The Gospel of St. Luke – Lesson 6

Lesson 6: Chapters 6-7
Jesus’ Ministry in the Galilee Continued: Mission and Controversy

Compassionate Lord,
In this week’s lesson we seek to grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ ministry as He called all men and women to turn away from the world and what the world values and instead to turn to You, Lord, submitting themselves by  becoming vessels through which Your good works flow.  Many human lessons are to  be learned from Jesus’ teachings but the central theme is always to live a righteous  life that demonstrates faith and repentance of sin through acts of love and mercy  to others and to have trust and faith in our Divine Father who never abandons the  children who seek His forgiveness and acknowledge His sovereignty over their lives.   Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study.  We pray in the name of God  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.    Amen.

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But our Lord and Savior, not very long after the beginning of his preaching, called the twelve apostles and to them alone of all his disciples he gave the name of apostles as a special honor.  Later, he proclaimed seventy others, and them also he sent out two by two in advance of himself into every place and city where he himself was to come.
Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/63-340), Ecclesiastical History, 1.10

This is why I speak in parables, because  they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:  You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted and I heal them.’ 
Jesus in Matthew 13:35 quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 LXX

The episodes Luke has been presenting concerning Jesus’ ministry seem to be unrelated, but St. Luke is carefully presenting Jesus’ authority in interpreting Scripture and the Law together with demonstrations of the unique power and authority of His ministry.  Luke is also drawing our attention to the growing opposition of the religious leaders through a series of encounters on the Old Covenant Sabbath.  Notice that in the episode in 4:31-37 Jesus’ heals on the Sabbath without opposition but after news of His actions begin to spread (4:37) the result is that some scribes and Pharisees arrive from as far away as Jerusalem to observe His teaching, the miracles He has reportedly performed and question Him (5:17-30).  This sequence of events is repeated in 6:6-11 where Jesus heals on the Sabbath, but this time the opposition of the Pharisees is intensified “they accuse Him of blasphemy.  In the third Sabbath  encounter, the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath prohibition against labor on the Sabbath (6:1-5) and in the fourth Sabbath episode (the third Sabbath healing) in 6:6-11 the opposition of the Pharisees and scribes has reached the point at which they are actively conspiring to present a formal indictment against Jesus (6:7, 11).

Chapter 6: The Sabbath Controversy, the Sermon on the Plain and Jesus Begins Teaching in Parables

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.  But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.  Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
Jesus condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt 23:232-24)

Luke 6:1-5 ~ The Sabbath Controversy begins
1 While he was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.  2 Some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?  3 Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those [who were] with him were hungry?  4 [How] he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions.”  5 Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

In verses 1-5 in response to the Pharisees and scribes’ criticism of His disciples, Jesus asserts His claim to authority over the Sabbath.  This is the Pharisees fourth criticism of Jesus:

  1. Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who but God alone can     forgive sins? (5:21)
  2. Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners? (5:30)
  3. Why don’t your disciples fast? (5:33)
  4. Why do you do what is prohibited on the Sabbath? (6:1)

Rubbing the grain in their hands describes the disciples separating the edible grain from the inedible chaff.

Question: Were Jesus’ disciples stealing the farmer’s grain?  See Dt 23:26.
Answer: No, according to the Law if one was hungry in passing through a grain field one might pluck some of the ears with the hand to eat, but it was not allowed to use a sickle.  Jesus and His disciples were acting within the regulations of the Law.

Question: The Pharisees were strict interpreters of the Law of Moses.  Why do the Pharisees consider the actions of Jesus’ disciples to be a Sabbath violation? See Ex 20:9-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; Lev 19:3; 23:3; Dt 5:12-17.
Answer: It was commanded that the Sabbath be set aside from the normal week as a day of rest for the covenant people ” their households, their animals, and any aliens living in the land were prohibited from doing any labor.  Even during the time of harvest (Ex 34:12).  The Pharisees have so strictly interpreted the Sabbath prohibition that they consider plucking a few stalks of grain as a “labor” similar to harvesting.

Question: How does Jesus answer their challenge?  See1 Sam 21:2-7.
Answer: He directed their attention to the story of David and his men being given permission to eat the holy bread of the Sanctuary when they were hungry.

Jesus’ challenge “Have you not read” calls into question their understanding of the Scriptures.  In the Holy Place of the Sanctuary there was a golden table with 12 golden plates that held 12 loaves of holy bread, called “the Bread of the Presence (literally “of the face of God”).  According to God’s instructions in Exodus 24:23-30 and Lev 24:5-9, the bread was placed upon the golden table every Sabbath as an offering to God and was to be eaten only by the chief priests one week later when the fresh bread replace the week old bread (Lev 24:8).  The table also held cups for incense that was sprinkled over the bread.  A libation of wine was poured from golden pitchers into chalices which were also kept on the table.  Only the chief priests, the descendants of Aaron, had access to the Holy Place of the Sanctuary.

After the destruction of the proto-Temple at Shiloh (1 Sam 1:9; Jer 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9), the desert tent of the Tabernacle was established at Nob.  Isaiah 10:32 suggests that Nob was the nearest town to Jerusalem on the north and lay within sight of Jerusalem.  In the story, the priest Ahimelech was the great-grandson of the high priest Eli and the son of the high priest Ahijah (1 Sam 14:3; 1 Sam 22:8, 11-12, 20).  It is likely that at this time Ahimelech had succeeded his father as the anointed High Priest.

Question: What day of the week did David seek the help of the priests of God’s Sanctuary at Nob?  Lev 24:5-9; Num 28:9-10; 2 Sam 21:7.
Answer: Since Ahimelech mentions that the bread is being changed out for the new 12 loaves, it has to be the Sabbath that David and his men ate the holy bread of the Sanctuary.

Question: In the story of David and his men, what did the high priest ask David before he gave permission for David and his men to eat the holy bread and why?  See Lev 15:18; Dt 23:10.
Answer: He essentially asked David were he and his men in a state of ritual purity “in other words, were they in a state of grace that would allow them to eat what belonged to God.

Question: What was David’s answer?
Answer: David told the priest that they were ritually clean and therefore able to partake of the holy bread under the conditions of the Law for soldiers.

Question: What is Jesus’ point in referring the Pharisees and scribes to this Old Testament story?
Answer: The point is that the Law was not meant to be so rigid as to be without mercy and compassion.  It was the chief priests’ decision that the prohibition that only the chief priests must eat the week old Bread of the Presence could be set aside in a time of need such as feeding the hungry warriors of the people of God.

Luke 6:5 Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

In this statement Jesus is making a startling claim concerning His authority.

