Let's take a look at the outline that we are using in our study of Luke's gospel. It is one that is based on His movements.
- The Beginning - 1:1-3:38: Covers His birth to His baptism by John.
- Jesus in Galilee - 4:1-9:50: Here Luke begins with Jesus' temptation after His baptism and follows Jesus as He begins His ministry and the gathering of His Apostles in the northern part of the country in and around His adult dwelling place in Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. Luke describes many miracles, teachings, confrontation with Jewish leaders and interaction with people and the one common factor to all was that they took place in the north.
The next section will describe events as He travels south to Jerusalem.
Jesus Facing Jerusalem – Luke 9:51-18:30
In this section Luke will continue his description of Jesus' ministry but now the scene changes as Jesus leaves the more friendly area of His home town in the north and heads for Jerusalem and the fierce opposition that will face Him and the Apostles there.
Ministry Training – 9:51-10:24
51When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went on to another village.
- Luke 9:51-56
Note that Luke shifts gears in verse 51 by simply alluding to Jesus' ascension (not crucifixion or resurrection). He refers to the final scene of His ministry in order to change the current setting from Galilee to Jerusalem. Seeing that the end (ascension) was in sight, Jesus sets His mind to travel to Jerusalem where first His death and resurrection must occur.
He encounters immediate resistance from Samaritans who will not host Him because He is a Jew (not because He claimed that He was the Messiah), and a Jewish prophet specifically bypassing their place of worship in order to preach in Jerusalem, their hated religious rival. Jesus does not demand revenge for this rejection as do James and John, but reminds them of His mission and theirs (to save not destroy) and humbly goes elsewhere.
Exacting Discipleship – 9:57-62
The move to Jerusalem will be quite challenging so Jesus clarifies how demanding becoming His disciple can be as different followers, seeing that He is about to depart, offer various excuses for not leaving with Him right away.
But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
- Luke 9:62
Jesus reminds them that becoming a disciple of His requires no looking back, you need to be ready to move when He moves, not when you feel like moving.
70 Sent Out to Minister – 10:1-24
1Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
- Luke 10:1-2
These are sent to prepare His way for the places He will visit on His journey south. He states that there is a lot of ministry to perform and not many to carry it out, then sends out 70 (35 pairs) to preach and prepare the people for His own arrival.
3Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. 8Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you;
- Luke 10:3-8
Guidelines for their ministry:
- Be careful. The world is dangerous.
- Do not bring extras, all will be provided.
- Do not waste time with chit chat (greetings).
- No door to door begging. Stay in the place that welcomes you, no moving around or trading up. The peace they offer is the peace of Christ and if the host rejects it you have done your duty as a minister, and can receive the hospitality without guilt or offense.
- Eat and drink what they offer, without judging either way.
and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'
- Luke 10:9
Here Jesus summarizes their ministry: heal the sick (establish divine credibility) and preach the Word (share the good news).
10But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' 12I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
13"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!
16"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."
- Luke 10:10-16
God's judgement should motivate both the hearers and the speakers. The hearers are lost if they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The speakers need to remind the hearers that there is a definite consequence for those who disbelieve. The author mentions several cities and nations destroyed by God for their disbelief, a warning to all creation that God still cares about souls.
Results of Ministry
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." 18And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."
- Luke 10:17-20
The disciples return especially happy that they were able to cast out evil spirits in Jesus' name (since Jesus sent them out to heal, this extra power was a bonus). Jesus mentions Satan "falling" as a comment on their success over the demons. If they could do this to Satan's followers it thus meant that Satan who empowered them was also beaten. This power meant that they (and we as modern day disciples) have the power to also defeat the plans and schemes (serpents and scorpions are symbols for these things, creatures that injure) of the devil as well.
The Lord finishes by helping these men get some perspective on their great spiritual victory over evil spirits. The true victory, won for them by Jesus, and cause for everlasting joy is that they are guaranteed eternal life in heaven (e.g. their names are already recorded there).
