Hallel Psalms were repeated until all the animals of a division had been sacrificed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:7).  After the first division sacrificed its victims, the bodies of the animals were skinned, the entrails were removed and cleansed, the inside fat was removed, and then the fat was put in a bowl where it was salted before being placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Pesahim, 5:10).  When all was completed for the first division, the second division entered the Court of the Priests, and the same ritual of sacrifice was repeated.  When all the animals (Passover lambs and kids and the communion hagigah offerings) had been sacrificed, the Passover service was concluded by the burning of incense on the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place of the Sanctuary.

Flavius Josephus wrote that during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) at one annual Passover service 256,500 sacrifices were slain.  He wrote that at the end of the afternoon the blood from the sacrificial victims splashed against the sacrificial altar reached the ankles of the priests, and the Kidron brook, where the Temple drains emptied out, became a river of blood (Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3 [424]).  When the liturgical celebration and sacrifice of the Passover was completed, the skinned body of every Passover lamb or goat-kid and free-will hagigah festival offering was taken by each group back into to city of Jerusalem.

The Night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Last Supper

After the Temple service, the people returned to where they were staying in Jerusalem.  There they roasted the whole body of the Passover sacrifice and in some cases, the hagigah festival offering on a spit of pomegranate wood.  They had to be careful in roasting the Passover victim so that no bones were broken.  Anyone who carelessly broke a bone of the Passover victim was punished by receiving forty lashes and the sacrifice became invalid (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B, 7:11C; Ex 12:46; Num 9:12).  It was also necessary to prepare the other foods which accompanied eating the meat of the sacrifice: the two kinds of bitter herbs, the vinegar or salted water for dipping the herbs, the chopped fruit mixture, and the baked loaves of unleavened bread (Ex 12:8-28; 13:3-10; Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3).  The pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed the Passover sacrifice allowed the covenant people to relive the themes of judgment and redemption that the Israelites experienced in the first Passover event and to eat the sacred meal of the Passover as a sign of covenant renewal and continuation.  So sacred was this meal that the penalty for deliberately failing to eat the sacrifice of the Passover on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was excommunication from the covenant people (Num 9:13).

There were some commands from the first Passover that were no longer observed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5): “A. What is the difference between the Passover of Egypt and the Passover of the succeeding generations?  B. As to the Passover of Egypt “(1) the designation took place on the tenth of Nisan. (2) It required sprinkling of the blood of the lamb with a branch of hyssop on the lintel of the door and on the two doorposts.  And (3) it was eaten in hast in a single night.  C. But the Passover observed by the succeeding generations applies [to leaven] for all seven days [and not for one night].”

The Law of Moses required that the Passover and the eating of the sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread was to take place in the early spring on the first full moon of the spring equinox (Ex 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1); this requirement continues to be observed.  The Church establishes the date for Easter in the same way “on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox.(4)  Concerning the importance of the setting of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in association with the vernal equinox, the first century Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (d. 50 AD), who was a contemporary of Jesus, wrote:  And there is another festival combined with the feast of the Passover [...].   This month being the seventh [in the civil calendar] both in number and order, according to the revolutions of the sun, is the first in power; on which account it is also called the first in the sacred scriptures.  And the reason, as I imagine, is as follows.  The vernal equinox is an imitation and representation of that beginning in accordance with which the world was created.  [..].  And again, this feast is begun on the fifteenth day of the month, in the middle of the month, on the day which the moon is full of light, in consequence of the providence of God taking care that there shall be no darkness on that day (Special Laws II, 150-155).

Jesus fully supported the authority of the priesthood in fulfilling the rites and rituals of the Sinai Covenant, which certainly included appointing the dates of the designated feast days.  That week, teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed the issue of the authority of the Temple hierarchy: Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you…(Mt 23:1-4a; emphasis added).  Jesus would not have told the people to obey the hierarchy of the Church one day and then do the exact opposite by celebrating the Passover on day other than that designated according to the liturgical calendar on the next day.  The hierarchy of the Church determined the day for the Passover sacrifice and sacred meal as prescribed by the Law of the covenant according to the lunar calendar.  The eating of this sacrificial meal in the middle of the month of Nisan in 30 AD, at the time of the full moon, was the last legitimate sacrificial meal of the Old Covenant.  It was a sacred meal that was transformed and fulfilled in the first Eucharistic sacrifice of the New Covenant people of God.  It was absolutely necessary for the faithful remnant of Jews who became the restored Israel of the New Covenant to participate in this last Old Covenant ritual meal in order to be able to comprehend its transformation and fulfillment as a true sacrificial meal in the offering of Christ the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic banquet.

Luke 22:14-16 ~ The Sacred Meal of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the First Eucharist
14 When the hour came, Jesus took his place [leaned back] at table with the Apostles.  15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, 16 for I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  17 Then he took a cup, gave thanks and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.  [..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, page 234, “reclined” in Mt 26:20, Mk 14:18 and Jn 13:23)

Sundown began the next Jewish day, Nisan the 15th, and it signaled the beginning of the celebration of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread.  The meal began after sundown, and it had to be completed before midnight (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A; 10:9).  That night, by the light of the full moon, those invited to eat the sacred meal with Jesus made their way to an upper room (Lk 22:12; Acts 13) in the oldest section of the city known as the City of David on Mt. Zion.  Only covenant members were permitted to take part in this sacred meal, and the meal was reserved only for those in covenant with Yahweh who were circumcised (if male) and ritually clean, a condition that reflected the spiritual purity of the covenant member’s circumcised heart (Ex 12:43-51).  The requirements for this pilgrim feast included:

  • Attendance at the sacred meal of the Passover victim on     the first night of the feast of Unleavened Bread in a house that was free     of all leaven (Ex 12:8-14; 13:42-49; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4).
  • The eating of bread without leaven during the seven-day     holy week (Ex 12:15-20; 13:6-10; Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5C).
  • The observances of the required Sacred Assembly during the     morning Tamid service on the 15th and the 21st of     Nisan and the other daily Tamid services to which covenant members brought     communion hagigah festival sacrifices to be eaten in communal meals     in Jerusalem during the week (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:4; Mishnah: Hagigah,     1:3, 1:6).

The liturgical service of the Passover sacrifice on the 14thof Nisan was not a pilgrim feast; therefore, it was not necessary to be present at the sacrifice of the Passover victims; however, it was absolutely necessary to be present that night for the sacred meal.  The food served during the sacred meal at sundown on Nisan the 15th was prescribed (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:5) included:

  • Two kinds of bitter herbs and salt water or vinegar:     representing the gift of life and the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt that caused tears and suffering.
  • Haroset/Charoset (a mixture of chopped apple or     chopped figs with red wine): representing the red clay of Egypt and the     sweetness of God’s redemption.
  • Unleavened bread: the bread they made in haste when they     escaped from Egypt.
  • Four communal cups of red wine (and additional red wine     for individual cups): the four cups stood for the four ways God promised     to redeem Israel.  The red wine also represented the blood of the     sacrificial victim that became the sign of their redemption on the     doorways of their houses from the threshold to the lintel to the door     posts, forming a cross in the first Passover event.
  • The roasted whole body of the sacrificial lamb or kid (no     bones broken) and the optional hagigah festival sacrifice: the     Passover victim represented the sacrificed animal that died in the place     of the firstborn of Israel.  The hagigah provided enough food if     the group was too large to adequately be fed by the Passover victim (Mishnah:     Pesahim, 6:3).  If the hagigah was not provided the night of     Unleavened Bread, the communion sacrifice had to be made on all the other     days of the festival (Mishnah: Hagigah, 6:1).

Four communal cups of red wine, each mixed with a little water, were consumed during the meal.  Each cup represented the blood of the victim and one of the four ways God promised to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt from Exodus 6:6-8 (NJB):  So say to the Israelites, “I am Yahweh…

  1. I shall free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians  “Cup of Sanctification
  2. I shall rescue you from their slavery “Cup of Forgiveness
  3. I shall redeem you with outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment “Cup of Blessing/Redemption
  4. I shall take you as my people and I shall be your God” “Cup of Acceptance

There is no explanation in Jewish tradition as to why a little water was added to each communal cup.  It was common to cut the wine with water at a banquet, but this was done in a large bowl and the individual cups of the guests were dipped into the bowl.

Question: When do you see a little water added to a chalice of wine in the Mass?
Answer: As the priest prepares the Eucharistic table, he pours a little water into the wine that will become Jesus’ Precious Blood.

We still add a little water to the Cup of Blessing that becomes Jesus’ Precious Blood in the Mass.  The red wine and water prefigure the blood and water that flowed from the side of Christ in John 19:33-35.  This is a practice that extends back to ancient times and is included in St. Justin Martyr’s description of the celebration of the Eucharist in 150 AD where he speaks of water being brought to the altar with the red wine and mixed together by the priest (CCC 1345).

The Cup of Sanctification and the ritual prayers began the meal, and the Cup of Acceptance closed the meal and sealed the people’s commitment to the covenant for another year when the host uttered the words “It is finished.”  Jesus was the host of the sacred meal.  He came to the meal dressed in the seamless garment of a priest, signifying the liturgical nature of the meal (Jn 19:23-24).  St. John’s Gospel tells us He reclined at the table with His guests.  The Fathers of the Church identify St. John Zebedee as the “beloved disciple” who shared Jesus’ couch, reclining against Jesus’ chest (Jn 13:23).(5)

The pouring of the Cup of Sanctification to which a little water was added was followed by the Kiddush, the Prayer of Sanctification.  Holding the Cup of Sanctification in His right hand as he elevated the cup in front of those assembled, Jesus recited the ancient prayer, blessing the wine and also saying a blessing according to the day of the week.  The prayer opened with the words: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast created the fruit of the vine … The opening prayer was followed by the blessing of the day, and then the prayer was concluded with the words:Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast sustained us and enabled us to reach this season. Ritual prayers were to accompany every part of the meal. Concluding the prayer, Jesus passed the communal cup, and everyone present at the meal drank from the Cup of Sanctification which, like the events of the first Passover, sanctified and set Israel apart in holiness from all other peoples of the earth.

The drinking of the first communal cup was followed by the first of three ritual hand washings.  After the first ritual hand washing, the servants then brought in the food.  Each food item had symbolic meaning, allowing the covenant people to relive the first Passover experience.  The Mishnah records Rabbi Gamaliel’s instructions on the foods served in the ancient Passover: Whoever has not referred to these three matters connected to the Passover has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are they: Passover [victim], unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.  Passover because the Omnipresent passed over the houses of our forefathers in Egypt.  Unleavened bread “because our forefathers were redeemed in Egypt.  Bitter herbs “because the Egyptians embittered the lives of our forefathers in Egypt.  In every generation a person is duty-bond to regard himself as if he personally has gone forth from Egypt, since it is said, “And you shall tell your son in that day saying,  It is because of that which the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt’ (Ex. 13:8).  Therefore we are duty-bound to thank, praise, glorify, honor, exalt, extol, and bless him who did for our forefathers and for us all these miracles.  He brought us forth from slavery to freedom, anguish to joy, mourning to festival, darkness to great light, subjugation to redemption, so we should say before him, Hallelujah (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:5).

In addition to these foods, there was also the hagigahfestival peace offering that was included if it had been determined that the Passover sacrifice was not enough to feed a large group attending the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 6:3-4) and a mixture of fruit, red wine and cinnamon called haroset. The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah debated whether it was required (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3D and E).   After the food was placed on the table in front of the host, the order of the meal called for the first dipping of the bitter herb in the vinegar or salted water (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:3).  The green herb was intended to remind them that God’s creation and all that it contained was good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31), but the dipping of the bitter herb in salted water represented the destructive power of sin and the tears shed by all who suffered in bondage to in Egypt.  Jesus prayed over the herbs, dipped the first bitter herb (usually lettuce), ate and then passed the herbs and the salted water around the table to those assembled to dip and eat, reflecting on both man’s blessings and the curse of sin.

The first dipping was followed by the temporary removal of the trays of food (to heighten the excitement).  Then Jesus would have poured out the second cup of wine mixed with a little water.  The second cup was called the Cup of Forgiveness, was poured out but it was not passed.  Instead, the host placed the cup on the table as He turned to the one who had the honor of asking the host, who was usually the father of an extended family, the ritual questions. This member of the assembly was usually a young son of the household or a young man selected from among the assembled covenant members in accordance with God’s command in Exodus 13:8 ~ On this day you shall explain to your son,  This is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It is difficult to accept the theory that only Jesus and His Apostles attended the sacred meal since it was required by the Law that those representing the “congregation of Israel” attend and that children be instructed.  Jesus’ mother and John’s mother had accompanied their sons to Jerusalem for the festival.  Would Jesus have denied them this sacred occasion in His presence?  They were also His disciples (Lk 8:1-3).  The questions and related statements that were part of the ritual are found in the Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:4II:

  1. How different is this night from all other nights?  For on     all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night     all the bread is unleavened.
  2. For on all other nights we eat diverse vegetables, but on     this night only bitter herbs.
  3. For on all other nights we eat meat which is roasted,     stewed, or boiled.  But this night all the meat is roasted.
  4. For on all other nights we dip our food one time, but on     this night, two times.

In response to the questions Jesus, as the host, began to tell the story of God’s covenant relationship with Israel with the call of Abraham and his descendants into covenant with Yahweh and the events that led the children of Israel to migrate to Egypt during a famine when Joseph son of Jacob-Israel was Vizier of Egypt.  Then He told how the Israelites were later enslaved by the Egyptians and cried out to the God for their ancestors for deliverance.  The telling of the story of Israel’s redemption was in obedience to the three commands to recite the story every year at Passover and the command to not just remember but to relive the Passover experience (Ex 10:2; 12:26-27, 13:8).

Jesus told how Moses was sent by God to redeem the people and the ten plagues that were God’s judgment on the false gods of Egypt (Ex 12:12).  Then He told how the first Passover victims were sacrificed, how the blood was poured into the thresholds of the doorways of the houses, and how the blood was smeared on the doorposts and the lintel of the houses with a hyssop branch.  It was under the sign of the blood of sacrifice across the doorways that the angel of death “passed over” the houses of the Israelites (Ex 12:13, 22-23). It was not a coincidence in that first Passover that the sign of the blood extended from the threshold to the lintel and from doorpost to doorpost, foreshadowing the sign of the Cross.  Jesus, as the host, would have finished his summary of Israel’s early history with the story of the giving of the Law and God’s covenant with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:4-10:5).

Following Jesus’ homily on the history of Israel and the people’s redemption and liberation from Egyptian slavery in the midst of God’s divine judgment, the food was returned to the table and Jesus explained the symbolic significance of the food.  The roasted lamb or kid was the Passover victim who died in atonement for the firstborn sons of Israel, the second bitter herb signified the bitter suffering of the people in slavery to the Egyptians, the salt water symbolized the tears the Israelites shed, and the sweet chopped red apple or figs mixed with red cinnamon and red wine symbolized the red clay used to make the bricks for Pharaoh’s buildings while its sweet taste symbolized the sweetness of knowing that God heard His people’s prayers and redemption was coming.  The unleavened bread symbolized the bread the children of Israel made in haste before leaving Egypt and was also a symbol of a redeemed nation, freed from slavery and from the sins of the Egyptians.

According to the traditional order of the ritual meal, it was now time for the host to lift up the Cup of Forgiveness, say a blessing over it, and pass the communal cup.  Then Jesus led the assembly in singing the first two Egyptian Hallel Psalms, Psalms 113:1-9 and 114:1-8.  After singing the last line of Psalms 114:8: A flint into a spring of water …  those assembled again shouted, “Hallelujah!”, to which Jesus, as the host, replied with a prayer: So, Lord, our God, and God of our fathers, bring us in peace to other appointed times and festivals, rejoicing in the rejoicing in your city and joyful in your Temple worship, where we may eat of the animal sacrifices and Passover offerings …  Blessed are you, Lord who has redeemed us and redeemed our forefathers from Egypt (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:6).

Question: How many cups of wine are mentioned in Luke’s version of the Last Supper?
Answer: There are two cups mentioned: one cup of wine in verse 17 and a second in verse 20.

The Gospel of Luke identifies two of the four communal cups of wine which were consumed in the sacred meal of the Passover.  It is significant that there are two cups in Luke 22 verses 17 and 20 with the bread that became His Body offered between the two cups in verse 19.  St. Luke is the only Gospel writer to mention two cups: a cup passed prior to Jesus taking up the unleavened bread over which He said the words of consecration (Lk 22:17), and the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, which was the Eucharistic cup of Jesus’ precious blood (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 15:10:16).  The first cup St. Luke mentions in verse 17 could be the first ritual cup, the Cup of Sanctification, but it is more likely that it is the second of the four communal ritual cups of red wine served at the meal, the Cup of Forgiveness.

Question: What profound statement does Jesus make after offering the communal cup of wine in verse 17?
Answer: He swears that He will not drink wine again until He comes into His Kingdom.

St. Luke records: And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:17-18).  It is significant that Jesus swore that He would not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God is established.  This vow is similar to His vow not eat the sacred meal of the Passover again until the New Covenant Passover was fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Lk 22:14-16).  If the cup had been the first, He could not have drunk from the second cup.  His words “again” or “from now on” suggests that He drank from the Cup of Forgiveness, as did all the others assembled in the room, even Judas.

As the Cup of Forgiveness was passed, everyone present sang Psalms 113-114 and everyone drank from the Cup of Forgiveness.  It was now time for the second ritual hand washing.  Perhaps this was the occasion when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.  The Gospel of John records: So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and book off his outer garment.  He took a towel and tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist (Jn 13:2b-5).  Since it was “during supper” the washing of His disciples’ feet, which has always been interpreted by the Church as the symbolic ordination of the ministers of His Church, had to occur during meal and most likely during the second or third ritual hand washing.  This was the first of several changes Jesus made in the order of the meal.  He took water from the stone vessels that contained the ritually blessed water and He washed the disciple’s feet in a symbolic act to inaugurate their mission as the chief servants of the Kingdom (Jn 13:3-16).  According to the Gospel of John the foot washing ritual occurred before Jesus passed the “sop” of unleavened bread and haroset (Jn 13:13:26).  The second ritual hand washing was in preparation for eating the unleavened bread.

The next part of the ritual was the eating of the prepared rounds of unleavened bread (not what was offered as Jesus’ Body).  The unleavened bread symbolized the people’s covenant holiness and the absence of sin within the community of those who ate this meal under of the atoning sacrifice of the Passover victim.  As was the custom, Jesus would have taken up the basket holding the individually wrapped rounds of unleavened bread and prayed over it.  Some Rabbis say there were three separate rounds of unleavened bread with each round wrapped separately in its own cloth, stacked one on top of the other and placed in one basket with the middle bread broken in two pieces, while other Rabbis say there were only two wrapped rounds of bread.  For Christians, the three separately wrapped rounds of unleavened bread together in one basket symbolize the mystery of the Trinity, a truth not yet revealed to the Old Covenant people of God. The torn middle round of unleavened bread is identified by Christians as the sinless Son of God whose flesh was torn for the sins of man.

Taking up a round loaf of unleavened bread and holding it in His hands, Jesus broke it into two pieces, thanking God in prayer for both the grain from which the bread was made and for the command to eat it.  Next, taking up a piece of the broken unleavened bread, Jesus dipped it into the haroset; folding the fruit mixture with the second bitter herb between the two sides of the bread.  This “second dipping” (the first dipping was the herb in the salted water).  This “dipping,” in which the haroset was folded into the unleavened bread, was called the “sop.”  The first “sop” was given to the person the host wished to honor that night.

Question: To whom did Jesus honor by the giving of the first “sop”?  See Jn 13:26.
Answer: Jesus gave the first of the sop to Judas, the one who was going to betray Him.

The Gospel of John records that the first sop was given to Judas who was probably sitting on Jesus’ left at the place traditionally reserved for one to be honored: So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him (Jn 13:26).  Jesus reached out to Judas one final time but Judas rejected Christ, and John’s Gospel records that he left the gathering (Jn 13:30).

The communal dish of the bitter herb and the haroset fruit mixture was then passed around the table with additional rounds of the unleavened bread.  After everyone had dipped the “sop,” the hagigah peace offering was brought to the table and was eaten (if the festival peace offering had been made at the time of the Passover sacrifice).  Finally the roasted flesh of Passover victim, roasted like a sacrifice and with no bones broken, was passed and eaten by those assembled.  Jesus would have pronounced separate blessings over both the hagigah peace offering and the Passover victim.  The meat of the Passover victim had to be carefully roasted and then the meat separated without breaking any of the bones (Ex 12:46).  To break a bone of the victim was a grave offense punishable by forty lashes (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:11C).  The meat of the Passover sacrifice had to be the last food consumed; no other food was to be eaten after the flesh of the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:9).

Some scholars have suggested that Jesus and those with Him at the Last Supper only ate the bread and drank the wine that became Jesus’ Body and Blood.  However, this theory is not supported by the testimony of Sacred Scripture.
Question: What do the Gospels record that shows Jesus and His disciples ate the traditional meal of the Passover?  What other passages confirm that they kept the sacred feast as God commanded?  See Mt 5:18-20; 26:20-21, 26; Mk 14:17-18, 22; Jn 13:21-30.
Answer: In the Gospels, the Last Supper assembly is clearly eating the sacred meal of the Passover prior to Jesus offering Himself in the bread and wine that become His Body and Blood.  The Gospel of John even gives the account of the group eating the “sop” which is the unleavened bread and the haroset.  In addition, Jesus swore that He would not change one part of the Law until all He had come to accomplish had been fulfilled.  He will accomplish that fulfillment when He gives up His life on the altar of the Cross.

In St. Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in c. 54 AD, he tells them because of abuses to refrain from eating a meal before receiving the Eucharist (chapter 11).   This had been the practice of the early Church in following the order of the Last Supper in which a full meal was taken before Jesus instituted the Eucharist.  We also have evidence of this practice in the Church’s first catechism, the Didache (“The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”).  See http://agapebiblestudy.com/Didache/Didache_Lesson_2.htm.  And we also have evidence that a full meal was eaten by Christians in the first decades of the Church before receiving the Eucharist in the letters of the Church fathers like St. Ignatius of Antioch (martyred c. 107 AD), in which they called the meal prior to the Eucharist an “agape meal.”

Luke 22:19-20 ~ 19 Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”  20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.
But once again Jesus changed the order of the sacred meal as he took up the bread again and offered it to his disciples saying “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. 

Question: What do Jesus’ words in offering the unleavened bread as His Body and the cup of wine as His Blood together with the words “the new covenant” mean to the disciples?  See Jer 31:31-34; Jn 6:4, 52-56.
Answer: The words “new covenant” recalls Jeremiah’s famous passage in which the prophet promises that the Messiah will bring about a new covenant and a new knowledge of God.  The disciples must have also recalled Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse just the year before in which He gave them the unprecedented and shocking promise that eternal life was theirs if they ate His flesh and drank His blood.

In the offering of Himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to the assembly in the Upper Room, Jesus began His walk to the Cross that night in what was the first Eucharistic banquet.  He was fulfilling what He promised in the Bread of Life Discourse when Jesus told the crowds “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51) … and “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:53-56).

Luke 22:21-23 ~ Jesus announces His betrayal
21 And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; 22 for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe is that man by whom he is betrayed.”  23 And they began to debate among themselves who among them would do such a deed.

Jesus makes the startling announcement that He will be betrayed by one of His own and that this will happen according to the will of God.
Question: In the Gospel of John, St. Peter asks Jesus to identify the betrayer.  What does Jesus tell John and why do they still not know the identity of the one who will betray Jesus?  See Jn 13:21-26.
Answer: Jesus told Peter it was the one who dipped the sop with Him.  The problem was, even though He first gave the sop to Judas, they all dipped the sop with Jesus.

Luke 22:24-30 ~ Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.  25 He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addresses as Benefactors’; 26 but among you it shall not be so.  Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.  27 For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves.  28 It is you who have stood by me in my trials; 29 and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Next, Jesus sets the standard for His disciples by telling them that the most humble of them who ranks himself the least in Jesus’ kingdom will be considered the “greatest.”  He is sending them forth as servants of the Kingdom and not like the arrogant and self-righteous chief priests, Pharisees and scribes who oppose Jesus and reject Him as the Messiah.  It is the same teaching He gave them in the washing of their feet in John 13:12-18.

Question: What three promises does Jesus make to the disciples?
Answer: Jesus promises His disciples:

  1. They will be His heirs and will inherit His kingdom (verse 29).
  2. He will serve them at His table (verse 30).
  3. They will judge the tribes of Israel (verse 30b).

Question: That they will be served at His table has what double meaning or fulfillment?  See 1 Cor 11:23-26, the Parable of the Faithful Servants in Lk 12:35-37 and Rev 19:1-9.
Answer: Jesus serves His faithful servants/disciples at His table of the altar at every Eucharistic celebration of the Mass as He has just served them His Body and Blood, but He will also serve His disciples at the eschatological banquet when He returns to claim His Bride, the Church at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Sanctuary (
Rev 19:1-9).

It is possible Jesus was visually demonstrating this teaching by having St. John Zebedee, the youngest Apostle, reclining with Him in what would be considered by the Apostles the seat of greatest honor (Jn 13:23). (5)  If that is the case, where is Peter, the leader of the Apostles?  John 13:23-25 relates that the Apostle who leaned against Jesus’ chest was next to Peter who asked him to inquire of Jesus who was the betrayer.  In the formal arrangement of the seating for a Greek style symposium (the order of which was observed by Jews in the first century AD), the host reclined to the far end of the table as the other guests were seated to his left in the U-shaped arrangement.  The only person who could be next to the host who wasn’t sharing a couch was the servant who either stood or sat on a bench at the end of the table.  Was Peter seated in the position of the servant who helped the host serve the meal?  One of the oldest titles of the Pope is “servant of the servants of God.”

Luke 22:31-38 ~ Simon-Peter’s denial foretold and instructions for the time of crisis
31 “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”  33 He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”  34 But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cockcrows this day, you will deny me three times that you know me.” 35 He then said to them, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals were you in need of anything?”  36 No, nothing,” they replied.’  He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.  37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely ,  He was counted among the wicked’; and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment.”  38 Then they said,  Lord, look, there are two swords here.’  But he replied, “It is enough!” 

Question: Jesus turns to Peter and gives him a dire warning.  What is the warning and what is Jesus’ command to Peter?
Answer: Jesus tells Peter that he will be tested by Satan and commands Simon-Peter, His Vicar, that when he has recovered from his test, to strengthen his brother Apostles.

Jesus’ instruction to Simon-Peter confirms his primacy within the Apostolic College.  Simon-Peter professes his willingness to give his life for Jesus, but Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny Him three times before the cockcrow.  The “cockcrow” was the trumpet single that announced the end of the third night Watch and the beginning of the fourth and last night Watch.  It was sounded at 3 AM.(6)  Next Jesus counsels them to be prepared for the coming crisis.  The Gospel message that they carried to the Jews on their earlier missionary journey was well received and their material needs were met by those receptive to their message, but now the climate is hostile and they will need to defend and care for themselves and their loved ones.  Again Jesus quotes a fulfillment passage from the Old Testament in Luke 22:37 from the fourth Song of the Servant in Isaiah chapter 53.

Question: What does Jesus tell His disciples concerning the coming of the crisis?  See Lk 22:37 and Is 53:12 from the Fourth Servant’s Song.  Quote the passage from Isaiah 53, underlining the words from Isaiah 53:12.
Answer: Jesus assures His disciples that the coming crisis is in fulfillment of what was prophesied in the Scriptures when He says:“… and indeed what was written about me is coming to fulfillment.”  The fulfillment passage Jesus quotes is from is Isaiah 53:12: For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me, namely,  He was counted among the wicked‘; (Lk 22:37).

The purpose of the two swords will not be to defend Jesus but to offer another opportunity to work a miracle in front of His detractors (Lk 22:49-51).  With the meal concluded, the ritual required the final blessing, the pouring out of the fourth communal cup mixed with a little water “the Cup of Acceptance “and the assembly singing Psalms 136 followed by the host’s announcement “It is finished” “announcing the Israel’s covenant obligation to keep the Passover meal had been fulfilled for another year and the people continued to accept their commitment to their covenant with God.  However, it is unlikely that Jesus poured and drank from the fourth cup.
Question: Why could Jesus not have completed the meal by drinking from the Cup of Acceptance?
Answer: Jesus could not have received the wine of the Cup of Acceptance because of His oath in Luke 22:17-18.

Instead, they must have sung the psalms and then they left the city and withdrew to the Mt. of Olives (Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26).   The ritual meal of the Sinai covenant was therefore, not concluded.  Jesus will take the fourth cup, the Cup of Acceptance,  from the altar of the Cross and will then announce: “teltelestai” = “It is finished” – declaring  the Old Covenant completed and finished as He promised in Matthew 5:18: Amen,  I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place (emphasis added), and the establishment of His Kingdom, as He promised: “I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).

Instead, they must have sung the psalms and then withdraw to the Mt. of Olives (Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26).   The ritual meal of the Sinai covenant was therefore, not concluded.  Jesus will take the fourth cup, the Cup of Acceptance, from the altar of the Cross and will then announce: “teltelestai” = “It is finished” “declaring the Old Covenant completed and finished as He promised in Matthew 5:18: Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place(emphasis added), and the establishment of His Kingdom, as He promised: “I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18).

Jesus and the Apostles leave the Upper Room in Jerusalem and cross the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives east of the city.  They may have gone through the Temple area since the Temple was left open for those who wished to pray there after the meal.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: Have you ever felt that you were being “sifted by Satan”?  What did you do to resist a crisis of faith or a crisis of expectation?  A crisis of expectation is when our idea or expectation of God’s plan for our lives takes a decidedly different turn “sometimes resulting in suffering and loss.  What did Jesus advise His disciples to do in their “hour of grief” in Luke 22:46?

Endnotes:

1.  It was the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs that coincided     with Jesus sacrifice on Friday, the day after the Passover sacrifices, with     the first lamb sacrificed at the third hour (9 AM) and the second lamb at     the ninth hour (3 PM).

2.  The Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach (also spelled Passah     and Pessah) may come from the word pasah which is an     Egyptian word derived from the root pash meaning “to hold” and in     Hebrew came to mean “pass over” as when the angel of death passed over the     blood stained doorways of the Israelites on the first Passover.  Or it may     come from the Egyptian root pesh, which means “to spread wings over     in order to protect.”  Some scholars believe “pesh” may be the correct     root because of the link to the symbolism of God’s wings of protection     which is so often repeated in Scripture: Ex 19:4; Ps 17:8.7; Mt 23:27; Lk 13:34; etc.

3.  It was a covenant obligation for all men of the covenant     to keep the pilgrim feats of Unleavened Bread and eat the sacred meal of     the Passover sacrifice, but exceptions were made in case of illness, or     the death of a family member, or if one was delayed because of a long     journey, or if one became ritually impure.  In those cases, it was     possible to keep the feast a month later (Num 9:9-10; Mishnah: Pesahim,     9:1-9:3).

4.  Twice a year, at the beginning of spring and at the     beginning of fall, day and night are each exactly twelve hours long.      These times are called the “equinox” meaning “equal.”  The vernal equinox     is the day of equal dark and light hours that occurs in the spring (the     word “vernal” means “spring”).  The fall equinox is called the autumnal     equinox.   The vernal equinox occurs during Lent (the period of 40 days     before sundown on Holy Thursday), and the next day the daylight hours     begin to lengthen.  The word “Lent” is related to the word “lengthen” and     is also an old Saxon word (lengthen) for springtime.

5.  Early Church Fathers who testified that John was the     “beloved disciple”: St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John), Epistles, 5.24.3;     St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1.

6.  For ancient references to the “cockcrow” see for     example: Mishnah: Tamid, 1:2 He who wants to take up the ashes     from the altar gets up early and immerses before the superintendent comes     by … Sometimes he comes at cockcrow or near then …; also Mishnah     Yoma, 1:8 Everyday they take up the ashes from the altar at cock’s     crow or near it. For Christians mentioning the hour of “cockcrow” see     Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 38, Egeria: Dairy of a     Pilgrimage, pages 28, 30, 89, 91-92, 97-98, 103, 105, 107-8, 117-8,     121, 154 and 215; also Hippolytus, Canons 27.

Additional resources used in this lesson:

  1. Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 38: Egeria:     Diary of a Pilgrimage, translated and annotated by George E. Gingras,     Catholic University of America, Newman Press, 1970.
  2. Christ in the Passover, Ceil and Moishe Rosen,     Moody Press, Chicago, 1978.
  3. Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, Joachim     Jeremias, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1968.
  4. The Jewish Festivals from Their Beginnings to Our Own     Day, Hayyim Schauss, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, New York, 1938.
  5. The Jewish Study Bible, editors Adele Berlin and     Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Publication Society, Oxford University     Press, 1999 edition.
  6. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions, Ronald L.     Eisenberg, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 2004.
  7. The Mishnah, editor Jacob Neusner, Yale     University Press, 1988.
The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 13

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 13

31. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 13: Chapters 19:28-21:38
Jesus’ Last Week in Jerusalem

Lord,
Keep us mindful that You are God of our future, “the God of the living” (Lk 20:38) “of all those who are destined for eternal life.  We are to look to the past as a lesson, but we are to live with hopeful hearts in “straining forward for what lies ahead,” as St. Paul encouraged us (Phil 3:13).  Our salvation is bound to the power of Christ in our present, in how we conduct our daily lives.  Give us the strength of faith to persevere through our earthly struggles in hopeful anticipation of the final Exodus.  Help us to be ever pursuing “the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14) by striving in faith to attain the promise of the final resurrection that will lead to eternal life.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

Jesus said: What is written about me is coming to fulfillment …
Luke 22:37

By the union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal…
Catechism of the Catholic Church,
474

Chapter 19:28-48
Jesus Comes to Jerusalem

Now upon the approach of that feast of Unleavened Bread, which the law of their fathers had appointed for the Jews at this time, which feast is called the Passover, and is a memorial of their deliverance out of Egypt …
Josephus,Antiquities of the Jews, 17.9.3

After Jesus taught the parable of the ten gold coins (Lk 19:11-27),  He left Jericho and proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.  Jericho is located about six miles from the northern end of the Dead Sea, the lowest site on earth, while Jerusalem is situated on the crest of three Judean mountain peaks that range in height from 2300 to 2500 feet above sea level.  The city is about twenty miles west of the Dead Sea’s northern end.  This is the beginning of the conclusion of Jesus’ three year ministry to find the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10:6; 15:24).  It is the early spring and thousands of pilgrims are coming to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover and the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread.  These were originally ordained as two separate feasts.  The Passover sacrifice took place on Nisan the 14th(Lev 23:5) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread took place from Nisan the 15thto the 21st (Lev 23:6-8).  But in the first century AD, they were celebrated as one feast and the names Passover and Unleavened Bread were used interchangeable to designate the entire 8 days (Mt 26:17; Mk 14:12; Lk 22:7), as Josephus records (Antiquities, 14.2.1; 17.9.3; Jewish Wars, 5.3.1). However, in St. John’s Gospel he refers to the two feasts only as the Passover (Jn 2:13, 33; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14) and never mentions Unleavened Bread.

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is almost over.  He arrives at the village of Bethany and spends the Sabbath with His friends there.  Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him (John 12:1-2).The Hebrew month Abib (Ex 12:1-2; 13:4) was called Nisan (Neh 2:1; Est 3:7) after the return from the Babylonian exile).  The Law of Moses required the Passover Sacrifice to take place in the early spring after the spring equinox on the 14th of Nisan (Ex 12:6; Lev 23:5; Num 28:16; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:1).(1)  The Sabbath dinner in Bethany was on the 9th day of the month.  Josephus records that it was the custom of the day for the Sabbath dinner to take place at the sixth hour Jewish time (noon).(2) Since Martha served the dinner, it is likely that the meal took place in the home of Jesus’ dear friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.  During the meal, Lazarus’ sister Mary took a jar of expensive ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet, wiping His feet with her hair.(3)  The next day Jesus entered Jerusalem.  It is the day the Church celebrates as Palm Sunday (Jn 12:12-19).

The countdown to the Passion of the Christ (*count the days as the ancients’ counted with no zero-place-value by counting the first in the series as day #1; note that sundown began the next Jewish day).(4)

Day #1. Saturday, Nisan 9th: Jesus ate the Sabbath dinner with His friends in Bethany and received His second anointing (Jn 12:1-11).

Day #2. Sunday, Nisan 10th: Jesus made His triumphal ride into the city of Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple a second time, and taught the people at the Temple (Mt 21:1-17; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 19:36-40; Jn 12:12-19).(5)

Day #3. Monday, Nisan 11th: Jesus cursed the fig tree, cleansed the Temple a third time and taught at the Jerusalem Temple (Mt 21:18-23; Mk 11:12-19; Lk 20:1).

Day #4. Tuesday, Nisan 12th: Jesus continued to teach at the Jerusalem Temple (Lk 21:37-38).

Day #5. Wednesday Nisan 13th: Jesus’ last day teaching in Jerusalem.   He had dinner with friends in Bethany where He received His third anointing, and He was betrayed by Judas to the chief priests (Mt 26:1-2, 6-16; Mk 14:1, 3-11; Lk 22:1-6; Jn 13:1-2a).

Day #6. Thursday, Nisan 14th:The day of the Passover sacrifice (Mt 26:12-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13).

Sundown was the beginning of Friday, Nisan 15th, the appointed time of the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  It was on this Jewish feast that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper and instituted the Eucharist.  He was betrayed by Judas who leaves without completing the meal.  It was that night when Jesus was arrested.  He was tried, crucified and died during the daytime of the same Jewish day “the day before the Jewish Sabbath, known as “Preparation Day” (Mt 26:20-27:61; Mk 14:17-15:41; Lk 22:14-23:46; Jn 13:2b-19:31).

Luke 19:28-35 ~ Preparations for the entry into Jerusalem
28 After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.  29 As he drew near to Bethpage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. 29 He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.  Untie it and bring it here.  31 And if anyone should ask you, “Why are you untying it?’ you will answer,  The Master has need of it.’”  32 So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them.  33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?’”  34They answered, “The Master has need of it.”  35 So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount.

Question: That Jesus went “up” to Jerusalem is a physically accurate description of His journey, but what ascent or “going up” does it foreshadow?  See Acts 1:9; Dan 7:13-14.
Answer: It foreshadows His ascent to the Father in the heavenly Jerusalem that will take place at the completion of His mission.

In traveling the Roman road from Jericho to Jerusalem, one would first approach the villages of Bethpage (“house/place of unripe figs”) and Bethany (“house/place of grace”) located on the Mt. of Olives to the east of Jerusalem.  The Mt. of Olives is part of a range of low-lying mountains that overlooked Jerusalem to the east.  The range extends about 2 and a half miles from north to south and has three main peaks, the highest of which is Mt. Scopus to the north.  The central peak is the Mt. of Olives that is located directly across from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  The third mount is the Mt. of Misconduct also called Mt. Corruption or Offence (see 2 Kng 23:13).

Question: In verses 29-30 Jesus instructs two disciples to bring him a young colt that no one has ridden.  What additional information is given in Matthew 21:1-5?  Also see Is 62:6-12, especially verse 11b; Zec 9:9 and Jacob/Israel’s deathbed prophecy for the tribe of Judah in Gen 49:10-11.
Answer: The village the disciples entered was Bethpage and the colt was an ass.  They also brought the colt’s mother.  All this was to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah and Zechariah concerning the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem.  It also fulfills Jacob’s prophecy for the tribe of Judah.  Jesus is the true Judahite king from kingship will never depart.

That the mother donkey accompanied the colt (Mt 21:2) is a sign that the colt had never been ridden.  Young animals no longer stay in the company of their mothers once they are deemed old enough for service.
Question: In addition to the prophecies, was there an historical event in Israel’s history that the people would have seen being repeating during Jesus’ entry into the holy city?  See 1 Kng 1:32-40.
Answer: They probably would have thought of Prince Solomon, the heir of King David.  Solomon entered Jerusalem on a mule and was then anointed King of Israel.  For the people, this historical event was being repeated in Jesus, the heir of King David, riding into the holy city.

It may be significant that He was anointed the day before by Mary of Bethany (Jn 12:3).  However, it should be pointed out that Solomon’s ride into the city was not a fulfillment of Jacob/Israel’s prophecy because Solomon rode on a mule “the breeding of which was forbidden by God within the borders of Israel (Lev 19:19).  Zechariah’s prophecy was not made until centuries later in c. 520 BC; Solomon was anointed King of Israel in c. 970 BC. Only Jesus perfectly fulfilled both prophecies.(6)

Luke 19:36-40 ~ Jesus rides toward the holy city
36 As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; 37 and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen.  38 They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  40 He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

Question: If the Passover was to be celebrated on the 14th and that day was six days after the Sabbath dinner at Bethany, what was the date of the month that Jesus rode into Jerusalem?  See the chart on Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem at the beginning of the lesson.
Answer: He rode into Jerusalem on the 10thof Nisan.

Question: What significant historical event took place on this same day in the first Passover event in Egypt?  What is ironic about this event?  See Ex 12:1-3.
Answer: The day that Jesus, the Lamb of God, rode into the city of Jerusalem was the same day that the sacrificial victims were chosen for the first Passover.

Spreading their outer garments on the ass/donkey and on the ground was a sign of respect and acknowledgment of Jesus’ royalty.  The crowd grows as He makes progress toward the city and then when He reaches the western slope of the Mount of Olives within sight of Jerusalem, His many disciples burst into a beatitude of joy in proclaiming Jesus the King of Israel (see Jn 12:13).
Question: The disciples’ shout of a blessing for Jesus combines a verse from the Psalms and what echo of an angelic beatitude?  See Ez 34:23; Ps 118 and Lk 2:14.
Answer: The first part of their praise is a variation of Psalm 118:26, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD, in which they added the word “king,” proclaiming Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah who is the Davidic heir.  The other part of their shout of praise is a Holy Spirit inspired echo of the angelic song announcing the birth of Christ: Glory to God in the highest … The disciples recognize that Jesus is the promised Davidic prince in the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel.