Question: What declaration is Jesus making to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in this statement?  See Mt 12:3-7.
Answer: As “Lord of the Sabbath,” Jesus is claiming divine authority to determine what is and isn’t a Sabbath violation of the Law.  This interpretation is made clear in the same episode recorded by Matthew’s Gospel and Jesus’ declaration that “something greater than the Temple is here (Mt 12:6), referring to Himself and His mission.  Jesus also points out in that passage that the work the priests do in God’s holy Temple on the Sabbath is not a violation (12:5).  In other words, God determined that the priests are innocent of a violation in the Sabbath service just as Jesus determined that His disciples are innocent of a violation in picking a few grains to eat in their hunger on the Sabbath. The point being that if Temple duties outweigh the Sabbath laws, how much more does the presence of God the Son and His proclamation of the Kingdom (the something greater than the Temple) justify the conduct of Jesus and His disciples.

There may also be a veiled foreshadowing of the eating of the Eucharist in both the story of David and his men and Jesus and His disciples.  Under the Old Covenant only the chief priests were allowed to eat the holy bread of the Lord.  The community of the faithful could not eat the holy bread, but in the Kingdom that Jesus has come to establish all the faithful “men and women who are in a state of grace like David and his men and Jesus and His disciples will eat the holy bread of the Lord.

Question: In this episode, is Jesus doing away with the Sabbath prohibitions in the Law?
Answer: No.  He is properly re-defining those prohibitions.

Using the title “Son of Man” in verse 5 refers to Jesus’ earthly ministry.  His response to the Pharisees implies the misuse or misunderstanding of the Sabbath prohibitions in the Law of Moses and the superiority of Jesus, the divine “Son of Man,” in interpreting the Scriptures.  Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath” because of His mission as the Messiah who is sent to preach the coming of the Kingdom.  If a human being like David can in certain circumstances be allowed liberty with certain prohibitions set down in Scripture, then so can Jesus the Messiah, in an act of mercy for hungry disciples, subordinate a prohibition in His mission without formally abolishing the Sabbath regulations.  The Law is not meant to be so rigid as to ignore mercy and compassion.  In addition, God does not cease his “work” on the Sabbath, nor do His priests, and therefore nor does God the Son.

Luke 6:6-11 ~ Another Sabbath Controversy
6 On another Sabbath he went into the Synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.  7 The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.  8 But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.”  And he rose and stood there.  9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?  10 Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.”  He did so and his hand was restored.  11 But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

With the words “On another Sabbath,” St. Luke connects the events recorded in 6:1-5 chronologically and topically with the previous episodes in chapters 4-5.  In the these episodes Luke’s focus is on Jesus’ authority in interpreting Scripture and the Law (see 4:21) and the power and authority of His ministry.  Notice that the episode in 4:31-37 is very like that in 6:6-11 “Jesus heals on the Sabbath without opposition, but as news of His actions begin to spread, so does opposition to His mission.  This time the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees is heightened to the point that they are considering a formal indictment against Jesus (6:7) and publically reject His claim to divine authority (6:5, 11).

The controversy surrounding Sabbath healings increases in this episode, and Jesus will intensify the controversy by challenging the Pharisees on the real issue concerning what is lawful or unlawful concerning the Sabbath.  Notice that the man does not ask to be healed.  It is Jesus who offers the invitation.  That the man’s right hand was withered is significant.  In the Middle East in ancient times (as it is today), one can only eat from the communal bowl of food with the right hand.  The left hand is reserved for sanitary functions and is never placed in a communal bowl.

Luke 6:9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?  With this statement, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and scribes.  He is teaching an ethical understanding of the Sabbath Law and not the rigid application of the Law applied by the Pharisees and scribes.

Question: How has Jesus placed the Pharisees and the scribes in a dilemma with this question?
Answer: They cannot say it is right to do evil on the Sabbath or it is right to destroy life, but if they answer that it is lawful to do good and save life on the Sabbath they will be giving Jesus permission to heal on the Sabbath.

When His adversaries do not answer, Jesus heals the man.  The anger and frustration of the Pharisees and scribes may be more from being bested by Jesus than because they believe He is violating the Sabbath law.  They must have been embarrassed by the lack of a response to His challenge.  Now they actively begin to conspire against Jesus.

Question: In these passages Jesus, as the authoritative teacher who is “Lord of the Sabbath,” answers the question concerning “work” on the Sabbath through what two principles?  See Lk 6:9-11;Lev 19:18 and Dt 6:5.

  • Mercy and compassion toward man and beast is an acceptable     “work of mercy” on the Sabbath (a question Jesus answers in the     affirmative in His actions in Lk 6:9-10).
  • Doing good on the Sabbath is allowed because it fulfills     the commandments concerning love of God and love of one’s neighbor (Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18).

Jesus’ point is that the Sabbath is a time for acting with goodness, compassion and healing in remembrance of the “good work” of God in Creation (see Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 19, 21, 25, and 31) “the end of which God sanctified the seventh day as the Sabbath as a day of rest (Gen 2:1-3).  The celebration of the Sabbath is also the anticipation of the promised “rest” in the Kingdom of God.

Luke 6:12-16 ~ The Selection of the Twelve Apostles
12 In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.  13 When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was also called a Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Luke 6:12 In those days he departed to the mountain to pray…

The introductory statement “In those days” is a shift in topic from the Sabbath controversies.  Jesus departed to the mountain to pray… There are no mountains in the Galilee, only rolling hills.  Luke mentions a mountain for symbolic reasons.  The “mountain of God” is a theological significant symbol in the Bible.  Most revelations of God in the Bible take place in association with mountains.  That Eden was the original “holy mountain” (Ez 28:13-14) explains the significance of the other mountains that will become important in the history of God’s covenant people as sites for God’s redemptive acts and revelations, calling mankind back to the relationship man enjoyed with God in Eden (Gen 22:2; Ex 19:16-19; 2 Chr 3:1; Mt 28:16-20).  God’s holy prophets promised the restoration of “the mountain” of God to the earth in the eschatological age to come (see for example Is 2:2-4; Dan 2:44-45; Mic 4:1-7).

The prophets taught that the “holy mountain” signified the fulfillment and consummation of man’s restoration to God through the Messiah’s atonement when the Kingdom of God’s universal peace would fill the earth: There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea (Is 11:9 NJB).    That Jesus called His disciples up “the mountain” in Matthew 5:1 and Luke 6:12 is theologically significant to God’s covenant people; it signals another revelation of God among His people and takes them a step closer to the fulfillment of the Kingdom.

Question: In addition to Eden, how many such “holy mountain” sites can you think of where revelations of God occurred that had a significant impact on salvation history?

