The Study Guide for next week’s chapters 19-23, follows the Sermon below.
Study Guide for Luke 9-19
The Mission of the Seventy: How does this account of their mission differ from that of Mark and Matthew?
The Lord’s Prayer: Some of this teaching is like that of Matt’s Sermon on the Mount. Does moving it into the narrative in a different way in Luke’s Gospel change the emphasis of the teaching? How?
Luke’s Parables: Some of the most familiar parables of Jesus are in this section of Luke: the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Unjust Judge, the Rich Man and Lazarus. The drama of these stories comes from human interaction. He often uses the thoughts of his characters to advance the story. The ordinariness of the human condition takes center stage, giving us the perfect examples of discipleship for Christian existence.
The Good Samaritan: There is a rhythm in the Greek to the description of the actions of those who encounter the man in the ditch. The priest is going down, ‘when he sees’ the man, ‘he passed by on the other side.’ The Levite, too, ‘when he sees’ the man, ‘he passed by on the other side.’ The Samaritan, also, is making his way ‘when he sees’ the man. Although we expect another repetition, the Samaritan ‘has compassion’ or ‘has mercy.’ Compassion is the bridge between seeing the injured and entering their world with saving care. Look for other examples in Luke of using seeing and compassion or mercy in the chapters that follow. You will find them in stories and in Jesus’ own actions. In Luke’s vision this parable becomes a perfect example of how compassion becomes the precursor for ethical action.
Prayer: Note how many times Jesus and his disciples pray. Circle the references to praying, to thanking God, to praising God.
John R. Donahue SJ writes (The Gospel in Parable, Fortress Press, 1988) “The beginning and the end of the special material of Luke’s travel narrative are marked by group of parables in which prayer is central and which therefore anchor Jesus’ teaching….of Christian discipleship as he himself makes his “way” to Jerusalem. These parables, which shock the sensibilities of the hearers, open them to a new understanding of the way of discipleship. It comprises compassionate entry into the world of the suffering neighbor, along with the rhythm of listening to the word and quiet presence before God, just as a similar rhythm characterized Jesus and the early church. Prayer however, does not lead to passive acquiescence to evil. The exhortation “always to pray and not lose heart” (18:1) is illustrated by the story of a widow who aggressively seeks justice.
“Luke’s theology is especially pertinent for an issue that concerns many Christians today: the relation between specifically religious activity – meditation on Scripture, prayer, and worship – and individual or social action on behalf of the suffering neighbor…The Gospel of Luke counters such facile polarization by juxtaposing the Samaritan who fulfills the law by showing mercy in concrete deed with Mary who listens to the word, and by placing together a widow who raises her voice in protest against injustice with a tax collector who quietly asks for God’s mercy. For Luke, listening to the word of God, prayer for forgiveness, and concern for alleviating suffering and injustice are wedded inseparably, and no human being should put them asunder.”
Table Fellowship: Notice where Jesus eats. Also notice how he uses meals and banquets to teach. Where have you heard some of these stories before? Are they different in Luke’s hands? What do they have to teach us?
Being Found: Donahue calls chapter 15 “The Gospel within the Gospel” because Luke combines three parables that are the heart of his message: the coming of the Son of man to seek and save the lost; Jesus’ defense of the weak or marginal; and the offer of God’s mercy in Jesus along with the joy which the coming of Christ brings. Two of these parables are also in Matthew. How do they sound different in Luke?
11th Sunday after Pentecost
August 12, 2012
Luke Chapter 15
Read Luke 15: 1-10
You’ve heard the parable of the lost sheep before. But the lost coin is new. I wanted to take some time to talk about them to highlight Luke’s artistry. John Donahue, my commentator for these parables, calls the 15th chapter of Luke a “gospel within a gospel” because Luke lays out his theology with these very human versions of Jesus’ pointed illustrations of how the kingdom of God works. After these two parables comes the story of the Prodigal Son, or perhaps we should call it the Loving Father.
Note his audience, the Pharisees, who were so concerned for who was in and who was out based on behavior. Jesus is defending his inclusion of ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ those who would automatically be excluded from the Pharisees’ company.
Jesus begins by asking “which one of you, having a hundred sheep…..?” It is a ridiculous question, as no Pharisee would ever touch a sheep, being a shepherd or being a tax collector were occupations avoided by observant Jews. The rest of the people listening probably got a chuckle out of the question. However, the role of shepherd is an ancient one for leadership, and in Psalms and in Ezekiel God is referred to as the great shepherd who really cares for the sheep after other shepherds have failed. The details of the story are much more personal in Luke’s version than the others. The shepherd who finds the sheep lays it on his shoulders and the finder summons friends to a party to rejoice with him at finding the sheep. In Matthew’s Gospel, the point of the story is that Jesus will find the littlest ones in the community. In Luke’s Gospel the point is about the rejoicing in heaven and on earth that the lost one has been found.
So too, is the point of the Lukan story of the lost coin. This story, too, has its surprising element, as the loser and finder, the God-figure in this parable, is a woman. This would have been completely shocking to the scribes and Pharisees Jesus is addressing in the crowd. Although the story is similar to the earlier one, the coin that was lost is more valuable than the sheep. The woman lights a lamp, sweep the house, and diligently seeks the coin. This ramps up the tension in the story a bit. As in the sheep story, she invites her friends to celebrate finding what was so valuable to her.