Question: Why are the Pharisees upset by this and what is the meaning of Jesus’ reply?  See Lk 19:39-40.
Answer: The Pharisees realize that Jesus’ disciples are proclaiming Him the Messianic King and they are fearful the crowd will also take up the declaration.  Jesus tells them that this is divinely ordained, and if not proclaimed by men then the proclamation would be miraculously proclaimed by the very stones of the earth.

Question: In their rebuke, the Pharisees are rejecting Jesus as their king.  In doing so, what do they become that Jesus spoke of in His last parable before leaving Jericho, the Parable of the Ten Coins?  See Lk 19:11-27, especially verses 14 and 27.
Answer: They have announced themselves as those fellow citizens who did not want the nobleman/prince to rule over them in 19:14.  They have also declared themselves the King’s enemies that Jesus spoke of in 19:27.

Question: In the Parable of the Ten Coins, what is the fate of the enemies who rejected their King?  See Lk 19:27.
Answer: Death.

Luke 19:41-44 ~ Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem
41 As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace “but now it is hidden from your eyes.  43 For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.  44 They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Jesus’ prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction is full of Old Testament references but also points to an event in the future (verses 43-44).  The Old Testament references include Isaiah 29:3; 37:33; Jer 52:4-5; Ez 4:1-3; 21:27/22 and for verse 44 Psalms 137:9; Hosea 10:14; 14:1 and Nahum 3:10.  These Old Testament passages are prophecies of the judgment on Jerusalem and the destruction of the city by the Babylonians on the 9th of Ab in 587/6 BC.

Question: In speaking of what is to come in verses 43-44, Jesus foretells what historical event in His lament for the holy city of Jerusalem that occurred on the same date as the Babylonian destruction?
Answer: The destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple on the 9th of Ab in 70 AD, when the Roman army, after a three and a half month siege, breeched the walls and burned the city and the Temple.  It was a repeat of the destruction of the holy city by the Babylonians, even to the date of its fulfillment.

The destruction of the city and the Temple is described by Flavius Josephus in two of his books: Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish Wars.  According to Josephus, four Roman legions encircled the city and General Titus raised a palisade around the upper city (Jewish Wars, 6.6.1).  The Temple was completely destroyed in the fire and the Roman soldiers used water on the hot stones to break them apart to get to the gold that had decorated the Temple walls and the perimeter of the roof that had melted into the cracks of the stones.  Not one stone was left upon another, just as Jesus prophesied.  It was the end of the world for the Jews.  According to Josephus, 97 thousand Jews were taken captive, many of whom were sold into slavery, and 11 hundred thousand were killed.

Question: Why does Jesus say this terrible judgment will befall the city of Jerusalem?  See verse 44b.
Answer: Because they rejected their Messiah when He came to them in His “visitation.”

Luke 19:45-48 ~ The second Temple cleansing
45 Then Jesus entered the Temple area [hieron] and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, 46 saying to them “It is written,  My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.’”  47 And every day he was teaching in the Temple area.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, 48 but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 227).

The prophecy of Malachi concerning the Messiah is fulfilled “… And suddenly there will come the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.  Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:1b-c).

Question: This was Jesus’ second Temple cleansing.  When was the first Temple cleansing and during what festival season of the year did it take place?  See Jn 2:13-25.
Answer: It was His second public act after the miracle at the wedding at Cana, and it occurred during the Passover festival.

The first Temple cleansing was to prepare the people for the beginning of His teaching ministry and proclamation of the Kingdom.  Now He cleanses God’s house of worship a second time in preparation for His final week of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation.  The merchants in the Temple area were selling doves that were the sacrifices of the poor, for women and lepers (Lev 12:6-8; 14:22; 15:14, 29).  They were also exchanging coins that bore pagan images or the images of the Roman emperor that were not accepted to purchase sacrifices or for Temple donations.  These could be exchanged for Tyrian coins that bore no forbidden images (Ex 30:11-16).

St. Luke uses the Greek word hieron for the area of the Temple complex where the merchants had their tables.  This word does not refer to the Sanctuary that housed the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies but refers to the outer courtyards, probably the Court of the Gentiles, as is made clear in a Scripture passage Jesus alludes to in His exchange with the chief priests.  It was the only area of the Temple complex were Gentiles were allowed to come to pray, to give sacrifices that priests would take to the altar for them and to be instructed about the One True God.  Non-covenant members were forbidden to enter the other areas of the Temple complex or to approach the altar and could be executed for such an offense (see Lev 3:10 and read about the commotion when the Jews accused St. Paul of bringing Gentile-Christians into the Temple in Acts 21:27-29).

Question: Why would Jesus consider buying and selling in the Court of the Gentiles a sacrilege that profaned the Temple?  See Ex 19:6; Is 60:3.
Answer: The Court of the Gentiles was the only place in the Temple set aside for Gentiles to learn about Yahweh.  The Jews had an obligation as God’s holy people to be a “kingdom of priests” and a “light” to the Gentile nations of the earth.  By using the Court of the Gentiles in this way, they were profaning the purpose of the space.

Luke 19:46 saying to them “It is written,  My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it  a den of thieves.’” 

In cleansing the Temple, Jesus alludes to two passages from Sacred Scripture.  The first speaks of Gentiles coming to the House of God (the reason it is likely the tables were in the Court of the Gentiles), and the second condemns the priesthood and the people prior to the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC for turning God’s house into a “den of thieves”.  Whenever an Old Testament passage is alluded to or quoted in the New Testament, the entire passage must be read in context to understand the significance of the quote or allusion (underlining identifies Jesus’ reference to these passages):

  • Isaiah 56:6-7 ~ And the foreigners [Gentiles]     who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of     the LORD, and becoming his servants “all who keep the Sabbath free from     profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain     and make joyful in my house of prayer; their holocausts and sacrifices     will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of     prayer for all peoples.
  • Jeremiah 7:1-3, 10-11, 14-15 ~  The following message     came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Stand at the gate of the house of the     LORD, and there proclaim this message: Hear the word of the LORD, all of     you who enter these gates to worship the LORD!  Thus says the LORD of     hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds, so that I may     remain with you in this place … and yet you came to stand before me in     this house which bears my name, and say: “We are safe; we can commit all     these abominations again”?  Has this house which bears my name become in     your eyes a den of thieves?… I will do to this house named after     me, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your     fathers, just as I did to Shiloh.*  I will cast you away from me, as I     cast away all your brethren, all the offspring of Ephraim.

Question: Why does Jesus choose to allude to these two passages from the books of the prophets?
Answer: The first is a reminder of Israel’s mission to the other nations of the earth to bring the Gentiles to salvation “instead they are abusing the court set aside to teach the Gentiles ” and the second is a warning of judgment for profaning God’s house, the Jerusalem Temple.   It is a judgment that will be fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

*”Shiloh” in Jeremiah 7:14 was the location of the desert Tabernacle in the Promised Land and the center of worship from the time of Joshua to the time of the prophet Samuel (Josh 18:1; Judg 18:31; 1 Sam 1:3-9: 3:19-21).
Question: In Jeremiah 7:1-15, what is the significance of what happened at Shiloh and how does Jesus use the Jeremiah passage as a warning for the present generation of religious authorities?  See1 Sam 4:3-4, 10-11; Ps 78:56-61, 68; Jer 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9; Lk 20:41-44.
Answer:  The priests and the people’s offenses against God and His Sanctuary brought about God’s judgment in withdrawing His protection of the Sanctuary at Shiloh.  The Philistines destroyed the Sanctuary and captured the Ark of the Covenant.  The subtle warning is that what happened at Shiloh and what happened to Solomon’s Temple in the time of Jeremiah can happen to the 1st century AD Temple for the same offenses.

Luke 19:47-48 And every day he was teaching in the Temple area.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, 48 but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were handing on his words.

Jesus taught in the Temple area assigned to teaching, called the Portico of Solomon (Acts 3:1, 11; 5:12), from the first day of the week (Sunday) until the fourth day of the week; what we call Wednesday.  The religious leaders were afraid they could start a riot if they tried to arrest Jesus when He was teaching the crowds who believed in Him (see Lk 20:6, 19).  They needed to arrest Him when He was alone and unprotected by the Passover pilgrims and His numerous disciples (Lk 19:37).

Chapter 20
Jesus Teaches Daily at the Temple and Debates with Jewish Leaders

The religious leaders attempt to discredit Jesus with the people and to trap Him into incriminating Himself with the Roman authorities by making treasonous statements.  They challenge Jesus by asking Him a series of three questions:

  • On His authority to teach as He does (22:2)
  • On the payment of Roman taxes (20:22)
  • On His understanding of the Resurrection (20:28-33)

Jesus will respond by defeating their traps and will ask two questions of His own on their understanding to two passages from the Psalms:

He identifies the passages with Himself.  The chapter ends with Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes (Lk 20:45-47).

Luke 20:1-8 ~ The chief priests and scholars of the Law question Jesus’ authority
1 One day as he was teaching the people in the Temple area and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and scribes, together with the elders, approached him 2 and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things?  Or who is the one who gave you this authority?”  3 He said to them in reply, “I shall ask you a question.  Tell me, 4 was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin?”  5 They discussed this among themselves, and said, “If we say,  Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,  Why did you not believe him?’  6But if we say,  Of human origin,’ then all the people will stone us, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  7 So they answered that they did not know from where it come.  8 Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Their first attempt to trap Jesus is a failure.  They want to know if Jesus believes he is acting on God’s authority or on His own authority.  Jesus challenges their question with a question about St. John the Baptist, asking them if St.  John’s prophetic mission was from God.

Question: What evidence do we have in Scripture that the religious leaders did not believe St. John’s mission was from God?  See Lk 7:30.
Answer: They refused John’s baptism of repentance, an action that thwarted God’s plan for their salvation.

Luke 20:7-8 So they answered that they did not know from where it come.  8 Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Once again Jesus has turned their trap back upon them.  Since they fear the peoples’ response to a negative answer, they refuse to answer Jesus, and He in turn refuses to answer them.  Their reason for their refusal to answer again illustrates their self-serving hypocrisy.  In response to their hostility to God’s plan for man’s salvation through their rejection of Him and the mission of St. John, Jesus tells a parable to the crowd that is intended for them.

Luke 20:9-19 ~ The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
9 Then he proceeded to tell the people this parable.  “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers [vinedressers], and then went on a journey for a long time.  10 At harvest time [the appropriate season] he sent a servant to the tenant farmers [vinedressers] to receive some of the produce of the vineyard.  But they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed.  11 So he proceeded to send another servant, but him also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed.  12 Then he proceeded to send a third, but this one too they wounded and threw out.  13 The owner [kyrios = lord] of the vineyard said,  What shall I do?  I shall send my beloved son; maybe they will respect him.’  14 But when the tenant farmers [vinedressers] saw him they said to one another,  This is the heir.  Let us kill him that the inheritance may become ours.’  15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  What will the owner [kyrios = lord] of the vineyard do to them?  16 He will come and put those tenant farmers [vinedressers] to death and turn over the vineyard to others.”  When the people heard this, they exclaimed, “Let it not be so!”  17 But he looked at them and asked, “What then does this Scripture passage mean: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?  18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”  19 The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 288).  The noun georgos generally means a farmer but when the planting is vines it refers to a “vinedresser,” a distinction that is significant in the context of the parable.

This parable is told to the people (verse 9), but the teaching is a warning to the religious leadership concerning their rejection of both St. John the Baptist and Jesus.  The parable should be studied within the context of Jesus’ warning in Luke 19:41-44 where He prophesied the destruction of the city of Jerusalem because “you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Question: What is the time of their “visitation” that is also the “appropriate season” in verse 10 of the parable?
Answer: Jesus’ presence within the holy city is the time of “visitation” and now is the “season.”

St. Luke notes that the leaders themselves clearly understood that the parable was directed at them (verse 19).  The situation in the parable would have been familiar to first century AD Jews.  Landholders often rented out their property to tenant farmers who had to share a percentage of the profits from the harvest with the owner of the land.  Jesus uses the parable as an allegory predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish religious authorities, their eventual loss of authority as God’s representatives to His people, and their destruction.  The vineyard/fig tree was one of the reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets depicting God’s relationship with His covenant people.In the symbolic images of the prophets, the fruitful vineyard is a symbol of Israel in covenant with Yahweh (see the chart on the Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets).

St. Luke’s audience would not have missed the comparison between Jesus’ parable of the vineyard and the well-known parable of the vineyard in the book of the prophet Isaiah.  Note Luke’s use of the word “kyrios”/”lord” for the owner of the vineyard in verses 13 and 15 of the Greek text.  Read Isaiah’s parable in Isaiah 5:1-7.

Question: In Isaiah’s parable who is the lord of the vineyard and how does Isaiah identify the vineyard?
Answer: In verse 7 of Isaiah’s parable, the owner of the vineyard is identified as God and the vineyard is Israel/Judah:  The vineyard of the LORD [YHWH] of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant. 

In Jesus’ time only the nation of Judah remained and had been renamed the Roman province of Judea (Israel ceased to exist after 722 BC).  Notice that in Jesus’ parable that the lord of the vineyard identifies his son as his “beloved son” in Luke 20:13.
Question: What is significant about Luke’s use of the words “beloved son” in the parable?  See Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11.
Answer: They recall God’s voice from heaven identifying Jesus as His “beloved Son” at His baptism.

Question: To whom did Isaiah address his parable in the 8th century BC?  To whom is Jesus addressing His parable in 30 AD?
Answer: Isaiah’s parable is addressed to the people of Jerusalem and Judah (Is 5:3) just as Jesus is addressing His parable to the same audience (Lk 20:9 and 16).

Question: Also notice that in the Greek text of St. Luke’s parable that the “tenants” are called “vinedressers.”  What is the function of a vinedresser in a vineyard?  See Jesus’ description of the work of the divine vinedresser in Jn 15:1-2.
Answer: A vinedresser pruned the vines so that they produced more growth and therefore more fruit.  Vines that did not produce fruit were cut away for the health of the plant.

Question: Who owned the land of Israel?  See Lev 25:23.
Answer: The Promised Land of Israel belonged to God; the children of Israel were His tenants.  The land could never be sold; it could only be leased.

Question: What is the symbolism of the parable: Who is the master who owns the vineyard?  What does the vineyard represent?  Why was the master said to be absent for a long time?  Who are the tenants/vinedressers in charge of the harvest, who are the lord’s servants who were rejected and beaten, and who is the beloved son the tenants/vinedressers killed?  Finally, who are the “others” to whom the vineyard will be given?
Answer:

Symbolic Imagery in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants
   The master/lord of  the vineyard    God
   The vineyard    God’s covenant  people, Israel/Judah
   The  tenants/vinedressers in charge of the vineyard’s harvest    The religious  authorities whose duty it is to ensure the salvation of the covenant people
   The master’s  journey/absence for a long time    No theophany of God  since Mt. Sinai
   The three sets of  the lord’s servants    God’s prophets down  through salvation history
   The lord’s son    Jesus, God the Son
   The tenants/vinedressers  who decide to kill the son    The religious  authorities and others who reject Jesus as the Messiah and seek His death
   The “others” who  will now receive authority over the lord’s vineyard    The Jewish and  Gentile Christians who will be the “new Israel”* of the New Covenant Church  of Jesus Christ.
Michal E. Hunt Copyright ©  2013

* see CCC 877: … In fact, from the beginning of his ministry, the Lord Jesus instituted the Twelve as “the seeds of the new Israel and the beginning of the sacred hierarchy” …

Luke 20:14b-15 This is the heir.  Let us kill him that the inheritance may become ours.’  15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

This is a prophecy of Jesus’ death outside the “vineyard” that was Jerusalem when He was executed outside the walls of the holy city (Jn 19:17-20).  According to the Law all executions were to take place outside the city/camp of God; nothing unclean, like a corpse, could be present to pollute the ground of God’s camp (Lev 24:14; Num 19:11-22; Acts 8:58).  The Romans observed this custom.

Luke 15b-16 What will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  16 He will come and put those tenant farmers [vinedressers] to death and turn over the vineyard to others.”
Question: Compare the judgment in Luke’s parable to the judgment in Isaiah 5:5.
Answer: Isaiah’s parable speaks of God’s judgment on an unrepentant people in verse 5: Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  The covenant people will lose their special status as keepers of God’s “vineyard” in the same way that Luke’s parable speaks of judgment on the wicked tenants/vinedressers and their loss of the “vineyard” that will be given to others.

Question: Did His audience understand His parable and the threat it contained?
Answer: The people absolutely understood: When the people heard this, they exclaimed, “Let it not be so!”  They understood that Jesus was saying that the “vineyard” that was the covenant with Israel was to be taken away from those to whom it was entrusted, the religious leadership, that rejects the teaching and preaching of Jesus the Messiah.

Luke 20:17-18 But he looked [emblepo] at them and asked, “What then does this Scripture passage mean: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?  18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 

The verb emblepo implies a direct and intense stare that commands attention (Johnson, page 306).  Psalms 113-118 were sung continually during the festival of Passover and the week long feast of Unleavened Bread.  Jesus is quoting verbatim from the Septuagint translation of Psalms 118:22[117:22 in some translations].  The point is the futility of the rejection of Jesus by the religious leaders and others “God’s plan will not be thwarted by their rejection.
Question: What is the significance of the passage that Jesus quotes from Psalms 118:22?  Read Ps 118:19-29; Is 8:11-15 and 28:16.  Who are the “builders” and who is the “Stone”?  See Acts 4:11.
Answer: Jesus is identifying the rejection of the son in the parable (verse 14-15) and Himself as the “Stone” rejected by the “builders,” who are the religious authorities.  The prophet Isaiah also spoke of a judgment on His people and of God’s plan for one who will be a both a “cornerstone” and a “stumbling stone to test the covenant people and especially the people of Jerusalem.

Isaiah’s passage has the same force of prophecy as Jesus in this passage.  The allusion is the same to the “stumbling stone” which is to be a trap for “the house of Jacob” and a snare to “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” and those who “fall on it” will be crushed.  St. Peter will combine the prophecies of Isaiah 8:14; 28:16 and Psalms 118:22 in 1 Peter 2:4-8: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it says in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.”  They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

St. Peter will also quote the passage from Psalms 118:22 to the religious authorities of the Sanhedrin and apply it to Jesus in Acts 4:8, 11-12:Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them “Leaders of the people and elders: … He is  the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  Also see Ephesians 2:20.

Luke 20:18-19 Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”  19 The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them.

There is also probably a connection to Daniel 2:34-45 in which a divine “stone” breaks apart the “mountain” of the old Jerusalem Temple and its covenant.  The scribes and chief priests certainly understood His references to Scripture and the force of His teaching.

Luke 20:20-26 ~ Paying taxes to the Roman emperor
20 They watched him closely and sent agents pretending to be righteous who were to trap him in speech, in order to hand him over to the authority and power of the governor.  21 They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  22 Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”  23 Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  25 So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  26 They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent.

Knowing from their earlier confrontation that Jesus can recognize them, the chief priests send their agents in their hopes to trap Jesus.  First, they attempt to flatter Jesus “their flattery and their plot to trap Jesus underscore their hypocrisy, malice and wickedness.
Question: What is ironic about the way they attempt to flatter Jesus?
Answer: What is ironic is that for once, even though they are insincere, their statements concerning Jesus are true.

Question: What is their question?
Answer: They are asking Jesus if it is “lawful,” meaning acceptable according to God, to pay the Roman poll tax.

When Herod the Great’s son, Archelaus, was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD, the Romans imposed direct rule by a Roman governor over Judea and began to collect an annual poll or head tax on all the men, women, and slaves from age twelve/fourteen to age sixty-five.  The payment was one Roman silver denarius “the average daily wage for a common laborer.  In Jesus’ day the Roman denarius bore the image of the emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD) and the Latin inscription Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontiflex Maximus ““Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest” (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310).  Tiberius was the adopted son of the previous emperor, Augustus (Octavian), who was worshipped as a god since his death in 14 AD.  Payment of the tax had to be in the Roman coinage because it represented the people’s subservience to Roman rule.  The Roman governor in verse 20 is Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect responsible for the collection of taxes and maintaining order in the Roman province.  The payment of the Roman tax was a sensitive political issue in first century AD Judea and will become the flash point of the Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66 AD that will result in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Question: What is the trap they intended to set for Jesus?  Hint: It was a two way trap depending on Jesus’ answer.
Answer: If Jesus condemns the tax, He is encouraging the people to reject Rome’s authority over Judea and the Jews, and He could be arrested by the Romans for encouraging insurrection.  If however, He agrees that the tax bearing the image of the Roman emperor who claims to be the son of a god should be paid to the Romans, He will be taking a position contrary to the feelings of the majority of the common people who see the claim that Augustus is a god as a sacrilege.  Then too, many who follow Jesus are looking to Him as the liberator-Messiah who will free them from the pagan Romans.  They will be disenchanted with Jesus if He appears to support Roman domination of Judea.

Luke 20:23-25Recognizing their craftiness he said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  25 So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 
Question: How does Jesus reverse the trap?
Answer: Since the tax had to be paid with Roman coinage that bore the image of Caesar, the coins belonged to Caesar.  Paying the denarius was simply giving back to Caesar what was his.

But in addition to telling His adversaries, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” He also says “and to God what belongs to God.” This statement left His adversaries without an answer and 26 They were unable to trap him by something he might say before the people, and so amazed were they at his reply that they fell silent.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ last statement that one must repay “to God what belongs to God” in relation to Jesus’ question about “image” that religious Jews, including the Pharisees, scribes and chief priests would not have missed and which caused them to go away “amazed”?See Genesis 1:27.
Answer: While the Roman coin bears the image of the Roman emperor, the emperor was created by God and bears the image of his Creator.  Therefore, the emperor is subject to God’s sovereignty over his life “it was an answer the leaders could not refute or criticize.

Luke 20:27-40 ~ The Sadducees question Jesus on the Resurrection
27 Some Sadducees, those who deny there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us,  If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’  29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless.  30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless.  32Finally the woman also died.  33Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?  For all seven had been married to her.”  34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise [being sons of the resurrection].  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called  Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.”  40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. [..] = literal translation (Interlineal Bible Greek-English, vol. IV, page 230).

The Sadducees were the religious/political party that was for the most part composed of the chief priests.

  • The Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection     of the dead like the Pharisees (Lk 20:27; Acts 23:8; Josephus, Antiquities     of the Jews, 18:1.6).
  • The Sadducees only observed the precepts of the written     Law in the Torah/Pentateuch (five books of Moses), unlike the Pharisees     who also followed the oral Law (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.5.9;     13.10.6; 18:1.3; Jewish Wars, 2.8.14).
  • The Sadducees counted among their supporters the wealthy     and the aristocracy (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.10.6).
  • The Sadducees were the main opponents of the Pharisees (Antiquities     of the Jews, 13.10.6).

Luke 20:27-28 Some Sadducees, those who deny there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us,  If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 

To press their belief in the absurdity of a physical resurrection, the Sadducees allude to a passage in Deuteronomy 25:1-5. In the Latin Vulgate the statute on marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 came to be known as “levirate marriage,” since the word levir means “brother-in-law,” designating the husband’s brother in Latin.  According to the Law, a man was forbidden to marry his brother’s wife if she had borne children to his brother, but an exception was made if the brother died without an heir.  In that case, it was his closest kinsman’s obligation to marry the widow and give his deceased kinsman an heir (see the Book of Ruth 4:5).  They then propose an extreme hypothetical case of a woman who married seven times in turn to seven brothers.  At the conclusion of their story, they ask whose wife she will be in the resurrection.

In this same exchange in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives them a shockingly strong rebuke (remember these are chief priests of the ministerial priesthood).
Question: What did Jesus tell the chief priests in Matthew 22:29?
Answer: He said to them: You are misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mt 22:29)

The “power of God” refers to the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus then instructs them in reverse order, telling them they do not understand the resurrection nor do they understand the Pentateuch “the Torah of Moses.  He will continue to prove His point on their failure to understand the Scriptures in His exchange with the religious leaders in Luke 20:17-18 and 41-44.  The Sadducees, who believed that they were the authoritative interpreters of the Torah of Moses and the “shepherds of Israel,” must have been highly insulted.

Luke 20:34-36Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise [being sons of the resurrection]. 

Resurrected life will be very different from life on earth “since life is eternal there is no longer any need to produce more generations of the living and therefore, there is no longer any need for marriage (see Cor 15:35-40).

Luke 20:37-38 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called  Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Knowing that the Sadducees considered the Torah of Moses to be Spirit inspired Scripture; Jesus uses the Torah to prove their improper understanding of the resurrection of the dead.  For other O.T. passages about the resurrection see Is 25:8; 26:19; Ps 73:24-25; and Dan 12:1-3.
Question: What text from the Torah does He use as a proof-text for their misunderstanding of Scripture and the resurrection?
Answer: Jesus refers to what God told Moses to tell the children of Israel concerning the identity of the God who sent Moses to liberate His people in Exodus 3:15-16 from Moses’ experience of the bush that did not burn up.

Question: What is Jesus’ point in referring to this passage?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that since God continues a personal relationship with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob after their physical death, there must be a form of life for them in the future.

Jesus has shown that the Sadducees do not understand the meaning of resurrected life nor do they understand that the Torah of Moses contains evidence for belief in the resurrection.  Jesus is “coming against the shepherds of Israel” as prophesied in Ezekiel 34:10.

Luke 20:39-40Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.”  40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything.  The scribes, most of whom are Pharisees, believed in the Resurrection and approved of Jesus’ answer.  The Sadducees are astonished at the authority of Jesus’ teaching and His ability to confound them.  Unlike the religious leaders who refuse to acknowledge Jesus authority, the crowds continue to respond favorably to His teachings.

Luke 20:41-44 ~ Jesus questions the Sadducees on the identity of David’s son
41 Then he said to them, “How do they claim that the Messiah is the Son of David?  42 For David himself in the Book of Psalms says:  The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand 43 till I make your enemies your footstool.”‘  44 Now if David calls him  lord,’ how can he be his son?”

After successfully dealing with the three questions of His adversaries, Jesus now asks them a question.  Their failure in responding to Jesus’ counter questions implies that they can no longer teach with authority on the Law.  Now He will demonstrate that they also cannot correctly interpret the Scriptures.
Question: Who are the “them” in verse 41?  See verse 39 and Mk 12:35.
Answer: The scribes who are the teachers of the Law.

David was considered to be a prophet (see Acts 1:16; 2:25; 4:25; 13:36) and the psalms was considered a prophetic book (Lk 24:44; Acts 1:20).  The psalm Jesus quotes is LXX 110:1 [Ps 109:1 in some translations].  It is the most often quoted or alluded to psalms by Jesus in the Gospels (Mt 22:44; 26:64; Mk 12:36; 16:19; Lk 22:69) and is an important proof text for the Resurrection (see Acts 2:33-34; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:3) and for the Resurrected Christ seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20, 22; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13; 2:8; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2).

Question: What is the point of Jesus’ argument?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that the psalm refers not only to an earthly descendant (one less than David), but also to another (to one greater than David) since the prophet David calls this person “Lord”  “which means that person is far above David and must point therefore to the Messiah “Jesus.

The future king that David writes about in Psalms 110:1 is one the angel Gabriel spoke of who will not only inherit “the throne of David his father”, but will also “rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will have no end” (Lk 1:32-33).  St. Peter makes a similar argument in Acts 2:25-34.

Luke 20:45-47 ~ Jesus denounces the scholars of the Law (scribes)
45 Then, within the hearing of all the people, he said to his disciples, 46“Be on guard against the scribes who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  47 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.  They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

Jesus’ condemnation of the scholars of the Law for their hypocrisy is similar to His condemnation of both the Pharisees and scribes in 11:39-52.  Widows were especially vulnerable if they didn’t have any living sons to support them.  Jesus’ condemnation suggests the scribes in their business dealings confiscate the homes of widows who are unable to support themselves and at the same time pretend piety in their prayers.  Jesus proclaims that the judgment for their heartless acts against the poor will be severe.

Luke 21:1-4 ~ The poor widow’s generosity
1 When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury 2 and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.  3 He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; 4 for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Within the Temple complex was a treasury where people could make donations for the support of the poor (Neh 10:38; Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6.5.2 [282]).  The widow deposited two copper coins (lepta), the smallest value coins then in circulation (Johnson, page 316).
Question: What contrast does Jesus make between the poor widow and the pretentious scribes who “devour the houses of widows”?
Answer: In contrast to the hypocritical, pretentious and money loving scribes, Jesus points out a widow who does not place material wealth before her duty to God.  Trusting God with a faithful and generous heart, she gives what little she has to support the poor.

Chapter 21:5-38
Discourse on the Destruction of Jerusalem

The LORD of hosts shall be a shield over them, they shall overcome sling stones and trample them underfoot; they shall drink blood like wine, till they are filled with it like libation bowls, like the corners of the altar.  And the LORD, their God, shall save them on that day, his people.  Like a flock.  Zechariah 9:15-16

In Luke 21:5-36, Jesus gives His discourse on the future destruction of Jerusalem.  That this discourse concerns the historic destruction of Jerusalem and not His Second Advent is made clear by Jesus’ statement in Luke 21:32: Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  Jesus gave an eschatological discourse prophesying His Second Advent in Luke 17:22-37.

Luke 21:5-11 ~ The warning signs for the destruction of Jerusalem
5 While some people were speaking about how the Temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, 6 “All that you see here “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”  7 Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen?  And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?”  8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying,  I am he,’ and  The time has come.’  Do not follow them!  9 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”

Luke 21:6“All that you see here “the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
The primary source for the historical event of the destruction of Jerusalem is the Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus, who was an eyewitness to the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Roman legions in 70 AD.  The Jerusalem Temple was one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity. Josephus wrote that whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white (The Jewish Wars, 5.5.6).

Question: What judgment does Jesus pronounce on the Jews who reject their Messiah in the discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem that begins in Matthew 23:34-39?
Answer: He said that Jerusalem was guilty of murdering God’s prophets, and all the abuses against God’s agents down through salvation history will fall upon Jesus’ generation (Mt 23:36).

Jerusalem had not only killed the prophets, but she offered sacrifices for the Roman Emperor and the Roman people twice daily in the sacred Temple (Josephus: The Jewish Wars, 2.10.4; Against Apion, 2.5), and now she rejects the Messiah who has offered her mercy, redemption and the invitation to sin no more.  God gave the Jewish people who resisted the Messiah 40 years to come to the New Covenant as a new generation in Christ, just as He gave Israel 40 years in the wilderness to fully embrace the Sinai Covenant.  But judgment finally came in 70 AD when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by fire.  After the fire died down, the Roman soldiers poured water on the hot rocks to extract the gold that had melted into the cracks of the rocks from the gold ornaments that decorated the Temple and the golden fence that topped the Sanctuary. The rocks broke apart and, as Jesus prophesied, “not one stone was left upon another.”  The Temple was never rebuilt “it was the house Jesus spoke of when He said: “Look! You house will be deserted” (Mt 23:38).

Luke 21:8 He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, I am he,’ and  The time has come.’  Do not follow them! 
Question: When did Jesus give a similar warning about false prophets claiming to be the Messiah “the prophet of God?
Answer: In His eschatological discourse in Luke 17:23.

In his description of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus reports the appearance of many false prophets claiming to the Messiah who led the people astray (The Jewish Wars,6.5.2 [285-87; 300-309]).

Luke 21:9-11 When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.”  10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  11 There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
Wars are always occurring somewhere in the world.  But in the late 50′s and into the 60′s AD the Roman Empire, led by an evil and ineffective Emperor Nero, faced a number of insurrections in the provinces; beginning with Queen Boudicca’s revolt in Brittan in c. 60/61 AD.  Encouraged by these revolts challenging the power of Rome, the Jews began a revolt by massacring the Roman garrison in Caesarea in 66 AD.  As for the natural disasters and signs in the sky in verse 11, there was a worldwide famine predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28 which occurred from 44 to 48 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius.  This is an historical event attested by extra-biblical sources (i.e., Tacitus, Annals, 12:43).  There were also a number of significant earthquakes in the Italian Peninsula and the Middle East and there may have been a sighting of Halle’s comet.  Josephus records that there were strange sightings in the sky before the Roman siege of Jerusalem “including a star resembling a sword which stood over the city and a comet that continued a whole year (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.3 [288-300]).

Luke 21:12-19 ~ The coming persecution
12 “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  13It will lead to your giving testimony.  14 Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, 15 for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.  16 You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  17 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Question: Between Jesus’ Ascension in the late spring of 30 AD and the Jewish Revolt that began in 66 AD and reached its climax in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, what persecutions did the faithful of the New Covenant Church suffer?  Were these persecutions prophesied by Jesus? See examples in Acts 3:11-22; 5:19; 6:8-15; 7:58-60; 8:3; 9:2; 12:1-5; 16:23; 18:12-17; 21:30-33; 22:30; 23:12, 24, 26, 31-35; 24:10-27; 25:1-26:32; 27:1; 28:17-19, 30-31.
Answer: St. Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned, and tried by the Sanhedrin.  St. Stephen and St. James were martyred and St. Paul and other disciples were beaten.  St. Paul was arrested by the Romans, imprisoned, and spoke the Gospel before two Roman governors (Felix and Festus), a Jewish King (Herod Antipas II) and two Jewish princesses (Drusilla and Bernice), before being taken as a prisoner to Rome.  All spoke eloquently before their enemies, and everything that the early Christians suffered that was recorded in Acts was prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21:12.

For the persecution of Christians “because of my name” (21:12) see the fulfillment in Acts 4:7, 10, 7-18; 5:28, 40; “lead to your giving testimony” (21:13) is fulfilled in Acts 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 20:26; 26:22.

Luke 21:17-19 You will be hated by all because of my name, 18but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Jewish persecution of Christians began immediately after Jesus’ Ascension, but Roman persecution didn’t begin until 64 AD.  Prior to the Emperor Nero’s organized persecution of Christians, the Romans had been fairly ambivalent to Christians.  St. Paul was even saved several times from Jewish crowds by the Romans (i.e., Acts 18:12-15; 21:30-36)

In his 4th century Church History, Bishop Eusebius records that the Christians recognized the signs Jesus gave them, and, also warned by a revelation, the faithful left Jerusalem just before the Jewish Revolt and traveled across the Jordan River into Perea, saving all the members of the Christian faith community (Church History, III.5.3).  Indeed, there are not any records of Christians perishing during the Jewish Revolt or Rome’s suppression of the revolt.

Luke 21:20-24 ~ The siege and the great tribulation
20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand.  21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.  Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, 22 for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled.  23 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people.  24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

There is an article of the Mosaic Law concerning the punishment for the daughter of a chief priest who was found to be guilty of the sin of prostitution or adultery: A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death (see Lev 21:9); she was to be burnt alive.  It will be the fate of the holy city of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  Israel is a priestly nation whose people were called to be a holy witness to the world of the One True God.  Israel is seen symbolically in Scripture sometimes as God’s daughter and at other times as God’s holy covenant bride (Is 1:8; 10:32; 49:18; 62:4-5; Jer 6:23; Ez 16:8-14; Hosea 2:18 (16)-19 (17); Joel 1:8-10).  Apostasy and idolatry in Sacred Scripture are compared to the sin of adultery (Ez 16:15, 35-38; Hosea 2:4 (2)-7 (5).  Jerusalem is the religious capital and symbolically the priestly daughter of Yahweh.  When Jerusalem falls into prostitution with the gods of pagan peoples and choses Caesar for a king over the Messiah Jesus (Jn 19:14-15), Jerusalem will suffer the same fate as a priest’s daughter.

In 587/6 BC this was also Jerusalem’s fate for her apostasy (see Ez 16:37-42). Yahweh sent the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment and Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed by fire.  The Jerusalem of Jesus’ time is equally guilty of sin; she has killed God’s holy prophets, she has offered sacrifices for the Roman Emperor and the Roman people twice daily in the sacred Temple (Josephus: The Jewish Wars, 2.10.4; Against Apion 2.5), and now she rejects the Messiah who has offered her mercy and redemption and the invitation to sin no more.  God gave the people 40 years to come to the New Covenant as a new generation in Christ just as He gave Israel 40 years in the wilderness to fully embrace the Sinai Covenant.  But judgment finally came in 70 AD when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by fire.  When the Romans broke into the city after a three month siege, Josephus wrote: No pity was shown on account of age or out of respect for anyone’s dignity “children and elderly, lay people and priests alike were slain.  The battle surged ahead and surrounded everybody, including both those who begged for mercy and those who resisted.  The flames spread out to a great distance and its noise mixed with the groans of the perishing; and such was the height of the ridge and the magnitude of the burning that one would have imagined the whole city was aflame (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.1).

Luke 21:22for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled.
This passage may be a reference to the Scriptural fulfillment of Hosea 9:7 and Daniel 9:26-27.  The Church was growing from the small seeds of the faithful remnant of Jewish-Christians into a universal Church composed of Jews and Gentiles during the years between Christ’s Ascension and the Jewish Revolt.  It was during this period that the universal Church was being established in Rome.  St. Peter had gone to Rome in c. 42 AD and St. Paul arrived for his first imprisonment in 61-63 AD.  Paul was martyred on the same day as St. Peter in c. 67 AD.  With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, the Sinai Covenant came to an end and Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens … were … given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him (Dan 7:27).

Luke 21:24and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

Josephus recorded: … for they left only the populace and sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children, and every one of them at a very low price, and that because such as were sold were very many, and the buyers very few… and indeed the number of those that were sold was immense (The Jewish Wars, 6.8.2 [384-386]).  The Jews sold into slavery were disbursed throughout the Roman Empire.  Part of what made the death rate so high for the city of Jerusalem was that it was the time of the pilgrim feast of Unleavened Bread just before the arrival of the Roman legions and the city had swelled to well over 100,000 people with the addition of the pilgrims.  You will remember Jesus’ warning to flee and to not to go into the city (21:21).

When the four Roman legions arrived and surrounded the city (as Jesus prophesied in 21:20) with soldiers from different Gentile nations across the empire, there was no opportunity to escape out of the city.   Josephus also wrote, Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be 97 thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, 11 hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army … (6.9.3 [420-421]).

Luke 21:25-28 ~ The coming of the Son of Man
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and rise your heads because your redemptions is at hand.”
The “time of the Gentiles,” when the Gentiles dominate the land of Israel, is to last for an undetermined time from the destruction of Jerusalem.  In fact the land that was Israel/Judah was occupied by Gentiles and the Jews did not have a national home of their own until 1947 when the United Nations voted to re-create the nation of Israel.  Independence was declared the next year in May of 1948, and the modern state of Israel has been at war ever since trying to survive in a sea of hostile Moslem nations.

Luke 21:29-33 ~ The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 He taught them a lesson.  “Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.  30 When their buds burst open, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now hear; 31 in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.  32 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.  33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Question: When did Jesus announce that His Kingdom was inaugurated?  See Luke 17:21.
Answer:  When He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, referring to the fulfillment of the Kingdom in His teaching and His healing ministry.

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ has already been announced inLuke 17:21, but in 21:31 Jesus is referring to the triumph of the growth of the Kingdom and also to its place as the center of true worship and the only legitimate teaching authority with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

Question: What is the significance of verse 32 and 33?
Answer: Jesus defines the unfolding of these events as within the lifetime of His Apostles and disciples.  Verse 33 declares the authority of this teaching.

Luke 21:34-36 ~ Conclusion of the discourse and the call for vigilance
34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Question: For whom is this warning directed?
Answer: For Jesus’ generation and all generations in the Final Age of the Son of Man!

Luke 21:37-38 ~ Jesus’ teaching ministry in Jerusalem
37 During the day, Jesus was teaching in the Temple area, but at night he would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.  38 And all the people would get up early each morning to listen to him in the Temple area.

The day is probably Wednesday as Jesus completes His teaching ministry to the holy city of Jerusalem.  He will dine with His friends at the home of Simon the (former) Leper in the village of Bethany (Mt 26:1-2, 6-13; Mk 14:1, 3-9) and will be betrayed by Judas (Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:10-11).  The next day will be Thursday, the 14th of Nisan “the day the Passover victims are sacrificed.

Endnotes:

1.  The first night of the Feast Unleavened Bread, when the     Passover victim was eaten in a sacred meal, was required to fall on the     first full moon after the spring equinox.  The Feast of Tabernacles was     required to be celebrated during the full moon after the fall equinox (Works     of Philo: Special Laws II, 150-155, 204; A History of the Jewish     People in the Time of Jesus Christ, pages 365-371; Antiquities     of the Jews, 3.10.5; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. I, pages     810-820).  The Sinai Covenant established the Feast of the New Moon to     determine each new month in the calendar year (Num 10:10; 28:11-15; 29:6;     1 Sam 20:5-27; Ps 81:3; Is 60:19-23, Sir 50:6 [Hebrew text], etc.; Works     of Philo: Special Laws II, 41; 146; 204).  The priests were     responsible for determining the day of the new moon cycle.  Later, in the     first century AD, the Sanhedrin assumed this duty (Jerusalem in the     Time of Jesus, pages 178, 264).

2.  Josephus, Life 54.

3.  Anointing was the religious act of making a man God’s     representative: anointing for the priesthood (Ex 28:41; 29:7; 30:30-33;     40:12-15; Lev 9:12); anointing for kingship (1 Sa 10:1; 15:17; 2 Kng     9 :3-12 ; 1 Chr 11:3); anointing for a prophet (1 Kng 19:16).      Jesus was anointed early in His ministry by the sinful woman in Lk 7:36-50; by Mary of Bethany on Saturday of His last week in Jerusalem in     Jn 12:1-11; and a third time of Wednesday of His last week by an unnamed     woman at a dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee (Mt 26:1, 6-13 and Mk 14:1, 3-9).  In his third century AD commentary, Origen supported three     separate anointings (Commentary on Matthew #77).