Mountain Scripture Passage
   1.  The Garden of Eden: Located on a mountain from which 4  rivers flowed. Gen 2:10;
Ez 28:12-14
   2.  Mt. Moriah:

  • Site of the substitutionary atonement of the ram in       place of the sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac.
  • The site where David saw the Angel of the Lord standing       with his sword in his hand ready to destroy Jerusalem until David built       an altar there and made atonement through sacrifice.
  • The site where Solomon built the Temple where man and       God commune in fellowship.
Gen 22:2;
1Chr 21:15-17;
2Chr 3:1;
Mt 27:33, 59; 28:1-7;
Mk 15:22, 46; 16:1-6;
Lk 23:33, 53; 24:1-6;
Jn 19:17, 38-42; 20:4-9
   3.  Mt. Sinai/Horeb:

  • The theophany of God to His people, the giving of the       Law, the formation of the Sinai Covenant and birth of the Old Covenant       Church.
  • The site of God’s appearance to Elijah.
Ex 19:12-40:38;
1 Kng 19:11-18
   4.  Mt. Carmel: Site of Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal. 1 Kng 18
   5. Mt. of Temptation: The site where Jesus, the  “new Adam,” resisted Satan. Mt 4:8-11;
Lk 4:1-13
   6.  Mt. of Beatitudes: Where Jesus commissioned the 12  Apostles and gave them the New Covenant law. Mt 5:1-2;
Mk 3:13-19;
Lk 6:12-16
   7.  Mt. at Caesarea Philippi: Jesus’ official  commissioning of Peter as Vicar of the New Covenant Church. Mt 16:13-19;
Mk 8:27-30;
Lk 9:18-21
   8.  Mt. of Transfiguration: Jesus appeared in His glory. Mt 17:1-8;
Mk 9:2-8;
Lk 9:28-36
(Peter refers to this place as “the holy mountain” in
2 Pt 1:16-18)
   9.  Mt. of Olives:

  • Jesus is arrested in a garden on the Mt. of Olives.
  • Jesus ascends to the Father from the Mt. of Olives.
  • It will be the site of Christ’s return in His Second       Coming.
Mt 26:47ff;
Mk 14:43ff;
Lk 22:47ff;
Jn 18:3ff;
Acts 1:1-12;
Zech 14:3-5
   10. Golgotha:

  • Jesus made atonement for the sins of mankind and was       crucified and resurrected on Golgotha, an elevation below Mt. Moriah.
Mt 27:33;
Mk 15:22;
Jn 19:17
Michal E. Hunt copyright 1998; revised 2007, 2011

Note: Mt. Ararat is not included (see Gen 8:4) because, although God did place the redeemed family of Noah on that mountain, there was no visible manifestation of His presence or any single act signifying His presence.

From among His disciples (numbered as 70/72 in Luke 10:1), Jesus chose 12 men, forming a hierarchy of the Kingdom with Himself as the head.(3)  The 12 Apostles are to be the spiritual “Fathers” of the New Covenant Church in the same way that the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel were the 12 physical fathers of the Old Covenant Church.  This arrangement recalls the hierarchy of the Church of the newly formed Sinai Covenant with Moses as covenant mediator, Aaron and his two eldest sons as the next level of authority (that will be repeated in the singling out of Peter, James and John Zebedee at the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane), the princes/elders of the 12 tribes of Israel and the governing body of the 70 elders of Israel (Ex 24:1).  In Acts 1:2 Luke will write that Jesus chose the Apostles “through the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word “Apostles” is derived from the verb apostellein, meaning “to send.”  The noun apostelos means “emissaries.”  It is a word used in earlier Greek literature for someone sent, for example, as an envoy or naval expedition (see Herodotus, Histories, 1.21).  Josephus uses the word for “sending” a delegation of Jews to Rome (Antiquities of the Jews, 17.11.1 [300]).  It was a term that designated the Twelve during Jesus’ ministry but will be more widely applied in the early years of the Church for a missionary sent out to preach the Gospel message of salvation: He appointed twelve whom he also named apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons (Mk 3:14-15).In Acts the title (perhaps to be considered with a small “a”) is applied to both Sts. Paul and Barnabas (see Acts 4:4, 14; Rom 16:7; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1; 15:5-7; Gal 1:19; also see Acts 1:2, 8; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:17).

There are four lists of the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16; Acts 1:13).  All the lists vary in the order of the names; however, all the lists in the Gospels begin with Peter and end with the traitor Judas Iscariot.  The list in Acts also begins with Peter but ends with Judas son of James since Judas Iscariot is already dead.  That Peter was Jesus’ designated leader of the Apostles is clear from his primacy in the lists.  Notice that he is already named “Peter” in verse 14: Simon, whom he named Peter and also in 5:8.  Jesus first gave Simon the name/title “rock” = Kepha in Aramaic or Petros in Greek before the beginning of the Galilean ministry in John 1:42.  St. John the Apostle and St. Paul uses Cephas for Peter, the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic “Kepha” (see Jn 1:42; 1 Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 2:9).

Luke 6:16b … and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
In Scripture Judas Iscariot is always described negatively.  In John 6:70 Jesus said: “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.

Luke 6:17-19 ~ The Sermon on the Plain
17 And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.  A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon 18 came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.  19Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. 

Jesus and His disciples went up the “mountain” in 6:12, but now they have they come down from the “mountain” to stand on level ground before He begins to teach not only the disciples but the crowds of people who have gathered.

Question: Who are these people and where have they come from to hear Jesus teach in the Galilee?  See verse 7.
Answer: They are Jews who have come from the region of the Galilee in the north, from Judea and God’s holy city of Jerusalem in the south, and they have come from the eastern Gentile coastal region of the great trading centers of Tyre and Sidon.

Luke 6:19 Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. 
The power of the Spirit of God flowed from Jesus to whoever He touched or who touched Him.  In 8:43-48 Luke tells the story of a woman who was healed simply by grasping the tassel on Jesus’ cloak.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus gives a homily on the mountain (Mt chapters 5-7), but in Luke’s Gospel He teaches on the plain below the mountain (Lk 6:17-49).  A Beatitude teaching is found in both accounts, but St. Luke’s Gospel records a different beatitude teaching than is found in Matthew’s Gospel.  A beatitude (makarios in Greek) is a blessing bestowed by God.  Please read Matthew 4:25-5:12 and compare the first part of Jesus’ teaching with the teaching in Luke 6:12-26.  There are three major theories that Bible scholars have developed to account for the differences between Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain:

  1. Both Gospels give different accounts of the same     discourse.
  2. The Gospels reflect two different homilies spoken at     different times during Jesus’ teaching ministry.
  3. The Gospels present two homilies delivered in close     succession: one on the summit of the mountain only to the disciples and     then a second homily on the plain to the multitude.

Question: What differences do you notice between the events concerning Jesus’ teaching in Matthew and His teaching in Luke?  Hint: Notice location, audience, and content of the teaching.

