Luke 9 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

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The Journey to Jerusalem

Many of the events and teachings described in this section, especially parabolic material, are unique to Luke. In fact, almost a third of the material in this part of Luke is unique. Here teaching is emphasized over miracle, in contrast to the previous section where they were fairly evenly distributed. The section's first few chapters reveal the deepening rift between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. In addition, this section indicates how Jesus instructed the disciples on spiritual matters. His teaching made it clear that their approach to spirituality would differ from that of the Jewish leadership.

The most neutral title for this unit would be "the central section," but many scholars call it "the Jerusalem journey." This name reflects various travel notices that speak of Jesus' heading to Jerusalem or of a journey (9:51, 53, 56; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:28). This is not a straight-line journey, since Luke has Jesus at Martha and Mary's home in Bethany in 10:38-42 and then has Jesus and the disciples up north between Samaria and Galilee in 17:11. Since John's Gospel tells us Martha's home is in the south (Jn 12:1-2), a straight-line journey is excluded. Luke portrays a journey of destiny in which Jesus must meet his fate (Lk 13:31-35).

As one considers the unit as a whole, two major themes stand out. The first is the growing rift between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Much of 9:51--13:35 displays this tension. Jesus' criticism of the Jewish leaders follows the pattern of the deuteronomistic critique of Israel. Like the prophets from the time of Moses on, Jesus notes the ways in which the nation has been repeatedly unfaithful to God (Moessner 1989 develops this theme in detail).

The second major theme is Jesus' preparation of his disciples for his departure. He calls them to be faithful despite rejection by the world. Thus discipleship themes dominate the section. Discipleship is not easy; they must count the cost. They may suffer, but alongside the suffering come explicit promises of God's vindication. Disciples can know that God sees their suffering, and he will vindicate the righteous one day. No passage makes this last point more clearly than Luke 18:1-8. The way of the disciple is a "new way," unlike that of the religious leadership that rejects Jesus.

Previous commentary:
Christological Confession and the Road of Discipleship

Next commentary:
The Blessing of Decision: Privilege, Mission and Commitment

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