4.  The concept of a zero place value did not make a     significant appearance in the west until the eleventh and twelfth     centuries AD (Christianity and the Roman Empire, page 282; Calendar:     Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, page     189; Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History page 77-78; 81).  This     ancient method of counting is the reason Scripture says Jesus was in the     tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday and why a child was said to be     in a mother’s womb for ten months (i.e., Luke 18:33; Wis 7:1-2).

5.  The first Temple cleansing was the first year of His     ministry after the wedding at Cana in John 2:13-25.

6.  No cross-breeding of species was permitted under the Law.      A mule is the hybrid offspring of a donkey and a horse and cannot     reproduce itself.  Since the Law forbid the cross-breeding of mules within     Israel, the animals were imported and like expensive imported cars today,     because the ride of the wealthy.  From their earliest appearance in the     Old Testament, mules are associated with royalty (2 Sam 13:29; 18:9; 1 Kng 1:33, 38, 44).

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 12

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 12

22. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 12: Chapter 17:1-19:28
The Last Days of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem

Almighty Father,
Give us the will to go the distance in our service to our Savior, Christ Jesus.  We don’t want to be satisfied with the least as sufficient; we want to Give Him our best.  We know that the way to achieve success in our mission is a daily examination of conscience where we ask ourselves what more can we do to advance the Kingdom?  Give us the strength of will of St. Paul and the dedication of service of St. Peter that we might follow in their footsteps across the threshold of eternity into the heavenly Kingdom.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

You cannot think yourself greater than you are simply because you are a child of God.  You ought to recognize the effect of grace, yes, but you cannot forget the lowliness of your nature.  Nor would I have you become vain simply because you fulfill your duty.  Remember that, in the like manner, the sun and the moon and the angels do exactly what they are supposed to do.
St Ambrose, Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel

After Jesus’ dinner at the home of a wealthy Pharisee, where He healed a man on the Sabbath and taught the Pharisees about humility and God’s mercy (14:1-24), he left the dinner and continued to teach the crowds of Jews who were following him (14:25-16:15:32).  Turing to His disciples, He taught them about the right use of material wealth, the rejection of the secular world, and obedience to the Law that was necessary for discipleship.  His continues His teaching that began in 14:25-16:31 by turning to address His disciples and the Apostles (17:1-10).

Chapter 17

Chapter 17 begins with four sets of teachings/sayings of Jesus on different aspects of discipleship:

  1. On the inevitability of sin/scandal in the Christian community (17:1-3a)
  2. On the duty of Christians to forgive (17:3b-4)
  3. On the power of faith (17:5-6)
  4. On the demands of Christian service (17:7-10)

Luke 17:1-3a ~ Temptations to sin

1 He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin [skandalon] will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.  2 It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin [skandalizo].  3a Be on your guard! 

The word translated “sin” in verse 1 might better be translated “scandal.”  However, it is sin, after all, that causes scandal in the Church.  The Greek noun skandalon can have two meanings:

  1. A “trap or snare” (as for example in the Greek translation of Josh 23:13 and Ps 68:22).
  2. “Something over which one could stumble” (as for example in the Greek translation of Leviticus 19:14 and Ps 118:165).

Both meanings refer to the occasion for sin.

In the New Testament the inspired writers use the word in reference to the Cross as a “stumbling block” to belief in Jesus as the Messiah (see 1 Cor 1:23; Rom 9:33; 11:9; and 1 Pt 2:8) and also for offenses within the community of believers which can cause a member to “stumble” in their faith and commitment (as in 1 Cor 8:13; Rom 14:13and 21).  St. Luke uses the noun skandalon in 7:23 in the first meaning of the word, “a trap or snare”; but he uses the noun in 17:1 and the cognitive verb skandalizo, “to cause to stumble,” in verse 2 in the second sense of the word.(1)

While a member of the community falling into sin can cause a scandal, St. Paul says we must also avoid what can be perceived as sin.   In 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 he gives the example of those  (probably Jews) who would think a Christian was worshiping false idols by eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol in a pagan temple  (the origin of most meat in a pagan city).  St. Paul says that a knowledgeable Christian knows that the meat has no power and  no acknowledgement of the false god was intended, yet he says he avoids the practice of eating such meat in case his action would  be a stumbling block to someone in accepting Christ.  St. Paul says And then it would be through your knowledge that this brother  for whom Christ died, vulnerable as he is, has been lost.  So, sinning against your brothers and wounding their vulnerable consciences,  you would be sinning against Christ (1 Cor 8:11-12 NJB).   As Christians we must not take up any practice or action that could be interpreted as contrary to the teachings of the Church,  such as couples who are not married and not related to each other but who are living together in the same residence,  even if they are only living together as friends (CCC 2284-86).

Question: Jesus teaching in 17:1-3 teaching includes what two warnings?
Answer:

  1. The warning that sin that leads to scandal will inevitably occur within the Christian community.
  2. The warning that those who cause scandal within the community that affects the faith of others will be judged severely by God.

Question: Who are the “little ones” that Jesus refers to in verse 2?  See Mt 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14 and Lk 6:35.
Answer: Christians who are the “little ones/children of God.”

As a symbol of divine judgment, Jesus uses a millstone.  The same image of divine judgment is also used in Revelation 18:21-22.  In Jesus’ time there were the small hand-operated millstones that only weighed a few pounds, the same kind used down through the millenniums.  However, most milling was done by large, communally used rotary millstones turned by animal tied to the stone who traveled in a circle.  This is probably the type of millstone to which Jesus is referring.  Such a millstone, depending on the size, could weigh several hundreds of pounds.  If this type of millstone was tied to someone who was thrown into the sea, that person would be doomed to physical death in the same way a person who leads one of God’s children into sin and scandal within the community will be doomed to spiritual death.

Luke 3a Be on your guard!
Question: According to St. Paul, when a Christian’s sin causes damage to the faith of another Christian, what is the full extent of his sin?  See 1 Cor 8:12.
Answer: He has sinned not only against his brother or sister but against Christ!

Question: For whom is Jesus’ warning intended?  What can be the result of scandal within the Christian community?
Answer: Jesus’ serious warning, to first century Christians and to Christians down through the generations before His return, is to guard against scandal within the community and the judgment associated with such sin.  The behavior of the Christian community must be consistent with their Gospel message and their convictions or they do damage to the spiritual strength of the community and to their mission to preach Jesus’ Gospel message of salvation to non-believers who will judge the message by their actions.

Luke 17:3b-4 ~ The necessity of brotherly correction and forgiveness
3b If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying,  I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

The theme of this teaching is brotherly correction and forgiveness.  Jesus taught at length on this subject in Matthew 18:15-22.  The Greek word for “brother” is adelphos, meaning a sibling “from the womb”/from the same mother.  This is the only word used for “brother” in the New Testament and can refer to a sibling (Mt 4:18, 21); a half-brother (Lk 3:1, 19), a kinsman or a countryman/covenant brother (Mt 5:22;7:3-5Lk 6:41, 42).  In this context it refers to a brother or sister in the covenant community (also see for example Acts 1:15; 2:29, 37; 6:3; 9:30;10:23).  The word “rebuke” is from the verb epitiman and suggests a frank but gentle admonition; not an angry or irrational correction (Fitzmyer, page 1140).  The word “forgive” is in the future tense in the Greek text and the “you” is plural.

Jesus’ teaching is that since there is sin the world and all men and women are sinners, the disciples must accept the inevitability that sin will occur within the community.

Question: In this passage what three commands does Jesus give concerning the community’s response to a brother or sister who sins?
Answer:

  1. Admonish the offending Christian brother/sister (verse 3b).
  2. If the correction is accepted and is followed by the request for forgiveness, forgiveness must be offered (verse 3b).
  3. Forgiveness must be unconditional (verse 4).

The command to forgive is also found in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4.  When Jesus mentions a seven-fold forgiveness He is speaking of unlimited forgiveness.  Seven is one of the so-called “perfect numbers” and is symbolic of fullness and completion (see the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture” on the website and also the Encyclopedia Judaica, New York, Macmillan Publishers, 1971, pages 1254-61, esp. 1257).

Luke 17:5-6 ~ The power of faith
5 And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”  6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree,  Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’

This is the first mention of the Apostles as a separate group from within the community of disciples sinceLuke 9:10 when they returned from their first missionary journey (Jesus did mention them in His teaching in 11:49).
Question: Why do the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith?  Is there a connection to previous teachings?
Answer: Their request shows that they have been reflecting upon Jesus’ teachings on discipleship in Luke 14:25-35, 16:8b-18 and 17:1-4.  To fulfill Jesus’ teachings on the demands of true discipleship, the Apostles realize that their ability to live in compliance to Jesus’ teaching depends on their faith.  However, they understand that they will need more than their frail human faith to be obedient to Jesus’ commands, and so they ask Him to increase their faith.

Question: For the second time Jesus uses the image of the growth of a small seed (see Lk 13:19), but what is different about His example this time and what is His teaching?
Answer: This time He uses an example that defies natural law.  His answer to them is that genuine Christian faith is a process in which growing faith can lead to limitless power.  A person who experiences this kind of enriched faith can effect changes that are not according to the laws that govern the temporal world.

Luke 17:7-10 ~ The Parable of the Unprofitable Servants
7 “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,  Come here immediately and take your place at table?’  8 Would he not rather say to him,  Prepare something for me to eat.  Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.  You may eat and drink when I am finished’?  9Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?  10So should it be with you.  When you have done all you have been commanded, say,  We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obligated to do.’”

This is the last set of sayings/teachings in this series addressing the inadequacy of service versus the expectation of reward.  Once again Luke uses a familiar household analogy of master and servant/slave (see 12:35-40, 42-48; 13:25-27; 14:16-24; 16:1-13).  Servants/slaves always ate after the master of the house had finished his meal.   In verse 9 the point is not good manners but social convention and acceptable behavior for a servant in the presence of his master.  The rhetorical question Jesus asks in verse 9 presupposes a “no” answer.
Question: What is the comparison in this parable?
Answer: In this parable Jesus compares human service to Christian discipleship.

In serving an earthly master, a servant does not deserve or expect a greater reward for doing what is expected of him.  Such an attitude is like the Pharisee in Luke 14:15 who believed the Pharisee host of the meal and the other invited Pharisees and scribes deserved to eat at God’s banquet table in the heavenly kingdom simply because they were descendants of Abraham and members of the covenant.  And yet, as Jesus has shown them repeatedly in His teachings, they had failed in their service to God in not fulfilling even the minimum that was expected “they failed in the understanding and teaching of the Law (Lk 14:3-6), in mercy, compassion and justice to the poor (Lk 11:39-52), and in their love of money over love of God (16:13-15; also see St. John the Baptist’s condemnation of the Jews for this attitude in Lk 3:7-9).

Symbolic images in the Parable of the Unprofitable  Servant (Lk 17:7-10)
  The master   God
  The servants who work on the master’s land   Christians within the Kingdom of the Church
  The unprofitable servants   Christians who only do the minimum service that God requires of a Christian
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Question: What is Jesus point in this teaching that is summed up in verse 10?  What can you say about Jesus’ warnings that we can apply to our Christian service?
Answer:

  1. A Christian who only carries out the minimum requirements of service to the Kingdom can regard himself as an “unprofitable servant.”
  2. The conduct of a Christian in fulfilling what he sees as his covenant obligations does not guarantee his salvation “the reward of God’s grace is a gift and cannot be earned.  Our good works are evidence of our faith and make us open to receiving God’s gift of grace.
  3. There is no room for human boasting as far as our service to the Master is concerned.  If we take the attitude that our salvation is secure because we have done “our part,” our self-righteous attitude will be our downfall.

Luke’s Travel Narrative Part III

Luke 17:11 ~ As he was continuing his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through [between] Samaria and Galilee.

The last location Luke gave us was in 13:31 where we can assume that Jesus was in the territory of Perea on the east side of the Jordan River, the territory that Herod Antipas ruled in addition to the Galilee.  That Jesus was in Perea for a time is also recorded in John 10:40 when Jesus withdrew across the river into Perea after He attended the Feast of Dedication in December of the last months of His ministry that will reach its climax in the spring.  St. Luke lists Samaria before Galilee, therefore, the word translated “through” might be better translated as “between” (an acceptable alternate translation) making the location of His travels “between Samaria and Galilee.”  St. John notes that Jesus returned across the Jordan from Perea into Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead (Jn chapter 11) and then withdrew to the region of the Judean wilderness to the north of Jerusalem, which could be the northern part of the wilderness in the district of Samaria (Jn 11:54).  Luke 17:16 may suggest that He was in the district of southern Samaria which fits with that interpretation.  Jesus is making His way toward the Jordan River Valley and down to Jericho (see Lk 18:35); from Jericho He will make His way up to Jerusalem.

Luke 17:12-19 ~ The cleansing of ten lepers
12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.  They stood at a distance from him 13and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!”  14And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  18Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19Then he said to him, “stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Jesus has entered an unnamed village (presumably on the border between Samaria and Judea) where He is greeted at a distance by ten lepers.  The number “ten” may be significant.  In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, ten is a number of perfection of order in God’s divine plan; for example there are ten commandments, there are ten Egyptian plagues, and there are ten virgins in Jesus’ parable representing the communities of the Church (Mt 25:1-13).

The ten lepers stand at a distance because those suffering from contagious skin diseases were “unclean” and were not allowed to enter villages (Num 5:2-3) or to approach a “clean” person (Lev 13:45-46).  They cry out for mercy and begged Jesus to heal them.  The outflowing of God’s mercy is, according to St. Luke, part of the expectation concerning the visitation of God (see Lk 1:50, 54, 58, 72, 78).

Question: What does Jesus tell them and why?  See Lk 5:14; Lev 13:49; Lev 14:2-4, 19-20.
Answer: As in His other encounter with a leper, He tells them to be obedient to the Law and to show themselves to a priest.  Jesus is giving them the instruction that a Jew must follow if he was healed of his skin disease in order to be received back into the community.

Their obedience in following His instruction leads to their healing.  Presumably all the men were healed, but only the Samaritan returns in gratitude to thank Jesus.  He is the one who would not be welcomed at the Jerusalem Temple or by a Jewish priest.  A Samaritan would have to go to his own priest who was not recognized as a legitimate priest by the Jews.  His act of prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet and giving thanks is a sign that he acknowledges Jesus as an agent of God.  In the man “giving thanks,” St. Luke uses the Greek word eucherestein “the verb form of the noun that gives us the word “Eucharist.”  The same verb will be used at the Last Supper.  This is another positive example of an outsider who is a Samaritan (see Lk 11:29-37 the Parable of the Good Samaritan).

Question: What three rhetorical questions does Jesus ask in verses 17-18?
Answer:

  1. Ten were cleansed, were they not?
  2. Where are the other nine?
  3. Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

When Jesus calls the man a “foreigner,” He identifies him as an outsider and not of the Sinai Covenant “the man is one who is outside the covenant like a Gentile.  Jesus judges the man’s cry of gratitude and glorifying God as evidence of his conversion and tells him: “stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  This is the fourth time Jesus has used this phrase to conclude a healing (the sinful woman in 7:50; the bleeding woman in 8:48; and He will use it for the blind beggar in 18:42).  He will use the phrase four times in Luke’s Gospel.

Question: What is ironic about this turn of events and how is it a sign?
Answer: It is ironic that it is a man who is not of the covenant who returns in gratitude to give thanks to God and the Jewish lepers did not.  It is a sign of future events concerning Jesus and the Jews.

The Jews who accepted the gift of healing without expressing their gratitude have missed out one the most extraordinary moments of their lives as will their covenant brothers who reject the Messiah and His works!

Jesus’ next teaching begins in 17:20 and continues until 18:14.
Luke 17:20-21 ~ The coming of the Kingdom of God
20 Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, 21 and no one will announce,  Look, here it is,’ or,  There it is.’  For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”

The Greek preposition that is translated “among” can also be translated “within.”  To translate the preposition “within” gives an entirely different meaning to Jesus’ teaching, suggesting that the rule of God that is the Kingdom is only a spiritual awareness.  However, in other statements in St. Luke’s Gospel concerning the presence of the kingdom where this word is used, “among” appears to be the preferred translation; see for example Luke 10:9, 11 and 11:20 (Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, page 263).  That the “Kingdom” of God is only a spiritual awareness also does not fit with Jesus’ definition of the Kingdom in His Kingdom Parables where the Kingdom is understood to be the New Covenant Church (on earth and in heaven) and the promised eternal/everlasting Kingdom in the books of the prophets (i.e. Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14, 27; Mt 13:24-50; Lk 14:15-24).

The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection at the end of time (Acts 23:8); therefore the force of their question is when will the end of time come and will that be the coming of the Kingdom Jesus speaks of?  Jesus tells them the coming of the Kingdom He speaks of cannot be observed like an event.

Question: What is it that Jesus tells the Pharisees is “among you” (plural) that is the Kingdom of God?
Answer: The Kingdom is present in Jesus “in His teachings, His miracle healings, and His Gospel of salvation.

Luke 17:22-37 ~ The Day of Judgment
22 Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.  23 There will be those who will say to you,  Look, there he is,’ or  Look, here he is.’  Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.  24 For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.  25But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.  26As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; 27 they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  28 Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.  30 So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  31 On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind.  32 Remember the wife of Lot.  33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.  34 I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left.  35 And there will be two women grinding meal together; on will be taken, the other left.”[36] 37 They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”  He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”

The “days” are the same days referred to in 18:8 “the Second Coming/Advent of Christ.
Question: The coming of the Kingdom cannot be observed as an event, but what will human beings be able to observe as an event and when will it happen?  See 1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:1-10.
Answer: God’s divine judgment in the event of the Son of Man’s Second Advent when He will come in glory at the end of the age.

Jesus warns that the days will come when the people will long for these present days when He taught and healed (17:22).  Between these days and His return there will be many false prophets who will claim to have His power and authority.   Luke’s reference to the “days of the Son of Man” is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets’ prophecies of the “Day of the Lord” as a day of retribution (see Amos 5:18-20).  Some of the same imagery used in this passage is also found in Matthew 24-25.  In this passage Jesus is speaking of His sudden return after His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension; later in Luke 21:6-24 He will prophesy the judgment on His generation and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Question: To what natural phenomena, timing, and past events in Biblical history does Jesus’ compare His Second Coming?
Answer: The event will be sudden and similar to:

  1. Lighting in the sky
  2. God’s divine judgment in the days of the Great Flood in the time of Noah
  3. The judgment on Sodom that Abraham’s nephew Lot experienced.

Luke 17:32 Remember the wife of Lot. See Gen 19:26.
Question: What is the significance of this warning?
Answer: Lot’s wife missed out on her salvation because she did not heed the angel’s warning not to look back at the doomed city.  In the same way those hearing Jesus’ teaching should heed His warning and be prepared.

Luke 17:33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.
Lot’s wife identified her life with her possessions in Sodom, and in her longing to preserve that “life” she looked back and lost her life.  The disciples must be prepared to give up all their material possessions to follow Jesus.  They must commit their lives totally in service to Him “living in love of God and love of neighbor.  In their willingness to give up their lives in this way, they will save their eternal lives (CCC 1889).

In verses 34-35 Jesus tells them at the time of the Judgment Day of the Son of Man, humanity will be divided into those destined for eternal life and those destined for eternal judgment (see Mt 25:31-44).  Those “taken” probably refers to the “saved” since those “taken” in the Ark were saved as were Lot and his daughters who were “taken” out of the doomed city.

Luke 17:36/37 They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”  He said to them, “Where the body [soma] is, there also the vultures [aetoi] will gather.”

Not yet understanding His teaching, the disciples (see verse 22) ask “where?”  Where is the Kingdom?  It is similar to the question the Pharisees asked in 17:20 but now they want to know, if the Kingdom is among them (17:21) where is it?  Jesus answers them using the common phenomena of a gathering of birds of prey signaling the presence of a dead body; although it is significant that Jesus doesn’t use the word “corpse” [ptoma] as in Matthew 24:28, but “body” [soma].  It is the same word Jesus will use of Himself when He offers His disciples His body/soma at the Last Supper (Lk 22:19).  The Greek word aetoi,for the birds of prey, may mean “eagles,” as in the Septuagint translation (LXX) of Exodus 19:4; Jeremiah 4:13; and in the New Testament in Revelation 4:7and 12:4.  But most commentators suggest that the carrion metaphor necessities the translation “vultures,” as in Leviticus 11:13 and Deuteronomy 14:12(Fitzmyer, page 266).(3)

Question: What event does Jesus’ use of the metaphor of the “vultures” and “body” to answer the disciples question refer to?  See Lk 17:25.
Answer: His answer is connected to His response in verse 25 and refers to His enemies who will “flock” like birds of prey around His body on the Cross.

The Kingdom of the Church is founded upon the moment when the Christ gives up His life on the Cross for the salvation of mankind to be followed by His Resurrection three days later.  The sanctification of that first community of the earthly Kingdom will take place at Pentecost fifty days after the Resurrection.  From the point of His Resurrection, the Kingdom that is the earthly Church will be saved through His sacrifice and nourished on their journey to salvation by the Body (soma; see1 Cor 11:24) of the resurrected Christ.

Chapter 18

It must be humbly and realistically recognized that we are poor creatures, confused in ideas, tempted by evil, frail and weak, in continual need of inner strength and consolation.  Prayer gives the strength for great ideals, to maintain faith, charity, purity and generosity.  Prayer gives the courage to emerge from indifference and guilt, if unfortunately one has yielded to temptation and weakness.  Prayer gives light to see and consider the events of one’s own life and of history in the salvific perspective of God and eternity.  Therefore, do not stop praying!  Let not a day pass without your having prayed a little!  Prayer is a duty, but it is also a great joy, because it is a dialogue with God through Jesus Christ!  Every Sunday, Holy Mass: if it is possible for you sometimes during the week.  Every day, morning and evening prayers, and at the most suitable moments!”
Pope John Paul II, Audience with young people, March 14, 1979

Jesus offers three parables on the power of prayer in the Gospel of Luke:

  1. The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor (Lk 11:5-13) invites us to urgent prayer.
  2. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8) is focused on one of the qualities of prayer “the necessity to pray without ceasing with the patience of faith.
  3. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) concerns the necessity of humility.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus prays:

  • Before the decisive moments in His ministry (Lk 5:16; 10:21-23; 11:1)
  • Before His Father’s witness to Him during His baptism (Lk 3:21)
  • Before His Father’s witness to Him at the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-29)
  • Before choosing His disciples and Apostles (Lk 6:12)
  • Before St. Peter’s confession of Him as “the Messiah of God” (Lk 9:18-20)
  • Before offering His Body and Blood at the Last Supper (Lk 22:17)
  • Before leaving the Upper Room that His Apostles’ faith will not fail them when they are tested (Lk 22:31-32)
  • Before His own fulfillment of His Father’s divine plan through His Passion (Lk 22:41-44)

Luke 18:1-8 ~ The Parable of the Persistent Widow
1 Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without become weary.  He said, 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  3 And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,  Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’  4 For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,  While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her least she finally come and strike me.’” 6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Question: What is the contrast in the parable and what is the reason God will answer the prayers of one who is just as persistent as the widow in His story?
Answer: The contrast is between a persistent widow petitioning a judge and a Christian being persistent in petitioning God in prayer.  The persistence of the widow’s petition to the judge got results in the same way the Christian’s patient persistence in petitioning God in prayer will get results “not because God finds the Christian irritating like the judge found the widow, but because God will reward a Christian’s patient and faithful persistence.

Luke 18:8 But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
This is the question the Pharisees and the disciples should have been asking themselves in 17:20 and 36/37.  This is the crux of the problem facing mankind concerning the Second Advent of Christ.  Jesus ends His teaching on the perseverance of prayer with the warning to remain firm in one’s faith.  Faith and prayer are two sides of the same coin.  If you have faith in God you will go to Him in prayer “if you pray, you strengthen your faith in God.  The question Jesus asks is “will the professed children of God be patiently persistent in their faith, and will He find faith on earth when He returns?”

Luke 18:9-14 ~ The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  10 Two people went up to the Temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,  O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity “greedy, dishonest, adulterous “or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,  O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: What is the contrast in the parable?
Answer: The contrast is between a boasting Pharisee who is meticulous about external fulfillment of the Law and whose pride causes him to be self-centered and blind to his sins as opposed to a tax collector who humbly acknowledges both his sins and his need for God’s grace and mercy.

Question: Why does Jesus say the tax collector was justified, receiving God’s forgiveness for his sins, while the Pharisee is not justified?  See Jn 9:39-41.
Answer: God judges hearts and not words.  The Pharisee was not asking God’s forgiveness for his sins “he was only boasting of his good works and despising the tax collector.  He was blind to his sins and so his sins remained.  The tax collector abandoned himself to both God’s judgment and God’s mercy and therefore, through his humble confession of his sins, was forgiven.

Humility is one of the hallmarks of repentance and opens a channel to God’s divine grace.  We should pray as David prayed after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet concerning his affair with Bathsheba: Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.  Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me … True I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me. Still you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.  Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure, wash me, make me whiter than snow… Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.  For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.  My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart (Ps 51:3-5, 7-9, 17-19).

Question: What did Saints Peter and James write about humility?  See 1 Pt 5:5; Jam 4:6 and Prov 3:34 LXX.
Answer: Both Saints Peter and James wrote that God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble, quoting from the Greek translation ofProverbs 3:34.

Luke 18:15-17 ~ Jesus’ teaching on the children of the Kingdom
15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  16 Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  17 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Mothers and fathers were bringing their infants to Jesus to pray over them and bless them (Mt 19:13; Mk 10:16).
Question: What is Jesus’ command concerning children and concerning the condition of discipleship?
Answer:

  1. Children should not be prevented from coming to the Christ.
  2. Disciples must have child-like faith.

The command forbidding anyone to “prevent” children from coming to Jesus has been seen as a justification of infant baptism, together with the Old Covenant practice of male babies entering the covenant on the eighth day of birth (Gen 17:9-12; Lev 12:3).  The same Greek word is found in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip in Acts 8:36.

In this episode the command for child-like faith presents a contrast to the self-righteous and critical attitude of the Pharisee in the previous parable and the dilemma of the rich ruler in the next encounter with Christ.  In both teachings, the message is that salvation is through God’s grace and not merely by human merit.

Luke 18:18-23 ~ The wealthy aristocrat
18 An official asked him this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  19 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  20 You know the commandments,  You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’”  21 And he replied, “All of these I have observed from my youth.”  22 When Jesus heard this he said to him, “There is one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  23 But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.

The man’s request for Jesus’ instruction on what he must do to inherit eternal life was a sincere request.  InMatthew 10:20 we are told that he is a young man and in Mark 10:21 that Jesus loved him, suggesting the young man was replying in earnest when he told Jesus he obeyed the commandments Jesus cited concerning love of neighbor: Jesus, looking at him, loved him…

Question: Why does Jesus ask the man “Why do you call me good?”  What is the irony in Jesus’ statement to the young man in verse 19?
Answer: He asks the young man “Why do you call me good?” and then tells the young man that “No one is good but God alone.”  In other words, Jesus is saying that every man is a sinner.  The only One who is “good” is God.  The irony is that in Jesus’ question He is subtly asking the young man if he has discerned Jesus’ true identity as God, the only One who is good because He is without sin.

Question: The young man had all the qualities of discipleship except one.  What was the one thing he lacked that Jesus asked him to give up?
Answer: He had all the qualities except total dependence on God.  His wealth was a hindrance to that last attribute and so Jesus’ asked him to renounce his wealth.

That the young man sadly turned and went away because he could not muster the courage and trust and God to give up his great wealth is very poignant.  That Jesus truly wanted this young man as a disciple is made clear in verse 24 where Jesus is also sad.  This is not to suggest that the young man lost his eternal salvation, but he traded Jesus’ personal call to the vocation of discipleship for his inherited wealth when he could have inherited “true wealth” (Lk 17:11).  We do not know what became of this young man, but we know of at least one Jewish aristocrat who renounced his wealth and followed Jesus.(2)  Jesus’ next teaching addresses the choice the young man made.

Luke 18:24-30 ~ A teaching on the danger of riches
24 Jesus looked at him now sad and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  25 For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 Those who heard this said, “then who can be saved?”  27 And he said, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.”  28 Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.”  29 He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents for children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”

Jesus is using an exaggeration for the sake of effect to make the point that it is extremely difficult for a rich man who is so self-sufficient to submit himself to the grace of God.  The Greek word for “camel” is kamelon while the word for “rope” is kamilon. The huge ropes to which the anchors of ships were tied were made of camel hair and this may be a play on words suggesting that it is easier not for the animal to pass through a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven but the hyperbole may be that it is easier for the rope called a “camel” to pass through a needle used to make the fishing nets than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.  It is a comparison that would have appealed to the Apostles, many of whom were fishermen from the Galilee and familiar with ships and their equipment.  St. Cyril of Alexandria suggests this is the comparison Jesus was making: By “camel” here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope to which sailors tie their anchors.  He shows this comparison to be not entirely pointless (as a camel would be), but he makes it an exceedingly difficult matter; in fact, next to impossible (Fragment from the Gospel of Matthew, 219).

Question: Why is it hard for the rich to enter the gates of heaven?  See Ez 7:19; Prov 30:8-9; Sir 31:5-7 and Mt 5:3.
Answer: The problem isn’t the wealth but it is the self-sufficiency wealth gives a person.  The wealthy often do not feel they need God because they believe their wealth affords them the power to handle any crisis they may face.  That is why Jesus listed “poverty of spirit” as the first Beatitude.  Acknowledging we need God is the first step in the spiritual journey to salvation.

Luke 18:28-30 Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” 29 He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents for children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”
The disciples and Apostles recognize that they have done what the young man was unable to do.  Peter is acting as the spokesman for them when he asks what can they expect for having giving up everything to follow Him “worldly goods, family and friends.

Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ response to Peter?   See CCC 276, 308 and 1058.
Answer: Salvation is a gift of God “it is not a gift that can be compared to earthly blessings that are not eternal.  They must trust God to provide for them in the present and in the future.

The Apostles understand that they have answered the higher calling and want to know what their sacrifice will mean.  Jesus assures them that they will share in a rich spiritual inheritance.
Question: What will their sacrifice mean in the “rebirth” of the new age of the Kingdom?  See Mt 19:28; Dan 7:13-14, Rev 21:12-14; CCC 765.
Answer: The twelve Apostles will govern Jesus’ earthly kingdom.  They are the “foundation stones on which Jesus will build the new Israel and they will rule from the “new Jerusalem” of the Church’s authority over the earth.

The Apostles will share in His glory and in His royal prerogative as judge when they rule over their kinsmen who they will call into the new age of the Kingdom that is the “new Israel” of the New Covenant Church at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.(4)

Luke 18:31-34 ~ The third prediction of the Passion
31 Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; 33 and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.”  34 But they understood nothing of this; the word remained hidden from them and they failed to comprehend what he said.

This is the third and most complete prophecy of His Passion:

  1. The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised (9:22).
  2. The Son of man is to be handed over to men (9:44).
  3. Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; 33and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise (18:31-33).

The Apostles simply cannot grasp what Jesus is telling them because they have too human an idea of what they think the Messiah should be.  After the Resurrection, Jesus will explain to them all about Him that was foretold by the prophets (Lk 24:25-27, 44-47).  And in a homily after Pentecost, St. Peter will tell the Jews: Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that this Messiah would suffer (Acts 3:17-18; also see St. Peter in Acts 2:23; 3:24; 8:32-35; and St. Paul on the same topic in Acts 13:27; 26:22).

In fact Christ’s Passion had been foretold in detail by the prophet Isaiah.  St. John Chrysostom wrote that Jesus’ suffering and death … had been foretold by Isaiah when he said, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Is 50:6) and the same prophet even foretold the punishment of the Cross with these words: “He poured out his soul into death, and was numbered with the transgressors” (Is 53:12).  And therefore the text adds, “They will scourge him and kill him”; but David had also announced his resurrection when he said, “Thou dost not let they godly one see the Pit; (Ps 16:10).  In fulfillment of this the Lord adds, “And on the third day he will rise” (Homilies on St. Matthew, 66).

Luke 18:35-43 ~ The healing of the blind beggar
35 Now as he approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, 36 and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.  37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”  38 He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  39 The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  40 Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”  He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”  42 Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”  He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.  When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

In 18:42 Jesus’ use of the phrase, “your faith has saved you,” is repeated by Him a fourth time:

  1. To the sinful woman in 7:50
  2. To the bleeding woman in 8:48
  3. To the Samaritan leper in 17:19
  4. To the blind beggar in 18:42.

Luke 18:38-39 He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  39 The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” 

Learning that Jesus is passing by, the blind man is persistent in making use of his opportunity to take advantage of the presence of Christ.  In calling out to Jesus, he acknowledges his belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah by using Jesus’ messianic title, “Son of David.”  His persistence is an act of faith and Jesus rewards him by restoring his sight.

Question: What link was made between the promise of salvation through the Messiah and the house of David in Zechariah’s canticle in Luke 1:69?
Answer: Zechariah said: He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old …

Question: What qualities does the blind man exhibit that Jesus has taught about concerning praying to God and faith in His mission?
Answer: He is persistent in spite of obstacles, he is urgent, and he calls to Jesus with the conviction of faith, acknowledging His true identity as the Messiah.

Question: What is ironic about the blind man’s response to Jesus as opposed to the Pharisees and scribes?
Answer: They have the ability to see physically but they are blind spiritually while the blind man is blind physically but has the spiritual “sight” to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah.

Chapter 19:1-28

Luke 19:1-10 ~ The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector
1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.  2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.  4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.  5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy.  7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”  8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”  9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Question: In this amusing encounter with Christ, what does the story of the little tax collector have in common with the blind beggar besides the location?  What is the warning for us on this side of salvation history?
Answer: Both stories are about the urgency of reaching out to Jesus before He passes by.  The stories are a warning to us not to neglect reaching out to Jesus while there is still time for us to be open to God’s grace and the gift of salvation.  In our journey to salvation, we need to continue to respond quickly and decisively to Jesus like the earnest blind beggar and the repentant little tax collector.

Tax collectors were despised because of the way they profited off their commission that they added to the people’s taxes.  Repenting his dishonesty, Zacchaeus promises Jesus that he will make restitution as a sign of his repentance.  A fourfold restitution was imposed by the Law of Moses for theft of domestic livestock only (Exodus 21:37).  Roman law demanded a fourfold restitution in all cases of theft.  Zacchaeus appears to be following Roman law in the restitution he promises for those he has defrauded, but he goes beyond what is required in promising to give half his wealth to the poor.

Luke 19:9-10 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”  
Zacchaeus’ repentance and submission to Christ identifies him as a true descendant of Abraham (Gal 3:29) and one of the “lost sheep” the Messiah who is God Himself was prophesied to come to save (Ez chapter 34).

Luke 19:11-27 ~ The Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
11 While they were listening to him speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  12 So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kinship for himself and then to return.  13 He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them,  Engage in trade with these until I return.’  14 His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce,  We do not want this man to be our king.’  15 But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  16 The first came forward and said,  Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  17 He replied,  Well done, good servant!  You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  18 Then the second came and reported,  Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  And to this servant too he said,  You take charge of five cities.’  20 Then the other servant came and said,  Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you do not lay down and you harvest what you do not plant.’  22 He said to him,  With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’  24 And to those standing by he said,  Take the gold coin from him and give it to servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him,  Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but to the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  27Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’”

The Apostles and disciples think that the Kingdom is about to be inaugurated by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the same way King Solomon’s reign as king of Israel began with his triumphal entry into the holy city (1 Kng 1:32-40).  They are so bound up with the natural order that they cannot contemplate the supernatural character of the Kingdom of God in the world “the Church, which has but one sole purpose “that the Kingdom of God may come and the salvation of the human race may be accomplished (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 45).  Since His Apostles and disciples still do not grasp the true understanding of His Kingdom, Jesus tells parable to help their understanding.

In this parable Jesus tells them that although the reign of His kingdom has begun, it will only be fully manifested on His return at the end of time (His Second Advent/Second Coming).  In the meantime, His disciples should use all the resources of God’s grace to merit an eternal reward upon His return.

Christ is the “nobleman” or prince who went off to a distance land to claim his throne.  The “distant land” is the Kingdom of heaven where He will receive dominion, glory, and kingship(Dan 7:14b).  He is to be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:1:5;Rev 17:14; 19:16) and will take His seat at the right hand of the Father (Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pt 3:22).  The gold coin in the story that is entrusted to the servants is a mina; a valuable coin worth about 35 grams of gold.

The ten servants the king calls forth to whom he gives ten gold coins are the disciples of Jesus Christ who will serve the Church in His absence by making use of the spiritual gifts they have received to advance the mission of the Church until his return.  The return of the king will be Jesus’ Second Advent/Second Coming when He will return in glory for the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked and to render a final judgment on mankind and the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thes 4:16-18;2 Thes 1:7-10).   “Ten” is one of the so-called “perfect numbers” and signifies the perfection of divine order.   The profitable servants who will be rewarded on the king’s return are the Christians who used God’s gifts to advance the mission of Jesus’ Kingdom on earth, the Church, and they will receive eternal rewards.  The lazy and unprofitable servants are those Christians who neglected their spiritual gifts and failed to advance the mission of the Church.  They will face a severe judgment.  The citizens who rejected the authority of the king to rule over them are the Jews and other citizens of the human family who rejected the lordship of Christ and His Gospel message of salvation.

Symbolic imagery in the Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
  The nobleman who went to claim his kingship in a distant country   Christ’s Ascension into the heavenly kingdom
  The kingdom the master leaves   The Church on earth
  The promise of his return   Christ’s Second Advent
  THe gold coins   God’s grace (spiritual gifts and blessings)
  The servants who received the gold coins   Christians who receive God’s grace (spiritual gifts  and blessings)
  The profitable servants   Christians who use God’s gifts to advance the  mission of the Church
  The cities awarded the profitable servants   Eternal rewards
  The unprofitable servant   Christians who neglect their spiritual gifts and do  not advance the mission of the Church
  Citizens who reject the lordship of the king/  enemies of the king   The Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah and those  others in the human family who reject Jesus Christ and His Gospel of  salvation
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Luke 19:17 He replied,  Well done, good servant!  You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’
As Jesus taught in an earlier parable (Lk 16:10), our fidelity in small things will be rewarded and the greater our effort, the greater the reward.

Luke 19:24-26 And to those standing by he said,  Take the gold coin from him and give it to servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him,  Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but to the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

God gives all Christians the grace we need to fulfill our mission as disciples, and He will richly reward those who put His gifts to the best use, bearing the “fruit” of good works to advance the mission of the Church.  But to the lazy and unprofitable servants of His Kingdom the Church, who claimed to be His disciples but who failed to use their spiritual gifts, He will give a very severe judgment.

Luke 19:27Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.
Question: Who are the enemies of Christ?
Answer: Those who reject Christ and try to do damage to His Church.  In their rejection of Christ they have condemned themselves to eternal punishment.

Luke 19:28 ~ After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 19:28).

This is the end of Luke’s travel narrative and the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life and His teaching ministry in God’s holy city, Jerusalem.

Question for reflection or group discussion?
See Luke 17:7-10 and 19:11-27.  Which kind of servant are you?  Do you do the minimum to serve Christ and His kingdom, or do you go beyond the minimum that the Church requires of a faithful Catholic?  See the five precepts of the Church in CCC 2041-43 and Matthew 28:18-20 for the minimum requirements.

Endnotes:

1.  See the same teaching and the same use of skandalon/skandalizo in Mt 18:6 and Mark 9:42.

2.  Manean (Acts 13:1) was a Jewish aristocrat raised in the court of Herod Antipas who was converted to Christianity and became a prophet and teacher in the church at Antioch.  One can only hope that he might be the rich young ruler Jesus loved who, after first turning away, later renounced his wealth and returned to Christ.

3.  Some commentators suggest that the Greek word isn’t “vultures” but “eagles” and refers to the insignia of the Roman eagle that accompanied every Roman legion.  It is the Roman governor who orders Jesus’ crucifixion and Roman soldiers carry out the execution.

4.  The authority to judge/rule the 12 tribes of Israel may also be part of the Last Judgment.  In the book of Revelation there are 24 elders who sit on thrones around the throne of God.  It is difficult to determine from Revelation 4:3-4 the identity of the 24 elders, but many of the Fathers of the Church suggest they are the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel and the twelve Apostles.

The Gospel of St. Luke

The Gospel of St. Luke

20. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 12: Chapter 17:1-19:28
The Last Days of Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem

Almighty Father,
Give us the will to go the distance in our service to our Savior, Christ Jesus.  We don’t want to be satisfied with the least as sufficient; we want to Give Him our best.  We know that the way to achieve success in our mission is a daily examination of conscience where we ask ourselves what more can we do to advance the Kingdom?  Give us the strength of will of St. Paul and the dedication of service of St. Peter that we might follow in their footsteps across the threshold of eternity into the heavenly Kingdom.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

You cannot think yourself greater than you are simply because you are a child of God.  You ought to recognize the effect of grace, yes, but you cannot forget the lowliness of your nature.  Nor would I have you become vain simply because you fulfill your duty.  Remember that, in the like manner, the sun and the moon and the angels do exactly what they are supposed to do.
St Ambrose, Commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel

After Jesus’ dinner at the home of a wealthy Pharisee, where He healed a man on the Sabbath and taught the Pharisees about humility and God’s mercy (14:1-24), he left the dinner and continued to teach the crowds of Jews who were following him (14:25-16:15:32).  Turing to His disciples, He taught them about the right use of material wealth, the rejection of the secular world, and obedience to the Law that was necessary for discipleship.  His continues His teaching that began in 14:25-16:31 by turning to address His disciples and the Apostles (17:1-10).