  • Both teachings took place in the Galilee, but in Matthew’s     Gospel Jesus’ Beatitude teaching took place on a mountain side (Mt 5:1)     while the teaching in Luke took place on a plain after descending from a     the mountain: In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he     spent the night in prayer to God …  And he came down with them and stood     on a stretch of level ground (Lk 6:12, 17a).
  • In Matthew’s Gospel, the homily is directed to His     disciples: When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after     he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them …     (Mt 5:1-2).  Luke includes the information that on the mountain top Jesus     chose some of His disciples to be His Apostles: 12 In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he     spent the night in prayer to God.  13     When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he     chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles (Lk 6:12-13).
  • In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus descended the mountain with His     disciples after a night of teaching and prayer, and then He directed His     teaching to the crowds of people as well as to a larger group of disciples     who came to hear Him preach: He then came down with them and stopped at     a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his     disciples, with a great crowed of people from all parts of Judea and     Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear     him and to be cured of their diseases (Lk 6:17-18a).
  • In St. Matthew’s Gospel, the message was a spiritual     message composed of 7 or 8 blessings and resulting in 7 or 8 promises     (depending on how you count them), while in St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus     addressed 4 social justice issues which were followed by 4     curses/judgments directed against those who abuse the poor and perpetuate     injustice.

It may be an important distinction that the Beatitude teaching in St. Matthew’s Gospel was presented to Jesus’ disciples “to believers who had already come to acknowledge His authority (Mt 5:1).  They were ready to receive a “spiritual” teaching on how Jesus had come to transform the Old Covenant by intensifying, internalizing, and fulfilling the Law of the Old Covenant.  The multitude (Mt 5:1; Lk 6:17-18), the poor people and the crowds who came from near and far, could not have understood or accepted such a teaching.  They were far more concerned with the temporal blessings and the justice that was promised to them through obedience to the Old Covenant Law (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14).

Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain can be divided into 5 parts: (4)
Part I: Beatitudes and curses/judgments (6:20-26)
Part II: The love of enemies (6:27-36)
Part III: Judging others and the parable of the blind guide (6:37-42)
Part IV: The parable of the tree and its fruit 6:43-45)
Part V: The parable of the two foundations (6:46-49)

The slope of the land from the site of the Mount of Beatitudes to the Sea of Galilee presents a spectacular natural amphitheater.  If Jesus stood on the level plain below the top of the hill where He taught the Sermon on the Mount, He could speak and be easily heard by a multitude of people standing or sitting along the hillside as it slopes down to the lake.

Luke 6:20-26 ~ Part I: Blessings and Curse Judgments
20 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.
21 Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. 
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. 
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.  23Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!  Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.  For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 
25 But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. 
Woe to you who laugh now, for your will grieve and weep.
26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

Question: In the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-26, Jesus gave His teaching in the style of the Sinai covenant treaty sanctions found in Leviticus 26:3-46 and Deuteronomy 28:1-46.  What pattern do you see Jesus repeating from those passages?
Answer: Jesus was giving a series of blessings and curses just like the blessings for obedience and the curses/judgments for disobedience that God told Moses to give the Israelites.  Jesus gave 4 blessings followed by 4 curses.

Question: How are Jesus’ new Kingdom blessings and curse/judgments different from the blessings and curse/judgments of the Sinai Covenant?
Answer: The Old Covenant sanctions of blessings and curses/judgments were all temporal.   Jesus’ promised blessings and curses/judgments are eternal.

Question: What issues of social justice did Jesus address to the crowds in St. Luke’s Gospel? What are the “blessings” He promised to those who have suffered in this life?

  1. He promised the poor that they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
  2. He promised the hungry that they will be filled.
  3. He promised the sorrowful that they will become joyful.
  4. He promised those who are persecuted for following Him that they will be rewarded in heaven just as the prophets of God were rewarded.

Question: What were the four curses/judgments that He pronounced?  What are the ultimate consequences of the curses?
Answer:  He pronounced curses on the rich who allow poverty to increase without using the blessings of their material wealth to comfort the poor and suffering.  The rich who do not share their wealth will only receive temporal blessings in this life but will remain spiritually impoverished, and they will have no share in the eternal blessings promised in the heavenly kingdom:

  1. They will have no “wealth” in eternity.
  2. They may be full now, but they will be hungry for eternity.
  3. They may experience joy now, but they will suffer later beyond this earthly existence.
  4. They are compared to those who persecuted God’s holy prophets.

Question: What is the contrast between the economic and social conditions of those mentioned in the blessings and curse/judgments?  There are 4 groups who receive blessings and curses, but there is also a 5thcategory.

  1. The poor and the rich
  2. The hungry and the satisfied
  3. Those who grieve and those who laugh
  4. Those are persecuted for the sake of the Kingdom of Jesus     Christ and those who persecute them
  5. The true prophets and the false prophets.

Jesus’ judgments against the affluent who without conscience oppress or ignore the poor and suffering is similar to Isaiah’s prophecy of judgment in 65:11-16: … therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Lo, my servants shall eat, but you shall go hungry; my servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty; my servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame …(Is 65:13).

Question: A true prophet speaks the word of God (Dt 18:17-20).  The Pharisees’ opposition to God the Son has placed them in what category?
Answer: The have become false prophets.

Question: Are these blessings and curses relevant to us today?  When should we review this teaching on a regular basis?  See Mt 25:31-46 and Lk 12:15-20, 48.
Answer: Absolutely.  In one’s participation in the Sacrament of Reconcilation/Penance, these concerns should be a part of one’s examination of conscience.

Luke 6:27-36 ~ Part II: Love of enemies
27 But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  29 To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.  30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.  31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.  32 For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do the same.  34 If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.  35 But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  36 Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.

This is a radically new teaching.  Jesus is asking the people not to respond to others as their human nature tells them to respond, but rather to respond in mercy and love as God responds to human frailty (verse 36).

Question: What is the triad of righteousness that Jesus calls the people to demonstrate?  See verses 27 and 32-35.
Answer: He calls for a triad of works that demonstrates love, good deeds, and giving/lending to those in need.

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 
This maxim is well attested in antiquity in Hellenistic and Jewish literature, but stated in the negative and not in the positive as it is here.

Question: What two kinds of rewards is Jesus contrasting in verses 32-35?
Answer: Earthly rewards when good works are recognized by others, which is a temporal reward as opposed to an eternal reward from God.

Luke 6:36 Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.
This teaching is repeated several times in Jesus’ homilies: “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect; “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful”; A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (see Mt 5:48; Lk 6:36; Jn 13:34).  As the children of our Divine Father through the rebirth of Christian baptism, we are asked to be like our Father in the way we behave and to pattern our lives after the life of the merciful, just and loving Jesus Christ.  A righteous and merciful God deserved righteous and merciful children.