So these brief stories offer comment on the context of this conversation with the Pharisees. First, concern for the lost is reflected in Jesus’ ministry to tax collectors and sinners. There is surprise and extravagance in these stories in the choice of the main characters and in their actions. The cost of the party to celebrate may have been more than the value of the coin or the cost of the sheep. They reflect the extravagance of God’s actions, shattering the barriers of God’s love and mercy that religion itself can sometimes erect.
Words for joy resound through these stories: the shepherd rejoices as he lays the sheep on his shoulders, the shepherd and the woman summon others to rejoice with them. Jesus’ application invokes the joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner who repents. This is so Luke. He among all the gospel writers talks about joy as the reaction to the events he relays: the birth of John brings joy and gladness, Zechariah and Elizabeth and the multitude rejoice; Mary rejoices in God my Savior; Jesus’ birth is proclaimed as good news of great joy; Jesus tells his disciples to rejoice that their names are written in heaven; at the healing of the crippled woman the crowd rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke is constantly emphasizing that the benefits of the Messianic Age have begun in Jesus, and all this joy is part of the picture. Luke alone portrays God as rejoicing over finding what has been lost.
The emphasis of these stories is not on the conversion or repentance of those who are sought. The sheep does not repent, nor does the coin. The joy depicted in these tales is solely based on the actions of the seeker. Donahue says: “Luke does not present simple paradigms of repentance but parables which open the possibility of conversion. Readers must hear the teaching of Jesus as the good news, not simply good advice, that he came ‘to seek and to save’ the lost….’Conversion’ or change of heart…is not a condition but a consequence of God’s love.”
These simple stories carry so much reassurance for us. We have those days when we know we’re on the right track, and we are able to do what we know God wants to see – kindness, generosity, attentiveness to the cares and joys of others. But we know that those actions are not enough to make up for the times when we fail to respond with love, when we fail to put God before our own needs and wants. We know that so much of the complications in our lives come from our own inability to make good choices, or see beyond what seems good to us now. And we know that even though we love and care for the people we have sworn to love, there are times when they are a burden rather than a joy. It is good to know that first and always, God loves us. God’s love is not conditional on our behavior, our correct belief, or the love we offer in return. God’s love is extravagant, poured out to the point of joining us in our humanity, and suffering all the cruelty and destruction that humans can dish out. God comes for us, seeks us out, carries us in loving arms, and rejoices every time we turn back to be the people God wants us to be. I love these two tiny stories. They remind me always of the way things work, and that any love and good behavior I can muster is because of the joyful love that was first offered to me.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Study Guide for The Gospel According to Luke III Chapters 19-23
Zaccheus: In this story, Luke gives us a complete picture of the person of Jesus and his ministry. Can you identify the themes that we continue to encounter in Luke’s portrait of Jesus’ ministry and purpose?
Mark and Luke: After a collection of material of his own while Jesus is “on the way, “ Luke’s narrative rejoins Mark’s structure. But there will be considerable differences in the order of the Passion story, and a different picture of the disciples and their relationship to Jesus. How are the disciples portrayed differently by Luke. Look for the compassion of Jesus to be highlighted.
Jerusalem: Who is with Jesus when he enters? Why does Jesus weep over the city?
The people: Jesus teaches in the temple to large crowds. Keep your attention on who is conspiring against him and who honors and is sympathetic to him. Watch how this develops as Luke moves into the passion story.
Jesus’ Authority: This material with the adversarial Jewish leadership is pretty close to Mark. Do you notice some language and emphasis that is different? (Clue: there’s not much)
Luke and John: In rearranging Mark’s structure of the Passion narrative, Luke’s version of the supper and Jesus’ trial and conviction come close to John’s Passion account. You might want to mark the differences you notice so you can go back to them when we read John together next month.
Satan: In 4:13, Satan leaves Jesus until a more “opportune time.” Now Satan is back in 22:3, entering Judas’ heart, and (22:31) sifting Peter and the disciple’s faith like wheat.
Passover: What in this story of Jesus’ meal with his disciples is new to you? What language is familiar to you? Look at 1 Cor 11: 23.
Jesus as Wise One/Sage: The Jesus we meet in Luke’s passion story resembles Hellenistic moral heroes, the sophos. He is gentle, unflappable, courageous, a model for his followers. Where in the passion story do you see this Jesus?
Jesus as One Who is Just: The sophos figure is also righteous. His innocence of any crime and his righteousness in following God’s will are highlighted in Luke’s telling of Jesus’ trial and death. What examples do you find of this?
Herod: Jesus’ trial before Herod is exclusive to Luke. Note the healing of relationship brought about through Jesus: a suggestion of a greater healing yet to come?
Threes: Luke seems to love laying out groupings within events in the narrative. In Jesus’ crucifixion, there are three groups who appear on the way to the cross, three groups mock him on the cross, and three groups who honor his identity as God’s innocent one. It’s almost like Luke is composing a painting – similar to the way he laid out the annunciation/birth stories.
“Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Remember Mark’s Jesus in the Garden and on the cross? He was desperate and alone as he met God face to face. The Jesus we have before us here is still literate, forgiving, and confident.
Joseph: Remember how Joseph was portrayed in Mark? Note how Luke introduces him and his actions.
Sabbath: Luke’s final touch is to tell us that the women observed the Sabbath law. He was very insistent to report that at Jesus’ birth, everything was done according to the Law. From one end of his life to the other, Jesus has lived within the confines of Torah.