Chapter 17

Chapter 17 begins with four sets of teachings/sayings of Jesus on different aspects of discipleship:

  1. On the inevitability of sin/scandal in the Christian community (17:1-3a)
  2. On the duty of Christians to forgive (17:3b-4)
  3. On the power of faith (17:5-6)
  4. On the demands of Christian service (17:7-10)

Luke 17:1-3a ~ Temptations to sin

1 He said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin [skandalon] will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.  2 It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin [skandalizo].  3a Be on your guard! 

The word translated “sin” in verse 1 might better be translated “scandal.”  However, it is sin, after all, that causes scandal in the Church.  The Greek noun skandalon can have two meanings:

  1. A “trap or snare” (as for example in the Greek translation of Josh 23:13 and Ps 68:22).
  2. “Something over which one could stumble” (as for example in the Greek translation of Leviticus 19:14 and Ps 118:165).

Both meanings refer to the occasion for sin.

In the New Testament the inspired writers use the word in reference to the Cross as a “stumbling block” to belief in Jesus as the Messiah (see 1 Cor 1:23; Rom 9:33; 11:9; and 1 Pt 2:8) and also for offenses within the community of believers which can cause a member to “stumble” in their faith and commitment (as in 1 Cor 8:13; Rom 14:13and 21).  St. Luke uses the noun skandalon in 7:23 in the first meaning of the word, “a trap or snare”; but he uses the noun in 17:1 and the cognitive verb skandalizo, “to cause to stumble,” in verse 2 in the second sense of the word.(1)

While a member of the community falling into sin can cause a scandal, St. Paul says we must also avoid what can be perceived as sin.   In 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 he gives the example of those  (probably Jews) who would think a Christian was worshiping false idols by eating meat that had been sacrificed to an idol in a pagan temple  (the origin of most meat in a pagan city).  St. Paul says that a knowledgeable Christian knows that the meat has no power and  no acknowledgement of the false god was intended, yet he says he avoids the practice of eating such meat in case his action would  be a stumbling block to someone in accepting Christ.  St. Paul says And then it would be through your knowledge that this brother  for whom Christ died, vulnerable as he is, has been lost.  So, sinning against your brothers and wounding their vulnerable consciences,  you would be sinning against Christ (1 Cor 8:11-12 NJB).   As Christians we must not take up any practice or action that could be interpreted as contrary to the teachings of the Church,  such as couples who are not married and not related to each other but who are living together in the same residence,  even if they are only living together as friends (CCC 2284-86).

Question: Jesus teaching in 17:1-3 teaching includes what two warnings?
Answer:

  1. The warning that sin that leads to scandal will inevitably occur within the Christian community.
  2. The warning that those who cause scandal within the community that affects the faith of others will be judged severely by God.

Question: Who are the “little ones” that Jesus refers to in verse 2?  See Mt 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14 and Lk 6:35.
Answer: Christians who are the “little ones/children of God.”

As a symbol of divine judgment, Jesus uses a millstone.  The same image of divine judgment is also used in Revelation 18:21-22.  In Jesus’ time there were the small hand-operated millstones that only weighed a few pounds, the same kind used down through the millenniums.  However, most milling was done by large, communally used rotary millstones turned by animal tied to the stone who traveled in a circle.  This is probably the type of millstone to which Jesus is referring.  Such a millstone, depending on the size, could weigh several hundreds of pounds.  If this type of millstone was tied to someone who was thrown into the sea, that person would be doomed to physical death in the same way a person who leads one of God’s children into sin and scandal within the community will be doomed to spiritual death.

Luke 3a Be on your guard!
Question: According to St. Paul, when a Christian’s sin causes damage to the faith of another Christian, what is the full extent of his sin?  See 1 Cor 8:12.
Answer: He has sinned not only against his brother or sister but against Christ!

Question: For whom is Jesus’ warning intended?  What can be the result of scandal within the Christian community?
Answer: Jesus’ serious warning, to first century Christians and to Christians down through the generations before His return, is to guard against scandal within the community and the judgment associated with such sin.  The behavior of the Christian community must be consistent with their Gospel message and their convictions or they do damage to the spiritual strength of the community and to their mission to preach Jesus’ Gospel message of salvation to non-believers who will judge the message by their actions.

Luke 17:3b-4 ~ The necessity of brotherly correction and forgiveness
3b If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying,  I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”

The theme of this teaching is brotherly correction and forgiveness.  Jesus taught at length on this subject in Matthew 18:15-22.  The Greek word for “brother” is adelphos, meaning a sibling “from the womb”/from the same mother.  This is the only word used for “brother” in the New Testament and can refer to a sibling (Mt 4:18, 21); a half-brother (Lk 3:1, 19), a kinsman or a countryman/covenant brother (Mt 5:22;7:3-5Lk 6:41, 42).  In this context it refers to a brother or sister in the covenant community (also see for example Acts 1:15; 2:29, 37; 6:3; 9:30;10:23).  The word “rebuke” is from the verb epitiman and suggests a frank but gentle admonition; not an angry or irrational correction (Fitzmyer, page 1140).  The word “forgive” is in the future tense in the Greek text and the “you” is plural.

Jesus’ teaching is that since there is sin the world and all men and women are sinners, the disciples must accept the inevitability that sin will occur within the community.

Question: In this passage what three commands does Jesus give concerning the community’s response to a brother or sister who sins?
Answer:

  1. Admonish the offending Christian brother/sister (verse 3b).
  2. If the correction is accepted and is followed by the request for forgiveness, forgiveness must be offered (verse 3b).
  3. Forgiveness must be unconditional (verse 4).

The command to forgive is also found in the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:4.  When Jesus mentions a seven-fold forgiveness He is speaking of unlimited forgiveness.  Seven is one of the so-called “perfect numbers” and is symbolic of fullness and completion (see the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture” on the website and also the Encyclopedia Judaica, New York, Macmillan Publishers, 1971, pages 1254-61, esp. 1257).

Luke 17:5-6 ~ The power of faith
5 And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”  6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree,  Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’

This is the first mention of the Apostles as a separate group from within the community of disciples sinceLuke 9:10 when they returned from their first missionary journey (Jesus did mention them in His teaching in 11:49).
Question: Why do the Apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith?  Is there a connection to previous teachings?
Answer: Their request shows that they have been reflecting upon Jesus’ teachings on discipleship in Luke 14:25-35, 16:8b-18 and 17:1-4.  To fulfill Jesus’ teachings on the demands of true discipleship, the Apostles realize that their ability to live in compliance to Jesus’ teaching depends on their faith.  However, they understand that they will need more than their frail human faith to be obedient to Jesus’ commands, and so they ask Him to increase their faith.

Question: For the second time Jesus uses the image of the growth of a small seed (see Lk 13:19), but what is different about His example this time and what is His teaching?
Answer: This time He uses an example that defies natural law.  His answer to them is that genuine Christian faith is a process in which growing faith can lead to limitless power.  A person who experiences this kind of enriched faith can effect changes that are not according to the laws that govern the temporal world.

Luke 17:7-10 ~ The Parable of the Unprofitable Servants
7 “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,  Come here immediately and take your place at table?’  8 Would he not rather say to him,  Prepare something for me to eat.  Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.  You may eat and drink when I am finished’?  9Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?  10So should it be with you.  When you have done all you have been commanded, say,  We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obligated to do.’”

This is the last set of sayings/teachings in this series addressing the inadequacy of service versus the expectation of reward.  Once again Luke uses a familiar household analogy of master and servant/slave (see 12:35-40, 42-48; 13:25-27; 14:16-24; 16:1-13).  Servants/slaves always ate after the master of the house had finished his meal.   In verse 9 the point is not good manners but social convention and acceptable behavior for a servant in the presence of his master.  The rhetorical question Jesus asks in verse 9 presupposes a “no” answer.
Question: What is the comparison in this parable?
Answer: In this parable Jesus compares human service to Christian discipleship.

In serving an earthly master, a servant does not deserve or expect a greater reward for doing what is expected of him.  Such an attitude is like the Pharisee in Luke 14:15 who believed the Pharisee host of the meal and the other invited Pharisees and scribes deserved to eat at God’s banquet table in the heavenly kingdom simply because they were descendants of Abraham and members of the covenant.  And yet, as Jesus has shown them repeatedly in His teachings, they had failed in their service to God in not fulfilling even the minimum that was expected “they failed in the understanding and teaching of the Law (Lk 14:3-6), in mercy, compassion and justice to the poor (Lk 11:39-52), and in their love of money over love of God (16:13-15; also see St. John the Baptist’s condemnation of the Jews for this attitude in Lk 3:7-9).

Symbolic images in the Parable of the Unprofitable  Servant (Lk 17:7-10)
  The master   God
  The servants who work on the master’s land   Christians within the Kingdom of the Church
  The unprofitable servants   Christians who only do the minimum service that God requires of a Christian
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Question: What is Jesus point in this teaching that is summed up in verse 10?  What can you say about Jesus’ warnings that we can apply to our Christian service?
Answer:

  1. A Christian who only carries out the minimum requirements of service to the Kingdom can regard himself as an “unprofitable servant.”
  2. The conduct of a Christian in fulfilling what he sees as his covenant obligations does not guarantee his salvation “the reward of God’s grace is a gift and cannot be earned.  Our good works are evidence of our faith and make us open to receiving God’s gift of grace.
  3. There is no room for human boasting as far as our service to the Master is concerned.  If we take the attitude that our salvation is secure because we have done “our part,” our self-righteous attitude will be our downfall.

Luke’s Travel Narrative Part III

Luke 17:11 ~ As he was continuing his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through [between] Samaria and Galilee.

The last location Luke gave us was in 13:31 where we can assume that Jesus was in the territory of Perea on the east side of the Jordan River, the territory that Herod Antipas ruled in addition to the Galilee.  That Jesus was in Perea for a time is also recorded in John 10:40 when Jesus withdrew across the river into Perea after He attended the Feast of Dedication in December of the last months of His ministry that will reach its climax in the spring.  St. Luke lists Samaria before Galilee, therefore, the word translated “through” might be better translated as “between” (an acceptable alternate translation) making the location of His travels “between Samaria and Galilee.”  St. John notes that Jesus returned across the Jordan from Perea into Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead (Jn chapter 11) and then withdrew to the region of the Judean wilderness to the north of Jerusalem, which could be the northern part of the wilderness in the district of Samaria (Jn 11:54).  Luke 17:16 may suggest that He was in the district of southern Samaria which fits with that interpretation.  Jesus is making His way toward the Jordan River Valley and down to Jericho (see Lk 18:35); from Jericho He will make His way up to Jerusalem.

Luke 17:12-19 ~ The cleansing of ten lepers
12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.  They stood at a distance from him 13and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!”  14And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  As they were going they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  18Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  19Then he said to him, “stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Jesus has entered an unnamed village (presumably on the border between Samaria and Judea) where He is greeted at a distance by ten lepers.  The number “ten” may be significant.  In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, ten is a number of perfection of order in God’s divine plan; for example there are ten commandments, there are ten Egyptian plagues, and there are ten virgins in Jesus’ parable representing the communities of the Church (Mt 25:1-13).

The ten lepers stand at a distance because those suffering from contagious skin diseases were “unclean” and were not allowed to enter villages (Num 5:2-3) or to approach a “clean” person (Lev 13:45-46).  They cry out for mercy and begged Jesus to heal them.  The outflowing of God’s mercy is, according to St. Luke, part of the expectation concerning the visitation of God (see Lk 1:50, 54, 58, 72, 78).

Question: What does Jesus tell them and why?  See Lk 5:14; Lev 13:49; Lev 14:2-4, 19-20.
Answer: As in His other encounter with a leper, He tells them to be obedient to the Law and to show themselves to a priest.  Jesus is giving them the instruction that a Jew must follow if he was healed of his skin disease in order to be received back into the community.

Their obedience in following His instruction leads to their healing.  Presumably all the men were healed, but only the Samaritan returns in gratitude to thank Jesus.  He is the one who would not be welcomed at the Jerusalem Temple or by a Jewish priest.  A Samaritan would have to go to his own priest who was not recognized as a legitimate priest by the Jews.  His act of prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet and giving thanks is a sign that he acknowledges Jesus as an agent of God.  In the man “giving thanks,” St. Luke uses the Greek word eucherestein “the verb form of the noun that gives us the word “Eucharist.”  The same verb will be used at the Last Supper.  This is another positive example of an outsider who is a Samaritan (see Lk 11:29-37 the Parable of the Good Samaritan).

Question: What three rhetorical questions does Jesus ask in verses 17-18?
Answer:

  1. Ten were cleansed, were they not?
  2. Where are the other nine?
  3. Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

When Jesus calls the man a “foreigner,” He identifies him as an outsider and not of the Sinai Covenant “the man is one who is outside the covenant like a Gentile.  Jesus judges the man’s cry of gratitude and glorifying God as evidence of his conversion and tells him: “stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  This is the fourth time Jesus has used this phrase to conclude a healing (the sinful woman in 7:50; the bleeding woman in 8:48; and He will use it for the blind beggar in 18:42).  He will use the phrase four times in Luke’s Gospel.

Question: What is ironic about this turn of events and how is it a sign?
Answer: It is ironic that it is a man who is not of the covenant who returns in gratitude to give thanks to God and the Jewish lepers did not.  It is a sign of future events concerning Jesus and the Jews.

The Jews who accepted the gift of healing without expressing their gratitude have missed out one the most extraordinary moments of their lives as will their covenant brothers who reject the Messiah and His works!

Jesus’ next teaching begins in 17:20 and continues until 18:14.
Luke 17:20-21 ~ The coming of the Kingdom of God
20 Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, 21 and no one will announce,  Look, here it is,’ or,  There it is.’  For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”

The Greek preposition that is translated “among” can also be translated “within.”  To translate the preposition “within” gives an entirely different meaning to Jesus’ teaching, suggesting that the rule of God that is the Kingdom is only a spiritual awareness.  However, in other statements in St. Luke’s Gospel concerning the presence of the kingdom where this word is used, “among” appears to be the preferred translation; see for example Luke 10:9, 11 and 11:20 (Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, page 263).  That the “Kingdom” of God is only a spiritual awareness also does not fit with Jesus’ definition of the Kingdom in His Kingdom Parables where the Kingdom is understood to be the New Covenant Church (on earth and in heaven) and the promised eternal/everlasting Kingdom in the books of the prophets (i.e. Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14, 27; Mt 13:24-50; Lk 14:15-24).

The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection at the end of time (Acts 23:8); therefore the force of their question is when will the end of time come and will that be the coming of the Kingdom Jesus speaks of?  Jesus tells them the coming of the Kingdom He speaks of cannot be observed like an event.

Question: What is it that Jesus tells the Pharisees is “among you” (plural) that is the Kingdom of God?
Answer: The Kingdom is present in Jesus “in His teachings, His miracle healings, and His Gospel of salvation.

Luke 17:22-37 ~ The Day of Judgment
22 Then he said to his disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.  23 There will be those who will say to you,  Look, there he is,’ or  Look, here he is.’  Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.  24 For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.  25But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.  26As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; 27 they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  28 Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; 29 on the day when Lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.  30 So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  31 On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind.  32 Remember the wife of Lot.  33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.  34 I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left.  35 And there will be two women grinding meal together; on will be taken, the other left.”[36] 37 They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”  He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.”

The “days” are the same days referred to in 18:8 “the Second Coming/Advent of Christ.
Question: The coming of the Kingdom cannot be observed as an event, but what will human beings be able to observe as an event and when will it happen?  See 1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:1-10.
Answer: God’s divine judgment in the event of the Son of Man’s Second Advent when He will come in glory at the end of the age.

Jesus warns that the days will come when the people will long for these present days when He taught and healed (17:22).  Between these days and His return there will be many false prophets who will claim to have His power and authority.   Luke’s reference to the “days of the Son of Man” is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets’ prophecies of the “Day of the Lord” as a day of retribution (see Amos 5:18-20).  Some of the same imagery used in this passage is also found in Matthew 24-25.  In this passage Jesus is speaking of His sudden return after His Passion, Resurrection and Ascension; later in Luke 21:6-24 He will prophesy the judgment on His generation and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Question: To what natural phenomena, timing, and past events in Biblical history does Jesus’ compare His Second Coming?
Answer: The event will be sudden and similar to:

  1. Lighting in the sky
  2. God’s divine judgment in the days of the Great Flood in the time of Noah
  3. The judgment on Sodom that Abraham’s nephew Lot experienced.

Luke 17:32 Remember the wife of Lot. See Gen 19:26.
Question: What is the significance of this warning?
Answer: Lot’s wife missed out on her salvation because she did not heed the angel’s warning not to look back at the doomed city.  In the same way those hearing Jesus’ teaching should heed His warning and be prepared.

Luke 17:33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.
Lot’s wife identified her life with her possessions in Sodom, and in her longing to preserve that “life” she looked back and lost her life.  The disciples must be prepared to give up all their material possessions to follow Jesus.  They must commit their lives totally in service to Him “living in love of God and love of neighbor.  In their willingness to give up their lives in this way, they will save their eternal lives (CCC 1889).

In verses 34-35 Jesus tells them at the time of the Judgment Day of the Son of Man, humanity will be divided into those destined for eternal life and those destined for eternal judgment (see Mt 25:31-44).  Those “taken” probably refers to the “saved” since those “taken” in the Ark were saved as were Lot and his daughters who were “taken” out of the doomed city.

Luke 17:36/37 They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”  He said to them, “Where the body [soma] is, there also the vultures [aetoi] will gather.”

Not yet understanding His teaching, the disciples (see verse 22) ask “where?”  Where is the Kingdom?  It is similar to the question the Pharisees asked in 17:20 but now they want to know, if the Kingdom is among them (17:21) where is it?  Jesus answers them using the common phenomena of a gathering of birds of prey signaling the presence of a dead body; although it is significant that Jesus doesn’t use the word “corpse” [ptoma] as in Matthew 24:28, but “body” [soma].  It is the same word Jesus will use of Himself when He offers His disciples His body/soma at the Last Supper (Lk 22:19).  The Greek word aetoi,for the birds of prey, may mean “eagles,” as in the Septuagint translation (LXX) of Exodus 19:4; Jeremiah 4:13; and in the New Testament in Revelation 4:7and 12:4.  But most commentators suggest that the carrion metaphor necessities the translation “vultures,” as in Leviticus 11:13 and Deuteronomy 14:12(Fitzmyer, page 266).(3)

Question: What event does Jesus’ use of the metaphor of the “vultures” and “body” to answer the disciples question refer to?  See Lk 17:25.
Answer: His answer is connected to His response in verse 25 and refers to His enemies who will “flock” like birds of prey around His body on the Cross.

The Kingdom of the Church is founded upon the moment when the Christ gives up His life on the Cross for the salvation of mankind to be followed by His Resurrection three days later.  The sanctification of that first community of the earthly Kingdom will take place at Pentecost fifty days after the Resurrection.  From the point of His Resurrection, the Kingdom that is the earthly Church will be saved through His sacrifice and nourished on their journey to salvation by the Body (soma; see1 Cor 11:24) of the resurrected Christ.

Chapter 18

It must be humbly and realistically recognized that we are poor creatures, confused in ideas, tempted by evil, frail and weak, in continual need of inner strength and consolation.  Prayer gives the strength for great ideals, to maintain faith, charity, purity and generosity.  Prayer gives the courage to emerge from indifference and guilt, if unfortunately one has yielded to temptation and weakness.  Prayer gives light to see and consider the events of one’s own life and of history in the salvific perspective of God and eternity.  Therefore, do not stop praying!  Let not a day pass without your having prayed a little!  Prayer is a duty, but it is also a great joy, because it is a dialogue with God through Jesus Christ!  Every Sunday, Holy Mass: if it is possible for you sometimes during the week.  Every day, morning and evening prayers, and at the most suitable moments!”
Pope John Paul II, Audience with young people, March 14, 1979

Jesus offers three parables on the power of prayer in the Gospel of Luke:

  1. The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor (Lk 11:5-13) invites us to urgent prayer.
  2. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8) is focused on one of the qualities of prayer “the necessity to pray without ceasing with the patience of faith.
  3. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) concerns the necessity of humility.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus prays:

  • Before the decisive moments in His ministry (Lk 5:16; 10:21-23; 11:1)
  • Before His Father’s witness to Him during His baptism (Lk 3:21)
  • Before His Father’s witness to Him at the Transfiguration (Lk 9:28-29)
  • Before choosing His disciples and Apostles (Lk 6:12)
  • Before St. Peter’s confession of Him as “the Messiah of God” (Lk 9:18-20)
  • Before offering His Body and Blood at the Last Supper (Lk 22:17)
  • Before leaving the Upper Room that His Apostles’ faith will not fail them when they are tested (Lk 22:31-32)
  • Before His own fulfillment of His Father’s divine plan through His Passion (Lk 22:41-44)

Luke 18:1-8 ~ The Parable of the Persistent Widow
1 Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without become weary.  He said, 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  3 And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,  Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’  4 For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,  While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, 5 because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her least she finally come and strike me.’” 6 The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.  7 Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?  Will he be slow to answer them?  8 I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Question: What is the contrast in the parable and what is the reason God will answer the prayers of one who is just as persistent as the widow in His story?
Answer: The contrast is between a persistent widow petitioning a judge and a Christian being persistent in petitioning God in prayer.  The persistence of the widow’s petition to the judge got results in the same way the Christian’s patient persistence in petitioning God in prayer will get results “not because God finds the Christian irritating like the judge found the widow, but because God will reward a Christian’s patient and faithful persistence.

Luke 18:8 But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
This is the question the Pharisees and the disciples should have been asking themselves in 17:20 and 36/37.  This is the crux of the problem facing mankind concerning the Second Advent of Christ.  Jesus ends His teaching on the perseverance of prayer with the warning to remain firm in one’s faith.  Faith and prayer are two sides of the same coin.  If you have faith in God you will go to Him in prayer “if you pray, you strengthen your faith in God.  The question Jesus asks is “will the professed children of God be patiently persistent in their faith, and will He find faith on earth when He returns?”

Luke 18:9-14 ~ The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.  10 Two people went up to the Temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,  O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity “greedy, dishonest, adulterous “or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’  13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,  O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’  14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: What is the contrast in the parable?
Answer: The contrast is between a boasting Pharisee who is meticulous about external fulfillment of the Law and whose pride causes him to be self-centered and blind to his sins as opposed to a tax collector who humbly acknowledges both his sins and his need for God’s grace and mercy.

Question: Why does Jesus say the tax collector was justified, receiving God’s forgiveness for his sins, while the Pharisee is not justified?  See Jn 9:39-41.
Answer: God judges hearts and not words.  The Pharisee was not asking God’s forgiveness for his sins “he was only boasting of his good works and despising the tax collector.  He was blind to his sins and so his sins remained.  The tax collector abandoned himself to both God’s judgment and God’s mercy and therefore, through his humble confession of his sins, was forgiven.

Humility is one of the hallmarks of repentance and opens a channel to God’s divine grace.  We should pray as David prayed after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet concerning his affair with Bathsheba: Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.  Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me … True I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me. Still you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.  Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure, wash me, make me whiter than snow… Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.  For you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept.  My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart (Ps 51:3-5, 7-9, 17-19).

Question: What did Saints Peter and James write about humility?  See 1 Pt 5:5; Jam 4:6 and Prov 3:34 LXX.
Answer: Both Saints Peter and James wrote that God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble, quoting from the Greek translation ofProverbs 3:34.

Luke 18:15-17 ~ Jesus’ teaching on the children of the Kingdom
15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  16 Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  17 Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Mothers and fathers were bringing their infants to Jesus to pray over them and bless them (Mt 19:13; Mk 10:16).
Question: What is Jesus’ command concerning children and concerning the condition of discipleship?
Answer:

  1. Children should not be prevented from coming to the Christ.
  2. Disciples must have child-like faith.

The command forbidding anyone to “prevent” children from coming to Jesus has been seen as a justification of infant baptism, together with the Old Covenant practice of male babies entering the covenant on the eighth day of birth (Gen 17:9-12; Lev 12:3).  The same Greek word is found in the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip in Acts 8:36.

In this episode the command for child-like faith presents a contrast to the self-righteous and critical attitude of the Pharisee in the previous parable and the dilemma of the rich ruler in the next encounter with Christ.  In both teachings, the message is that salvation is through God’s grace and not merely by human merit.

Luke 18:18-23 ~ The wealthy aristocrat
18 An official asked him this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  19 Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  20 You know the commandments,  You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’”  21 And he replied, “All of these I have observed from my youth.”  22 When Jesus heard this he said to him, “There is one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  23 But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.

The man’s request for Jesus’ instruction on what he must do to inherit eternal life was a sincere request.  InMatthew 10:20 we are told that he is a young man and in Mark 10:21 that Jesus loved him, suggesting the young man was replying in earnest when he told Jesus he obeyed the commandments Jesus cited concerning love of neighbor: Jesus, looking at him, loved him…

Question: Why does Jesus ask the man “Why do you call me good?”  What is the irony in Jesus’ statement to the young man in verse 19?
Answer: He asks the young man “Why do you call me good?” and then tells the young man that “No one is good but God alone.”  In other words, Jesus is saying that every man is a sinner.  The only One who is “good” is God.  The irony is that in Jesus’ question He is subtly asking the young man if he has discerned Jesus’ true identity as God, the only One who is good because He is without sin.

Question: The young man had all the qualities of discipleship except one.  What was the one thing he lacked that Jesus asked him to give up?
Answer: He had all the qualities except total dependence on God.  His wealth was a hindrance to that last attribute and so Jesus’ asked him to renounce his wealth.

That the young man sadly turned and went away because he could not muster the courage and trust and God to give up his great wealth is very poignant.  That Jesus truly wanted this young man as a disciple is made clear in verse 24 where Jesus is also sad.  This is not to suggest that the young man lost his eternal salvation, but he traded Jesus’ personal call to the vocation of discipleship for his inherited wealth when he could have inherited “true wealth” (Lk 17:11).  We do not know what became of this young man, but we know of at least one Jewish aristocrat who renounced his wealth and followed Jesus.(2)  Jesus’ next teaching addresses the choice the young man made.

Luke 18:24-30 ~ A teaching on the danger of riches
24 Jesus looked at him now sad and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  25 For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 Those who heard this said, “then who can be saved?”  27 And he said, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.”  28 Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.”  29 He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents for children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”

Jesus is using an exaggeration for the sake of effect to make the point that it is extremely difficult for a rich man who is so self-sufficient to submit himself to the grace of God.  The Greek word for “camel” is kamelon while the word for “rope” is kamilon. The huge ropes to which the anchors of ships were tied were made of camel hair and this may be a play on words suggesting that it is easier not for the animal to pass through a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven but the hyperbole may be that it is easier for the rope called a “camel” to pass through a needle used to make the fishing nets than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.  It is a comparison that would have appealed to the Apostles, many of whom were fishermen from the Galilee and familiar with ships and their equipment.  St. Cyril of Alexandria suggests this is the comparison Jesus was making: By “camel” here he means not the living thing, the beast of burden, but the thick rope to which sailors tie their anchors.  He shows this comparison to be not entirely pointless (as a camel would be), but he makes it an exceedingly difficult matter; in fact, next to impossible (Fragment from the Gospel of Matthew, 219).

Question: Why is it hard for the rich to enter the gates of heaven?  See Ez 7:19; Prov 30:8-9; Sir 31:5-7 and Mt 5:3.
Answer: The problem isn’t the wealth but it is the self-sufficiency wealth gives a person.  The wealthy often do not feel they need God because they believe their wealth affords them the power to handle any crisis they may face.  That is why Jesus listed “poverty of spirit” as the first Beatitude.  Acknowledging we need God is the first step in the spiritual journey to salvation.

Luke 18:28-30 Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” 29 He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents for children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”
The disciples and Apostles recognize that they have done what the young man was unable to do.  Peter is acting as the spokesman for them when he asks what can they expect for having giving up everything to follow Him “worldly goods, family and friends.

Question: What is the significance of Jesus’ response to Peter?   See CCC 276, 308 and 1058.
Answer: Salvation is a gift of God “it is not a gift that can be compared to earthly blessings that are not eternal.  They must trust God to provide for them in the present and in the future.

The Apostles understand that they have answered the higher calling and want to know what their sacrifice will mean.  Jesus assures them that they will share in a rich spiritual inheritance.
Question: What will their sacrifice mean in the “rebirth” of the new age of the Kingdom?  See Mt 19:28; Dan 7:13-14, Rev 21:12-14; CCC 765.
Answer: The twelve Apostles will govern Jesus’ earthly kingdom.  They are the “foundation stones on which Jesus will build the new Israel and they will rule from the “new Jerusalem” of the Church’s authority over the earth.

The Apostles will share in His glory and in His royal prerogative as judge when they rule over their kinsmen who they will call into the new age of the Kingdom that is the “new Israel” of the New Covenant Church at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.(4)

Luke 18:31-34 ~ The third prediction of the Passion
31 Then he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; 33 and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise.”  34 But they understood nothing of this; the word remained hidden from them and they failed to comprehend what he said.

This is the third and most complete prophecy of His Passion:

  1. The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised (9:22).
  2. The Son of man is to be handed over to men (9:44).
  3. Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; 33and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise (18:31-33).

The Apostles simply cannot grasp what Jesus is telling them because they have too human an idea of what they think the Messiah should be.  After the Resurrection, Jesus will explain to them all about Him that was foretold by the prophets (Lk 24:25-27, 44-47).  And in a homily after Pentecost, St. Peter will tell the Jews: Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that this Messiah would suffer (Acts 3:17-18; also see St. Peter in Acts 2:23; 3:24; 8:32-35; and St. Paul on the same topic in Acts 13:27; 26:22).

In fact Christ’s Passion had been foretold in detail by the prophet Isaiah.  St. John Chrysostom wrote that Jesus’ suffering and death … had been foretold by Isaiah when he said, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Is 50:6) and the same prophet even foretold the punishment of the Cross with these words: “He poured out his soul into death, and was numbered with the transgressors” (Is 53:12).  And therefore the text adds, “They will scourge him and kill him”; but David had also announced his resurrection when he said, “Thou dost not let they godly one see the Pit; (Ps 16:10).  In fulfillment of this the Lord adds, “And on the third day he will rise” (Homilies on St. Matthew, 66).

Luke 18:35-43 ~ The healing of the blind beggar
35 Now as he approached Jericho a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging, 36 and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.  37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”  38 He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  39 The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  40 Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”  He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”  42 Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”  He immediately received his sight and followed him, giving glory to God.  When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

In 18:42 Jesus’ use of the phrase, “your faith has saved you,” is repeated by Him a fourth time:

  1. To the sinful woman in 7:50
  2. To the bleeding woman in 8:48
  3. To the Samaritan leper in 17:19
  4. To the blind beggar in 18:42.

Luke 18:38-39 He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  39 The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!” 

Learning that Jesus is passing by, the blind man is persistent in making use of his opportunity to take advantage of the presence of Christ.  In calling out to Jesus, he acknowledges his belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah by using Jesus’ messianic title, “Son of David.”  His persistence is an act of faith and Jesus rewards him by restoring his sight.

Question: What link was made between the promise of salvation through the Messiah and the house of David in Zechariah’s canticle in Luke 1:69?
Answer: Zechariah said: He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old …

Question: What qualities does the blind man exhibit that Jesus has taught about concerning praying to God and faith in His mission?
Answer: He is persistent in spite of obstacles, he is urgent, and he calls to Jesus with the conviction of faith, acknowledging His true identity as the Messiah.

Question: What is ironic about the blind man’s response to Jesus as opposed to the Pharisees and scribes?
Answer: They have the ability to see physically but they are blind spiritually while the blind man is blind physically but has the spiritual “sight” to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah.

Chapter 19:1-28

Luke 19:1-10 ~ The story of Zacchaeus the tax collector
1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.  2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.  4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.  5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy.  7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”  8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”  9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Question: In this amusing encounter with Christ, what does the story of the little tax collector have in common with the blind beggar besides the location?  What is the warning for us on this side of salvation history?
Answer: Both stories are about the urgency of reaching out to Jesus before He passes by.  The stories are a warning to us not to neglect reaching out to Jesus while there is still time for us to be open to God’s grace and the gift of salvation.  In our journey to salvation, we need to continue to respond quickly and decisively to Jesus like the earnest blind beggar and the repentant little tax collector.

Tax collectors were despised because of the way they profited off their commission that they added to the people’s taxes.  Repenting his dishonesty, Zacchaeus promises Jesus that he will make restitution as a sign of his repentance.  A fourfold restitution was imposed by the Law of Moses for theft of domestic livestock only (Exodus 21:37).  Roman law demanded a fourfold restitution in all cases of theft.  Zacchaeus appears to be following Roman law in the restitution he promises for those he has defrauded, but he goes beyond what is required in promising to give half his wealth to the poor.

Luke 19:9-10 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”  
Zacchaeus’ repentance and submission to Christ identifies him as a true descendant of Abraham (Gal 3:29) and one of the “lost sheep” the Messiah who is God Himself was prophesied to come to save (Ez chapter 34).

Luke 19:11-27 ~ The Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
11 While they were listening to him speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God would appear there immediately.  12 So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kinship for himself and then to return.  13 He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them,  Engage in trade with these until I return.’  14 His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce,  We do not want this man to be our king.’  15 But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading.  16 The first came forward and said,  Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’  17 He replied,  Well done, good servant!  You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’  18 Then the second came and reported,  Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’  And to this servant too he said,  You take charge of five cities.’  20 Then the other servant came and said,  Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding person; you take up what you do not lay down and you harvest what you do not plant.’  22 He said to him,  With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant.  You knew I was a demanding person, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; 23 why did you not put my money in a bank?  Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’  24 And to those standing by he said,  Take the gold coin from him and give it to servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him,  Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but to the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  27Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’”

The Apostles and disciples think that the Kingdom is about to be inaugurated by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the same way King Solomon’s reign as king of Israel began with his triumphal entry into the holy city (1 Kng 1:32-40).  They are so bound up with the natural order that they cannot contemplate the supernatural character of the Kingdom of God in the world “the Church, which has but one sole purpose “that the Kingdom of God may come and the salvation of the human race may be accomplished (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 45).  Since His Apostles and disciples still do not grasp the true understanding of His Kingdom, Jesus tells parable to help their understanding.

In this parable Jesus tells them that although the reign of His kingdom has begun, it will only be fully manifested on His return at the end of time (His Second Advent/Second Coming).  In the meantime, His disciples should use all the resources of God’s grace to merit an eternal reward upon His return.

Christ is the “nobleman” or prince who went off to a distance land to claim his throne.  The “distant land” is the Kingdom of heaven where He will receive dominion, glory, and kingship(Dan 7:14b).  He is to be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:1:5;Rev 17:14; 19:16) and will take His seat at the right hand of the Father (Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pt 3:22).  The gold coin in the story that is entrusted to the servants is a mina; a valuable coin worth about 35 grams of gold.

The ten servants the king calls forth to whom he gives ten gold coins are the disciples of Jesus Christ who will serve the Church in His absence by making use of the spiritual gifts they have received to advance the mission of the Church until his return.  The return of the king will be Jesus’ Second Advent/Second Coming when He will return in glory for the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked and to render a final judgment on mankind and the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thes 4:16-18;2 Thes 1:7-10).   “Ten” is one of the so-called “perfect numbers” and signifies the perfection of divine order.   The profitable servants who will be rewarded on the king’s return are the Christians who used God’s gifts to advance the mission of Jesus’ Kingdom on earth, the Church, and they will receive eternal rewards.  The lazy and unprofitable servants are those Christians who neglected their spiritual gifts and failed to advance the mission of the Church.  They will face a severe judgment.  The citizens who rejected the authority of the king to rule over them are the Jews and other citizens of the human family who rejected the lordship of Christ and His Gospel message of salvation.

Symbolic imagery in the Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
  The nobleman who went to claim his kingship in a distant country   Christ’s Ascension into the heavenly kingdom
  The kingdom the master leaves   The Church on earth
  The promise of his return   Christ’s Second Advent
  THe gold coins   God’s grace (spiritual gifts and blessings)
  The servants who received the gold coins   Christians who receive God’s grace (spiritual gifts  and blessings)
  The profitable servants   Christians who use God’s gifts to advance the  mission of the Church
  The cities awarded the profitable servants   Eternal rewards
  The unprofitable servant   Christians who neglect their spiritual gifts and do  not advance the mission of the Church
  Citizens who reject the lordship of the king/  enemies of the king   The Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah and those  others in the human family who reject Jesus Christ and His Gospel of  salvation
  Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Luke 19:17 He replied,  Well done, good servant!  You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’
As Jesus taught in an earlier parable (Lk 16:10), our fidelity in small things will be rewarded and the greater our effort, the greater the reward.

Luke 19:24-26 And to those standing by he said,  Take the gold coin from him and give it to servant who has ten.’  25 But they said to him,  Sir, he has ten gold coins.’  26 I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but to the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

God gives all Christians the grace we need to fulfill our mission as disciples, and He will richly reward those who put His gifts to the best use, bearing the “fruit” of good works to advance the mission of the Church.  But to the lazy and unprofitable servants of His Kingdom the Church, who claimed to be His disciples but who failed to use their spiritual gifts, He will give a very severe judgment.

Luke 19:27Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.
Question: Who are the enemies of Christ?
Answer: Those who reject Christ and try to do damage to His Church.  In their rejection of Christ they have condemned themselves to eternal punishment.

Luke 19:28 ~ After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 19:28).

This is the end of Luke’s travel narrative and the beginning of the last week of Jesus’ life and His teaching ministry in God’s holy city, Jerusalem.

Question for reflection or group discussion?
See Luke 17:7-10 and 19:11-27.  Which kind of servant are you?  Do you do the minimum to serve Christ and His kingdom, or do you go beyond the minimum that the Church requires of a faithful Catholic?  See the five precepts of the Church in CCC 2041-43 and Matthew 28:18-20 for the minimum requirements.

Endnotes:

1.  See the same teaching and the same use of skandalon/skandalizo in Mt 18:6 and Mark 9:42.

2.  Manean (Acts 13:1) was a Jewish aristocrat raised in the court of Herod Antipas who was converted to Christianity and became a prophet and teacher in the church at Antioch.  One can only hope that he might be the rich young ruler Jesus loved who, after first turning away, later renounced his wealth and returned to Christ.

3.  Some commentators suggest that the Greek word isn’t “vultures” but “eagles” and refers to the insignia of the Roman eagle that accompanied every Roman legion.  It is the Roman governor who orders Jesus’ crucifixion and Roman soldiers carry out the execution.

4.  The authority to judge/rule the 12 tribes of Israel may also be part of the Last Judgment.  In the book of Revelation there are 24 elders who sit on thrones around the throne of God.  It is difficult to determine from Revelation 4:3-4 the identity of the 24 elders, but many of the Fathers of the Church suggest they are the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel and the twelve Apostles.

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 11

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 11

15. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 11: Chapter 14-16
The Journey to Jerusalem Continues

Lord,
Give us the strength to enter through the “narrow door” to Your eternal kingdom.  Give us the will to divest ourselves of those temporal concerns that have no value in Your heavenly realm.  Impress on us the desire to store up righteous deeds that will be the “silver and gold” that will not perish in the purification of Your fiery love but will be recorded in Your Book of Deeds to be recounted at our judgment.  Most of all, Lord, give us the heart of Jesus, to love as He loved.  Send us Your Spirit to guide us in our study of Jesus’ last days of teaching as He continues to call the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repentance and salvation.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

Chapter 14

A Pharisee of higher rank than usual invited Jesus to a banquet.  Although he knew their bad intentions, he went with him and ate in their company.  He did not submit to this act of condescension to honor his host.  He rather instructed his fellow gusts by words and miraculous deeds that might lead them to the acknowledgement of the true service even that taught us by the Gospel.  He knew that even against their will he would make them eyewitnesses of his power and his superhuman glory.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 101

Jesus at the Banquet of a Pharisee and Jesus Continues to Teach the Crowds

Jesus scandalized the Pharisees when He ate with tax collectors and sinners as readily as He dined with them (Lk 5:50; 7:36; 11:37; 14:1).  The Pharisees believed that they were righteous and despised those they judged to be “sinners” who were not worthy of God’s love.  To them Jesus declared: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32; 18:9), and angered the Pharisees further when He proclaimed that, since sin is universal, those who pretended not to need salvation were blind to their own sins (Jn Jn 8:33-36; 9:40-41).  He also went so far as to suggest that while sharing the table with sinners that He was preparing to admit them to the great feast of the Messianic banquet (Lk 15:1-2, 22-23).

In chapters 12 and 13 did you notice a repeated reference to food and meals in Jesus’ sayings and parables?  This trend in His teachings begins after the banquet to which He was invited at the home of a Pharisee that was attended by Pharisees and scribes where Jesus condemned them for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-52).  He continues that same trend in chapter 14 after another meal in the home of a leading Pharisee, and He concludes this trend in His teaching with the Parable of the Great Feast:

The repeated mention of “food” in Jesus’ teachings from Luke 12:36 – 14:24
   #1: Luke 12:19    The Parable of the Rich Fool who thought happiness was in  eating the stored abundance of his harvest
   #2: Luke 12:36    The Parable of the Vigilant and Faithful Servants who are  rewarded by their master who serves his servants a banquet at his table
   #3: Luke 12:42    The food allowance the faithful steward is responsible for  distributing
   #4: Luke 12:45    The unfaithful servants who abuse the Master’s table by  eating and getting drunk*
   #5: Luke 13:20-21    The Parable of the Leaven in which a little bit of leaven  makes an abundance of bread
   #6: Luke 13:26    The unrighteous who will claim they ate and drank in the  Lord’s presence
   #7: Luke 13:29    The multitude who will come from the four corners of the  earth to eat at the table in the Kingdom of God
   #8: Luke 14:7-9    The Parable on Proper Conduct at a Banquet
   #9: Luke 14:12-14    Those who invite the poor to a banquet will be blessed
   #10: Luke 14:15-24    The Parable of the Great Feast
Michal E. Hunt Copyright ©  2013

*drunkenness is one of the signs of the O.T. prophets symbolizing rebellion against God and the abuse of His blessings.