Question: How does Jesus say the triad of goodness must be exercised in verses 35-36?
Answer: It must be exercised without calculating a reward.  Those who act without expectation of return even toward their enemies will be rewarded by God.  One who receives an earthly reward has already been “paid.”

Luke 6:37-46 ~ Part III: Judging others and the parable of the blind guide
37 Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  38 Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  39 And he told them a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?  40No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.  41 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?  42 How can you say to your brother,  Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.

Luke 6:37a Stop judging and you will not be judged.  Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. 

Question: In this teaching is Jesus saying that one must not judge the sin in others?  See the end of verse 42, Jesus instructions on  dealing with a brother who sins in Mt 18:15-17 and Proverbs 4:14-15: Do not follow the path of the wicked, do not walk the way that the evil go.  Avoid it, do not take it, turn your back on it, pass it by (NJB)See what St. Paul wrote on the subject in Rom 2:1-11 and 1 Cor 5:12-13.
Answer: We must judge sin in order to avoid it, and we must be able to correct a fellow Christian who has fallen into sin in order to protect the Church and the quality of the Church’s Christian witness, but we judge the sin and not the sinner.  We do not judge the heart of the individual because we do not have that authority.  Only God can judge hearts and souls.  As for those who sin outside the covenant, they are a “law unto themselves” and it is for the civil authorities and God to judge their sins.  It is only our obligation to share the Gospel of truth with them and pray for their conversion.

Luke 6:37b Forgive and you will be forgiven. 
Jesus’ teaching is that in fighting sin we must begin with fighting sin in ourselves.  We are being hypocrites when we quickly judge a fault in someone else when we are guilty of the same fault in our own life.  When we recognize and condemn what is a failure in our own life in someone else without confessing our own sin, our sins will doubly count against us at our judgment.  We will also have no credibility if we try to help someone else whose life is being torn apart by sin if our life is just as tainted.  The answer to living a life of righteousness is seeking God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  When we experience the grace of God’s forgiveness we must offer that same forgiveness to others in the human family. To forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us is a petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:12).  We must be committed to forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ (Eph 4:32).  St. Augustine wrote “Whoever confesses his sins …is already working with God” (In evangelium Johannis,12).

Question: What is the implied warning in verse 37b?
Answer: Our lack of forgiveness to a brother or sister in the human family may become a sin that hinders our gift of God’s forgiveness for sins in our lives.

Question: If we are generous and merciful in forgiving those who wrong just as God had been merciful in forgiving our sins, what is the promise Jesus makes to us?
Answer: The answer is in verse 38: Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  The result is God’s gift of abundant grace.

Notice that Jesus uses the Greek word “hypocrite” in this passage.  There is no Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent.  It is a Greek word that referred to the Greek theater and means “playing a role or part.”

Luke 6:43-45 ~ Part IV: The parable of a tree and its fruit
43 A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.  44 For every tree is known by its own fruit.  44 For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.  45A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus used this parable to discern between the true and false prophet (Mt 7:15-20).  Someone who claims to speak in the name of God is a prophet.  In the Old Testament there were both true and false prophets just as in Jesus’ time there will be true and false disciples.  In relating this teaching to the one on the blind guide, one can recognize the true child of God who is a guide to others by the quality of his deeds “the “fruits” of good works that his life produces like compassion, mercy, charity to the poor and a forgiving heart.

Luke 6:45A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

The heart was seen as the true essence of a person “for good and for evil.  It was the seat of one’s moral personality.  The struggle against sin and evil entails purifying the interior self by confessing sin and surrendering oneself to the interior anointing of God the Holy Spirit.  Only then can someone truly do what is good.

Question: What is Jesus’ point in this parable?  What group of people has thus far identified themselves as those of are yielding “bad fruit.”
Answer: Good fruit (good works) come from good trees (good people) and bad fruit (evil works) come from bad trees (people with evil intentions).  The malicious accusations of the scribes Pharisees reveal the malice and evil in their hearts “it is their rotten “fruit” that identifies them as evil.  They are looking for sin in Jesus when there is much sin evident in their lives.

St. Luke records more of Jesus’ parables than any other Gospel writer.

Question: Why is Jesus teaching in parables?  What happened before He began teaching in parables in 5:36-39?
Answer: Jesus began teaching in parables when He encountered the opposition of His audience, including the religious leaders as in 5:36-39.

In the Old Testament God’s prophets resorted to teaching in parables when they encountered opposition from the civil or religious leadership; see for example the Old Testament parables of “The Ewe Lamb” (2 Sam 12:1-14); “The Two Brothers and the Avenger” (2 Sam 14:1-11); “The Escaped Captive (2 Kings 20:35-40) “The Vineyard (Is 5:1-7); “The Eagle and the Vine” (Ez 17:3-10); “The Lion Whelps (Ez 10:2-9), “The Vine (Ez 19:10-14), “The Forest Fire” (Ez 21:1-5) and “The Boiling Pot (Ez 24:3-5) .  Jesus is following the same course as God’s other prophets.(1)

A parable is a story that conveys a certain truth or imparts a teaching.  Parables in the Gospels are numbered by scholars as between 35 – 75.(2)  The wide variation in number comes from the difficulty in classifying what is a more narrowly defined parable or what is a saying or maxim, what is a simile or a metaphor, or what is an allegory.  There are eight major themes which occur regularly in Jesus’ parables:

  1. The assurance of the coming of the Kingdom of God
  2. The present arrival of the “new age”
  3. The mercy of God for sinners
  4. The imminence of God’s divine judgment
  5. The necessity of an immediate personal response to Jesus’ message
  6. The conditions of discipleship
  7. The coming of the Passion
  8. The consummation of Jesus’ mission in His Resurrection and Ascension

In the “tree known by its fruit” parable Jesus uses one of the covenant images of the Old Testament prophets.  The four reoccurring symbolic images of the prophets representing the people’s covenant relationship with God are (1) marriage, (2) the fruitful vine and tree, (3) domesticated animals, and (4) drinking wine (See the chart “The Symbolic Images of the Prophets”).  Look for the symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets that Jesus will use repeatedly in His parables.

Question: When has Jesus used other symbolic images of the prophets in His teaching in Luke?
Answer: He used the marriage imagery in 5:34-35 when He spoke of Himself as the Bridegroom and the imagery of drinking old wine versus new wine in 5:37-39.

Luke 6:46-49 ~ Part V: The parable of the two foundations
46 Why do you call me,  Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?  47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them.  48 That one is like a person building a house who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.  49But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation.  When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”

Verse 46 makes the contrast between saying and doing while verse 47 makes the contrast between hearing and doing.

Question: What is the symbolism of the parable?  Who is the one who hears and does as opposed to the one who hears and does not act?  What is the river?
Answer: The person who both hears what Jesus teaches and then acts on what he has heard is the disciple who is building his understanding of Jesus’ message on a firm foundation of faith.  But a person who only hears and does not act has nothing to strengthen his faith.  Adversity (the raging river) will cause his faith to collapse and fail.