21At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 22All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." 23Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, 24for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them."
- Luke 10:21-24
Jesus's prayer develops the idea concerning the true reason they should rejoice. They experienced a measure of spiritual power and were excited and joyful concerning their experience. Others in the past had also felt and used God's power to perform miracles and healings, even raise the dead (i.e. Elijah - II Kings 4:18-37). However, they were privileged to know and serve the Messiah, the Son of God, something only hoped for by those faithful men and women who came before them.
Jesus not only rejoices on their behalf but praises the Father for the way He has finally fully revealed Himself to mankind by giving this precious knowledge to simple men and women of low status in the world. Interesting to note that Luke mentions all three persons in the Godhead in the same moment in time (verse 21).
Parable of the Good Samaritan – 10:25-37
This parable only appears in Luke's gospel and is given in response to a question posed to Him by a lawyer.
25And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" 27And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." 29But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
- Luke 10:25-29
This question follows Jesus' comment in His prayer about the disciples names recorded in heaven. This lawyer tests Jesus by asking Him a question that he already knows the answer to and hopes to argue against and discredit what Jesus will say. Some scholars say that this lawyer was offended by Jesus' previous comments about His disciples being in heaven because of their faith in Him, and asks this question in order to draw Jesus into a debate.
Note that Jesus asks the lawyer to first answer the question himself which he does accurately quoting the correct passage on this topic, and Jesus confirms that his response is accurate according to the letter of the Law (i.e. love God and neighbor = eternal life).
The Jews and specifically the lawyers were good at watering down or circumventing God's Law in order to do what they wanted but still claim they were righteous under the Law. For example, they would divorce their wives on any small pretext (did not like her cooking) and claim they were righteous because they followed the Law by giving her a certificate of divorce. They had obeyed the letter of the Law but not the spirit of the Law.
This lawyer tried to justify himself in the same way. The Jews made a distinction when it came to neighbors. For some Jews only other Jews could be neighbors, for others it was only those in your tribe or family that qualified as neighbors. So the real question was not, "How do I obtain eternal life?" but, "Who is my neighbor?" Unlike the first question where He knew that the lawyer had the correct answer and text, He answers this one because in doing so He will correct this man's mistaken notion about who is our neighbor.
Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.
- Luke 10:30
Jesus sets up the story about a Samaritan (a person from a group of people and place shunned by Jews since they considered these people half-breeds because they had a mixture of Jewish and Gentile ancestry). A man traveling is robbed, beaten, left naked and near death on a lonely backroad between Jerusalem and Jericho. Both a priest and a Levite (who serve in the temple at Jerusalem) pass by him but do not stop to help. Some say that they did so because they did not want to become ceremonially unclean by touching him and consequently not be able to serve in the temple. This is incorrect for three reasons:
- They were coming down (meaning from and not to Jerusalem) so their temple service was done.
- Unless they examined to see if he was circumcised, they had no way of knowing if he was a Gentile or a Jew. He could have been a priest.
- You became ceremonially unclean of you touched a leper or a dead body, but this injured man was neither.
Jesus now introduces the main character in the parable, the Samaritan traveler. This man not only stops but attends to the wounded man and brings him to an inn to recover from his wounds. The two denarii that he leaves would have paid for two months worth of care in advance (Lenski p. 607).
Now it is Jesus' turn to question the lawyer. Actually there were three questions here, one open and two understood:
- Which of the three acted like a good neighbor? (Open)
- Have you been this kind of neighbor? (implied)
- The implied question circles back to the lawyers original question about what one must do to receive eternal life, love God and neighbor, and challenges him with a third question:
- Have you loved your neighbor in this way?
The lawyer haltingly answers the open question by acknowledging that the one "who had mercy" (note he could not even bring himself to utter the words "Samaritan was the neighbor"). Jesus, having revealed the hole not only in his argument (my neighbor is who I choose) but in his spiritual life as well (he was not loving others as he should) tells him to repent and act in the spirit that this command required (my neighbor is my neighbor in need).