Each of these references to food and meals in Jesus’ teachings should make us think of the heavenly “food” “the bread and the wine that becomes the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  It is the “food” we are called to humbly eat at the altar that is the Lord’s banquet table but which we must eat with special care so as not to abuse the gift of our divine Master (1 Cor 11:26-29).

Chapter 14 can be divided into two parts:

  1. Jesus’ teaching at the banquet of a leading Pharisee (verses     1-24)
  2. Jesus teaching the crowds of Jews on the demands of     discipleship (verses 25-35)

Luke 14:1-6 ~ A Sabbath healing at the banquet of a Pharisee
1 On the Sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.  2In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.  3 Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”  4 But they in kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him.  5 Then he said to them, “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”  6 But they were unable to answer his question.

This is the third banquet with the Pharisees and scribes that St. Luke has recorded and the fifth Sabbath healing.

Banquets with the Pharisees and scribes:

  1. When Jesus pardoned the sinful woman (Lk 7:36-50)
  2. When Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and     scribes (Lk 11:37-53)
  3. When Jesus was invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of a     leading Pharisee (Lk 14:1-6)

Healing on the Sabbath:

  1. Healing a demon possessed man at the Capernaum Synagogue (Lk 4:31-35)
  2. Healing Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-39)
  3. Healing a man with a withered hand (Lk 6:6-10)
  4. Healing the crippled woman (Lk 13:10-17)
  5. Healing the man with dropsy (Lk 14:1-4)

After Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes at the second dinner, they began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say (Lk 11:53-54).  They had also accused Jesus of breaking the Law of Moses by working and healing on the Sabbath and were furious that He defied their correction (Lk 6:2, 11; 13:14-15, 17).

Luke 14:1 On the Sabbath he went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees…
Friends and important guests were often invited to a Sabbath meal after the Synagogue service or the Temple liturgical worship service (seeJn 12:1).  The meal usually took place at noon which was the 6thhour Jewish time and the 12th hour Roman time (Josephus, Life, 54 [279]).  No work could be done on the day of the Sabbath rest, so the meal would have been prepared the day before, on Friday which was called “Preparation Day” for the Sabbath (see Jn 19:31; and Mishnah: Shabbat, 4:1-2 for the regulations for keeping the food warm).

and the people there were observing him carefully.
Jesus had caused controversy by healing on the Sabbath on a number of occasions, so the people were watching Him closely to see if He would heal again on the Sabbath.

Luke 14:2 In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Dropsy was an abnormal accumulation of fluids in the connective tissues or cavities of the body that caused swelling, distention and pain.
Question: If the Pharisees despised Jesus, why have they invited Him to another dinner and why is the ill man placed in front of Jesus?
Answer: They want to trap Jesus in breaking the Sabbath (according to their interpretation of the Law).

Jesus doesn’t avoid the trap, but uses the healing of the man as another teaching on the correct interpretation of the Law.  Knowing their intentions, Jesus challenges them by asking two questions.  The first question is: “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?”(14:3).
Question: Why don’t they answer since this is their opportunity to pronounce their teaching on the Sabbath Law?
Answer: They probably do not want to answer that they believe healing on the Sabbath is a violation of the Law because they want Jesus to heal the man so they can accuse Him.  This is the trap.

After healing the man, Jesus challenges them again by asking them a second question: “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”
Question: Why don’t they answer Jesus this time?
Answer: If they say they would let their son or ox die, they appear to be heartless and wicked; but if they say they would save their son or an expensive animal even on the Sabbath they are proved to be the hypocrites Jesus has accused them of being.

Luke 14:7-14 ~ A Parable on Proper Conduct at a Banquet
7 He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.  8 When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor [lit. = the first couch].  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, 9 and the host who invited both of you may reproach you and say,  Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.  10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say,  My friend, move up to a higher position.’  Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.  11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Diners at a formal banquet in this period adopted the Greek customs of a symposium, a formal meal where guests recline on couches that are placed around a table.  The placement of the guests was according to the guest’s rank or social status.  Jesus noticed that some of the guests were discerning for themselves their idea of their status within the company by choosing the best seats at the banquet table.  You will recall Jesus has already condemned the Pharisees for their arrogant practice of expecting the best seats in the Synagogues (Lk 11:43).

Luke identifies Jesus’ comments as a parable and not a teaching so we immediately know there is a spiritual teaching associated with this episode.  If St. Luke hadn’t designated this as a parable, it could be mistakenly interpreted as only advice for the guests on proper conduct and humility at a dinner party.  The other hint is that Jesus uses a “wedding” as the occasion in His parable and not an ordinary banquet.  His teaching is also on the wedding banquet of the just in the Kingdom of God.  The “wedding” recalls the prophecy of Israel’s promise of restoration to God’s fellowship in Isaiah 62:4-5.
Question: What is Jesus’ simple teaching point for the banquet guests?
Answer: His advice to the self-righteous Pharisees who are the banquet guests is that they shouldn’t be so arrogant as to choose the highest status location at the table.  They may be embarrassed if the host asks them to choose another seat.

Question: What is His symbolic teaching point concerning seating or position for members of the Kingdom’s wedding banquet?  See Rev 19:4-9 and Jesus’ teaching in Luke 9:48-12:35-37.  Hint: there is an immediate future and an eschatological future teaching that can be applied by this parable.
Answer:

  1. The immediate future context is the Eucharist “the wedding banquet of Christ and His Bride, the Church which Jesus will inaugurate at the Last Supper.  Those who are invited (the baptized in a state of grace) should humbly and reverently find their place at the “table” of Christ’s altar, not after discerning their “right” and “status” to be there, but by humbly confessing their sins and reverently  submitting them lives to God.  God rewards the humble who are grateful to be invited to the banquet of the Eucharist but not the arrogant who assume that they deserve a place of honor at the Lord’s Table.
    Symbolic Imagery in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet
       The wedding banquet    The Eucharistic banquet
       The host    Jesus Christ
       The guests who seek the places of highest honor    The self-righteous who will be least in the kingdom
       The guest who seeks the lowest seat    The humble who the host will exalt
    Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013
  2. The eschatological sense of this parable is the Wedding Supper of the Lamb at the end of time as we know it.  At that gathering, attended by all the saints, the places of honor will be given to the most humble servants of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.<

Luke 14:12-14 ~ Jesus’ advice to the banquet guests
12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.  13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Question: What point is Jesus making for His host who is a leader among the Pharisees?
Answer: It is another teaching on storing up treasure in heaven.  The works of righteousness that God rewards are those in which there is no earthly reward.  Hidden acts of mercy reap eternal rewards.  If His host, who considers himself to be righteous, really wants to be judged as righteous by God and to receive God’s blessings, he will invite those who cannot repay him.

Luke 14:15-24 ~ The Parable of the Great Feast
15 One of his fellow guests on hearing this said to him, “Blessed is the one who will dine [lit.eat bread] in the kingdom of God.”  16He replied to him, “A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.  17 When the time for the dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,  Come, everything is now ready.’  18 But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.  The first said to him,  I have purchased a field and must go to examine it; I ask you, consider me excused.’  19 And another said,  I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to evaluate them; I ask you, consider me excused.’  20 And another said, I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come.’  21 The servant went and reported this to his master.  Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,  Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’  22The servant reported,  Sir, your orders have been carried out and still there is room.’  23 The maser then said to the servant,  Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.  24For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
[..] = literal translation (IBGE, vol. IV, page 210).

This is the tenth meal/food teaching.  A member at the dinner party, perhaps feeling that Jesus has just insulted the host and wishing to defend him may be suggesting that the host is blessed because surely he is among those who are destined to “eat bread” (literal translation)  in the kingdom of God.

Question: For what reason might a Pharisee believe that his destiny is secure in that regard?
Answer: They judged themselves as “righteous” because of their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, and as descendants of Abraham they judged themselves as the heirs of God’s covenant promises.

You will recall that St. John the Baptist warned the Jews about such misplaced confidence in Luke 3:7-9 and St. Paul will write on the same subject in Galatians 3:27-29.  The Jews understood from the teachings of Moses that obedience to the Law was the “path of life” (Dt 15-20).  But Jesus taught that they had come to interpret the Law so rigidly as to neglect the spirit of the Law which was God’s love expressed in His mercy and compassion (Lk 11:42).  The Jews also understood the promise of the banquet in God’s holy Kingdom for the righteous as opposed to the wicked who would suffer judgment (i.e.,Is 25:6-9; 65:13-17).

Jesus picks up on the man’s reference to the “blessed” dinning in the Kingdom and tells a parable about the eschatological banquet at the end of time.  In the symbolic nature of the parable, the host is God and His servants are the prophets.
Question: In Jesus’ parable how many groups are invited by God, who is the host, to the heavenly banquet?
Answer: There are three groups:

  1. Those who had already been invited to the banquet.
  2. Those who were the dispossessed “the poor, the crippled,     the blind, and the lame.
  3. Those who were not within the community but were     “outsiders.”

Question: In the parable, the host (God) has been preparing a banquet to which the first group knew they were going to be invited.  They did not appreciate the great honor and were not ready when the invitation came through the host’s (God’s) servants (the prophets like John the Baptist).  The first group of original invitees had what kinds of excuses when the invitation arrived?  Who does the first group represent symbolically?  SeeMt 3:7-12; Lk 7:30.
Answer: The first group is composed of the “righteous” descendants of Abraham “the religiously observant Jews who should have been the first to recognize the “invitation” through God’s prophets.  They are likely represented by the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees.  However, their earthly/material concerns for possessions and personal relationships caused each to put their interest in these things before God and so they decline the invitation.  These are the Jews who rejected St. John’s baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming Kingdom proclaimed by the Messiah.

Question: Why was the host/God angry when the first group refused His invitation?
Answer: Ever since the call of Abraham, it had been the destiny of Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac to move forward God’s plan for mankind’s salvation and to be a world-wide blessing.  In refusing their “invitation” by their failure to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Jewish leadership was rejecting God’s destiny for them as a people.

Question: To whom did the host/God instruct his servants/the prophets to extend the invitation after the first group declined to repent their sins in St. John’s invitation to prepare for the Kingdom and the banquet? See Mt 21:31-32; Lk 3:12; 7:29-30; Is 25:4; 26:9; 35:5-6; 61:1-2.
Answer: The invitation was extended to four different kinds of people who represented the disadvantaged and dispossessed, like the tax collectors and sinners who gratefully received St. John’s baptism of repentance and Jesus’ gift of healing and restoration.  The servants are Jesus and His disciples who are preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

According to secular documents of the community that lived at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves above the community, the physically imperfect like the blind, lame, and cripples were excluded from serving at the altar of the Temple were also to be excluded from the final eschatological battle and the banquet at the end of time.  The Qumran community existed during Jesus’ lifetime and ceased to exist after 68 AD.  Theirs was obviously a teaching that Jesus did not embrace.

Luke 14:23 The master then said to the servant,  Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.  24For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
Question: Since there is still more room at the banquet, what is the third group to whom God’s servants extend the invitation of grace and eternal salvation “even though this group did not expect to be invited?  See Is 66:18-21; Acts 9:15; 11:1; 13:46-47.
Answer: The third group is not part of the community as were the first two groups.  They are outsiders.  This third invitation symbolizes the evangelization of the Gentile nations of the earth by the servants of the Son of God.

As Sts. Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews in Acts of Apostles: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us,  I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.’”  In Acts 13:47 Paul quotes from Isaiah 49:6 from the Septuagint translation in which God’s plan to call the Gentile nations to salvation is already announced in the 8th century BC.  It was God’s plan for His “firstborn son,” Israel (Ex 4:22), to extend His gift of salvation to the “younger brothers” of the nations of the earth.  It was Israel’s mission to be God’s light and a world-wide blessing (promised to Abraham’s descendants in Gen 12:3; 22:18) to the other nations of the earth, but when the majority of the Jews rejected that mission, God used the faithful remnant of Jews who were Jesus’ disciples and Apostles to invite the Gentiles into the New Covenant in Christ.

The Parable of the Great Feast
   The host of the banquet    God
   His home    The heavenly Kingdom
   The banquet    The banquet of the righteous at the end of time
   The servants    God’s prophets
   The first invited guests    The people of the Old Covenant (Jews)
   The second group of  invited guests    The disadvantaged Jews who were the outcasts
   The third group of invited guests    The Gentiles who have been outside the covenant but are now included
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

The banquet episode is concluded and Jesus is again teaching the crowds.  The next two teachings are about one’s commitment to discipleship.

Luke 14:25-33 ~ Sayings on the commitment of discipleship
25 Great crowds were traveling with him, and he turned and addressed them, 26 “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  28 Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  29 Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him 30 and say,  This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’  31 Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?  32 But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.  33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.

Verse 26 has to be read in light of Jesus’ other teachings in which a commitment to love “even our enemies (Lk 6:27) “is a requirement of discipleship.  In this teaching Jesus uses exaggeration (“hating”) to stress the total commitment required of the men and women who take up the path of discipleship.  Jesus is asking for a complete detachment from the old life that might in any way compromise the priority of one’s commitment to Jesus and His Kingdom, the Church; and that includes attachments to personal relationships and material possessions.  It is similar to the teachings He gave in Luke 9:23-24 and 57-62. This teaching also recalls His warning concerning the division He is bringing to families where some will reject His Gospel and others will embrace His promise of new life and eternal gifts (Lk 12:49-53).

Question: What two examples of the importance of considering what the “cost” of discipleship will be before taking up the mission does Jesus use?
Answer: He gives the example of building a tower and a king waging war, efforts that require planning and good decision making.

Luke 14:33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
In the same way that building a tower and a king waging war requires good decision making and strategies for success, the disciple has to take into account anything in his old life that is a hindrance to traveling the narrow path and entering the narrow door to eternal salvation.  He must divest himself of those things or people who will not help him advance in faith and spiritual maturity, especially the attachment to material possessions that encourage reliance on self and not dependence on God.

Luke 14:34-35 ~ The commitment of a disciple compared to salt
34 “Salt is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored?  35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure file; it is thrown out.  Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
This teaching illustrates the condition of the person who is not able to demonstrate total commitment and dedication to discipleship that Jesus called for in the previous teaching.  Salt for daily use came from the Dead Sea region and contained many minerals in addition to the valuable salt.  Over time the salt could lose its flavor and was no longer valuable as a seasoning or preservative.

Question: How is salt that lost it flavor like a disciple whose dedication is only half-hearted?
Answer: A half-hearted disciple is like salt that has lost its flavor in that he cannot fulfill the purpose for which he was intended.

Chapter 15:  Three Parables about God’s Mercy

St. Luke did not idly present three parables in a row… The mercy of the divine act is the same, but the grace differs according to our merits.  The weary sheep is recalled by the shepherd, the coin which was lost is found, the son retraces his steps to his father and returns, guilty of error but totally repentant.
St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.208

In chapter 15 Jesus gives three parable teachings to the crowds concerning God’s patience and mercy in calling sinners to salvation by using common examples of daily life.  In each of the parables He also answers the criticism of the Pharisees who accuse Him of associating with sinners.  The parable are: the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:3-8), the Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10), and the Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32).  Of these three parables St. Ambrose writes: By the parables of the sheep that strayed and was found, the coin which was lost and was found, and the son who was dead and came to life, we may cure our wounds, being encouraged by a threefold remedy.  “A threefold cord will not be broken.”  Who are the father, the shepherd and the woman?  They are God the Father, Christ and the Church.  Christ carries you on his body, he who took your sins on himself.  The Church seeks and the Father receives.  The shepherd carries.  The mother searches, the father clothes.  First mercy comes, then intercession, and third reconciliation.  Each complements the other.  The Savior rescues, the Church intercedes, and the Creator reconciles (Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 7.207-8).

Luke 15:1-7 ~ The Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So to them he addressed this parable.  4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  5And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,  Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

The tax collectors and sinners who were drawing near to hear Jesus and the Pharisees who began to complain are representative of groups one and two in the Parable of the Great Feast and are at the center of this teaching.  The Pharisees complaint “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” is a repeat of what they said in Luke 5:30.  This parable makes use of another of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets “domesticated animals (see handout 2 from Luke Lesson 10).  In the Old Testament imagery, God is the Shepherd of the flock that is His covenant people.  One of the best examples of this imagery is found in Ezekiel chapter 34 where God promises to shepherd His people and restore them to Himself:  For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep.  I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.  I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the foreign lands … (Ez 34:11-13a).  It is in that same passage that God declares: I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd.  I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.  I the LORD, have spoken (Ez 34:23-24).  Since this prophecy was made in the 6th century BC and King David lived in the late 11thcentury BC to early 10th century BC, the prophecy is speaking of a Davidic descendant.  

Question: Who is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel of the Davidic prince who God will send to shepherd His people?  What did Jesus say was His mission in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24?  Symbolically who is the shepherd in this parable?  Also see Mt 1:1 and Jn 10:11-16.
Answer: It is the same answer to all three questions “Jesus son of David, Son of God.  Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy to gather back the lost sheep of Israel ” He is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-16) who lays down His life for His sheep.

Symbolic Imagery of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:1-7)
   The lost sheep    Sinners
   The sheep fold    The covenant community of the Church
   The shepherd    Jesus Christ who went in search of the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Question: In this teaching, what comparison does Jesus make between God the Son and a shepherd and between the lost sheep and sinners?
Answer: God cares about all the sheep in His flock and when one becomes lost, like a lost sinner, God, like any good shepherd, makes every effort to return that one to the fold.  And when that one sinner is restored to the covenant community, God rejoices in his restoration.

Luke 15:7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

Question: Why is there more joy over the repentant sinner?  See CCC 545.
Answer: There is already joy over the others who are saved, but the salvation of every lost sinner is a victory for the Kingdom in which all the flock can rejoice.  The whole purpose of Jesus’ Passion was to sacrifice His life for sinners.

Luke 15:8-10 ~ The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman having ten coins [drachma] and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?  9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them,  Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’  10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

A drachma was Greek silver coin.  The message of the teaching is the same as the Parable of the Lost Sheep “God’s concern for the lost sinner and His desire that none should perish: This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:3-4; also see 1 Pt 3:9).

Question: How does this parable define the mission of Mother Church?
Answer: It is the mission of Mother Church to cherish her children and to keep them within the fold of the covenant family “not willing that any should be lost to sin.

The Symbolic Imagery of the Parable of the Lost Coin (Lk 15:8-10)
   The woman    Mother Church
   The collection of coins    The community of the faithful
   The lost coin    The lost sinner
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

Luke 15:11-32 ~ The Parable of the Lost Son 
11 Then he said, “a man had two sons, 12 and the younger son said to his father,  Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.”  So the father divided the property between them.  13 After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.  14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country and he found himself in dire need.  15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.  17 Coming to his senses he thought,  How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.  18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”  20 So he got up and went back to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  21 His son said to him,  Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  22But his father ordered his servants,  Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.  Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’  Then the celebration began.25 Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard sound of music and dancing.  26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.  27 The servant said to him,  Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.  29 He said to his father in reply,  Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.  29 But when you son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’  31 He said to him,  My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  32 But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

This is the third parable in the series of teachings on the mercy and patience of God.  Verses 1-3 set the stage: Jesus is teaching the crowds of Jews who have come to hear Him preach and to see Him work miracles.  Tax collectors (who served the Roman authorities and were despised by the common people) and other sinners were drawing near to hear Jesus teach.  The Pharisees (the most influential religious party in Judea) and the scribes (the teachers of the Law) were high status members of Jewish society who considered themselves to be among the “righteous” and interpreted the Scriptures and the Law very rigidly, often neglecting to follow the example of God’s mercy and justice (11:39-52).  They criticized Jesus for His interaction with what they considered to be the dregs of society.  Jews were expected to keep themselves ritually clean and fit for worship by avoiding anything that might transmit ritual uncleanness “unlike those who were acknowledged “unclean” sinners not fit to enter the Temple and offer God sacrifice and worship.  This is not the first time this group of self-professed “righteous” Jews have criticized Jesus for the kind of company He keeps.  The same complaint was made of Him in Luke 5:30.

The Parable of the Lost Son is only found in the Gospel of St. Luke.  It is also called the Parable of the Two Sons and the Parable of the Prodigal (wasteful) Son.  However, a better title is probably the “Parable of the Merciful Father” since the father’s mercy is the focus of the story and he is the pivotal figure.  This parable is an answer to the Pharisees’ criticism of Jesus’ interest in sinners and is an insightful commentary on human conduct, illustrating the conflict between free-will and responsibility, estrangement and family love, and the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation.  But above all, the parable teaches the gift of divine forgiveness to a lost sinner “the kind of people who were seeking Jesus and the restoration He promised to those who repented and accepted the coming of His Kingdom.

In verse11 Jesus begins His parable with the statement: “a man had two sons …” He begins by setting the contrast in the story between the character of the two sons “the younger son who left because he thought he wanted the absolute freedom to live as he wished without any obligations except to himself and the elder son, the father’s heir, who dutifully served the father and stayed at home. The parable is divided into two parts: the estrangement of the younger son followed by his return and reconciliation with the father (verses 11-24), and the elder son’s anger when his brother returns (verses 25-31).  As in all Jesus’ parables, the elements of the story are symbolic and point to Jesus’ teaching on our relationship with God and His kingdom and the estrangement caused by sin.  Each of the people in the parable represents what is greater than the story presents:

  Symbolic comparisons in the Parable of the Lost Son (Lk 15:11-32)
   the loving father    God the Father
   the father’s home    the “kingdom” of the Old Covenant Church/Temple
   the distant country    the secular world
   the elder son    the religiously observant Jews
   the younger son    the repentant sinner and
the estranged Gentile nations of the world
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

In Exodus 4:22 Moses is instructed by God to tell the Egyptian Pharaoh: “Israel is my firstborn son.”  The people of the Sinai Covenant were collectively the “sons/daughters of God” (in Ex 4:22 the word “son” is in the singular as in Wis 18:13).
Question: If Israel’s status is God’s first-born son in the human family, then what are the peoples of the other nations of the earth?
Answer: If Israel is God’s “first born son” that makes all other members of the human family the younger sons.

In the story the father extends his love to both sons in the same way Father God extends his love to sinners and to His sons and daughters in covenant fellowship with Him.  In the parable the father continues to show his love toward the angry older son (symbolically the Jews) despite the elder son’s criticism of the father’s decision to welcome back his brother (symbolically the Gentile nations) into the family.  The parable stresses God’s willingness to accept all repentant sinners into His kingdom.  As Luke mentioned in 7:29-30:…tax collectors and sinners who were baptized with the baptism of  John [the Baptist] acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law [scribes], who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.  And as Jesus taught in Luke 13:30: Look, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last, referring to the Jews who were the first to hear the good news of salvation but who will be preceded into the kingdom by the Gentiles who embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The younger son also embodies man of every age, beginning with Adam who was the first to distain his “Father’s” gifts to run after what His Father told him to avoid, losing the inheritance of grace and original justice.  In fact, as Pope John Paul II wrote, “The parable indirectly touches upon every aspect of the breach in covenant love, every loss of grace and every sin” (Dives in misericordia, 5).

Do not miss the significance that the younger son tended swine.  Swine were unclean animals and association with them was strictly forbidden for a member of the Sinai Covenant according to the Law (Lev 11:7; Dt 14:8).
Question: What is the significance in the story that the younger son was willing to tend swine?
Answer: That he was willing to tend swine shows how far the younger son had traveled from the Law of God’s covenant with Israel and the depths to which he had sunk into sin in his personal life.

The younger son’s anxiety, hunger, and homelessness are the result of his rebellion and enslavement to sin (Rom 1:25; 6:6; Gal 5:1) by which he has lost the freedom of being a beloved son of his father to become one whose sin has placed him under the power of Satan (Rom 8:21; Gal 4:31; 5:13).
Question: In contrast to the unclean swine, what does the fatted calf his father offers in celebration of his younger son’s return symbolize?
Answer: By contrast, the fatted calf the father offers upon his son’s return symbolizes the restoration of communion with the father and the father’s household in the same way a repentant sinner is restored to God’s family in the Sacrament of the Eucharist within the household of the Church.

The Pharisees and scribes to whom Jesus is directing His parable are displaying the same anger and unwillingness to welcome back the repentant sinners to whom Jesus’ extends His mercy and forgiveness like the elder brother who will not welcome back his younger sibling.  In addition, there is another comparison that can be made to the Jews of the Old Covenant who jealously guarded that status as “firstborn sons” in refusing to welcome their “younger brothers” of the Gentile nations into the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (see verses 29-30).  The father in the parable manifests his love for the elder, upright son (symbolic of the Jews of the Sinai Covenant), but he reminds his elder son and heir that the younger son must be restored to the family and his restoration must be celebrated in the communion meal.  It is a subtle warning Jesus gives His kinsmen of the Old Covenant faith that they must be prepared to welcome the repentant “younger brothers” of the Gentile nations into the Kingdom He has come to establish.

In the parable the elder son has to make a decision “will he accept the father’s rebuke and welcome his younger brother back into communion with the family, or will he reject his younger brother and harm his relationship with his father?  We are not told what decision the elder brother made, but we know that many of the Jews rejected the Divine Father’s plan for the restoration of the human family in Jesus’ Gospel message of salvation.  St. Paul wrote: For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:26-29).

Chapter 16: Jesus Continues to Teach in Parables

Let those of us who possess earthly wealth open our hearts to those who are in need.  Let us show ourselves faithful and obedient to the laws of God.  Let us be followers of our Lord’s will in those things that are from the outside and not our own.  Let us do this so that we may receive what is our own, that holy and admirable beauty that God forms in people’s souls, making them like himself, according to what we originally were. 
St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 109

Two of the teachings in this chapter deal with the use or abuse of money/wealth (16:1-13 and 16:19-31).  They are separated by a condemnation of the Pharisees for their love of money and two other teachings about the Law.  The focus of final teaching about wealth is the inevitable judgment of the rich for their lack of compassion for the poor.  The first teaching on money/wealth is directed to His disciples.

Luke 16:1-8a ~ The Parable of the Dishonest but Crafty Steward
1 Then he also said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property.  2 He summoned him and said,  What is this I hear about you?  Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’  3 The steward said to himself,  What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?  I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.  4 I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’  5 He called in his master’s debtors one by one.  To the first he said,  How much do you owe my master?’  6 He replied,  One hundred measures of olive oil.’  He said to him,  Here is your promissory note.  Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’  7 Then to another he said,  And you, how much do you owe?’  He replied,  One hundred kors of wheat.’  He said to him,  Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’  8 And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.” (1)

The interpretation of this parable looks to the figurative meaning of the whole parable and not for the individual parts.  In Jesus’ story the steward was a freeman who earned his living by the additional revenue he could add to the bill of the money owed his master.  He was not cheating his master by dropping the sum that each of the creditors owed; he was simply reducing his commission, in some cases probably eliminating his cut completely.  At this point in his life, he realized that his master’s creditors’ gratitude and friendship was more valuable to him than money.

Jesus is not praising the steward’s dishonesty.  It was because he misused the master’s property that he is being dismissed, and Jesus does not praise that action; but what He does draw our attention to the good deeds the steward does in order to win friends who will help him in his hour of need.  Admittedly it is an action that is self-serving, but it does not defraud his master.
Question: Why did the master praise his effort?
Answer: The master admired his quick thinking in ingratiating himself to the creditors and transferring their debt to him from money to a personal obligation generated by his mercy to them in reducing their debt.

Luke 16:8b-13 ~ Jesus’ teaching on the parable and the right use of money
8b “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.  9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth [literally"the mammon of iniquity"], so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  10 The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small maters is also dishonest in great ones.  11 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?  13 No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Jesus expands on His parable by encouraging the prudent use of one’s wealth.  He is not recommending that the disciples act as the dishonest steward did, but that they practice his foresight and ingenuity by using the temporal things of this world which are not ours and will pass away to purchase for ourselves those things which are eternal and will not pass away.  Notice that Jesus uses a series of parallels/contrasts in His teaching:

Question: What are the parallels/contrasts in Luke 16:8b-13?
Answer:

  Parallels/contrasts in Luke 16:8b-13
  children of this world  –>  children of light
  dishonest  –>  eternal dwellings
  trustworthy in small maters   –>   trustworthy in great
  dishonest in small matters  –>  dishonest in great
  dishonest wealth –>   true wealth
  mammon  –>  God
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2013

“Mammon” in verses 9 and 13 means wealth or money.(2)  Money is called “dishonest” because often it has been acquired dishonestly even before passing into the hands of someone who is honest.  Money should be used with eternal benefits in mind rather than temporal.  It is the eternal value of the deed that will welcome one into heaven.

Question: Who are the “children of this world” and who are the “children of light”?  What was the crafty steward?  See Jn 8:12.
Answer: The crafty steward is a “child of this world.”  The “children of light” with their “other worldly” concerns are in contrast to the “children of the world” who are invested in the material rather than the spiritual.  The disciples of Jesus Christ (Christians) are the “children of light” while the “children of this world” are those who do not profess Christ as Lord and Savior.

Question: Why does Jesus say the “children of the world” are more prudent in dealing with their contemporaries than are Christians?  What does He suggest Christians can learn?
Answer: Jesus’ point is that the faithful should be prudent about the use of wealth just as the crafty steward (a child of this world) was prudent.  Wealth will not buy friends, only generosity results in true friendship.  In the same way, if we know God’s friendship and blessings are given to those who are generous and show mercy to the poor, shouldn’t we be clever enough to realize what actions of mercy and compassion in using our material wealth will benefit us eternally?

Luke 16:11-12 If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  12 If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? 

Question: Who is it who judges those who are not trustworthy with “dishonest wealth” and will not trust those persons with “true wealth”?  See Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain in Lk 6:20-26.
Answer: Earthly blessings including wealth/riches are from God.  From those blessings we are required to care for the poor and disadvantaged.  If we cannot be trusted in the matters of sharing our earthly wealth, Jesus asks the question, why should God trust us with the wealth/riches of eternal life?  God has the power to judge the souls of human beings and the power to determine their eternal destiny.

In the material world, anyone who is “untrustworthy in very small things” is also viewed as “untrustworthy in great ones;” and the person who is “dishonest in very small matters” is also viewed as someone who is “dishonest in great ones.”  Therefore, why should it be different in God’s assessment of a person’s life?  If God cannot trust us to use the material wealth that He has generously given us wisely, and if we cannot be trusted to share it with the poor, how can we be trusted with “true wealth”?

Question: What to God is the “true wealth” in verse 11?
Answer: The gift of God’s grace that leads to eternal life.

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”

This verse is the summary of Jesus’ teaching on this subject.  You cannot be disorderly attracted to material wealth and also be a servant of God.  The two callings oppose each other.  You are either God’s servant or a slave to riches.  The love of money will turn money/wealth into a false god.  To be dependent on riches is opposed to the teachings of Jesus who asks for complete dependence on God as the chief characteristic of Christian discipleship.

Luke 16:14-15 ~ The Pharisees and money
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all these things and sneered at him.  15 And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Question: Why do the Pharisees sneer at Jesus’ teaching on wealth?  How does their reaction tie into to Jesus previous teaching?
Answer: The Pharisees are an example of those who are slaves of wealth and “children of this world” because they “loved money.”  It is for this reason that they sneer at Jesus’ teaching and consequently are not able to truly serve God; in fact Jesus says that they are “an abomination in the sight of God” because of their disordered attraction to wealth and social position.

Luke 16:16-18 ~ Teachings on the Law of Moses and divorce
16 “The law and the prophets lasted until John; but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.  17 It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter of the law to become invalid. 18 Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets, and he is the transitional figure between the Old and New Covenants.  He continued where the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, left off and fulfills Malachi’s last prophecies (Mal 3:1-3, 23/4:4).  With John, Jesus says, what was promised by the Moses and the prophets is coming to fulfillment.

Luke 16:16b …but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.

There are several interpretations of the meaning of “violence” in this passage:

  • The praiseworthy self-sacrifice and suffering of those who are willing to risk all for the sake of the Kingdom.
  • The wicked violence of the powers of evil and their agents who seek to maintain their positions of power and to fight the advance of the Kingdom.
  • The Kingdom of heaven is being established despite all obstacles, even the violence done to the faithful.

The Law does not become invalid with the coming of Christ, but certain parts of the Law will be fulfilled, like the requirements for ritual purity and animal sacrifice.  These Jesus will fulfill on the altar of the Cross (Mt 5:18; Jn 19:30) as well as fulfilling the requirements of the Old Covenant which have served its purpose as a tutor and a guide to God’s people for the coming of the Messiah.  With the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom, the Old Covenant with its temporal blessings and promise of salvation is to be replaced with the New Covenant that brings eternal blessings and salvation through Christ Jesus (Heb 8:6-13; 10:1-10; CCC 1962-65).  However, the moral law found in the Ten Commandments and most of the other laws associated with the moral law will remain, like the laws associated with divorce and adultery.  Moses allowed divorce because of the hard hearts of the people (Dt 24:1-4); Jesus corrects that amendment to the law by restating God’s definition of the Law concerning marriage in this passage and in Matthew 19:3-9.(3)  God is the author of marriage and Jesus raised marriage to a Sacrament of the Church; see CCC 1638-40.

Question: What does Jesus give as the only condition for dissolving a marital union in Matthew 19:9?
Answer: In cases where the marriage is declared unlawful, an annulment can be granted.

Luke 16:19-31 ~ The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  24And he cried out,  Father Abraham, have pity on me.  Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  25 Abraham replied,  My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from our side to ours.’  27 He said,  Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.  29 But Abraham replied,  They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said,  Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  31 Then Abraham said,  If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

This parable illustrates Jesus’ concern for justice and is a reflection of His blessings for the poor and His judgment of the cold hearted rich in His Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:20-26).  The man Lazarus in this story is not the same Lazarus who is the brother of Martha and Mary.  This man is a homeless beggar who after his death resides on the righteous side of Sheol while the brother of Martha and Mary lived in Bethany and was resurrected by Jesus.  That the rich man wore purple cloth is a sign of his great wealth.  Purple cloth was the most expensive textiles available in the ancient world.  The dye came from a tiny sea mollusk.  Only the wealthiest individuals could afford cloth dyed purple, which is why it was the color of the garments of kings and rulers.

“Abraham’s bosom” in verse 22 was what the righteous part/state of Sheol was called in Jesus’ time.   Sheol was divided into the waiting place of the righteous and the place of punishment and purification for sinners.  CCC 633: Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” “Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek “because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:  “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell” (Roman Catechism I, 6, 3).  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him. As St. Peter wrote: For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.  Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.  In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water … 4:6 For this is why the Gospel was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6).

Question: What is the contrast and what is ironic about the two men’s condition in Seol?
Answer: The contrast in this parable is between the rich man who had everything he could possible want in life and Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing.  Ironically when both men died, their conditions were reversed.

God gave poor Lazarus justice in Sheol (Hades in the Greek), the abode of the dead into which all men and women went before the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  The rich man suffered in torment for his sins while Lazarus received the justice he lacked in life as he awaited the coming of the Messiah in the company of the just.  It is a reversal of condition that Jesus uses to serve as a warning to the Pharisees and others in the crowd who despise and neglect the poor and afflicted while loving money.

Question: What petition does the rich man make to the spirit of Abraham, the father of the covenant people?
Answer: His request is that Abraham sends Lazarus to warn his brothers to mend their ways so that they will not die and find themselves in the same torment in which he finds himself.

However, Abraham denies his petition …But Abraham replied,  They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.’

Question: What did Abraham mean when he told the rich man that his brothers had Moses and the prophets to teach them the path to righteousness?  Weren’t they long since dead?
Answer: The reference is to the Sacred Scriptures written by Moses and the prophets that teach the path to righteousness and salvation.

Question: The rich man tires again to petition Abraham, saying that his brothers would believe someone who returned from the dead to warn them.  What is Abraham’s reply in the parable and why is his reply ironic?
Answer: In the parable Abraham tells the rich man if his brothers won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets (in Scripture), they will also not listen to someone who had been raised from the dead.  The irony is that Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Moses and the prophets; He will arise from the dead and yet many will still refuse to believe.

  Symbolic Significance of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
   The rich man    The wealthy who  abuse God’s blessings when they ignore the plight of the poor
   Poor Lazarus    The poor and  disadvantaged of the world
   Sheol/Hades    The condition of  divine judgment and purification
   Abraham    The hereditary  father of the Old Covenant people and a symbol of the blessings and wisdom of  the just
Michal E. Hunt Copyright ©  2013

Question: Why is it the only the name of poor Lazarus is given in the parable?  Why is the rich man’s name not recorded?  Rev 20:11-15.
Answer: It is a warning.  Just as the names of the righteous are recorded and remembered in the Book of Life and the Deeds in the heavenly Sanctuary, Lazarus’ name is remembered in Sacred Scripture.  However, just as the rich man’s name is not recorded in the Gospel parable, the names those who abuse God’s material blessings and do not have mercy on the poor and disadvantaged will not be recorded or remembered.

Since Christ had not yet come into His glory by His resurrection from the dead, the rich man in the parable would have still had the opportunity of eternal salvation.  In Sheol he and sinners like him were being purified of their sins (Wis 3:1-12).  The rich man was not totally lost because he still had love and concern for the sins of his brothers (those consigned to the Hell of the damned are completely cut off from God and feel no love).  All those in Sheol “the sinners who were being purified by the fiery love of God and the righteous “had the opportunity to hear the Gospel of salvation preached by Jesus when He descended the dead from His tomb.  At that time He took those purified souls into the realm of His heavenly kingdom (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; CCC 631-35).

Sheol/Hades will exist as a place/state of purification until the Last Judgment (Rev 20:14).  In the Final Age of man, blessings are eternal and so are judgments so Sheol/Hades no longer holds either the pure souls of the righteous, nor does it hold the souls of the wicked who deny Christ and His gift of salvation.  Sheol remains a place/state of purification for those souls judged worthy of salvation but who still need purification of unconfessed venial sins or mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which full penance has not been made before being released into the presence of God (1 Cor 3:12-15).  Catholics call this place Purgatory “the “place of purification” (CCC 1030-32).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What do you see as your obligations concerning your material blessings according to Jesus’ teachings?  See Mt 23:31-46.
Question: What is the fifth precept of the Church and do you observe this covenant obligation?  See CCC 1351, 1387, 1438, 2043.
Question: What does the passage in Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 3:30/33 tell you about almsgiving?
Question: What did Jesus teach about almsgiving and why in Mt 6:1-4.
Question: What did St. Paul mean when He said “the love of money is the root of all evil?”  See 1 Tim 6:10.  What is the key word in that quote?
Question: What was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)?

Endnotes:

1.  One hundred measures, literally one hundred baths, is a     Hebrew unit of liquid measure equal to eight or nine gallons. A kor is a     Hebrew unit of dry measure for grain or wheat.  One hundred kor is about     equal to ten to twelve bushels.

2.  “Mammon” is the Latin word that is derived from the     Aramaic manon, meaning material wealth/money; it is found in Jesus’     teachings on the abuse of earthly riches in Matthew 6:19-21, 24; Luke 16:6, 11 and 13.

3.  The Hebrew wording in Moses’ amendment to the Law allowing     a man to divorce his wife on the grounds of “something indecent” was a vague     term that allowed a wide interpretation that could be anything from     adultery to poor hygiene (Dt 24:1).  One wonders if Moses allowed the evil     of divorce in order to prevent what he considered a greater evil.  Perhaps     deadly “accidents” where happening to the wives of men who wanted to marry     another woman without having the expense of supporting the first wife.      This is an evil practice that happens in countries during the modern age.      In India where a man can get a bigger dowry by marrying again, first wives     often die in suspicious kitchen fires.  See the Catholic Church’s position     on divorce in CCC 1650, 1664, 2382, 2384-86, 2400

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 10

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 10

13. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 10: Chapter 12-13
The Journey to Jerusalem Continues

Heavenly Father,
Help us to have the courage to come to You humbly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and  to make a complete confession of our all of our sins.  We know that there is no reason to attempt to hide our sins from You, for You know all things “all things in heaven and all things on earth, including the true intent of each individual for good and for evil.  Nothing is hidden from You.  In trusting You to be merciful and to forgive us our sins, we declare our love and obedience to You.  We know that the confession of a repentant sinner is precious to You and that You hate the hypocrisy of pretended righteousness.  Give us the true heart of an Apostle that we may avoid the false heart of a self-righteous Pharisee.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

Therefore, the wisdom of God said,  I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ 50 in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple building.  Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Luke 11:49-51

Luke chapters 12-13 are divided into three sections:

  1. Luke 12:1-13:9 ~ Jesus teaching the disciples and the crowd in a continuous discourse immediately after His dinner at the home of the Pharisee in chapter 11.
  2. Luke 13:10-21 ~ Jesus teaching on the Sabbath about the mercy of God and the growth of the coming Kingdom.
  3. Luke 13:22-35 ~ Jesus’ teaching the crowds as He continues His journey to Jerusalem.

In the last chapter, Jesus was invited to dine at the home of a Pharisee.  Knowing the critical thoughts of His host and the other Pharisees and Scribes who were present, Jesus used the occasion to deliver a scathing six part indictment on the spiritual condition of the Pharisees and scribes.  In His sixth “woe” judgment against His dinner companions (11:49-51), He made a prophetic statement by citing “the Wisdom of God” (Himself) and tying the fate of God’s messengers in the present (Jesus and His disciples and Apostles) to the fate of the prophets in the past, thereby anticipating His persecution and martyrdom and the persecution and martyrdom of God’s messengers who will follow Him (see quote above). At the end of Jesus’ scathing condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes at the banquet in chapter 11, the angry Pharisees and scribes were even more determined to find the evidence to condemn Jesus (11:52-53).  Jesus leaves the home of the Pharisee and proceeds to speak to His disciples and the crowd that has gathered.  This is the beginning of one continuous discourse delivered by Jesus in which the focus is on trust in God, courage when faced with crisis, and the inevitability of an eschatological judgment (Lk 12:1-13:9).