Then too, the one who hears and builds upon the rock is the one who will be guided by St. Peter, the Rock upon which Christ will build His “house,” the Church.

While only those in the crowd whose hearts were opened to receive Jesus’ teaching could understand, His parables were in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 6:9-10), the others had to be aware of three significant points:

  1. Jesus is teaching in parables as prophesied in Psalms 78:1-2 (quoted in Mt 13:35) like God’s other Spirit-filled Old Testament     prophets (Ez 21:5/20:49).
  2. He is teaching with authority that was lacking in the     hierarchy of the Church of their day (Lk 4:36).
  3. He will tell them that no longer are the blessings for     covenant obedience or the judgments for covenant disobedience to be     temporal (Lev 26; Dt 28).  In the kingdom that is coming, both blessings     and judgments will be eternal and not all sins can be forgiven after death     in Sheol.  At “the end of the Age” God will render a final accounting in a     Last Judgment that will eternally condemn the wicked (Lk 6:20-23; Mt 12:32; 13:42-43, 49-50; Mt 25:31-46).

Jesus will give His reason for teaching in parables in Luke 8:10 by referring to the quote from Isaiah 6:9-10.

Chapter 7: More Healings and the Disciples of John the Baptist

Luke 7:1-10 ~ The healing of the Centurion’s servant/son
1 When he had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum.  2 A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.  4 They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”  6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was only a short distance from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.  7 Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.  8For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.  And I say to one,  Go,’ and he goes; and to another,  Come here,’ and he comes; and to my slave,  Do this and he does it.”  9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him and, turning, said to the crowd following him, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  10 When the messengers returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. 

A centurion is a Roman officer who was the commander of a hundred men.  Roman soldiers were stationed throughout Judea, Samaria and the Galilee to maintain order.  This centurion was probably in the service of Herod Antipas, the ruler of the Galilee and Perea.  He was a “God fearer”  “a Gentile who recognized the One True God of Israel and worshipped Him but had not gone so far as to submit to circumcision and full conversion to the covenant (see the same title in Acts 10:2, 22).  Such a person could not be admitted beyond the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, but he could attend Sabbath services in a local Synagogue.   This Gentile Roman officer had even financed the building of the Synagogue in Capernaum (verse 5).

Luke 7:2 A centurion there had a slave [doulos can refer to a slave/servant or minor child] who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him [entimos can mean “valuable/precious” or “dear” in affection].

Question: What words of the Roman centurion are spoken in the sacrifice of the Mass?
Answer: The congregation repeats the centurions words “”Lord …. I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof” ” then adding “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” prior to the Eucharistic procession.

Question: Why did the centurion discourage Jesus from entering his house?  See Jn 18:28 and Acts 10:28.
Answer: Israelites/Jews became ritually defiled by entering the residence of a pagan Gentile.

Question: The faith of this Roman officer prefigures the faith of what other Roman centurion that Luke describes as a “God fearer” in the book of Acts?  See Acts 10:1-49.
Answer: St. Peter will baptize the Roman centurion Cornelius, his entire family and his close friends who formed a community of Gentile believes at Caesarea into the Church of Jesus Christ.

Luke 7:11-17~ Raising to life the widow’s son
11 Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  12 As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  A large crowd from the city was with her.  13 When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  14 He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”  15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”  17 This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.

In Jesus’ travels throughout the territory of the Galilee, he came to the walled city of Nain (that the town had a gate suggests that it was a walled city).

Question: Consult a map of New Testament times in the back of a Bible or a map on our website “Maps” section.  Where is the city of Nain located?
Answer: Nain in located in southern Galilee almost to the border with Samaria.

The site of the ancient city has been identified as the Muslim town of Nein in the Plain of Jezreel  about 6 miles southeast from Nazareth.  The town and the church built over the site of the widow’s  house are mentioned in the writings and journals of 4th and 5th century Christian clergy and pilgrims  to the Holy Land.  The house of the widow probably became an early Christian church-home before  the large church was built (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Doubleday, 1992, vol. 4, “Nain,”  pages 1000-1001; The Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible,  The Jerusalem Publishing House, Ltd., 1986, “Nain”).

John the Baptist came in the spirit of the prophet Elijah who also called Israel to repentance.  But John was succeeded by Jesus, an even greater prophet.  In the same way Elijah was succeeded by a greater prophet, his disciple Elisha.

Question: Jesus’ miracle in restoring to life the only son of the widow recalls what miracle of the 8th century BC prophets Elijah and Elisha?  1 Kng 17:17-24 and 2 Kng 4:31-17.
Answer: The miracle recalls Elijah raising to life the only son of the widow of Zarephath and Elisha restoring to life the only son of the Shunammite woman.

Question: How many times during His three year ministry did Jesus raise the dead?  See Mt 5:22-24, 35-44; Lk 7:11-17; Jn 11:11-44.
Answer: Jesus raised the dead three times:

  1. The daughter of Jarius, the president of the Synagogue at Capernaum (Mt 9:18-26; Mk 5:22-24, 35-43).
  2. The widow of Nain’s son (Lk 7:11-17).
  3. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany (Jn 11:11-44).

Luke 7:18-23 ~ The disciples of John the Baptist
18 The disciples of John told him about all these things.  John summoned two of his disciples 19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”  20 When the men came to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,  Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’  21 At that time he cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind.  22And he said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  23 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

The next three teachings (verses 18-23, 24-30 and 31-35) explain the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist.  In his lonely prison cell, John may have begun to doubt himself (Lk 3:19-20.  He was having not a crisis of faith but a crisis of expectation.  He believed he had recognized the sign of the dove descending upon Jesus at His baptism “the sign by which God told him he would recognize the Messiah (Jn 1:32-33).  But Jesus was not preaching fiery judgment as prophesied by the prophet Malachi (3:2-5) and as expected by John who told the Jewish crowd that the coming of the Messiah was to be the fulfillment of that passage (Mt 3:11-12; Lk 3:9).  Jesus reminds John’s disciples that Malachi isn’t the only prophet who tells of the mission of the Messiah.  Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah: raising the dead (Is 26:19); giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, healing the lame and dumb (Is 35:5-6 and 42:6-7) and glad tidings to the poor and broken hearted (Is 61:1-2).  Jesus will come in fiery judgment, but in His Second Advent (1 Thes 4:16 and 2 Thes 1:7-10)!  The coming for which we must prepare.

Luke 7:23 And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.

Question: To whom does Jesus direct this blessing?
Answer: To those who do not let their preconceived ideas prevent them from hearing and accepting Jesus’ message.  Those who do not take offense at Jesus for what they think He should be, but who recognize Jesus’ true identity and accept His miracles as signs of His authority and believe in in His mission to announce the Kingdom.