Mary and Martha
38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." 41But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
- Luke 10:38-42
Jesus and His Apostles are close to Jerusalem now since we know that these women lived in Bethany, just a few miles away from Jerusalem (John 11:1). Luke gives us a glimpse of two female disciples who were disputing over the work in hosting Jesus and the 12. In this scene we see that two things are being offered, two important things:
- Food for the body which Martha is preparing and trying to get her sister to help with.
- Food for the soul which Jesus is providing with His teaching.
Both are important but one is of greater importance: feeding on God's word. In answering Martha in the way that He does, Jesus is merely pointing out this reality and truth. Mary has chosen the more important of the two. What is unspoken here is that both Martha and Mary could have chosen to sit and listen and the food could have been served later.
Instruction on Prayer – 11:1-13
1It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." 2And He said to them, "When you pray, say:
'Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
3'Give us each day our daily bread.
4'And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'"
- Luke 11:1-4
A disciple (one of the 70) asks Jesus to instruct him on prayer in general (like John did for his disciples). Jesus responds with both a model prayer and the attitude one must have in prayer. The model prayer Jesus gives is an abbreviated version of the one He gave in the sermon on the Mount. What is unique is an illustration he makes which is only found in Luke's gospel.
5Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
- Luke 11:5-8
The story highlights the virtue of persistence because Jesus concludes that the man received what he asked for, not because of need or friendship but because he would not quit asking.
9"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
- Luke 11:9-13
In the following verses Jesus makes two practical applications from the story to the practice of prayer:
- Keep asking, searching, trying. Prayers are acts of faith and our continued prayers build faith and develop patience. They are the most basic form of spiritual exercise. They are always answered in some way at some time according to God's will and timetable, not ours.
- God knows what to give us. Human fathers usually give their children good gifts and they know what those are for each child. In the same way but at a much higher level, our heavenly Father knows this as well. Jesus mentions the greatest gift of all, the Holy Spirit, who will eventually raise us from the dead (Romans 8:11).
Attack and Warning of the Pharisees – 11:14-54
The next long section highlights an ongoing conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Now that He and the Apostles are near Jerusalem the attacks of the Pharisees, who are concentrated in this area, are going to step up.
14And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons."
- Luke 11:14-15
Luke explains that the source of this attack centers around their efforts to discredit His miracles as works of the devil.
In verses 16-28 Jesus responds that if the devil is working against himself by casting out demons in Jesus' name, it means he is divided and thus defeated. If, on the other hand, He was casting out demons by the power of God and they, the Pharisees, were against Him then it meant that they sided with the devil.
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.
- Luke 11:23
In verses 29-36, some in the crowd challenge Him by asking for a sign (a nature miracle as in Moses' day, water from a rock). He prophesizes that He will give them a spectacular miracle, His resurrection, but they neither understand His reference (sign of Jonah) and because of their disbelief will not be privileged to see this miracle when it comes. He charges them with blindness and darkness because they reject Him. The idea that their light is darkness is a way of saying that what they think is true (light) (that He is not the Messiah) is really darkness (untrue), and will not safely guide their steps. He finished His response to them by telling them that if they accept the truth about Him (He is the Messiah) they will have a light "to guide them".
Woes Upon the Pharisees – 11:37-54
Jesus finishes by pronouncing a series of six woes on the Pharisees after He has been criticized by them for not performing the ceremonial cleansing rites required by their rules. These woes are accusation for their past sins of greed, pride, hypocrisy, impurity, oppression, violence, and obstruction of the truth (that He was the Messiah). Luke records that after this confrontation the scribes and Pharisees joined in a plot to kill Him.
We have covered quite a number of events in this section and other than observation that these things all took place as Jesus headed for Jerusalem, there is not general theme. But there are many possible lessons. Here is one.
We are the 70
There were only 12 chosen Apostles but the model for us are the 70 sent out. It is our job to proclaim the gospel to our neighbors and nation and confirm it with the witness of our pure lives and good works.