Luke 12:1 ~ The leaven of the Pharisees
1 Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  He began to speak, first to his disciples, “beware of the leaven “that is, the hypocrisy “of the Pharisees.  There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret
The word translated “leaven” or “yeast” in some translations is the Greek word zyme, a lump of sour dough used as a leavening agent.

St. Luke begins chapter 12 by linking Jesus’ next teaching to the events at the banquet and Jesus’ judgment of the Pharisees and Scribes.

  1. St. Luke sets the time of the next event to show the association with the last event in the previous passage by opening with the word “meanwhile” (literally “at that time” in the Greek text).
  2. Jesus’ characterization of the Pharisees and Scribes as “hypocrites” is a concise summary of His indictment against them at the banquet in the previous part of the narrative.

Notice how St. Luke heightens the drama of this next part of the narrative by describing the crowd.  In the literal Greek translation the passage reads that there were “tens of thousands” in the crowd trampling one another underfoot.   The size and condition of the crowd gives the impression of being threatening.  Turning to His disciples, Jesus’ summarizes the condition of the Pharisees and Scribes and the danger they pose to others.
Question:
To what does Jesus compare “leaven” in verse 1?  What is the comparison in Mt 16:12.
Answer: In Matthew 16:12 the “leaven” of the Pharisees is identified as their false teaching.  In Luke 12:1 the “leaven” is identified as their “hypocrisy.”

There is no contradiction between the accounts in the two Gospels.  Jesus has already condemned the Pharisees for the hypocrisy of their teaching versus their actions in 11:40-51.

Jesus’ use of “leaven” is an interesting comparison to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  The key is that leaven induces fermentation which is a form of corruption.  In Scripture leaven is used as both a positive and a negative example.  Leavened bread was permitted to be eaten in the communal meal of the Toda “thanksgiving offering” (Lev 7:13) and for the “firstfruits” of the wheat harvest (Lev 23:7).  Jesus uses leaven as a positive example in His teaching on the growth of the Kingdom (Mt 13:33;Lk 13:20-21).  But it is used as a negative example in this passage and as it is used it in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, 68 where St. Paul teaches that Christ, the true Pascal Lamb, destroys the old leaven of sin and makes possible a holy life of which unleavened bread is the symbol (also see Gal 5:9).  It is the reason Latin Rite Catholics use unleavened bread in their offering for the Eucharist while the Eastern Rites use leavened bread.  The rejection of leaven as a symbol for sin is also found in the Old Testament prohibitions and commands of the Law.  For example leavened bread was prohibited in sacrifices that were burned on God’s holy altar (Lev 2:4).  It was also prohibited during the celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in which leaven was a viewed as a sign of the corrupting influence of evil on human nature and a symbol for sin which can easily multiply and spread through God’s holy community.

Question: What was the command concerning leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread?   See Ex 12:15, 18-20; 13:6-10.
Answer: During the seven days of the feast, all traces of leaven were to be removed from the houses of the covenant people.

All leaven, including any old bread containing leaven, was to be removed from the houses of the covenant people and no leaven products were to be consumed for a period from noon on the day of the Passover sacrifice until the completion of the feast of Unleavened Bread at the conclusion of the Sacred Assembly on the 21st of Nisan ( Mishnah: Pesahim,  1:3-1:4; 10:1A).  Leaven, zyme in the Greek text, is an old piece of sour dough used for its fermenting properties that is in fact a form of corruption of the original piece of dough.  Leaven in bread is good in itself, but it works by a process of fermentation that affects the whole batch of the new dough.  When the sour zyme is added into a new batch of dough, it “corrupts” the entire batch in a process that produces a light and airy loaf of bread when baked.  In Scripture leaven is a natural symbol for a source of corruption that becomes all pervasive.  Jesus’ point is that in the same way that leaven affects the entire batch of dough, the corrupt teaching and bad example of the Pharisees and scribes can affect the people “the disciples must guard against their bad example so that they too do not become corrupted.

Luke 12:2-9 ~Jesus’ call for courage in proclaiming Christ and courage under persecution
2″There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.  3 Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.  4 I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.  5 I shall show you whom to fear.  Be afraid of the one who after [the] killing has the power to cast you into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.  6 Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.  7 Even the hairs of your head have been counted.  Do not be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.  8 I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God.  9 But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.”
[..] =
literal translation IBGE vol. IV, page 201 = “the killing”).

In a series of sayings, Jesus offers both warnings and encouragement.  In the first series of sayings, each saying is a doublet (verses 2-3) that contains a warning:

  concealed –> revealed
secret –> will be known
  said in the darkness –> heard in the light
  whispered   behind closed doors –> proclaimed on the housetops

Question:  What is Jesus’ point?
Answer:  Nothing can be hidden from God and in the “end” (divine judgment) what was attempted to be kept hidden will come to light.

Question:  How should what Jesus teaches in verses 2-3 be applied to our confession in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Answer: We should be fearless and forthcoming in our confessions because, since nothing can be hidden from God, we might as well reveal all our sins without reservation.

In the next section of sayings (verses 4-8), Jesus addresses His disciples as “friends” and counsels them to be fearless in conduct when faced with persecution, even if their persecution leads to martyrdom (verses 4-5).

Question:  Who is “the one” of whom the disciples should be more afraid than the ones who can inflict physical harm or death?  Also see Mt 10:28.
Answer:  Physical death cannot separate us from the love of God, but spiritual death “being cast into the Hell of the eternally damned (Gehenna) “will separate us from God forever.  Rather than fearing man they should fear offending God who has the power over eternal life and death.

Verse 5 does not refer to Satan or to Christ but to God.  We are not told to fear Satan but to resist him. Scripture, however, counsels us to fear God (Fitzmyer, page 959).  In the Pentateuch Moses repeatedly warned the people to fear offending God (i.e., Lev 25:17, 36, 43; Dt 4:10; 6:13, 24; 6:24; 10:12, 20; 13:4; 14:23; 31:12-13), and the same warning is found in the New Testament concerning fear of God and His impartial divine judgment (Acts 9:31; Rom 11:20 (“awe” can also be translated “fear”); 2 Cor 7:1; Phil 2:12; 1 Pt 1:17 (“reverence” can also be translated “fear”); 2:17; Rev 14:7).  The Psalmist advises us: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it … (Ps 111:10; repeated in Prov 9:10), and the angel announcing the everlasting good news to those who dwell on earth in Revelation 14:7 warns: Fear God and give him glory, for his time has come to sit in judgment.  Worship him who made heaven and earth and sea and springs of water.

Question:  What is eternal death called inRevelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8 and why?
Answer: It is called the “second death.”  The first death is our physical death.

Question: The two kinds of death stand in contrast to what two kinds of birth?  See Jn 3:3, 5.
Answer: The first is our physical birth and the second is our birth in water and the Spirit in the Sacrament of Christian baptism.

Jesus uses the word “Gehenna” for the Hell of the damned “the abode of Satan and his fallen angels.  This is not to be confused with Hades in the Greek which is Sheol in the Hebrew, the abode of the dead before the Resurrection of Christ.(1)

Jesus continues His discourse by giving two examples to encourage the disciples followed by a promise and a warning:

Question:  What are the two examples?
Answer: Example #1: even the lives of lowly sparrows, sold in the marketplace as very inexpensive food, does not escape the notice of God (verses 6)

Example #2 : God’s knowledge of us is so intimate that He even knows the number of hairs on our heads (verse 7).

Question: What is the promise and what is the warning in verses 7b-9 and what will be the role of the angels?  See Mt 24:31, CCC 333.
Answer: The promise: We are more precious to God than sparrows, so we do not be afraid.  The warning: If we do not acknowledge our allegiance to Christ before other men and women but deny Him, then He will also deny us when we face our individual judgments before God’s heavenly throne in the presence of the angels who are members of the heavenly court and who will serve at the Last Judgment.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of eternal life with the full right to pass judgment on the works and hearts of those who belong to Him by their professed belief in Him as their personal Redeemer and Redeemer of the world.  In His First Advent He did not come to judge but to save (Jn 3:17; 5:26).  However, in His Second Advent He will return to judge the world.  Those who rejected God’s divine grace in this life have already condemned themselves by rejecting Christ and God’s spirit of love (see Mt 3:12; 13:41-43; Lk 3:17; CCC 678-79).

Luke 12:10-12 ~ Concerning the Holy Spirit and the unforgivable sin
10 “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  11 When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.  12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”

Jesus assures the disciples that there is no limit to His mercy, but anyone who stubbornly refuses to accept His mercy by repenting his sins rejects His forgiveness and God’s gift of grace offered by the call of the Holy Spirit.  This demonstration of the deliberate rejection of God’s gift of salvation up to and including the end of one’s earthly life can lead to the loss of eternal salvation (see CCC 1287, 1864 and John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem, 46).

Luke 12:13-21 ~ A warning against the sin of greed (The Parable of the Rich Fool)
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”  14 He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”  15 Then he said to the crowd,  Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”  16 Then he told them a parable.  “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.  17 He asked himself,  What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’  18 And he said,  This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.  There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”  20 But God said to him,  You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’  21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

A man seeks Jesus’ intervention in a family dispute over inheritance, but Jesus denies his request because that is not His mission.  There were courts of law set up to deal with such issues.  Instead, He offers a teaching on the dangers of greed and a warning that material possessions do not define what is really important in life.  The contrast in His teaching is between those like the rich man in the parable who only defines “riches” in the material sense with no thought to his eternal condition as opposed the others who focus on pleasing God and the promise of an eternal reward.  The parable is related to Jesus’ earlier teaching on the importance of fearing God “the One who will deliver one’s final judgment.  The rich fool does not fear God.

Question: What kind of “life” is Jesus referring to?
Answer: The essence of a person cannot be defined by his material goods but rather by the person’s words and deeds.

Then too, temporal life is fleeting “it is the works of righteousness that are written in the Book of Deeds and count toward eternal life that really matters.  It is on the richness of those acts that one’s life will be judged (Rev 20:11-12).

Question: In the parable, why does God call the rich man a fool?
Answer: In his selfishness and greed the man amassed a material abundance that was of no value to him when he died.  If he had used his abundance of material wealth to help the poor, his good deeds would have followed him into eternity and would have advanced the cause of his salvation.

Luke 12:22-34 ~ Trusting in the providence of God
22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.  23 For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.  24 Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!  25 Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?  26 If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?  27 Notice how the flowers grow.  They do not toll or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.  28 If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  29 As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore.  30 All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.  32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your belongings and give alms.  Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.  34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Jesus continues with a commentary on the Parable of the Rich Fool urging the disciples not to worry excessively about earthly things.

Question: Jesus tells His disciples to be free of worries using what three examples?
Answer: God takes care of the ravens, the lilies, and grasses of the field, yet the disciples are more important than these.

He uses the example of ravens (verse 24); they were unclean birds which the Jews were not allowed to eat (Lev 11:15; Dt 14:14), but God still cares about them.  Just as the birds and other parts of nature exist by God’s providence, we should trust God in the same way.  His point is that the disciples need a priority of values, which is made clear in verses 30-34.  They are not to behave like the pagans who run after the material “their focus must be on the spiritual.  That is not to say that Jesus is telling the disciples that they shouldn’t continue to work and care for their families “He says in verse 30 that “your Father knows that you need” these material things.  His teaching is that excessive worry about what will happen tomorrow shows lack of faith in God’s providence.  He does not mean that we should ignore our earthly responsibilities to earn a living and care for those who depend on us.

Question: How do we know this is what Jesus did not mean? See 2 Thes 3:10-16.
Answer: The leaders of the church at Thessalonica were having a problem with people within the community who were not doing their fair share of the work. When Paul was there, he issued the order that if someone didn’t work that person couldn’t eat the community’s food, and he urged the church leaders to continue to be firm in admonishing those who were neglectful of their duties.

Earlier Jesus referred to the disciples as His “friends” and now He calls them His “little flock” (verse 32).  They are the heirs of the Kingdom and the faithful remnant of Israel that will become the seed from which the Kingdom will grow to claim dominion over the earth.  He challenges them in verses 33-34 to make a radical choice and to cast their lives completely into God’s hands by selling all they have in order to store up an “inexhaustible treasure in heaven.”  InMatthew 19:29 He told them that if they were willing to give up everything to follow Him, their reward would be greater than what they gave up and now in Luke’s Gospel He offers them that choice.  There is probably an echo in verse 32 of the Prophet Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:27: Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Luke 12:35-40 ~ Parables on being ready for the Master’s return
35 “Gird your loins and light your lamps 36 and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.  37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.  Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.  38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.  39 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Still addressing the disciples, Jesus changes the topic from concern about earthy possessions to a warning to the disciples about being watchful and faithful servants.

Question: How are watchfulness and fidelity related to the previous teaching?
Answer: The previous teaching was about not concentrating the focus of one’s life on the material.  Now He says that the focus in this life should be on fidelity to Jesus and being ready for His return.

To “gird” one’s self expresses the condition of wearing a sash or belt to tuck up the long tunic so as to be ready for action.  It can also mean readiness for service (Fitzmyer, page 987).

Question: Jesus’ instruction to the disciples is similar to what instruction Moses was told to give the Israelites at the first Passover?  See Ex 12:11, 22-23.
Answer: It is similar to the instruction given the Israelites at the first Passover to be in readiness for a hasty departure from Egypt.

Question: To what does Jesus compare Himself in the first parable?
Answer: He compares Himself to a master returning at an unknown hour from a wedding.

Luke 12:38 And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.  In Jesus’ time the daytime was divided into 12 seasonal hours (Jn 11:9) and the night into 4 night watches.  The 2nd Watch was from 9 PM to midnight and the 3rd Watch was from midnight to 3 AM.  The trumpet that announced the change of the watch at 3 AM was called “the cockcrow” (Mk 13:35 lists the names of the four Watches).

Question: If they are vigilant what is their blessing?  What about the Master’s return to the vigilant servants is a contradiction?
Answer: Instead of the servants waiting on the Master, the Master waits on the servants at a banquet in His house as a reward for their vigilance.

Jesus will identify Himself at the Last Supper as the one who serves: “Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.   For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves (Lk 22:26-27, underlining added).

Question: What are the symbolic elements of the parable? Who is the master, the servants, the house, the wedding and the banquet?  See Rev 19:6-9.
Answer:

  The  master   Jesus
The  servants   The  disciples
  The  master’s  house   The  Church
  The  wedding   The  wedding supper of the Lamb prepared in heaven
  The  banquet the master prepares for   the  servants   The  eschatological banquet in the heavenly kingdom in which all of the Master’s  servants of every age will take part

There are several eschatological overtones to this parable.  For the first time Jesus gives a shadowy allusion to His departure from the earth and His delay in returning.  Later, at the Last Supper in the Gospel of St. John, the disciples will learn that He must return to the Father for a time (Jn 13:33-14:3), and at His Ascension the angels promise His return at an unknown time (Mt 24:36-44; Acts 1:11).

In the second very short parable (verse 39) Jesus speaks of the suddenness of a burglar breaking into an unguarded house and compares that event to the sudden return of the Son of Man at the end of the age.  When the Son of Man suddenly returns in His glory it will be to gather all people of all nations of the earth for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Last Judgment “some will be prepared like the faithful and vigilant servants of the Masters house (the Church), but many people of the world will be unaware and unprepared (CCC 366, 998, 1001, 1038, 1038-1041, Mt 25:31-46; Jn 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 1 Thes 4:16; 2 Thes 1:5-10

Luke 12:41-48 ~ A warning for Peter, the Apostles, and the future leaders of the Church
41 Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?  42 And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.  Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  45 But if that servant says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  47 That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; 48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly.  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

A steward was the Master’s chief servant and exercised the Master’s power and authority over the other servants.  He was responsible for everything in the Master’s house and kept the keys to every door.  In the description of the authority of Eliakim, the steward of the King of Judah, Isaiah writes: I shall place the key of David’s palace on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will close, when he closes, no one will open.  I shall drive him like a nail into a firm place; and he will become a throne of glory for his family (Is 22:22-23).  When Simon-Peter was invested as Jesus’ chief Steward/Vicar Jesus told him: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you lose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19-20).

Question: What is the answer to Peter’s question to Jesus in verse 41?  Who is the steward Jesus refers to in verse 42? See Mt 16:13-20.
Answer: The teaching is meant for them.  Peter is the steward.

Question: What is Jesus’ question to Peter in verse 42 and what is the answer?  When have the apostles distributed food?  SeeMt 14:13-21; 15:32-38; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17.
Answer: Jesus asked Peter who is the faithful and prudent steward put in charge of distributing the food allowance at the proper time?  The answer is Peter, the Apostles and the future chief stewards (the Popes) and the other servants/priests of the Church who will be responsible for distributing the holy food of the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass just as the Apostes distributed the food in the miracle feedings of the 5 thousand and 4 thousand which prefigured the miracle feeding of the Eucharist.

45 But if that servant says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.  Drunkenness is one of the signs of the O.T. prophets symbolizing rebellion against God and the abuse of His blessings  (see the Appendix at the end of the lesson or handout #2).   These unfaithful servants in this verse are abusing the gift of the Eucharist – the food allowance  that is given at the “proper time” of worship in verse 42.

In describing the fate of Jesus’ servants who abuse their authority in verse 45, Jesus is using a common example of the times.  His point is if it is expected that an earthly master should punish his servants for bad behavior then one should also expect that the divine Master will also punish His servants who fail in their mission by abusing their authority.  Those professed servants, however, who were not fully instructed and failed in their service, will be punished less severely than those who knew better “but they will still be punished.

Question: What does that warning mean put in the context of the modern Church?
Answer: The judgment will be more severe for the servants/leaders of the Church who fail because they have knowledge of the fullness of faith and know what is expected by the divine Maser.

The presupposition in these sayings in verses 47-48 is that those who are instructed by the Master with tasks in His household will also be given the ability to carry them out, so no excuse will be tolerated.

Luke 12:49-53 ~ Jesus: His mission a cause of division
49 “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  50 There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  51 Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, rather division.  52 From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 a father will be divided against his son and a son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her daughter-in-law.”

In a series of teachings on His ministry in verses 36-40, 43 and 45-46, Jesus made symbolic references to the “coming of the master,” a “burglar” and the “Son of Man.”  Now He speaks openly about His own coming in verses 49 and 51.

In verse 49 Jesus tells the disciples that He has come to set the earth on fire!  In the Old Testament, fire is sometimes used as a means or symbol of purification (Lev 13:52; Num 31:23; Mal 3:2-3 ;) , of discernment (Jer 23:29; Is 33:14), as a symbol of judgment (Gen 19:24; Ex 9:24; Ps 66:12; Is 43:2; Is 66:15-16; Lk 3:9; 9:54) and a manifestation of the presence of God (Ex 3:2; 13:21-22).  St. John the Baptist told the Jews that the Messiah was coming with the Holy Spirit and fire (Lk 3:16).  In Scripture, fire is one of the most expressive symbols of the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit (CCC 696; Acts 2:1-4).  In this case the fire Jesus speaks of can either be the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, or it is the refining and purifying fire that Jesus will light in His death and Resurrection that will ignite and transform the New Covenant people of God and bring about the Kingdom of heaven on earth.

Question: However, what warning does He give concerning His coming in verse 51?
Answer: His Gospel message will not unify.  His message that is met with either acceptance or rejection will be a source of conflict and division for the Old Covenant people even within families.

Question: What is the baptism by which Jesus must be baptized in verse 50?
Answer: His death on the Cross for the sins of mankind.

Luke 50b… and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  The Greek word can also be translated “fulfilled,” “finished,” or “completed.”

Question: When will Jesus announce that “it is accomplished/fulfilled”?  See Mt 5:17-18; Jn 19:28-30.
Answer: Just before He gives up His life on the altar of the Cross.

The word “baptism” in verse 50 means “immersion” and was a part of Old Covenant ritual purification.  When St. John baptized people in the Jordan River, he immersed them in the water as they symbolically died to their sins and then arose from the water restored and purified.

Question: How is “immersion/baptism” symbolically demonstrated in His death on the Cross?
Answer: Jesus calls His death on the Cross a “baptism” because He will fall into physical death, but He will arise victorious never to die again!

Question: What is the comparison to Christian baptism?  See Rom 6:4.
Answer: In the Sacrament of Christian baptism we are immersed in Christ’s death as we die to sin and are raised up to a new life of victorious grace.

Christ opened the fountain of Baptism to all men and women in His self-sacrificial offering on the altar of the Cross.  “The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist” and become “the sacraments of new life” in which Christians are “born from water and the Spirit” in order to be purified to become sons and daughters of God and citizens of the Kingdom of God (CCC 1225; Jn 3:3-5; 19:34).

Luke 12:54-59 ~ On recognizing the signs of the times
54 He also said to the crowds, “when you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain “and so it does; 55 and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot “and so it is.  56 You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

57 Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?  58 If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison.  59 I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

 

For the first time in His discourse, Jesus turns His attention to the crowds.  He upbraids them for their attention to insignificant things like the weather.  They know the signs in the sky that mean rain is coming or predict the coming of the hot desert winds, but they ignore the signs written in the books of the prophets that predict the coming of the Messianic Era “signs that are being preached and fulfilled by Jesus.  They should recognize these signs and realize that judgment is near but they have closed their minds and hearts to the light of the Gospel.

Question: What warning does Jesus give the people?
Answer: They need to settle their earthly affairs because divine judgment is coming and an accounting will be made in which no one will be exempt.

It is interesting that Jesus is not speaking of Gehenna where there is no release but of Sheol “usually referred to as “prison” (see 1 Pt 3:19).  The warning appears to be to those who will die between the time of His discourse and His descent to Sheol after He is placed in His tomb.  Those souls will suffer punishment for their sins but will be “released” (verse 59) when Jesus, having paid the price of their redemption on the Cross, preaches the Gospel of salvation to them (CCC 632, 634-35).

Luke 13:1-5 ~ A call to repentance
1 At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.  2 He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?  3 By no means!  I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!  4 Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them “do you thing they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?  5 By no means!  But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

There is no historical record of the two incidents mentioned in verses 1 and 4 outside of the Gospel of St. Luke.  The “Pilate” mentioned in verse 1 is Pontus Pilate the Roman governor of Samaria and Judea (26-36 AD).  That he was the cause of the massacre suggests the Galileans had come to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices at the Temple and were perhaps involved in some protest against Roman rule.  The second tragedy also took place in Jerusalem at a tower near the ritual purification pool of Siloam.(2)  However, Jesus’ teaching is clear: the personal sins of the victims were not the immediate cause of either of the tragedies (also see Jesus’ teaching in John 9:3).  Jesus asks the crowd to view such tragedies as providential invitations for continual conversion by examining one’s own life and relationship to God and responding with humble repentance for one’s own sins.  One never knows when a similar tragedy can claim one’s life.  In that case, there is no longer the opportunity to repent and make one’s life right with God before one has to face God’s divine judgment and give a final accounting for one’s sins.

Luke 13:6-9 ~ The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
6 And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard [ampelon = vineyard], and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, 7 he said to the gardener [ampelourgos = vinedresser/pruner],  For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.  So cut it down.  Why should it exhaust the soil?”  8 He said to him in reply,  Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; 9 it may bear fruit in the future.  If not you can cut it down.’” 

Jesus continues with His message on the importance of repentance in verses 1-5 with a story about God’s patience with those who have not yet given evidence of repentance (verses 3 and 8) together with a warning about the inevitability of divine judgment in His parable about the barren fig tree.The vine or fig tree was one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the prophets and represented God’s covenant people Israel.

Question: What is the symbolism in this parable?  See the appendixat the end of the lesson and the chart on the “Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets.”
Answer: In the symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets, a fruitful fig tree represents Israel in covenant unity and fidelity with God, but an unfruitful fig tree represents Israel’s covenant failure in her mission to serve God and to produce the “good fruit” of her service.

  The fig tree   God’s Old Covenant people “the Jews
  the orchard   The holy land of Israel
  The owner of the orchard   God
  The vinedresser   Jesus

The fig tree is the only fruit bearing tree named in Eden (Gen 3:7).  The fruitful fig tree was a sign of the good things promised the covenant people in the Promised Land (Dt 8:8). Proverbs 27:18 advises that the person who produces good “fruit” in his life will be blessed by God: He who tends a fig tree eats its fruit, and he who is attentive to his Master will be enriched.  And the prophet Jeremiah compared an Israel under the curse of divine judgment to a fruitless fig tree: I shall put an end to them, Yahweh declares, no more grapes on the vine, no more figs on the fig tree only withered leaves … (Jer 8:13 NJB)

In Jesus’ parable the owner of an orchard complains to his vinedresser that for three years the tree has failed to produce fruit and tells the vinedresser to cut it down.  The vinedresser urges the owner to leave it for just a little while longer so he can fertilize it in hope that it will begin producing fruit.  However, if it still failed to bear fruit, then he will cut it down (Lk 13:6-9).  A parable is a symbolic story that presents a teaching using familiar events or circumstances.  Symbolically, God is the owner of the orchard in the parable.  The orchard is the holy land God gave His covenant people and can be compared to the garden in Eden that God gave Adam and Eve, which was also an orchard (Gen 2:8-9).  The fig tree is Israel/the covenant people, and Jesus is the vinedresser who asks for a little longer to bring the tree to bear “fruit.”  You may recall that the children of Israel were not owners of the holy land but were tenants on God’s land (Lev 25:23) who could be dispossessed of the land if they were disobedient to God’s covenant and followed the ways of their pagan neighbors (Dt 8:18-20).

The reference to the three years the vinedresser has worked with the tree may refer to three as a number of importance, usually signifying some significant event in salvation history, or it may be a reference to the three years Jesus has spent calling the covenant people to bear the good fruit of repentance and to recognize Him as the promised Messiah.  They have failed to bear “good fruit” but the vinedresser (Jesus) asks the Master (God) for a little more time.

In this episode, during His final journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51), Jesus is making His last attempts to call the covenant people to repentance and for them to acknowledge Him as the promised Messiah.  If they do not bear the “fruit” of repentance and accept their mission to carry the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentiles (Is 66:18-21), it will be time to cut down the barren fig tree that is Old Covenant Israel (see Jesus curse judgment on the “fig tree” on Monday of His last week in Jerusalem in Mt 21:18-19 and Mk 11:12-14).  It will then be time for the New Covenant prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah to be established (Jer 31:31-34; Lk 22:20; Heb 10:16).(3)

Just prior to His Ascension, Jesus will command a faithful remnant of the new Israel (Apostles and disciples) to take the New Covenant Gospel message of salvation in Christ Jesus to the “ends of the earth” “to the Gentile nations of the world (Mt 28:19-20;Acts 1:8).  The Old Covenant came to a final end 40 years after Jesus’ Ascension in 70 AD when the Jews revolted against Rome and the Roman army destroyed the Jerusalem Temple.  From that time forward, the commands and ordinances of the Old Covenant for liturgical sacrifices and worship could no longer be observed.  It was only the New Covenant universal Church that continued to offer priests, altars, sacrifice, incense and the sacred meal of communion that unites the people of God.

Jesus’ teaching to the disciples and the crowd is concluded with the parable of the fruitless fig tree.  These next series of events in 13:12-21 take place on the Sabbath.

Luke 13:10-17 ~ The cure of a crippled woman
10 He was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath.  11 And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.  12 When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”  13 He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.  14 But the leader of the Synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done.  Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day.” 15 The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!  Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?  16 This daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?”  17 When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Jesus again gives His authoritative teaching on the interpretation of the Law in which mercy and compassion take precedence over a rigid interpretation that was never part of the Law.  Jesus sees a woman crippled by a demon, and in His compassion He heals her on the Sabbath.  Apparently demons can affect a person spiritually, mentally and physically, and the Bible presents affliction and disease as evidence of Satan’s hold on humanity.  Jesus’ act of mercy is condemned by the president of the Synagogue as an act that breaks the commandment to “rest” from all labor on the Sabbath.  He forbids the people to seek out healing on the Sabbath.

Question: What example does Jesus give to show that the statement of the president of the Synagogue is ridiculous?
Answer: It was the common practice to untie domesticated animals and to water them on the Sabbath.  Animals can quickly become ill if deprived of water for too long a time.  Jesus condemns men like the leader of the Synagogue as hypocrites for saying is it allowable under the Law to show mercy to animals and not to humans.

Jesus’ healing of this “daughter of Abraham” is also symbolic of His desire to heal the children of Israel who are Abraham’s descendants from the power of Satan and to restore the Jews to a healthy spiritual relationship with God.  It is only through the rebirth of the new Israel of the Church that the descendants of Abraham will become the heirs of the covenant promises God made to their ancestor (Gal 3:29).

The next two parables illustrate the promised future growth of the Kingdom of God that will result from its small beginnings.

Luke 13:18-19 ~ The Parable of the Mustard Seed
18Then he said,  What is the kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  19 It is like a mustard seed that a person took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and  the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.’”

Jesus compares the tiny mustard seed with its plant in full growth.  A mustard tree could only grow as high as 8-12 feet.

Question: What contrast is Jesus making between the mustard seed and the Kingdom He has come to establish?
Answer: The contrast is between the small beginnings of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and its future expansion when it will encompass the whole earth.

When the Kingdom has grown to spread to every corner of the earth, it will shelter all who come to dwell in the household of Jesus that is the Church (Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).  The allusion to the kingdom becoming so large that “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” is a reference to the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw a huge tree that sheltered “birds of the sky” and other animals (Dan 4:7).  Daniel interpreted the tree and the animals to represent Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and the many different peoples over whom he ruled.  The comparison is that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be even greater than the Kingdom of the Babylonians (also see Dan 9:17-19).

Luke 13:20-21 ~ The Parable of the Yeast
20 Again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  21 It is like yeast [leaven] that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”

This is one of the two times Jesus uses leaven as a positive symbol.  In Luke 12:1 He used it as a negative image as leaven is often used in Scripture to represent sin (i.e., Ex 12:15, 19; 13:7; Mt 16:6; 1 Cor 5:6-8).  As mentioned previously, leaven is a fermenting agent that, when mixed with flour into a dough, causes the dough to rise and expand. 

Question: What is the comparison Jesus is making in the parable?
Answer: Just as a little bit of leaven can cause an amount to dough to expand to a much greater size, so will the teaching of the Gospel of salvation cause the kingdom to expand from its small beginning to become much greater in size.

… with three measures of wheat flour
Three is always a significant number in Scripture, symbolizing perfection, completeness, and often an important event in salvation history.  Three measures of wheat flour is a huge amount of flour and could produce enough bread to feed over a hundred people (Jeremias, Parables of Jesus, page 147).  This parable, like the Parable of the Mustard Seed, illustrates the same point “the promised amazing growth of the Kingdom from its small beginnings.

This is the beginning of part two of St. Luke’s travel account of Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem (Lk 13:22-17:10).

Luke 13:22-30 ~ Jesus’ teaching on following the narrow gate/door
22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying,  Lord, open the door for us.’  He will say to you in reply,  I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say,  We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you,  I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

From the beginning of God’s relationship with man, through the gift of free will, man has always had the choice between two paths or two gates/doors: to travel the way of obedience to God or to go one’s own way.  Moses spoke of the two ways in his last homily to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 in choosing the path of life in obedience to the commandments of the Lord or the path that leads to death, and the Psalmist wrote: The LORD watches over the Way of the Just, but the Way of the wicked leads to ruin (Ps 1:6).  In fact, in the early Church, before the name “Christian” was applied to believers at the Church of Antioch in Syria, the followers of Jesus were referred to as the followers of “The Way” (Acts 9:2) and the same name was applied to Christians in the Church’s early Catechism, called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, also known as theDidache (see articles 1-6).

In this teaching there are 2 definite, inescapable choices each of us must make.  The choice between:

  • To enter the narrow door or the wide door : The narrow door/gate is only for the spiritually strong to enter, and the unnamed choice is the wider and evidently most often used door.
  • Two destinations: Eternal damnation or eternal life.

Question: Who or what is the narrow gate/door/way?  See John 10:7-9 and John 14:6.
Answer: Jesus the Messiah.

Question: How “narrow” is the way that leads to the narrow, less entered door or way?  See Mt 19:24; Mk 10:25; Lk 18:25 and Jn 14:6.  What does Jesus tell us about this narrow door in Luke 13:24?
Answer: For some of us it can be as narrow as the eye of a needle!  In Luke 13:24 Jesus says: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  We cannot force our way into heaven for Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).

Question: What contrast is Jesus making in this passage?  How does free will enter into our decision?  What is the inescapable choice each of us must make?
Answer: Everyone must choose between two gates/doors in life; the choice is entirely ours.  The wide path is the way of sin.  It seems appealing at first and calls for no standard of conduct.  It is the easier, and therefore the more traveled path, but it leads to eternal punishment.  The other choice is the narrow gate/door and a less traveled, harder path that requires spiritual strength, but this path leads to eternal salvation.

Question: What makes the narrow gate/door only for the “strong” in verse 24?  What is the faithful Christian carrying across the threshold of the narrow door that requires strength?  See Mt 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34; 10:21;Lk 9:23 and 14:27.
Answer: He carries the Cross of Jesus of Nazareth.

Question: What is it that the righteous Christian must leave behind before passing through the narrow door?  What is it that won’t need or won’t be helpful in crossing the threshold of the narrow door?
Answer: To cross the threshold of the narrow door, it is necessary to divest oneself of all unessential baggage.  In this case divest yourself of materialism, pride, self-centeredness and hypocrisy.

Luke 13:25-27 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying,  Lord, open the door for us.’ [..]  27 Then he will say to you,  I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you evildoers!’

Question: What Old Testament event in which a closed and locked door led to divine judgment for those outside the door is recalled in this passage?  Hint: see Gen 7:1, 4-5
Answer: The Great Flood judgment.  The people of Noah’s time heard from Noah about the coming flood and had all that time when the Ark was being built until the door was closed to repent.  By the time the door was closed and locked, it was too late when the floor waters began to rise.

Question: How can the fate of those left outside the Ark in the Flood Judgment be compared to Jesus’ warning?
Answer: Now is the time to repent and accept Jesus’ invitation to enter the Kingdom, because the time will come when it will be too late to accept His Gospel message of salvation and pass through the narrow door, just as those who failed to believe in the time of Noah were doomed to judgment instead of grasping the gift of salvation.

Luke 13:29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  In this verse Jesus alludes to His rejection by many of the Jews and the invitation of salvation to the Gentiles who will replace them at the banquet table in the Kingdom of God.

Question: To “recline at table in the kingdom of God” suggests what banquet that the faithful will enjoy in the Kingdom?
Answer: The banquet of the Holy Eucharist in the Kingdom of heaven on earth (the Church) and at the end of the age at the heavenly banquet of the saints.

Luke 13:30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Question: Who are the last who will replace those who were first?
Answer: The Gentiles, those called last, will precede those to whom the invitation to salvation was first extended, the Jews.

Luke 13:31-33 ~ Herod’s animosity
31 t that time some Pharisees came to him and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”  32 He replied,  Go and tell that fox,  Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.  33 Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside Jerusalem.’

Question: What two territories did Herod Antipas control?
Answer: The Galilee in the north and Perea on the east side of the Jordan River.

Apparently Jesus is now teaching on the east side of the Jordan River in the territory of Perea.  The Gospel of John records that Jesus attended the Jewish national feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in the winter of the last year of His ministry (Jn 10:22).  After the festival, He crossed over into Perea (Jn 10:40).  He returning to the western side of the river (to Bethany in Judea) to raise Lazarus from the dead (Jn chapter 11), and then He withdrew to a region near the Judean desert, a town called Ephraim, and remained there until the time of Passover in the early spring (11:54).

Not all the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus.  Nicodemus is among those who came to believe Jesus was the Messiah (Jn 3:1; Acts 15:5).  Some Pharisees may have warned Jesus that Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist, was a threat to Jesus’ life, but Jesus’ reference to Herod as the “fox” suggests that Herod sent the Pharisees to persuade Jesus to leave his territory.

In the message Jesus tells the Pharisees to give Herod Antipas, He indicates that His mission will be over soon but not yet.  Jesus speaks of the “third day” and a three day period in verses 32 and 33.  This is a reference that probably signifies a short period of time before Jesus’ mission is completed, but it can also refer to the significant three days that will mark His Passion and the victorious climax of His mission in the city where God’s prophets are destined to die.

Luke 13:34-35 ~ Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem
34 Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times have I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!  35 Behold, your house will be abandoned.  But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say,  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Jesus is speaking of God’s relationship to the holy city in which He dwells as the God of Israel.  Jesus speaks tenderly of how He has longed for Jerusalem’s repentance and restored communion with Him but the city has resisted.  The image of a mother hen gathering her young under her wings is reminiscing of those passages that refer to God in Psalms 36:8/7 (also see Dt 32:11; Ruth 2:12; Ps 57:2/1 and 61:5/4).

Question: What “house” in the “holy city” will be abandoned?
Answer: Jesus prophesies that God’s house, the Jerusalem Temple, will no longer be the dwelling place of God among His people.

Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and never rebuilt.(4))

Luke 13:35b But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say,  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
In verse 35b Jesus quotes verse 26 from Psalms 118; a psalm that will be sung in the Temple at the festival of Passover:
19 Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the LORD.  20 This is the LORD’s own gate, where the victors enter. 21 I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior.  22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  23 By the LORD has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.  24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.  25 LORD, grant salvation! [Hosanna!] LORD, grant good fortune!  26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  We bless you from the LORD’s house. 27 The LORD is God and has given us light.  Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar (Psalm 11*:19-27, underlining added)

Question: How is this psalms fulfilled in Jesus?  See Mt 21:9, 42-43; Jn 4:42; 8:12; Acts 4:10-12; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pt 2:7; 2 Pt 1:1.
Answer: He is the “stone” the builders (Jews) rejected but He became the “cornerstone” of the new Temple of the New Covenant Church which is the Body of Christ.  He was victorious in His mission “He is the “Light” of the world and the Savior of mankind.  The verse Jesus’ quoted will be shouted by the crowd when they see Jesus ride through the gate into the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

From the earliest years of the Church, Christians have spoken of the Eucharist as the Parousia (“coming”) of Christ.  Jesus speaks of His Parousia, His “coming” to His people inLuke 13:35.  There is a conditional sense to this verse.

Question: Who are the “blessed” in our time that “see” Jesus when they hear verse 26 from Psalms 118?  Notice that verses 26-27 in Psalms 118 have a liturgical context: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.  We bless you from the LORD’s house.  The LORD is God and has given us light.  Join in procession with leafy branches up to the horns of the altar (underlining added)In what liturgical context have you heard this verse?
Answer: In the celebration of Catholic Mass in the Lord’s “house” that is the church, the faithful speak these same words prior to the Eucharistic procession to the altar.  Then, the blessed “see”/perceive Christ who has “come” to us in the Eucharist and who is present among His people.

Question: What warning does St. Paul give in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 concerning receiving the Eucharist?
Answer: One must not receive the Eucharist unless:

  1. One is free of sin and in a state of grace (11:27-28).
  2. One believes (discerns) the consecrated bread and wine truly have become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Those who do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and receive without believing are bringing divine judgment upon themselves in their unbelief (11:29).

Endnotes:

1.  The word Gehenna is derived from the Hebrew ge-hinnom, which means “valley of Hinnom,” also known in the Old Testament as “the valley of the son(s) of Hinnom.”  The valley is located west and south of the city of Jerusalem and once formed the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (Josh 15:8; 18:16; Neh 11:30).  During the era of the divided kingdom it became an infamous site where some of the kings of Judah practiced child sacrifice (2 Chr 28:3; 33:6; Jer 7:31; 32:35).  The prophet Jeremiah cursed the site and spoke of it in terms of impending judgment and destruction (Jer 7:32; 19:6).  During Jesus’ time it was where trash was continually burned and therefore gave a good visual image of judgment and fiery destruction.  It is the only term Jesus uses to refer to the Hell of the damned (i.e. Mt 5:22, 29-30; 13:42, 50; 23:33; 25:41; Mk 9:43, 45; Lk 12:5).

2.  The foundation of a round tower that was constructed circa the 2nd century BC has been discovered near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.  It is believed to be the tower Jesus mentioned.

3.  It is interesting in the Isaiah 66:19 passage that it will be Gentile converts (the “fugitives” elsewhere translated as “survivors”) who will carry the message of God’s salvation to the Gentile nations (also see Is 45:20-25) in the most distant parts of the world.  This prophecy was meant for Israel but was fulfilled by the new Israel of the universal Church founded by Christ.  Jesus’ servants, the New Covenant priests and deacons (Is 66:21) who were the first Jewish-Christians and the generations of Christians to follow who were, like St. Luke, Gentile-Christian converts, proclaimed God’s glory among the nations of the world, calling all men and women to salvation (Is 66:19-23; Mt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

4.  Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans on the 9th of Ab in 70 AD.  It was the same day that the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 587/6 BC.  Like the Babylonian conquest, many Jews were either killed or sold into slavery and exiled into the Gentile nations “the same Gentile nations to whom the Gospel of salvation was carried by Jesus’ Apostles and disciples.