Luke 7:24-30 ~ Jesus’ Testimony of John
24 When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John.  “What did you go out to the desert to see “a reed swayed by the wind?  25 Then what did you go out to see?  Someone dressed in fine garments?  Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces.  26 Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  27This is the one about whom scripture says:  Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’  28 I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; 30 but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.

Jesus asks the crowds a series of six rhetorical questions:

  1. What did you go out to the desert to see
  2. a reed swayed by the wind?
  3. Then what did you go out to see?
  4. Someone dressed in fine garments? 
  5. Then what did you go out to see? 
  6. A prophet? 

Jesus’ reference to “someone dressed in fine clothing” living “in royal palaces” may be an allusion to Herod Antipas, the ruler of the Galilee and Perea who had arrested and imprisoned John the Baptist.  John wore course camel’s hair for his garment and he was firm in his message of repentance; he was not a “reed swayed by the wind” of secular society.

Question: How does Jesus identify St. John in verses 26-27?  See Mal 3:1-3
Answer: He identifies St. John as a prophet of God and a successor of the prophet Malachi.

Malachi was the last Old Covenant prophets before the coming of St. John.  He lived in the post-exile period (5th century BC).  Jesus quotes the prophecy of God’s “messenger” from Malachi 3:1 in verse 27.  The passage in Malachi 3:1 repeats the promise of the precursor of Yahweh that was already promised in the “prophetic voice” prophecy of Isaiah (Is 40:3-5quoted in Lk 3:4-6) and who Malachi will identify with the 9thcentury BC prophet Elijah in Malachi 3:23.

Luke 7:28 Jesus said: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 

Question: What is Jesus saying in these two statements concerning St. John the Baptist?
Answer: John is the greatest of the Old Testament/Old Covenant prophets because he was chosen by God to prepare the way for the Messiah and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom.  However, since the coming of the Kingdom has not yet been fulfilled, he is still in the epic of those not yet glorified by the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ.  The saints whose mission it will be to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to all mankind will have a greater mission than St. John.

There is no personal slight to St. John in Jesus’ statement.  Jesus’ statement concerns epochs of man rather than persons “John is part of the Old Covenant and will not live to see the inauguration of the New Covenant.  However, St. John will also receive the Infinite Merit of the grace of salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and will also be admitted into the gates of heaven with all the other righteous souls in Sheol who will be liberated by the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice on the altar of the Cross (CCC 633-34).

Luke 7:29 All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, and who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; 30 but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.

Verse 30 identifies the blessed who did not take offense see (7:23).  The Pharisees and scribes are in the opposite camp and stand in opposition to God divine plan.

Luke 7:31-35 ~ Jesus rebukes His generation
31 “Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation?  What are they like?  32 They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,  We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’  33For John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking wine, and you said,  He is possessed by a demon.’  34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,  Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  35 But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” 

Question: To what does Jesus compare “this generation” in this proverb?
Answer: He compares His generation to two groups of children playing make-believe games.  One group complains that the other group refuses to play either the “wedding game” (“we played the flute” as in joyful music for a bridal procession) or the “funeral game” (“we sang a dirge but you did not mourn” as in a funeral procession).

Question: How is John identified in the parable; how is Jesus identified?  What is Jesus’ teaching in this proverb?  See Lk 3:3-9;Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6; Lk 5:21; 6:2.
Answer: John ascetic lifestyle, living frugally and fasting in the desert, identifies him as the “funeral” game, while Jesus came eating and drinking and identifying Himself as the Bridegroom (Lk 5:34) like the “wedding game.”  Those in opposition in “this generation” are not satisfied with either John or Jesus, rejecting both John’s aesthetic lifestyle and rejecting Jesus’ lifestyle, accusing Him of blasphemy and breaking the Law.  It is clear that nothing can please the generation of John and Jesus.

In this passage, Jesus uses the word “generation” in the negative to describe those who stand in opposition to both John the Baptist and Jesus and therefore in opposition to God’s plan for man’s salvation (also see Mt 23:33-36 and Lk 11:49-51).

Question: When was another generation of Israel referred to in the same negative way for similar opposition to God’s plan for His covenant people?  See Num 14:26; Dt 32:5Ps 95:8-11.
Answer: The Exodus generation.

Jesus concludes His proverb with the statement: “But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”  God’s wisdom in the Old Testament is personified like a mother who guides her child (see Wis 7:25-30; 8:3-4).

Question: Who are the “children of Wisdom” that Jesus is referring to in this saying?  What is the relationship between the “children of Wisdom” and the present generation?  See Wis 7:31-32.
Answer: John the Baptist and Jesus are the “children of Wisdom” as are all the people who willingly received their messages of repentance and salvation.  The Wisdom of God sends out her messengers, prophets like St. John and Jesus (the supreme prophet) who are rejected by those who lack the wisdom of God (Wis 7:27).  The works of Jesus are directed by divine Wisdom, which He embodies “the works of which will also be carried on by the “children” of His Kingdom.  In refusing to accept the example of either John or Jesus, the Jews of the present generation are turning away from both the wisdom of the Messiah and His forerunner whose missions are vindicated in their works.  The present generation of the Jews who oppose Jesus are not children of the Wisdom of God; instead they are like the contentious children Jesus spoke of in 7:31-32.

Luke 7:36-50 ~ The sinful woman and the parable of the two debtors
36 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.  37 Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  38 Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  40 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  “Tell me, teacher,” he said.  41 “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.  42 Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.  Which of them will love him more?”  43 Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”  He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “do you see this woman?  When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  45You did not give me a kiss, but she had not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  47 So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  48 He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  49The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This story is a powerful lesson that illustrates the relationship between forgiveness and love.  A Pharisee has invited Jesus, the controversial local Rabbi, to a banquet at this house as the honored guest.  All the guests are reclining at the meal.  It was a Hellenistic custom that was observed for a formal dinner (also see Mt 26:7, 20; Mk 14:3; 18).  It was also the custom to greet each guest with a kiss, to offer a basin for the guests to wash their feet, and, especially in the case of an honored guest, to anoint his head and/or feet with ointment.  A woman who is filled with the desire to repent her sins takes this opportunity to approach Jesus and express her sorrow and repentance in an act of humility.  Jesus read the negative and judgmental thoughts of His host when He allowed the sinful woman to touch Him “to be touched by someone who was impure imparted that person’s state of “uncleanness” to the one touched.  Jesus answered Simon’s thoughts by telling him a parable.

Question: In telling the parable, what comparison is Jesus making between the Pharisee Simon and the sinful woman?
Answer: Admittedly the woman is the greater sinner, but she is also the most repentant and has shown Jesus the greater love, a demonstration of her repentance.  Her tears and attention to Jesus is a demonstration of love and is the consequence of her forgiveness.  On the other hand, the self-righteous Simon didn’t even show Jesus the common courtesies of a host.

Question: What is the result of the woman’s actions as opposed to Simon’s lack of action?
Answer: Jesus forgives the woman’s sins.  Her faith in Jesus (verse 50) expressed by her loving action has saved her, but the implication can be made that perhaps Simon’s self-righteousness and lack of faith will condemn him.

Luke 7:49 The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
This question is similar to the question of the scribes and Pharisees in 5:21 when they asked “Who but God alone can forgive sins?”  Luke is building the tension and inviting his audience to respond in faith to answer the question for themselves.

Luke 7:50 But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Question: What is the “peace” with which Jesus blesses the woman?
Answer: The peace He gives her is the restoration of peace and fellowship with God.

The sinful woman has manifested to God greater gratitude in her love than the self-righteous Pharisee.  Her repentance for the sins of her life has made her more open to God’s mercy than the Pharisee who withholds the customary courtesies a host owes toward his guest.  The woman’s tears, kisses and humble anointing of Jesus’ feet reveals her openness to God in her faith that brings her salvation.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Question: What statement can you make concerning love and God’s forgiveness from Jesus’ teaching in this episode and what impact does this have on your journey of faith?
Answer: The relationship between forgiveness of sins and human love for God is found in unselfishly giving oneself to God with faith and humility in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we humbly bow before Him, like the woman, and offer up our sinful lives together with our love and faith.  In response, He mercifully grants us His forgiveness and restores our “peace” with Him.

Question: During His the years of His ministry, how many times was Jesus anointed by women?  See Lk 7:36-38; Jn 12:1-3; Mt 26:6-7and Mk 14:3.  How is each anointing different?  What might be the significance of three anointings?  See 2 Sam 7:16; Ez 34:23-24; CCC 783

  1. In the early part of His ministry in the Galilee, during a dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee, a sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped His feet with her hair, and anointed His feet with ointment (Lk 7:36-38).
  2. On the Saturday before He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, six days (as the ancients counted) before the Passover, in the last week of His ministry, Jesus attended a dinner at the home of His friends in Bethany in Judea.  Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet with ointment and dried them with her hair (Jn 12:1-3).
  3. On the Wednesday of His last week in Jerusalem, Jesus attended a dinner in Bethany at the home for Simon the (former) leper, two days before the Passover (as the ancients counted).  An unnamed woman at the dinner party anointed Jesus’ headwith ointment (Mt 26:6-7; Mk 14:3).

The servants of God who received a special anointing for service were prophets, priests and kings.  Jesus the Messiah has come to fulfill all three divinely called offices: He is God’s supreme prophet promised in Deuteronomy 18:19; He will become the High Priest of the New Covenant order (Heb 9:11-12), and He is the promised Davadic Messiah who has come to redeem His people and secure David’s throne forever (2 Sam 7:16; Ez 34:23-24; CCC 783).

Question: Some commentators suggest that the first anointing in Lk 7:36-50 and third anointing (Mt 26:1-2, 6-13; Mk 14:1, 3-8) are the same event or that all three are the same.  Why is this unlikely?  Also see Mt 26:14-16 and the same event in Mk 14:10-11 compared with Lk 22:3-6.

Answer: There are 3 similarities in the accounts inLuke 7:36-50 and the dinner in Matthew 26:6-7 and Mark 14:3 (which record the same event): a woman who anoints Jesus at a dinner party, a host named Simon, and Jesus’ defense of the woman.  However, there are significant differences:

  1. The dinner in Luke takes place in the Galilee early in     Jesus’ ministry while the dinner in Matthew and Mark takes place in the     village of Bethany in Judea on the last week of Jesus’ life, 2 days before     the Passover sacrifice.
  2. The uninvited woman in Luke is a sinner who is forgiven     while the unnamed woman in the other accounts is a guest who is praised     for preparing Jesus for His burial.
  3. The host of the dinner in Luke is a self-righteous Pharisee     named Simon, while the host at the dinner in Bethany is a former leper who     is not criticized by Jesus.
  4. The sinful woman in Luke anoints Jesus’ feet while the     woman at Bethany anoints Jesus’ head.
  5. Judas betrays Jesus immediately after the dinner in Bethany     recorded in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 (see Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:10-11),     but in Luke’s Gospel Judas doesn’t betray Jesus until He goes to Jerusalem     in Luke 22:3-6.

As for the two dinners at Bethany, the one in Matthew 26:6-7and Mark 14:3 and the other recorded in John 12:1-11: The two dinners at Bethany are on different days.  In John 12:1 the dinner is at the home of Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus 6 days before the Passover sacrifice and prior to Jesus’ triumphal ride into Jerusalem the next day.  The second dinner in Bethany is 2 days before the Passover sacrifice, after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.



1.  The Old Testament “parables” were also told as allegories,     wise sayings, and proverbs by God’s prophets to teach the people or warn     them of impending judgment.  God’s prophets reverted to teaching in this     way when the people and the religious and civil authority rejected the     message of God’s prophet.  The word masal (or parabole in     the Greek Septuagint) is explicitly used for these parabolic or     allegorical stories in the book of Ezekiel: Ez 12:22-23 (a proverb about     the land of Israel); 16:43-45 (the allegory of Jerusalem as an unfaithful     bride); 17:3-10 (parable-allegory of the two eagles); 20:45-49 (fire and     trees).  In other parables the word masal is not used and the     stories are called “prophetic lamentations (for example see Ez 19:1-9 and     10-14).  Some other examples of Old Testament parables are found in the     Parable of the Rich man and the Ewe-lamb when the prophet Nathan confronted     King David and his sin concerning Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:1-4); the Two     Brothers and the Avenger (2 Sam 14:1-11); the Escaped Captive (2 Kng 20:35-40); the Vineyard (Is 5:1-7); the Lion Whelps (Ez 19:2-9); the Vine     (Ez 19:10-14), the Forest Fire (Ez 21:1-5); and the Boiling Pot (Ez 24:3-5).

2.  Bible scholars do not agree on the number of parables     Jesus’ teaches in the Gospels.  The difficulty arises from a disagreement     as to how the classify Jesus’ stories as all parables or as sayings or as     allegories.  For example, some scholars designate “the Good Shepherd”     discourse in Jn 10:1-18 and the “Vine and the Branches” discourse in Jn 15:1-7 as parables while others classify them as allegories.  Some     scholars estimate the number of Jesus’ parables as low as 35 while others     list them as high as 72.

3.  Important codices of the Alexandrian and Caesarean texts     of Luke read “70” while other Alexandrian and Western New Testament     codices read “72”.

4.  For the five part division of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount     see the Gospel of Matthew study, lesson 5.

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