Appendix:

THE SYMBOLIC IMAGES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS

The reoccurring images of the Old Testament prophets are marriage, domesticated animals, the vine or fig tree, and drinking wine.  Each of the symbolic image groups consist of four parts that reflect God’s relationship (for good or bad) with His covenant people:

  • Part I: Yahweh and his people enter into a Covenant relationship.  Yahweh will bind this people to Himself in the blessings of security and prosperity in return for obedience to the laws of the Sinai Covenant.
  • Part II: Israel, the Covenant people ignore the Laws of the Covenant; they rebel by going their own way.
  • Part III: God sends His holy prophet to call His people back to Him.  Failing in this mission the prophet calls down a Covenant Lawsuit which results in Covenant curses “punishment meant to bring about repentance and restoration.
  • Part IV: In response to repentance, Yahweh reaches out to restore and to take His people back into the Covenant relationship they had first enjoyed.

It is significant that restoration is only promised in the writings of the Old Testament prophets.  The restoration in Part IV does not take place until the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and is accomplished by His self-sacrificial death and victorious Resurrection.

Marriage:
Part 1: God takes Israel/the Church as His bride.
Part II: God’s bride chases after other “lovers” “false gods “and becomes an adulteress.
Part III: God’s wayward bride is punished “she is abandoned by her lovers.
Part IV: God takes back His repentant bride.
Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church of the New Covenant His Bride (Mt 9:15; 25:1, 5, 6, 10; Mk 2:19-20; Lk 5:34; -35; Jn 3:19, 29, Rev 19:5-9).

Domesticated animals:
Part I: Israel is like domesticated oxen that are obedient to the Master’s yoke, or the sheep of His flock that obediently follow their Shepherd.
Part II:  Israel becomes disobedient like oxen that refuse to bend to the yoke or sheep that stray from the fold.
Part III: God’s flock is ravaged by wild animals “the Gentile nations.
Part IV: God’s flock returns to the Master and He takes them back.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who rescues His flock (Mt 11:29-30; 26:31 Jesus quotes Zec 13:7; Jn 10:1-16;Heb 13:20; 1 Pt 2:25; 5:4).

The vine or fig tree:
Part I: Israel flourishes like a well-tended vine or fig tree, bearing much fruit.
Part II: Weeds begin to grow in the vineyard, the vines bear wild grapes and the tree fails to produce good fruit.
Part III: The vineyard/fig tree is diseased and rotting.
Part IV: The Master Gardener restores the vineyard/fig tree that begins to bear good fruit again.
Jesus is the True Vine and the Cross is His sacrifice becomes the New Covenant sign of the fruitful Tree of Life that promises eternal life (Jn 15:1-5; Mt 16:24; 1 Cor 1:17-18; Eph 2:16; Col 1:19-20; Rev 22:1-5).

Drinking wine:
Part I: God provides the wine of the covenant for Israel.
Part II: Israel abuses her blessings of the wine.
Part III: Israel grows drunk on the wine of her covenant and the wine becomes a curse.
Part IV: God restores to Israel the best of the new wine in a new covenant.
Jesus provides the new wine of the new and eternal covenant “His blood in the Eucharist (Mt 26:27-28; Mk 14:23-24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25-26).
(Also see the chart “The Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets” in the Chart section and the short study on reoccurring prophetic images of the Old Testament Prophets).

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 9

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 9

10. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 9: Chapter 11
The Journey to Jerusalem Continues

Lord God,
Your Son taught us how to pray, but we do not pray as often as we should.  We know that prayer is our spiritual life line that connects us to the divine, strengthening our relationship with You and helping us to live in the image of Christ.  Help us to recall, as Jesus’ example of prayer teaches, that our prayers should begin with expressing our love for You as our divine Father and the recommitment and submission of our lives to Your sovereignty before progressing to petitions of mercy for ourselves and for others.  Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that identifies our unique relationship as the children of our Lord and divine Father.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

Chapter 11: Jesus Teaches about Prayer and the Continued Hostility of the Pharisees and Scribes

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

This chapter can be divided into three parts:

  1. Jesus teachings on the Christian’s attitude to God in     prayer (11:1-13)
  2. Jesus’ teachings on Satan and unclean spirits (11:14-26)
  3. Jesus’ teaching on true blessedness and the failure of the     Pharisees and Scribes (11:37-54)

Jesus offered a public prayer to the Father in Luke 10:21-22, expressing His joy over the success of the first missionary journey of His disciples.  In chapter 11 the disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray just as St. John taught his disciples (11:1-4).  It was common for the disciples of Rabbis to have a communal prayer to unite them.  Jesus will give three teachings in this chapter defining the Christian’s attitude toward God in prayer:

  • The Lord’s prayer (Lk 11:1-4)
  • Persistency in prayer (Lk 11:5-8)
  • Sayings on the efficacy of prayer and the gift of the Holy     Spirit to those who call on God in prayer (Lk 11:9-13)

Luke 11:1-4 ~ The Lord’s Prayer
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”  2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  3Give us each day our daily bread 4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

Jesus probably taught the people how to pray many times during His ministry.  We have two renderings of how to pray in the Gospels: inLuke 11:1-4 and in Matthew 6:9-15 (see the study on the Gospel of Matthew Lessons 10-11).  The longer version of this prayer in the Gospel of Matthew has an invocation and seven petitions while this version has an invocation and five petitions.

Question: There are 3 versions of the Lord’s Prayer in Scripture and in antiquity.  The short version is in the Gospel of Luke 11:1-4, a longer version is in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13, and a third version is found in the Church’s first catechetical instruction known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” also known as the “Didache” (c. 50/120 AD; Greek word for instruction/teaching).  Which version is prayed in the Catholic Mass and in most Protestant Churches?
Answer: The version from the Didache that contains a doxology (see Didache 8.2).

The invocation is a single word in verse 2 “”Father.”

Question: In the invocation, to who does the word “Father” refer?
Answer: “Father” refers to the one, holy and eternal God “the God of Adam, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel “”our” God and Father.

Question: In teaching us to pray, Jesus encourages us to humbly address God as “Father.”  What does this intimate address suggest?  See CCC 2786-87.
Answer: This intimate address indicates an entirely new relationship with God based on the gift of a new and eternal covenant in His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

The first words of the prayer teach us that we should express our adoration before we express our supplication.  It is by the grace of God that we can recognize Him as “Father.”  This recognition is a gift and we should give Him thanks and praise for having revealed the intimacy of His name as “Father.”

Question: In what three ways are we blessed to address God as “Father” that we should give thanks?
Answer:

  1. We give thanks to God for     having revealed His name to us.
  2. We give thanks for the gift of     believing in His divine Fatherhood.
  3. We give thanks for the indwelling of His divine Presence     in us that makes us His children.

St. Paul wrote: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.  As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Gal 4:4-7).  We adore the Father because, through the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, He has caused us to be reborn into His life by adopting us as His children, and He has incorporated us into the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ (CCC 2782).

Question: How have we been adopted into the family of God?  Does the free gift of our adoption that gives us the right to call God “Father” require any continual action on our part?  What is that action?  See CCC 2782-84.
Answer:

  1. We have been created in His image but we are restored to     His likeness by the grace imparted to us by the Holy Spirit through our     Christian baptism (Jn 3:3-5).
  2. Therefore, we must respond to His grace by continual conversion     in living our new “life in the Spirit.”
  3. As children in the family of God, we must continue to     behave as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father by showing mercy to     others as He has shown mercy to us and by dying to self in order to live     in Christ.

That Jesus should directly address God as “Father” was shocking to 1st century AD Jews.  Sacred Scripture called angels, Davidic kings, prophets and the children of Israel collectively as “sons of God,” but never had anyone dared to address Yahweh publically as “Father.”  For the 1st century Jewish authorities, this was blasphemy, an accusation leveled against Jesus and one of the reasons His enemies sought to kill Him:  But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”  For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God (Jn 5:17-18).  Tertullian, the 3rd century Roman jurist who surrendered his life to Christ to become a priest and Christian apologist, wrote that before Jesus … the expression  God the Father’ had never been revealed to anyone.  When Moses himself asked God who He was, he heard another name.  The Father’s name has been revealed to us in the Son, for the name  Son’ implies the new name  Father.’

Question: When did God become God the Father?  Was it in the Incarnation of the Son?  Hint: what is the second line of the Nicene Creed?
Answer: No.God the Father did not become “Father” only after the Incarnation of the Son.  He has been “Father” for all eternity because the Most Holy Trinity has always lived in perfect communion through all eternity “Three in One ” God the Father with His Son and united with the Holy Spirit.  It is what we profess in the creed: I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father …

It is not God who has changed, but through our baptism we have changed and as a result our relationship with God has changed.  God is Father to Jesus, and it is Jesus who shares His divine Sonship with us.  It is through Jesus that we are made “sons in the Son” through our baptism and become partakers of the divine nature, no longer to be called the sons and daughters of Adam but the sons and daughters of God.  St Peter wrote: Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.  And St. Cyprian wrote, The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, “Father!” because he has now begun to be a son (2 Pt 1:4; also see CCC 2782).

God the Father is Father because He has eternally “fathered” the Son.  He was a “father” before there were human fathers.  St. Ephraim noted that earthly men are called fathers, but He is the true Father.  He also wrote of the earthly relationship of “fathers” and their “sons”: The terms father’ and  son’ by which they have been called are borrowed names that through grace have taught us that there is a Single True Father and that He has a Single True Son.”

Question: Why is God “our Father”?
Answer: God is our Father because He has gathered us together in one family in Christ ” established in a universal human family in the Catholic [catholic means universal] Church.  It is our shared sonship with Jesus which gives us the right to address God as “Father” because through the Son we are indeed His children.

The words of the invocation express this unique relationship which we can only claim through the Son.  Before we make this first exclamation we must repent our sins, cleanse our hearts and with humility recognize that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him (Lk 10:22).  Each of us becomes the  little child’ that Jesus spoke of inMatthew 18:3-5: Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. Before repeating the prayer Jesus taught us we must step forward in the humility of childlike faith to address God as “Father.”

Question: What are the five petitions in Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer?
Answer:

  1. “may your name be held holy”
  2. “may your kingdom come”
  3. “give us each day our daily bread”
  4. “forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in     debt to us”
  5. “do not subject us to the final test”

hallowed be your name … The first petition is that God’s name be held holy or sanctified.  The Old Testament instructs the faithful: You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses His name (Ex 20:7 NJB; also see Dt 5:11); and You will not swear by my name with intent to deceive and thus profane the name of your God.  I am Yahweh (Lev 19:12 NJB).

The Greek word for hallowed or holy is hagiastheto.  It is the aorist passive imperative of hagiazo, the verb meaning “sanctify.”  So this prayer literally reads: Let Your name be sanctified.  It is significant that this is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  This petition is the primary petition of all petitions.  We should first pray that God’s holy name will be sanctified everywhere “on earth, in the heavens, throughout creation in both time and space.  But we also need to make it personal and relevant.  Our cry should be: “Let Your name be sanctified in mylife today, Father!”

The Greek word onoma (name) corresponds to the Hebrew word shem.  In common use today a “name” is simply a label to differentiate one person from another.  However, in the Bible and in other cultures in ancient times and in some other cultures today, the “name” of a person encompassed everything that the named individual represented “his entire character and personality, including his work, power, authority and moral essence or reputation. This petition for the sanctification of God’s “holy name” can be expressed in two ways:

  1. We sanctify His holy name by His command to us to live     holy lives, through obedience to His will (Lev 11:44-45; Mt 5:48), and by     our offering of reverence and praise.  If our lives are not holy, we     desecrate that sacred family name by which we are called.  We remind     ourselves that we are called by our Father’s most holy name every time we     make the sign of the cross: In the Name of God the Father, the Son, and     the Holy Spirit.  His Name is our name because He is our Father.
  2. But also included is this petition is that God make holy     His own name by manifesting His power and glory in our lives and in the lives     of all members of the family of man by establishing the fullness of His     Kingdom.

It was mentioned above that for ancient peoples one’s “name” encompassed everything there was to know about a person: what that person stood for and what that person believed.  Jesus’ name in Hebrew, Yahshua (ancient Hebrew) or Yehoshua (in Jesus’ time) means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.”

Question: What is the promise of Jesus’ “name” in Acts 4:12?Also see CCC 432.
Answer: The “name” of Jesus signifies the very “name” of God who is united with and present in the person of the Son.  Belief in the “name,” meaning the whole of Jesus Christ “everything He taught and everything He did “is the only path to salvation: Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.

Question:  What is the promise in Romans 10:12-13?  What does “calling on the name” mean in this passage?
Answer: The same Lord is the Lord of all, and His generosity is offered to all who appeal to Him, for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  “Calling on the name” means all those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior by accepting everything Jesus taught and believing in everything that He did for man’s salvation will be saved.

The second petition is … your kingdom come.  This petition requests that the Father’s kingdom be manifested in our lives and among mankind.

Question:  What is the kingdom of God in this petition?  See Ps 103:9; Dan 7:27; Lk 4:43 to help you with your answer.
Answer: One aspect of God’s kingdom is heaven, as expressed in the verse in the Psalms, but the kingdom of God is also linked to the “good news” which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Lk 4:43).  It is His “good news” that announces the establishment Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven on earth “the universal Catholic Church that is an everlasting kingdom of the holy people of the Most High God (Dan 7:27).

The Kingdom of God is so identified with the life and work of Jesus Christ that the Gospel or “good news” of the Kingdom of God promised in Isaiah 40:9-11 is in the New Testament referred to as the “Gospel of Jesus Christ”: Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings [good news]; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his block; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.  It is St. John the Baptist who first links this Isaiah passage to the coming of the Messiah and God’s Kingdom in Luke 3:4-6 when he claimed to be the “prophetic voice” of Isaiah 40:3-5.

The kingdom of God has a present as well as a future reality.  That present and future reality is expressed in Jesus’ Beatitudes teaching found in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-12.  That teaching begins and ends with a present tense verb in the promise of the Kingdom while all other blessings and promises were expressed in the simple future tense (see the study on the Beatitudes or Matthew Lessons 5-9).  The coming of the Kingdom of God is the realization of God’s plan of salvation in the world.  The Kingdom establishes itself in the core of our being, raising us up to share in God’s own inner life. This elevation has two stages:

  • The 1st stage is in the present, living the     sacraments of our faith in the kingdom established by Christ on earth that     is His Church governed by His Vicar the Pope (as promised in Dan 7:27).
  • The 2nd definitive stage is in eternal life,     where our elevation to the supernatural level is fully completed when we     experience union with the Most Holy Trinity in the heavenly Kingdom.

For our part we need to respond to God with humility, love, trust, and obedience and service to His Church.  It is the Church (the Kingdom of Heaven on earth) that is His vehicle to help advance the faithful to that state of grace that will make entrance into the heavenly kingdom possible.

Luke 11:3 Give us each day [orthis day] our daily bread… is the third petition.

This is the turning point in the prayer.  The first two petitions were addressed God: “hollowed be yourname”; “your Kingdom come…”

Question: What is the subject of the next 3 petitions?
Answer: The second series of petitions concern us: “give us,” “forgive us,” and “do not subject us”.

In the third petition, the Greek word, which in most Bibles is translated as “daily,” is the Greek word epiousios. This word is a grammatical anomaly and the derivation and meaning of epiousios is one of the great unresolved puzzles of New Testament lexicography.(1)  In Scripture the word epiousios is only found here in Luke 11:3 and in Matthew’s rendering of the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:11.  This Greek word does not occur anywhere else in Greek literature except in Christian documents related to this prayer or the subject of the Holy Eucharist.  The word is so unique that it was unknown in other literature even in the times of the early Church Fathers.  Origen of Alexandria, considered by Christian historians to be one the greatest biblical scholars of antiquity, suggested that epiousios is a word invented by Matthew and adopted by Luke since there was no Greek word in existence that would adequately described the supernatural character of the “heavenly bread” (Origen, De orat. 27.7).  Nor does there seem to be any link in the Hebrew of the Exodus passages referring to the manna from heaven: lehem minhassamayim = “bread rain down from heaven for you” or debar yom beyomo = “a daily portion” or the Aramaic translation pitgam yom beyomeh.

Scholars have proposed 4 different meanings for the word epiousios:

  1. daily
  2. necessary for existence
  3. for the following day
  4. for the future.

St. Jerome’s definition was “super-substantial” or “necessary for existence.”  In any case, from the times of the Fathers of the Church this word has always been taught as a reference to the Holy Eucharist:

  • The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven,     to ask for the bread of heaven.  [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown     in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in     the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the     faithful daily with food from heaven (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo     67).
  • The Eucharist is our daily bread.  The power belonging     to this divine food makes it a bond of union.  Its effect is then     understood as unity, so that, gathered into his Body and made members of     him, we may become what we receive….This also is our daily bread: the     readings you hear each day in church and the hymns you hear and sing.  All     these are necessities for our pilgrimage (St. Augustine, Sermo 57).

Question:  What miracle in the Exodus liberation prefigures the first promise of our super-substantial bread?  Quote the passage from the Book of Exodus, chapter 16.
Answer: In the miracle of the manna from heaven: Yahweh then said to Moses,  Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens.  Each day the people must go out and collect their ration for the day… (Ex 16:4, NJB).

Question: Where in the New Testament does Jesus promise “bread from heaven”?  See John chapter 6:28-59 and quote a significant verse.
Answer: So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-35).

Question: When does Jesus fulfill this promise?  What is the symbolic link to the manna?
Answer: It is fulfilled at the Last Supper in Jesus’ statement, “This is my Body…” and it is fulfilled at every Mass when the priest stands in the person of Christ (Persona Christi) and says the words of consecration which begins the transformation by God the Holy Spirit of our gifts of bread and wine into the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Savior, Jesus!  This is our heavenly bread that our heavenly Father provides to nourish us on our spiritual journey to the promised land of heaven, just as He gave manna to the Children of Israel on their physical journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Do we interpret this petition as the daily nourishment that we need to survive physically or spiritually?  The Church Fathers do acknowledge that all bread, heavenly and materially, does indeed come from God, and we do provide in cooperation with God’s creation the bread that is supernaturally transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.  However, the Fathers warn this interpretation of bread for our physical nourishment must also include the acknowledgement that this petition also refers to the heavenly bread that is Christ our Savior.  In sacred Scripture, “table bread” is always an anticipation of the heavenly banquet (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19; Lk 24:30-31).  Every meal over which Jesus presided in the New Testament had deep eschatological significance “every meal was a salvation meal which looked forward to the “final feast.”  The material bread that God provides for us daily on our own tables symbolizes and foreshadows the heavenly reality that we see in the Real Presence of Christ in the holy Eucharist which is the visible reality of a heavenly promise when we are called bodily to the heavenly Communion of Saints.

The next petition is forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us…”  Jesus makes forgiveness the cornerstone of one’s relationship with God.  In God’s mercy He has forgiven us our sins and therefore we must show the same mercy to those who have wronged us and seeks our mercy.

This petition also refers to:

  1. Our continual repentance and conversion as we seek forgiveness for our sins on our journey toward salvation.
  2. Our plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness when we face our Individual (or particular) Judgment after physical death (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:37; CCC 2846-49).

The Greek word opheilema, which can be translated “trespass” or “debt,” is found in Matthew 6:12 (plural) and in Romans 4:4 (singular) in the New Testament.  However, St. Luke uses a form of this word meaning “indebted” in 11:4.  The transliteration of this Greek word is “what is due” or “an obligation, a debt owed.”  But here it clearly has a moral connotation, meaning “the debt of sin.” This interpretation is supported by Luke’s use the Greek word hamartias which means sins in the sense of “missing the (moral) mark.”  Jesus was probably speaking in Aramaic, the common tongue of the region, and in Aramaic the word hobha means debt or sin.  In the Old as well as in New Testament times, sin was conceived of in terms of a debt owed to God.  Since for his Greek readers Luke translated the Aramaic word into the Greek word hamartias, meaning “sins,” we should obviously understand it in that sense.

According to the Law, the only way in which a “debt of sin” can be paid is with the blood of an unblemished victim (Heb 9:22).  In the Old Testament animal sacrifice was the temporary remedy for sin.  The animal died in place of the sinner whose confessed sins were forgiven (i.e. Lev 4:27-31; 5:17-19; Lev 17:11-12; etc.).  Jesus was the perfect, unblemished sacrificial victim for the forgiveness of the sins of man:

  • John 1:29 ~ The next day he (John the Baptist)     saw Jesus coming toward him and said,  Behold, the lamb of God who takes     away the sin of the world.
  • Hebrews 9:22, 26b ~ According to the law almost     everything is purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood there     is no forgiveness…But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the     ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.
  • Revelations 1:5 ~ …and from Jesus Christ, the     faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the     earth.  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…
  • Acts 3:19 ~ Now you must repent and turn to God, so     that your sins may be wiped out.

In the ceremonial ritual of the Passover meal, after drinking from the communal 4th cup that closed the meal, it is interesting that the last words the host spoke before dismissing the participants were “It is finished” or “It is fulfilled,” referring to the fulfillment of the covenant obligation to eat the Passover sacrifice in a sacred meal.  These were the same words (recorded in the Gospel of John as teltelestai in Greek) that Jesus cried out on the cross before He gave up His spirit (Jn 19:30).  In the time that Jesus lived, the word teltelestai was also an accounting term that was announced or written across a ledger when a debt was paid.  Jesus paid our debt of sin when He gave up His life on the Cross and fulfilled all the commands of the Old Covenant Law.

Question:  What is the penalty that we pay for sin in our lives?  How can that penalty be removed?  See Rom 6:3-9; 6:22-23; Phil 3:10-11; CCC 1006.
Answer: Since Adam and Eve’s fall from grace through sin death has reigned over man’s life ever since and has been measured by the passing of time in the limit placed on life by death.  But, Christ has claimed victory over sin and death and has shared that victory with those who believe in Him.  All those who die in Christ’s grace become participants in the death of the Savior with the promise that they can also share in His Resurrection and live eternally in defiance of “time” in the heavenly Kingdom.

The 4th petition in St. Luke’s rendering of the way Jesus taught His disciples to pray is: “and do not subject us to the final test.”  Other translations read: “Lead us not into temptation,” but this is in fact a poor translation.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the better understanding of this phrase in CCC 2846-49 and notes that the original Greek in both Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:5 can mean either: “Do not let us yield to temptation” or “do not allow us to enter into temptation,” as it is translated in most other languages.  The Catechism explains: This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation… God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil.  We ask him not to allow us to take the way that heads to sin… (CCC 2846).

In this petition we recognize that human efforts alone are not enough to help us cope with temptation.  We must turn to God to get the strength we need.  St John of Avila wrote: God is strong enough to free you from everything and can do you more good than all the devils can do you harm (Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent).

The “final test” can mean:

  1. The final temptation to sin just prior to one’s death     before one has the opportunity to repent.
  2. The final period of tribulation prior to the return of the     Messiah.
  3. The Last Judgment at the end of the Age (CCC 1038-41).

Question: But all the same, should we expect trials?  Does God send us into evil to test us?  See Sir 15:11-20; Mt 5:10-12; Jam 1:12-15 and CCC 1264, 1426, 2515.
Answer: Yes, we should expect trials because of the evil that is in the world.  No, God does not tempt us with evil.  God wants only what is good for us.  It is our own concupiscence “our human tendency to be attracted to sin “that entices us to sin.

Question:  If God does not tempt us, then why do we even pray And do not subject us to the final test or as this petition is badly translated, And lead us not into temptation; but in a better translation,And let us not be led into temptation.  See Wis 3:1-9 and Ps 37:23-24and quote a passage that is an encouragement in the face of temptation.
Answer: God would never tempt us to do evil, but He will allow Satan to tempt us and when we rise above that temptation we are strengthened and purified by the experience: But the souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them.  [...]. God was putting them to the test and has proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace… Wisdom 3:1a, 5.

Question:  Temptation is part of this world and we must face it every day, but what promise does God make us as we face temptation and trial?  Read 1 Cor 10:13 for your answer.
Answer: It is God’s solemn promise that He will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

The Catechism explains that rejecting the temptation to sin is part of our growth toward spiritual maturity (CCC 2847).  We must discern between being tempted and consenting to that temptation by our action.  We must guard ourselves against temptation in two ways:

  1. By recognizing the sin and willfully turning away from the     temptation to sin.
  2. By refusing to be a source of temptation to others.

St. James, first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem and kinsman of Jesus wrote: Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.  No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.  Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death (Jam 1:12-15).  And St. John of Avila also wrote: Lean upon Him, because if the Lord is not your support and your strength, then you will fall and you will be afraid of everything (Sermons, 9, First Sunday of Lent).

We must turn to God to get the strength we need to resist the temptation to sin, and through the work of the Holy Spirit to fight the battle against sin in order to live the victory of a holy life.  Such a battle and such a victory are only possible if we remain vigilant, if we remain obedient, and if we are strengthened through prayer and the sacraments Jesus gave to His Church.  Our petition is really that God will give us the grace to discern what is evil and the strength to resist the temptation to do what is evil. When we pray this petition it is also good to follow Jesus’ example when He was tested by Satan “He quoted Sacred Scripture.  We should recall the words of the words of Sacred Scripture that promise us victory if we persevere in faith.  Take courage when you are tested and remember: The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Ps 37:323-24), and St. Paul’s words of encouragement: I can do all things in him who strengthens m (Phil 4:13)

Luke 11:5-8 ~ The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor
5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ 7 and he says in reply from within,  Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed.  I cannot get up to give you anything.’  8 I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

This is Jesus second teaching on how to pray and the Christian’s attitude toward prayer (the first was the Our Father).  This time He presents a parable that emphasizes the importance of being persistent in prayer.  Jesus offers three parables on the power of prayer in the Gospel of St. Luke:

  1. The Parable of the Persistent Neighbor (Lk 11:5-13)
  2. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Lk 18:1-8)
  3. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14)

See CCC 2613.

Question: What comparison is Jesus making and what is His teaching point?
Answer: A neighbor who is relentless in his request to borrow some food and the friend who fulfills his request to get rid of him is compared to the person who is persistent in petitioning God for an answer to prayer.  The point is that our persistence and urgency in prayer will get results.  It doesn’t change God’s intensions toward us; instead our persistence changes us to recognize God’s work in us and His will for our lives.

Luke 11:9-13 ~ Effective prayer
9 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who asks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?  12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?  13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Addressing the effectiveness of prayer to the Father, Jesus does not put any restrictions on prayer.  St. Jerome commenting on this passage notes: It is written, to everyone who asks it will be given; so, if it is not given to you, it is not given to you because you do not ask; so, ask and you will receive (Jerome, Commentary of Matthew, 7).

Question: Even though prayer is infallible, we are not infallible.  If Jesus says prayer is as easy as asking and “it will be given to you,” why is it that sometimes God’s answer to our prayers is “no” or “be patient” which is often wrongly interpreted as the absence of an answer?
Answer: Our petition may be delayed or denied because:

  1. Our personal dispositions are not righteous because of personal sin.
  2. What we have asked for is not a righteous and unselfish request.
  3. Now is not the time to receive such a petition in God’s plan for our lives.

Jesus has already warned us against the sin of hypocrisy using the Pharisees and scribes (scholars of the Law) as an example, and He has already given us His own model prayer in the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father.  Now He encourages His disciples to pray by giving several commands and promises.  In verses 9-10 Jesus gives three direct commands and three promises if one follows these commands in connection to how we should pray.

Question: What are the three commands and the three promises?
Answer: The commands are expressed in three words and are linked to the promises that are expressed in three statements:

COMMAND: PROMISE:
  Ask everyone who asks receives
  Seek the one who seeks finds
  Knock to the one who knocks, the door will be opened

Question: What door will be opened to those who persist in prayer?  Quote the significant passages.  See Mt 3:13-17 and Lk 3:21-22;Rev 3:8; 20-21; 4:1; CCC 536 and 1026.
Answer: The door to heaven and eternal life had been closed since the Fall and had not been opened until the coming of the Christ (CCC 536, 1026):

  • After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and     behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God     descending like a dove (and) coming upon him (Mt 3:16).
  • I know your works; behold, I have left an open door     before you, which no one can close (Rev 3:8).
  • Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears     my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with     him and he with me.  I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my     throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his     throne (Rev 3:20-21).
  • After this I had a vision of an open door to heaven,     and I heard the trumpetlike voice that had spoken to me before, saying,     “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards” (Rev 4:1).

Jesus illustrates His promise in a series of saying that use the example of a child coming to a father with a request, something with which everyone hearing Jesus can relate – everyone having been either a child or a parent themselves.

Question: What are the four contrasts Jesus makes?  What is the relationship between the fish and the snake, the scorpion and the egg and what is the point?  Hint: The kind of fish named in the passage is a barbut; it is found in the Sea of Galilee and its appearance is smooth and without scales, somewhat like a snakeThe scorpion probably refers to one at rest with its tail relaxed instead of curved above its body and the legs beneath its body, looking somewhat like a brown egg.
Answer: The contrasts are between a snake and the fish without scales,  between a scorpion and an egg, between the unrighteous father and the heavenly  Father and between a child asking an unrighteous father as opposed to a believer  making a petition to God the Father:

  Contrasts in Luke 11:9-12
  Fish without scales   Snake
  Scorpion   Egg
  Wicked father   Heavenly Father
  A child asking an unrighteous parent   A child of God asking

The fish without scales and the snake look somewhat alike but they are not the same,  and a stinging scorpion is certainly different from an egg.  It is not difficult for  even a wicked father to determine that one choice is definitely better for a child than the other.   The point is that even the unrighteous know the difference between what is good  parenting and what is not good; therefore, can you trust your heavenly Father to  give you the best gift when you pray, even if you don’t know yourself which gift is best?   It is interesting that the force of this parable lies in the contrast rather than in the  comparison between the Father who is God and the human father.  Jesus acknowledges that  even the unrighteous can perform good acts when He make this statement: If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children,  how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Question: Why does Jesus call His listeners “wicked”?  Isn’t He speaking to His disciples who are righteous men who have made the choice to follow Him?  See Rom 3:23.
Answer: Ever since the Fall of our original parents and the curse of the inherited tendency to sin, that is what men and women were in the family of Adam “the “wicked” lost in original sin and with the inherited tendency to sin.

Because of the human condition, even when humans are doing good and following nobler instincts like good parenting, they cannot escape the designation “wicked.”   It is only when we are reborn as God’s children through the sanctifying grace of Jesus’ sacrifice that we can live as the “righteous” sons and daughters of God.

Question: What is the best “gift” our heavenly Father has given His children?  See Jn 15:26 and Acts 2:1-4.
Answer: The gift of sanctifying grace through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:14-23 ~ Beelzebul and the parable of the strong man
14 He was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute person spoke and the crowds were amazed.  15 Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”  16 Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.  17 But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid to waste and house will fall against house.  18 And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.  19 If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out?  Therefore they will be your judges.  20 But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.   21 When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.  22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils.  23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  “Your own people” in the Greek text reads “your sons” (IBGE, vol. IV, page 197).

Jesus and the disciples are no longer alone.  A crowd has gathered and Jesus heals a demon possessed person.  Most of the people are impressed and amazed but some level another accusation against Jesus.  This is the first of three episodes that Luke recounts where Jesus deals with either demons or signs from heaven (11:14-23, 24-26, and 29-32).

Question: Jesus has already faced several challenges/accusations by the scribes and Pharisees.  What is the list of accusations against Him?
Answer: This is another accusation to add to the list:

  1. He blasphemes (5:21a)
  2. He claims equality with God by forgiving sins (5:21b)
  3. He eats with tax collectors and sinners (5:30)
  4. He does not fast (5:33)
  5. He allows His disciples to do what is unlawful on the     Sabbath (6:2)
  6. He drives out demons by the prince of demons (11:15)

Jesus defends Himself against the accusation that He has healed by the power of Beelzebub, a reference to Satan (see verse 18).  It is thought that Beelzebul refers to the principal false god of the Philistine city of Ekron, Ba’al-zebub (2 Kng 1:2-3, 6, 16).  However the name is altered to show the Jew’s disgust for the pagan god by calling it Beelzebul making the title “Lord of the Flies” in Aramaic (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews,9.2.1).  Another suggestion is that it is the Aramaic word be’el-debab, which means “adversary,” and is the Aramaic word for a prosecuting attorney in a lawsuit.  The Hebrew word satan also means “adversary” or “accuser” as in a court of law.  The third suggestion is that it is the Aramaic for be’el-zebbul, “Lord of Dung” (Fitzmyer, page 920).

Question: What two examples does Jesus use to refute the slander of the accusation that evokes the image of a civil war?
Answer: (1) a divided kingdom and (2) a failed or fallen house/household.

Luke 11:19-20 If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I drove out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Question: What three ways does Jesus challenge His critics by turning their accusation against them in verses 18-20?
Answer: He challenges his critics to address the ridiculousness of the charge they have made:

  1. Why would Satan drive out his own demons?  Satan cannot     prevail if he and his demons are divided in both demon possession and     casting out demons (verse 18).
  2. If their accusation is correct, then even their own Jewish     exorcists must be in league with Satan (verse 19).
  3. If Jesus heals by the power of God then He is an agent of     God like the Old Testament prophets, and the coming Kingdom they preached     has arrived (verse 20).

Since in accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan they have implicated their own exorcists, let those exorcists judge the veracity of their ridiculous slander.  It is hardly likely that they will agree that they also can only cast out demons by Satan’s power.  Jesus completes this part of His defense against their accusations by a reference to eschatological judgment in verse 20.  Jesus’ meaning is that those who slander Him will face divine judgment.

In verses 21-22 Jesus speaks of a strong man versus a more powerful man.  The reference to the “strong man” and the “stronger man” is probably an echo of the words of St. John the Baptist in Luke 3:16 and also of Jesus defeat of Satan in the Temptation (4:1-13).

Question: Who is the “strong man” and who is the “stronger man”?  What is the “strong man’s” palace?  See Lk 3:16; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.
Answer: Beelzebub/Satan is the “strong man” who is the ruler of the world, but Jesus is the “stronger man” who will take dominion of the earth away from Satan.

Beelzebul (Beelzebub)/Satan is the “strong man” guarding his “palace” “the earth over which he has rules as “prince” since the Fall of Adam.  But now Jesus, the “stronger man,” has appeared to defeat him and to take possession of the earth to establish His own Kingdom “the Church.

Symbolism of  Luke 11:21-22
  The strong man    Satan
   The palace    Earth, the present  dominion of Satan
   The stronger man    Jesus who has come  to take back the earth to found the Kingdom of heaven on earth

Luke 11:23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

This verse echoes the “civil war” imagery of the earlier passage in which Jesus spoke of a kingdom divided and a household divided.  There are only two sides in God’s battle against Satan “those who are for Jesus and belong to God and those who are against Jesus who advance the cause of Satan, bringing violence to ( scatters”) the people (the Jews) who are meant to inherit the coming Kingdom.

Luke 11:24-26 ~ The continued danger of unclean spirits
24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says,  I shall return to my home from which I came.’  25 But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order.  26 Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that person is worse than the first.”

Question: What is Jesus’ warning?  See 2 Pt 2:20 andJn 5:14.
Answer: His warning is not to feel smug concerning the apparent defeat of evil in the driving out of a demon.  Once being driven out, a demon can return if the delivered person does not repent and get his life right with God.  It is not enough to experience an exorcism by becoming a “house swept clean” “the “house”/soul must guard against evil by continual conversion.

Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself… the number seven probably symbolizes the full force of evil.  Jesus warning highlights the unfortunate failure of the human condition “often repentance and the expressed desire to reform doesn’t last long.  Think of how full the churches were after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001.  It was a condition that lasted a few weeks and then the size of the congregations returned to what they had been prior to the tragedy.  In the course of ancient Israel’s history, God’s temporal judgments like war or famine caused the people to repent their sins and turn back to God.  However, not long after a good king pulled down the images of false gods a bad king would succeed him who would set them up again and the people would fall away from their covenant obligations to God.  It is not enough to repent evil and to be made “clean” again “conversion must be an on-going process in which we must be continually freed from our sins, renewed in turning back to God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose for our lives (see Mt 12:43-45; Gal 5:22).

Luke 11:27-28 ~ The truly blessed
27 While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”  28 He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

A woman in the crowd who is impressed with Jesus’ wisdom and healing blesses His mother.  What she says is reminiscent of Proverbs 23:25: Let your father and mother have joy; let her who bore you exult. Again, Jesus’ response must not be taken as a criticism of His mother (see Lk 8:21).  Rather Jesus echoes the sentiments of Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary in Luke 1:45 and Mary’s Canticle in Luke 1:46-48.

Question: What was the basis of the Virgin Mary’s blessing in those passages?
Answer: In Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary in Luke 1:45Elizabeth says: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” basing Mary’s blessing on hearing and believing the angel’s announcement of the birth of the Christ.  In the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat, she makes it clear that she is blessed because she has believed and submitted herself to the will of God: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on all ages call me blessed.

Jesus’ beatitude does not reject the woman’s blessing for His mother but sets the priority of blessedness in obedience to God.

Luke 11:29-32 ~ The sign of Jonah
29 While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  30 Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.  31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.  32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Jesus reference to “a sign” refers us back to verse 16: Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven, where some in the crowd were asking for a divine sign as proof of His authority from God.

Question: Why is does Jesus call His generation evil or corrupt?  What other generation was given the same label by God and by God’s covenant mediator?  See Num 14:10b-11, 27; Dt 32:4-5.
Answer: No other generation with the exception of the Exodus generation has seen such mighty works/signs of God and yet they refuse to believe and to trust Jesus just as the Exodus generation refused to trust God.

Question: What two comparisons does Jesus make with His generation?
Answer: He compares them to the Ninevites of Jonah’s time and the Queen of the South who visited King Solomon.

Question: Who was the Queen of the South who came to hear Solomon’s wisdom and knowledge of God?  See 1 Kng 10:1-13; 2 Chr 9:1-12.
Answer: The Queen of Sheba.  She came to hear the wisdom of Solomon and proclaimed the goodness of the God of Israel.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and Sheba was a country on the east coast of Africa.

Question: What do the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba have in common?
Answer: They were pagan Gentiles, yet they accepted the testimony of God that was spoken by His agents, the prophet Jonah and King Solomon.

Jonah son of Amittai was the 8th century BC prophet from Gath-hepher in the Galilee (2 Kng 14:25), a town located on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun (Josh 19:13).  St. Jerome identified Jonah’s village and the location of his tomb two miles from Sepphoris on the road to Tiberius (Jerome, Commentary on Jonah).

Jesus mentions the Galilean prophet Jonah 6 times in 5 verses in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 12:39, 40, 41 twice; 16:4 and 17.

Question: What is significant about Jesus’ references to Jonah in the Gospels?  See Josh 19:13 and 2 Kng 14:25; Jon 1:1-3; 2:1, 11; 3:1-10.
Answer: Other than Jesus, Jonah was the only prophet of God who came from the Galilee and his mission prefigured the mission Jesus will give to His Apostles and disciples.  Jonah’s mission was to tell the non-Israelite, Gentile people of Nineveh to repent their sins or their city would be destroyed.  At first Jonah resisted his mission, but when he relented God freed him from being entombed in the whale and he was free to carry out his mission to the people of Nineveh.  When the people repented, they were saved.

Jesus identifies the “sign” His generation will receive with Jonah being entombed in the whale/great fish and resurrected on the third day (Jon 2:1).

Question: When was Jesus resurrected from the tomb as the ancients counted (without the concept of zero as a place value) from Friday to Sunday?
Answer: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning are three days.

Jesus is making a symbolic link to the prophet Jonah.  In Scripture the number three is one of the so called symbolic “perfect numbers.”  The number three signifies completeness, fulfillment or perfection and points to what is solid, real, and substantial.  As a number which indicates completeness, the number three always identifies some important event in Salvation History.

Question: How will Jonah’s entombment in the whale and his liberation that is a symbolic “rebirth” three days later, resulting in Jonah carrying God’s message of repentance and forgiveness to the people of Nineveh, be the only “sign” for Jesus’ generation?  What is the two-fold symbolic link?
Answer: First, like Jonah’s “entombment and rebirth” experience, Jesus’ “rebirth” in His Resurrection will follow His death and entombment.  Jesus’ Resurrection, like Jonah’s resurrection, will be a “sign” that will bring about the repentance and salvation of the Gentile nations.  The only “sign” Jesus’ generation will receive of His divine authority will be His death and Resurrection.

In identifying Himself with the prophet Jonah, Jesus affirms Jonah’s message of salvation to the Gentiles “God’s gift of salvation isn’t just for the Jews but for all people.  Matthew 12:40 further clarifies the link to Jonah in the statement that Jesus will die and be resurrected on the third day:

Luke 11:31a and 32a  31 At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them …  32 At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.

The Assyrian people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba turned to God on far less evidence than Jesus has presented to Him own people during the years of His ministry.  On the day of the Last Judgment the Queen of Sheba and the men of Nineveh will stand before God’s throne and accuse the faithless generation that rejected Jesus the Messiah.

Luke 31b and 32b 31b… there is something greater than Solomon here. 32b … and there is something greater than Jonah here.

Question: What is the “something greater” than Solomon son of David and Jonah the prophet?  Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Dt 18:15-19.
Answer: The Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba believe the testimony of God’s prophet and anointed King, but Jesus is a much greater messenger than either of them.  Jesus is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the true Davidic heir and God’s supreme prophet to whom the people must listen.

Luke 11:33-36 ~ A parable about a lamp and its light
33 No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light.  34The lamp of the body is your eye.  When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness.  35 Take care, then that the light in you not become darkness.  36 If you whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.”

This is Jesus’ second parable about a lamp and the light (see Lk 8:16-18 in Lesson 7).  In the earlier parable, the faithful disciple is the lamp and Jesus lights the lamp with the “word.”  The light is the “word” illuminated by the faith of the disciple that is evidenced by his righteous deeds that are radiated out to the world from the lampstand that is the Church.

Question: What is the symbolic meaning of this teaching?  What does each element in the parable represent?
Answer:

  The Symbolism in Luke 11:33-36
   the lamp    a life
   the light    Christ
  the darkness    evil
   the sound eye    spiritual  understanding and insight
   bad eye    blinded and corrupted  by evil desires
   lampstand    the Church through  which the Christian’s light of Christ shines out to the world

Evil desires make the “eye” less sensitive to the will of God and the darkness of evil actions can blot out the “light” of Christ’s presence.  Those who are like many of the Pharisees and scribes are unable to perceive the work of Christ in the world.  They are blinded by the darkness of their own un-repented sins and are closed to the light of Christ in their lives.

Luke 11:37-54 ~ Jesus denounces the Pharisees and scholars of the law (scribes)
37 After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.  38 He entered and reclined at table to eat.  The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.  39 The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!  Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside; you are filled with plunder and evil.  40 You fools!  Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?  41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.  42 Woe to you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees!  You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.  44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” 45 Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.”  46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law!  You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.  47 Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.  48Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.  49 Therefore, the wisdom of God said,  I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ 50 in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple building.  Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!  52 Woe to you, scholars of the law!  You have taken away the key of knowledge.  You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”  53 When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, 54 for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

This is not the first time Jesus was invited to dine in the home of a Pharisee (see Lk 7:36 and 14:1).  In this passage Jesus reads the thoughts of His host who is critical of Jesus’ failure to observe the custom of the ritual purification of His hands before the meal.  That is not to say Jesus did not have clean hands.  The ritual of dipping one’s hands in water was not to cleanse them but to emphasize one’s internal righteousness after the blessing of the food and the washing away of any contamination from that is ritually unclean.  In the ritual of eating the Passover victim, for example, there were three ritual hand washings during the meal.  This was not a command found in the Mosaic Law but an addition to the Law.  Jesus’ response to the critical heart of His host is a three-part “woe” judgment against the Pharisees and their hypocritical approach to fulfilling the Law (verses 42-44) followed by a similar three-part judgment against the scribes (teachers of the Law) who are also at the meal (verses 46, 47-51 and 52).  The total of six curse-judgments may be significant.  Six is the number of man and often of man in opposition to God’s divine plan.  In this case, in opposing Jesus both the Pharisees and the scribes are in opposition to God’s divine plan for man’s salvation.

Luke 11:39-41 The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!  Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside; you are filled with plunder and evil.  40 You fools!  Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? 41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.

Jesus contrasts a clean outer cup and dish that is filthy within with the condition of the Pharisees who appear to be righteous outwardly but inwardly neglect to purify their souls through repentance of their sins and acts of mercy that would truly cleanse their inner lives.

Question: What does the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) say about almsgiving in Sir 3:30/33 where he compares fire to sin and water to alms?
Answer: Water quenches a flaming fire, and alms atone for sins.

Question: Who is the “maker of the outside” who also made the inside?
Answer: God, the Creator of life, who created man to be holy externally and internally.

Luke 11:42 Woe to you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others. 

In Woe #1 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being concerning with the minutia of their understanding of the Law and neglecting what is important.

Question: They tithe the little herbs in their gardens but what do they forget/neglect?
Answer: They forget about what is really important: mercy, justice and love for God and that God will judge them for these failures.

Jesus is not criticizing tithing in this judgment against the Pharisees.  His point is that attention must be paid to love of God and love of neighbor before all else.

Question: Jesus’ statements are reminiscent of what teaching by the prophet Micah in 6:8 where the prophet encourages what three things in the obedient response to God’s mercy?
Answer: You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.

Luke 11:43 Woe to you Pharisees!  You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. 

Question: In Woe # 2 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for what sins?
Answer: He condemns them for the sins of pride and arrogance by expecting the best seats during public worship in the Synagogue and to be the first to be greeting in the public marketplace.  For them it is all about the observance of their rank and privilege in Jewish society.

Luke 11:44 Woe to you!  You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.

Woe #3 sums up Jesus’ assessment of the Pharisees and their outward show of righteousness.

Question: To what does Jesus compare them and why?  See Lev 21:1-4 and Num 19:11.
Answer: He compares them to an unmarked grave that is a source of ritual contamination if someone who is unaware comes in contact with it.

An unmarked grave is not readily discernible as a source of uncleanliness, just as the Pharisees are not easily detected as unclean on the outside but like a dead body inside a grave their internal condition is corrupted.(3)

A scribe takes it upon himself to rebuke Jesus for insulting the scribes as well as the Pharisees.  In this passage St. Luke uses the word nomikoi,which is the Greek word for “lawyer.”  The scribes (lawyers) were teachers of the Law and most of them were Pharisees (verse 46).

Luke 11:46 And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law!  You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

Woe #4: The “burdens” were the details they added to the commandments and prohibitions of the Law.  For example the Law prohibited any labor on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; Dt 6:13-14), but they so strictly interpreted the Law that they added the prohibitions that a person couldn’t pick a few pieces of grain to eat when hungry, nor could a fire be lighted to cook food on the Sabbath, there were prohibitions against walking more than a half mile, and carrying a certain weight, or even tying certain kinds of knots. The Pharisees even criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath as a violation of the Sabbath rest (Lk 6:7).  Jesus’ point is that instead of teaching the people, caring about them and being reasonable about ordinary needs, even on the Sabbath, that the scribes and Pharisees really distained them as being inferior and made life more difficult for them.

Luke 11:47 Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.

In Woe #5 Jesus’ accusation is that one generation kills God’s holy prophets and the next generation honors the dead prophet by building a tomb in his memory in hopes of making amends for the actions of their ancestors.

Luke 11:48-51 Consequently, you bear witness and give consent to the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them and you do the building.  49 Therefore, the wisdom of God said,  I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ 50 in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple building.  Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!

They may build tombs/memorials for the agents of God that their ancestors killed; however, they have the same mentality and will commit the same crimes.

The message Jesus gives in verse 49:  I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ is not found in the Old Testament.  It is Jesus’ (the “Wisdom of God”) direct message from God the Father.

Question: What is ironic concerning Jesus’ charge that the Pharisees and scribes conspire to kill God’s holy messengers?  Lk 6:7, 11; 11:53; Mt 26:3-4; 26:57, 59, 65; Acts 7:8-14; 7:57-60; Acts 12:2.
Answer: They are currently conspiring against Jesus and will be successful in their plan.  They will also persecute and kill Jesus’ Apostles and disciples.

The death of Abel son of Adam is recorded in Genesis 4:8 and the death of the prophet Zechariah is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.

Question: What is Jesus’ judgment on His generation?
Answer: God’s holy prophets have been persecuted and murdered throughout the course of salvation history, but this time they have rejected more than a human prophet.  His generation has rejected the promised Messiah “God Himself “the One to whom all of the sacred writings and the history of Israel has pointed.  Therefore, they will bear the burden of the sins of all the past generations for the persecution and murder of the prophets who came before Him.

Luke 11:52  Woe to you, scholars of the law!  You have taken away the key of knowledge.  You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.” 

In Woe #6 Jesus’ accuses them of abusing their gift of wisdom in interpreting the Scriptures.  In addition, as Jesus has pointed out throughout His judgment, they have been bad examples of holiness to the people.  Their actions have hindered the cause of salvation.

Question: How did the teachers of the law take away the “key of knowledge”?
Answer: Through their erroneous interpretation of sacred Scripture and their additions to the commands and prohibitions of the Law they made God’s commands that were meant to be a tutor and a guide to holiness a hopeless burden that was impossible to keep.  They so distorted the Law as to take away the key of knowledge in understanding God’s teaching and locking the door to a future salvation.

  Summary of the Six Woes
   Pharisees    Scribes
   Woe #1: … you pay no attention to judgment and to love  for God    Woe #4: You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but  you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them. 
   Woe #2: You love the seat of honor in synagogues and  greetings in marketplaces.     Woe #5: You  build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.  48 Consequently, you bear witness and  give consent to the deeds of your ancestors…
   Woe #3: You are like unseen graves over which people  unknowingly walk.”    Woe #6: You have taken away the key of knowledge.  You  yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.

Luke 11:53-54 When he left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, 54 for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

Instead of accepting Jesus’ judgment against them with humility, they prove His accusations by following the example of their forefathers’ treatment of God’s prophets.  They immediately begin planning Jesus’ destruction.  They cannot arrest Him for speaking against them, but they will look for the opportunity to accuse Him officially of blasphemy, heresy and law-breaking as St. Luke traces their growing hatred for Jesus (Lk 6:11; 11:53-54; 19:48; 20:19-20; 22:2).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: How might you compare our relationship with Father God to a child’s relationship with an earthly father who houses, feeds and disciplines his children?  Also see Jn 14:23; Ps 90:1; 27:4-5; and Acts 17:24.
Answer: As God’s children:

  • We gather in His house (the Church)
  • We come to His table (the altar) where we are nourished     (the Eucharist)
  • We are loved, taught and disciplined, and we grow in     knowledge and understanding in His presence.

In other words, He creates a home for us, first in Mother Church who instructs and guides us and later in our heavenly home.  Sacred Scripture guides us in our understanding of our future home. Look up the following passages: Ps 23:6; 27:4-5; 90:1; Jn 14:2, 23; Acts 17:24.

Question: In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus gave His disciples a formula to help them pray.  Do you have a formula for prayer?  If not consider committing to one.  A helpful formula is the word A.C.T.S.:
Answer:

  1. A = Adoration: begin by telling God how much you love Him.
  2. C = Contrition: next, make an honest confession of your     sins and expressing your sorrow.
  3. T = Thankfulness: express your thanks for God’s blessings.
  4. S = Supplication: humbly express your petitions, keeping     in mind to pray for God’s will for your life and in the lives of those for     whom you pray.

Endnotes:

  1. See IBGE, vol. IV, Mt 6:11 pages 14 and Lk 11:4 page 196     (#1967).  The Greek word epiousios and other words like it that     occur only once or twice in the Bible are designated hapax legomenan (Greek     for “said once”)There are about 1,500 of these in the Old     Testament; but only 400 are, strictly speaking, hapax legomena (plural),     meaning the word is absolutely new coinages of roots or cannot be     derived in their specific meaning from other occurring root stems.  The     other approximately 1,100 words, while occurring only once as a form in     the corpus of the biblical text, can be connected with other existing     words.
  2. The Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-14 is inscribed     on the walls of the Pater Noster Church in Jerusalem in over 50 different     languages.  The original church was built in the 4th century AD     over the grotto where, according to tradition, Jesus taught His disciples     this beautiful and ageless prayer outside Jerusalem.
  3. The people of the Sinai Covenant were commanded to be holy     (sacred) as God is holy (Lev 11:45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Num 15:40; Dt 7:6;     14:2, 21; 26:19; 28:9).  Therefore, they had the obligation to remain in a     state of ritual purity.  Once a year at Passover all the tombs around     Jerusalem were whitewashed so that an unaware person did not become     ritually contaminated and unable to eat the Passover meal (Mt 23:27).      Ritual contamination through coming in contact with the dead required a     seven day ritual purification (Num 19:11), but ordinary contamination     required purification in ritual bath and purity was restored at sundown,     which was the beginning of the next day (i.e., Lev 14:46; 15:5-11).
The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 8

The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 8

8. May, 2013Bible StudyNo comments

THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE
Lesson 8: Chapters 9:51-10:42
The Journey to Jerusalem

Gracious Lord,
The time will come when the days of our journey in this life are fulfilled.  We pray that You will protect us from worldly distractions and keep us aware of the preparations we must make for our exodus from this life into the next.  We know that in our present circumstances that we must remain vigilant and ready for that departure in our words and in our deeds so that we will have faith filled works of righteous and an unblemished soul to carry with us into eternity.  Please send the Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Luke’s travel narrative of Jesus’ preparations for His last journey to Jerusalem.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

+ + +

A person who wishes to become the Lord’s disciple must repudiate a human obligation, however honorable it may appear, if it slows us ever so slightly in giving the wholehearted obedience we owe to God.
St. Basil the Great, Concerning Baptism, 1.1

Chapter 9:51-62

Luke 9:51-56 ~ The departure for Jerusalem and the inhospitality of a Samaritan village
51 When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, 52 and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, 53 but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  54 When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  55 Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they journeyed to another village.

This is the turning point in Luke’s Gospel as Jesus begins the journey to His death.  His teaching ministry in the Galilee has come to an end, and Jesus now prepares Himself and His disciples for what Luke literally calls the days “of his assumption” in Jerusalem (verse 51, Fitzmyer, page 827).  Luke’s “travel narrative” of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem is divided into three parts with the beginning of each part marked by the reference to Jesus going to Jerusalem and the third part beginning and concluding with the same reference just prior to His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:

  1. Luke 9:51 – 13:21 ~ When the days for his being taken     up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem     (Lk 9:51).
  2. Luke 13:22 – 17:10 ~ He passed through towns and     villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem (Lk 13:22).
  3. Luke 17:11 – 19:28 ~ As he continued his journey to     Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee (Lk 17:11).  After     he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 19:28).

Instead of traveling down the eastern side of the Jordan River to avoid passing through Samaria, Jesus and His disciples are traveling the more dangerous route through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem.  Only the Gospels of Luke and John record Jesus’ dealings with Samaritans (Lk 10:30-37; 17:11-19; Jn 4:4-42).  Once again we see Luke’s focus on the universality of Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom.

The term “Samaritan” was originally a geographic distinction for one from the city of Samaria, the old capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel founded by King Omri in the early 9th century BC.  After the 8th century BC, it became an ethnic and religious name for the people who came to inhabit the region between the Galilee and Judea to the west of the Jordan River.  The Jews despised the people known as Samaritans “at the worst as Gentiles who falsely claimed to worship the God of Israel at their illicit Temple on Mt. Gerizim or at best as half-breed Jews who were apostates from the true faith.

Question: What was the origin of the Samaritans?  See2 Kng 17:6, 24-41
Answer: The Northern tribes of Israel (with the capital at Samaria) were conquered by the Assyrians who exiled the ten northern Israelites tribes into Assyrian lands to the east and imported five different groups of peoples to resettle the conquered territory.  These people brought with them their own gods but also adopted the worship of Yahweh, the regional god.  They came to be known as the Samaritans.

By Jesus’ time there may have been some intermarriage between Jews and Samaritans, but the two groups generally disliked each other and the Samaritans only accepted the Torah in their canon (the first 5 books of Moses) and did not worship according to the Law of Moses, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman: You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand because salvation is from the Jews (Jn 4:22).

The 1st century AD Jewish priest/historian Josephus wrote of the Samaritans:

  • … the Samaritans, who had then Shechem for their     metropolis (a city situated at Mount Gerizim, and inhabited by apostates     of the Jewish nation) … for such is the disposition of the Samaritans, as     we have already elsewhere declared, that when the Jews are in adversity     they deny that they are of kin to them, and then they confess the truth;     but when they perceive that some good fortune hath befallen the, they immediately     pretend to have communion with them, saying, that they belong to them and     derive their genealogy form that posterity of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh     (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.8.6; also see 9:14.3; 12.5.5).
  • But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria (for     that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were     brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia … [they]     are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutheans; but in the Greek Samaritans.      And when they see the Jews in prosperity, they pretend that they are     changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were     derived from Joseph, and had not by means an original alliance with them:     but when they see them falling into low condition, they say they are no     way related to them, and that the Jews have no right to expect any     kindness or marks of kindred from them, but they declare that they are     sojourners, that come from other countries (Antiquities of the     Jews, 14.9.3).
  • But the Samaritans, being evil and enviously disposed     to the Jews, wrought them many mischiefs …(Antiquities of the Jews,     11.4.9; also 20.6.1)

Josephus also wrote of the Samaritan’s hostility and ill treatment of the pilgrims who traveled from the northern regions to the Jerusalem Temple by passing through Samaritan territory (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.6.2;Jewish Wars, 2.12.3).  It was for this reason that most of the people of God traveled to Jerusalem down the east side of the Jordan River, passing through the Decapolis and Perea and crossing over near Jericho (Mk 10:1).

Question: In light of Josephus’ testimony about the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, why did the Samaritan town refuse to receive Jesus in verse 53?
Answer: Their jealousy and enmity towards the Jews made them refuse to receive Jesus since it was His intention to continue on to Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple that was a rival to their own.

Luke 9:54-55 When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  55Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they journeyed to another village.

James and John Zebedee are offended by the attitude of the Samaritans and perhaps because they are filled with confidence after their successful earlier mission, offer to destroy the town for rebuffing Jesus.  The brother’s desire to inflict a fiery punitive judgment on the Samaritans recalls Jesus’ nick name for the brothers: “the sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17).

Question: The Zebedee brothers’ desire to punish the offenders with fire recalls what work of the prophet Elijah in dispensing judgment?  See 2 Kng 1:1-12?
Answer: After Elijah pronounced a death sentence on King Ahaziah of the Northern Kingdom of Israel for seeking the intervention of a pagan God, the angry king sent a company of 50 men to arrest Elijah.  The prophet destroyed the soldiers by calling down fire from heaven.  He did the same when the king had the bad judgment to send a second company of 50 men.

Again Jesus separates Himself from comparisons with divine judgment associated with the prophet Elijah and rebukes James and John.

Question: Jesus’ rebuke of James and John reminds and them and us of what earlier teaching?  See Lk 6:27-35.
Answer: As the disciples of Christ we must demonstrate our love and not our anger if we want to win souls for the Kingdom of Jesus.

Luke 9:57-62 ~ The personal sacrifice of true discipleship
57 As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  58 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”  59 And to another he said, “Follow me.”  But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  60 But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.  But you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  61 And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  62 To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

This next section Jesus gives three teachings to would-be disciples that are warnings to those who want to join Jesus’ mission.  The focus of the teachings is that one needs to count the cost of discipleship weighed against personal relationships and commitments.  Three men express the desire to follow Jesus, but Jesus counters each man’s spoken desire to follow Him with a warning on the cost of discipleship:

  • Would-be follower #1: He makes a spontaneous and     unconditional pledge of his allegiance.  Jesus counters by telling him     that in His mission He lives like a homeless wanderer with no home or     family or any comforts.  Even animals have more “creature comforts.”
  • Would-be follower #2: Jesus extends the invitation to discipleship,     but the man places a condition on his acceptance, placing his family     obligation to bury his father before Jesus’ call.  Jesus tells him that     the importance and urgency of His mission to call mankind to the blessing     of eternal life must take precedence over family obligations and calls for     personal sacrifice. He tells him to let those in his family who aren’t     committed to the imminent coming of the Kingdom and who are dead     spiritually to take care of burying the dead physically.
  • Would-be follower #3: He also makes an emotional and     spontaneous offer like person #1, but like person #2 he also adds a     condition that recalls the request that was granted to Elisha when he was     called to become Elijah’s disciple (1 Kng 19:19-21).  Elijah permitted     Elisha to kiss his parents good-bye and to have a farewell feast with his     family.  But Jesus tells would-be disciple #3 that commitment to the     Kingdom leaves no time for ordinary family affections and requires the     sacrifice of placing the needs of the Kingdom above all human connections     and affiliations.  It is the time to move forward with God’s plan for     humanity and to not look back.

Question: In summary, what three sacrifices has Jesus called each would-be disciple to make?
Answer:

  1. The sacrifice of personal security and comfort.
  2. The sacrifice of family duties and obligations.
  3. The sacrifice of parental connection and to separate     oneself from one’s past life.

Luke 9:62 To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The radical transition that is taking place from the Old Sinai Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ makes earthly ties a part of the things that are to be left behind when we enter God’s heavenly Kingdom.  The decision to follow Christ cannot only be an emotional enthusiasm but must be a resolute determination (Fitzmyer, page 837).

Chapter 10

The episodes in chapter 10 present a series of contrasts:

  • Lambs and wolves (10:3)
  • Those who see and hear and those who do not see and hear =     those who belong to Christ and those who belong to the world (10:16, 21-24)
  • The childlike and the wise (10:21)
  • Samaritan and Jew (10:29-37)
  • Worldly service contrasted with spiritual service     (10:38-42)

Luke 10:1-12 ~ The mission of the seventy/seventy-two disciples
1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.  2 He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.  3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.  4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.  5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this household.’  6 If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.  Do not move about from one house to another.  8Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them,  The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’  10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’  Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.  12 I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town. 

Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy[-two] others… The chapter begins with the literal phrase “after these things;” it is a transition statement Luke uses frequently to show movement to a new focus or new event (see Lk 5:27; 12:4; 17:8; 18:4; Acts 7:7; 13:20;15:16; 18:1). Some ancient manuscripts read “70″ and others “72.”(1)  There is biblical precedence for the number 70:

  1. There were 70 elders in the hierarchy of the Old Covenant Church (Ex 24:1, 9; Num 11:16, 24).
  2. There were 70 male members of the family of Jacob who immigrated into Egypt (Gen 46:8-27; Ex 1:5; Dt 10:22).
  3. The traditional number of the Gentile nations named in the Table of Nations in Genesis chapter 10 in the Jewish Masoretic text is 70, but in the Septuagint translation there are 72 (Green, page 412).

Question: What might be the theological importance of the number of 70/72 disciples sent to prepare the way for Christ and His Kingdom in light of the 70/72 kingdoms/nations listed as the descendants of Noah in Genesis chapter 10?
Answer: The list of the 70/72 nations in Genesis chapter 10 is theologically important in that it stresses the unity of the human family.  It is a unity that will become theologically important again in the New Covenant in the future evangelization of the Gentile nations when all men and women of all nations are called into the united family of Christ and His Church.

There will be 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room in prayer after the Ascension (Acts 1:15) and at Pentecost Jews from across the Roman world heard the Gospel preached in the many dialects of the Gentile nations in which they lived (Acts 2:5-6).

Luke 10:1b … whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.

Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him (literally “before His face”) in 35/36 pairs.

Question: What is their mission?
Answer: They will visit towns as His envoys and give testimony of His coming.

Perhaps they were sent in pairs not only for emotional support, but in accordance with the Law that required the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses in judicial cases (see Dt 19:15).  There may be support for the judicial aspect in verses 10-11 and the warning (literally “testimony”) in the earlier “sending out” in 9:5.  The practice of sending out disciples in twos will be repeated; for example by Peter and John (Acts 8:14), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1), and by Paul and Silas (Acts 15:32).

Luke 10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. 

Question: Who is the master of the harvest, what is the harvest, and who are the laborers who work in the harvest?
Answer: God is the Master of the harvest that is the ingathering of souls into the Kingdom of heaven.  The disciples of Jesus Christ are the laborers who spread the Gospel of salvation, helping to bring about the conversion of souls that are ready for entrance into the heavenly Kingdom.

The work of Jesus and His disciples are under the providence of God who is creating a new phase of salvation history, the response to which will be judged (see verse 12).  In the Old Testament the “harvest” is a symbol of God’s eschatological judgment (see for example see Joel 4:1-3, 12-13).  In this passage “harvest” is a symbolic reference for the time when the preaching of the Gospel of salvation has produced the mature fruit of repentance and salvation.  There is also a sense of urgency.  In the harvest of grain or fruit there is only a certain amount of time to collect the harvest of the mature crop.  In this sense, the time is then ripe for the great numbers of people that are ready to accept the Gospel message and be gathered into God’s heavenly storehouse before the Last Judgment.  Jesus’ disciples are the laborers in the field that is the world but the “reapers/harvesters” in Scripture are said to be the angels (Mt 13:39, 41; Mk 13:27).

Luke 10:3 Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. 

The image of Jesus’ disciples now shifts from laborers to lambs and the contrast between lambs (disciples) and wolves (those hostile to their message) is a warning of the danger of their mission.

Luke 10:4 Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals … and greet no one along the way.

The instructions on what to take on their missionary journey and how to conduct themselves in the towns they visit are similar to the instructions given to the twelve Apostles in Luke 9:1-6.  They are to rely completely on God to meet their needs.  In 10:4 they are told not to wear sandals.

Question: At what other times were God’s holy agents told to remove their sandals?  See Ex 3:5 and Josh 5:15.
Answer: Moses and Joshua were told to remove the sandals from the feet when they were standing on holy ground.

Since the Temple was also considered “holy ground” the priests and Levites when serving within the sacred precincts of the Temple were forbidden to wear sandals (Mishnah: Tamid, 1:1Q-1:2J; 5:3).(2)  It is possible that this command suggests, with the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, His Church will have authority over all earthly kingdoms (Dan 2:44; 7:27) and all the earth is to be considered God’s holy ground.

and greet no one along the way. This is probably a warning not to become distracted but to remain focused on the mission as well as the necessity of the haste of their mission to bring in the “harvest.”

Luke 10:5 Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this household.’    “Peace to this household” is more than the common greeting.  The greeting of the disciples carries a blessing that announces the peace of fellowship with God that Jesus’ Gospel message brings to the entire family who receives Him through His disciples.

Luke 10:6 If a peaceful person [literally son of peace] lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.  A “son/daughter of peace” is a person open to the Gospel message.  In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word salom (peace) is from the root slm meaning “completeness,” “wholeness” in the sense of the “comprehensive bounty of God’s salvific presence and activity” (Fitzmter, 848).  But, Jesus tells them, if their message is rejected, the blessing will return to them to dispense to a receptive heart.

Luke 10:7 Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment.  Do not move about from one house to another.

These instructions are meant to avoid the problem of jealousy with townspeople competing to give them hospitality.

Question: What is meant by Jesus’ statement that “the laborer deserves his payment”?
Answer: They are to freely accept what is offered without feeling obligated to offer payment.  Laboring for the Lord on behalf of these people is their payment.

Luke 10:8-11a Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, 9 cure the sick in it and say to them,  The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’  10 Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, 11 The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’  The mission of the disciples is to be public and not private.  If they are not welcomed, they are to shake the dust of the town off their feet as though the people were “unclean” Gentiles.  It was the practice to shake the dust of Gentile lands off one’s feet before crossing over into the holy land of God.

Luke 10:11b-12 Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.  12 I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.  Whether they are well received or rejected they are to keep the focus of their mission on the fact that the Kingdom of God is coming.  Then in verse 12 Jesus declares a warning for those that reject the disciple’s message, which as His emissaries is His message.

Question: What is the purpose Jesus’ the reference to “Sodom”?  See Gen chapter 19; Is 13:9; Jer 49:8; Lam 4:6; Amos 4:11; Jude 7;Rev 11:8 and 2 Thes 1:5-10.
Answer: Sodom was a town located in the plain near the Dead Sea that was destroyed in an act of God’s divine judgment.  In the Bible the fate of Sodom became a symbol for God’s divine judgment.  In the climax of salvation history, the judgment on the townspeople who rejected the coming Kingdom and Jesus’ work of salvation, will be worse that those who perished by fire in God’s judgment of Sodom (as described in 2 Thes 1:5-10).

Luke 10:13-16 ~ Jesus’ reproach for those who refuse to repentant
13 Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  15 And as for you, Capernaum,  Will you be exalted to heaven?  You will go down to the netherworld.’”  16 Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

Question: As Jesus continues to address His disciples, why does Jesus pronounce a curse/judgment on the towns that witnessed His mighty deeds and still refused to repent?  What is His warning?  SeeMt 3:1-2; Lk 3:2-3.
Answer: Repentance is part of the proclamation of the Kingdom.  Anyone who refuses to acknowledge his sins and to repent cannot be at peace with God nor be welcomed into the kingdom in his sinful condition.  Judgment will be more catastrophic for those towns who rejected God’s messenger and His proclamation of the Kingdom than for those who perished by fire in the judgment on the ancient city of Sodom who never heard the Gospel message of salvation.

Of the three towns Jesus mentioned, the site of Chorazin has not been identified, but it was probably a town near Capernaum where Jesus’ ministry was headquartered.  The townspeople of Chorazin surely heard His teaching and witnessed many of His miracles.(4)  The town of Bethsaida was located at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee and was the hometown of the Apostle Philip (Jn 1:44; 12:21).

Question: What mighty miracle did Jesus work at Bethsaida?  See Lk 9:10-17.
Answer: It was the feeding miracle for the more than 5 thousand.

Luke 10:13b For if the mighty deeds done in you midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  If the Gentile communities of Tyre and Sidon had witness the same miracles as these Galilean cities, the people would have repented their sins and have observed the ancient custom of expressing sorrow, penitence and mourning by wearing sackcloth and ashes (see Is 58:5; Est 4:2-3LXX; Dan 9:3 LXX; Jonah 3:6 LXX; 2:8).

Luke 10:14-15 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  15 And as for you, Capernaum,  Will you be exalted to heaven?  You will go down to the netherworld [Sheol].’” 

Question: Why will God’s judgment be harsher for the Galilean towns?
Answer: The people of those Galilean towns were eyewitnesses to Jesus miracles and should have come to repentance and faith.  Just because Jesus performed miracles that they witnessed they should not expect heavenly praise but if they fail to repent they can expect heavenly judgment.

Jesus refers to Hades in the Greek text in verse 15.  Sheol in the Hebrew (Hades in Greek) was also known in Jesus as “Abraham’s bosom;” it is the grave to which all people, the righteous and the wicked, were consigned from the fall of Adam until the redeeming work of Christ.  It is not the Hell of the damned.  Jesus will describe the conditions in Sheol in Luke chapter 16 (see CCC 633; Ps 89:49; Is 14:9; Antiquities of the Jews 18.1.3).  After His death and before His Resurrection, Jesus descended into Sheol-Hades to preach the Gospel of salvation to the souls imprisoned there (1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6).  CCC 633: Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” “Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek “because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:  “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

Luke 10:16 Whoever listens to you listens to me.  Whoever rejects you rejects me.  And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

This is the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples.  Verse 16 is the foundation upon which Jesus’ emissaries are to be sent out:

  1. They are sent to announce His coming and the coming of the Kingdom (10:1, 9).
  2. They have a share in Jesus’ power and authority (10:9)
  3. They are empowered to speak and to be received in His name and in the name of the One who sent Jesus, God the Father (10:16).

Jesus’ disciples are therefore to be completely identified with the person of Jesus.  They carry His personal message and those who reject them have in essence rejected Christ.  Since Jesus is sent by God they have also rejected God.

Luke 10:17-20 ~ The return of the seventy [-two] disciples
17 The seventy [-two] returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”  18 Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky.  19 Behold, I have given you the power  to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.  20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

The success of the mission is reflected in the disciples’ joy.

Question: Why do the disciples say they have been successful?
Answer: They have been successful because they have ministered in Jesus’ “name.”  It is through the authentic use of Jesus’ name that they worked the same kinds of miracles Jesus works.

Luke 10:18 Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightening from the sky.  In this passage St. Luke uses the name “Satan” for the first time.  Previously in Luke’s Gospel Jesus had referred to this entity as the “devil” (“accuser” in Hebrew; see Lk 4:2-13 and 8:12).    Satan, from the Hebrew satan, meaning “adversary,” is the specific name for the fallen angel who is humanity’s arch enemy (see Rev 12:9).  He is called both the “prince of devils” and the “prince of this world” (Mt 9:34; 12:34; Mk 3:12; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  Previously Luke has referred to this entity as the “devil” (“accuser” in Hebrew; see Lk 4:2-13 and 8:12).

Question: What is Satan’s mission?  See Gen chapter 3; Rev 12:9; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7 and Zech 3:1-2.
Answer: His mission, since His success in bring sin into the world, is to challenge the faithfulness of God’s servants and to continue to lead men into sin.  He also stands in the heavenly court as mankind’s accuser.

It is unclear what Jesus means in verse 18.  Perhaps the disciples’ success in the spread of the Gospel has weakened Satan’s power and His ability to stand in the heavenly court; hence his fall from the sky.

Luke 10:19-20 Behold, I have given you the power  to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.  20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Verse 19 recalls God’s promise of protection in Psalms 91:1-16.  Verses 9-16 promise: You have the LORD for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold.  No evil shall befall ou, no affliction come near your tent.  For God commands the angels to guard you in your ways.  With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.  You shall tread upon the aps and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon.  Revelation 12:9 identifies the “dragon” as Satan, the great enemy of man.  It is this enemy and his forces form which Jesus has protected the disciples on their mission (verse 19).

Question: However, despite their powers over the material and spiritual world, according to Jesus their power over demons should not the real cause for their rejoicing.  Over what blessing should they rejoice?  See Ex 32:33; Ps 69:28-29; Dan 12:1; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 20:11-12; 21:27.
Answer: They should rejoice because their names are written in God’s Book of Live.

In these next several episodes, Jesus makes several contrasts between those who belong to Him and those who belong to the world “those who see and hear and those who do not see and hear.

Luke 10:21-22 ~ Jesus praises the Father and blesses the disciples
21 At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.  22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father.  No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” 23 Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  24 For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Jesus praises the Father (verses 21-22) and blesses the disciples (verses 23-24) who are eyewitnesses and sharers of His ministry at this critical point in salvation history.

Question: In what three ways has Jesus defined His relationship to the disciples?  The third way ends in a special beatitude (verses 23-24).  See verses 16-24 for your answer.
Answer:

  1. They are His chosen emissaries (verse 16).
  2. Because of their faith and their service, their names are     inscribed in the Book of Life in heaven (verse 20).
  3. They are blessed with a revelation of Him and His heavenly     Father which elevates them above the prophets and kings of the Old     Covenant as “children” of God (verses 21-24).

In the Old Testament the Israelites of the Sinai Covenant were called the “sons/children of God,” but only in a collective sense.  Now each individual disciple of Jesus Christ who is reborn through water and the Holy Spirit into the family of God becomes a child of the Almighty (Jn 3:3, 5).

… many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Jesus is the messianic hope of the ages that God’s holy prophets promised and He is the fulfillment of the promise made in the covenant with the Davidic kings (2 Sam 7:12-16; 23:1-5).

Luke 10:25-28 ~ The greatest commandment
25 There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  26 Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?  How do you read it?”  27 He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  28 He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Question: What contrast did Jesus make in 10:21?
Answer: He contrasts the disciples as “children/childlike” as opposed to the “wise and learned” who oppose His teaching and proclamation of the Kingdom.

Question: What did St. Paul write about those considered to be “wise and learned” according to human standards?  See 1 Cor 1:25-30.
Answer: He wrote that God does not measure wisdom and strength by human standards.  He chose those (the Apostles and disciples of Jesus) who were not considered either wise or learned or influential by human standards to shame those who arrogantly believed they were superior in their understanding of God and the Law.

In this episode, one of the “wise and learned” steps forward to test Jesus’ understanding of the Torah (the Law of Moses) by asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” to which Jesus’ counters the scholar’s question with His own question, asking what is written in the Law and how does he interpret it.  The scholar answers by quoting from two commandments from the Torah “the first from a verse from the collection of verses in the Shema(the Old Covenant profession of faith) in Deuteronomy 6:7 and the second from the Holiness Code (Lev chapters 17-26) in Leviticus 19:18.

Question: What does the first quote from Deuteronomy 6:7 command concerning one’s relationship with God?  What is the depth of that commitment?
Answer: One must give God one’s undivided love and loyalty which encompasses one’s entire being:

  • one’s heart (the true essence of a person and the seat of     moral integrity)
  • one’s entire spiritual and physical being
  • one’s entire intellectual faculties.

Question: What does the scholar list is the second law that leads to eternal life?  See Lev 19:18.
Answer: One must love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Question: What in the Law do these two commandments summarize?
Answer: The Ten Commandments “the first three commands address man’s relationship to God and other seven commandments address man’s relationship with his fellow man.

Jesus approves of the scholar’s answer and tells him if he indeed follows his understanding of the Law that he will find eternal life.

Luke 10:29-37 ~ The parable of the good Samaritan
29 But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  30 Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  31 A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  32 Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  33 But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.  34 He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.  Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.  35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,  Take care of him.  If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’  36 Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robber’s victim?”  37 He answered,  The one who treated him with mercy.”  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Still wishing to test Jesus, the scholar asks for Jesus’ definition of “neighbor.”  According to the Law in Leviticus 19:17-18, “neighbor” is defined as one’s own countryman but verses 33-34 command the ethical treatment of foreigners living in the land of Israel.  Jesus answers by telling a parable about an unfortunate man who was robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  The contrast in this story is between the “righteous” Jews and the “heretic” Samaritan.

Question: What two Jews see the badly injured man but pass by without rendering aid?  Who renders aid?
Answer: A priest and a Levite do not help but a Samaritan does render aid.

The priest is a descendant of Aaron from the tribe of Levi, the first high priest, and is an ordained minister of God’s Sanctuary.  The Levite is a descendant of the tribe of Levi who is not related to Aaron and who serves the Aaronic priesthood as a lesser minister (Num 3:5, 10).  As we have already mentioned, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews and for Jesus to use a Samaritan as a model of compassion and virtue would have been received with shock and disbelief by the Jewish crowd.

Question: What form of aid does the Samaritan render?  Name 5 ways he offers his help.
Answer: He offers his personal resources: his oil and wine, his mount, his money, and his time.

Question: For what reason might the priest and Levite not have stopped to help a an injured man by the road?  See Lev 5:3; 21:1-3;Num 5:2; 6:6-8; 19:2-3.
Answer: To touch a dead or bloody body would have rendered them ritually unclean and they would have had to spend a week becoming purified.  This was the case for any Jew but in their case such impurity would prevent them from service in the Temple until purity was restored.

Question: Why doesn’t this excuse really work for them?  See verse 30.
Answer: Since they were traveling away from the Jerusalem Temple, they certainly did not have an urgent need to remain purified.

Luke 10:36-37 Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robber’s victim?”  37 He answered,  The one who treated him with mercy.”  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus’ question to the scholar in verse 36 changes the nature of the man’s original question.  The scholar was at first hostile to Jesus, wishing to test Him and to find Him in error, but now he appears to be responsive to Jesus’ teaching and answers correctly that the Samaritan demonstrated mercy and compassion.  Jesus rewards him with the warning to put his words into practice.  There can be no eternal life without loving God by demonstrating love and compassion to others in the human family.

Priests and Levites enjoyed a privileged status in society and were commitment to maintaining ritual purity as a symbol of their internal condition of holiness in serving God and God’s people.   But once again Jesus teaches that the Law is not meant to be inflexible and rigid in cases where mercy is more important than the letter of the Law.  It was the same teaching He gave when challenged by the Pharisees and scribes for allowing His hungry disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath and when He healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath in Luke 6:1-10.  For the Christian, love of God is not complete without extending love to our neighbor (see Gal 5:14; Rom 13:9; Jam 2:8 where love of one’s neighbor is regarded as the completion of the Old Testament Law).

Luke 10:38-42 ~ Jesus visits Martha and Mary in Bethany
38 As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  39 She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  40 Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”  41 The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  42 There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Question: What is being contrasted in this episode?
Answer: In this episode, two kinds of service to the Lord are contrasted “service in love of neighbor and service in love of God.

The scholar correctly identified the two greatest commandments as love of God and love of neighbor in Luke 10:27-28.  It is the same teaching Jesus gives when questioned by the Pharisees and scribes (Mt 22:34-40 and Mk 12:28-31).  Here the contrast is between Martha the attentive hostess and her sister the attentive disciple.

Question: Where did Martha and Mary live?  See Jn 11:1 and consult a map of the Holy Land in the 1st century AD.
Answer: They lived in the village of Bethany, on the east side of the Mt. of Olives which was located on the east side of Jerusalem.

Question: What was Jesus’ relationship with the two sisters and their brother Lazarus?  See Jn 11:5 and 12:1-2.
Answer: They were disciples who made Jesus welcomed in their home.  Scripture records that Jesus loved Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus.”

Three visits to the home of Martha and Mary are recorded in the Gospels:

  1. The visit in Luke 10:38-42 as Jesus is traveling to     Jerusalem.
  2. The visit when their brother Lazarus dies in John 11:1-44.  Jesus had withdrawn to the east side of the Jordan River because     of the opposition of the priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem.  He returns     to raise Lazarus from the dead.
  3. The visit that begins Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem in     John 12:1-11 when He and His Apostles have a Sabbath meal with the family.

John 11:1 is the only time Lazarus is mentioned before his sisters (see Jn 11:5; 12:2). (4)

In this story Martha’s service is the customary physical comfort offered to an honored guest, and Mary’s service is in listening to the Gospel of the Lord.

Question:  What is the “one thing” that is necessary that Jesus refers to in verse 42?
Answer: The “one thing” is being ready and willing to hear the word.

Jesus gently corrects Martha, telling her that while demonstrating love of a “neighbor” is worthy it cannot be more important than love of God expressed by listening to the Word “Christ Himself (Jn 1:1).  Priority is given to hearing the word (Lk 8:15, 21).  It is the spiritual work that must take precedence.

Question: How is Jesus breaking with the conventions of His times in what He tells Martha?
Answer: In saying that the better choice is hearing the Word, He is saying that a woman’s place isn’t always “in the kitchen;” she is equal to men in her obligation to hear and understand the Word.

Question for reflection or group discussion: 

The episode in Luke 10:38-42 contrasts two kinds of service to the Kingdom “physical and contemplative.  The truth is we need both Marthas and Marys to advance the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  How are Marthas valuable to the Kingdom of Christ?  What roles to they fill?  Who are the Marys who serve the Kingdom and in what ways do the Marthas help the Mary’s fulfill their role?

Endnotes:

1.  Certain ancient texts of the Alexandrian and Caesarean     text types record “70″ while other important Alexandrian and Western texts     have “72″ (Green, page 409).

2.  Also see Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 109; A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Division ii, vol. I, page 278; Lev 6:11/4; Ez 44:14.  The Temple was holy ground therefore God’s instructions to Moses in Ex 3:5 applied to the Court of Israel and the Temple Sanctuary.

3.  Bishop Eusebius (mid 4th century AD) identified     Chorazin as “a village in Galilee” that in his time was a deserted place     “two miles from Capernaum (Onom., 303, 174).

4.  It is possible that he was a minor under the care of his     older sisters.  Usually adult males are named before their sisters as in     the case of Aaron, Moses and Miriam.  Aaron was three years older than     Moses but Miriam was the eldest of the three (see Ex 6:20; 7:6; Ex 2:4,     7-9).

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