Introduction to Luke

By James M. Rochford

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Who Wrote the Four Gospels? Critics contend that we do not know who really wrote the gospels. In fact, it is argued that the standard titles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t added until a century later to give these documents apostolic authority. Does the evidence support the historical authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Yes, we conclude that Luke wrote the gospel historically ascribed to him.


Evidence for an Early Dating of the Four Gospels: Many historians and commentators date the Gospels between AD 70 and AD 100. This subject is surely up for debate. However, based on the manuscript evidence, the citation from the Church Fathers, the dating of the Book of Acts, and the early citations from Paul, we think there is good evidence for an early dating of Luke. Indeed, in our estimation, we would date Luke to the late 50s AD.

Who was Luke?

Paul mentions Luke three times in his letters. (For discussion, one might ask what we learn about Luke from these passages.)

(Col. 4:14) Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.

(2 Tim. 4:11) Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.

(Phile. 23-24) Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.

Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14). He travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys, and likely attended to his medical needs in prison (2 Tim. 4:11; Acts 27-28).

Luke was a well-educated man. The first four verses of his biography are written in excellent, fine-style Greek (see comments on Lk. 1:1-4).

Luke was a first-class historian. In the first four verses, he emphasizes how much he wants to accurately capture the history of the events. Even critical scholar Maurice Casey writes, “[Luke] was an outstanding historian by ancient standards.”[1] The former skeptic William Ramsay writes, “Luke’s historicity is unsurpassed in respect to its trustworthiness… Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[2] Furthermore, with regard to Luke’s second volume (Acts), Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White writes, “The confirmation of historicity is overwhelming… Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”[3]

Luke wrote more than the other gospel authors. Luke is the only gospel with a sequel (i.e. the book of Acts), and he composed the longest gospel. Mark contains 678 verses, John contains 869 verses; Matthew contain 1,071 verses; but Luke has the most verses at 1,151.

Luke was likely friends with Mark. In all three passages above, Mark is mentioned with him (see Col. 4:10, 14). This makes sense of Luke using Mark as one of his sources, as almost all NT scholars affirm.

Luke loved the marginalized. He himself was a Gentile, emphasizes Gentiles, and has a Greek name (Loukas). Moreover, he mentions women 43 times.[4] As you read through Luke, notice how many times women are pictured as spiritually insightful.

How to use this commentary well

For personal use. We wrote this material to build up people in their knowledge of the Bible. As the reader, we hope you enjoy reading through the commentary to grow in your interpretation of the text, understand the historical backdrop, gain insight into the original languages, and reflect on our comments to challenge your thinking. As a result, we hope this will give you a deeper love for the word of God.

Comparing parallel accounts. At the beginning of each section, we included the parallel accounts in the other gospels. By reading these other accounts, we develop a three-dimensional view of the historical event. This gives greater nuance to our interpretation, and we would be wise to read these parallels.

Teaching preparation. We read through at least five commentaries on this book in order to condense some of the scholarship on the subject. We footnoted these authors to share their insights. We hope that this will help those giving public Bible teachings to have a deep grasp of the book as they prepare their teachings. As one person has said, “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.”[5] We couldn’t agree more. Nothing can replace sound study before you get up to teach, and we hope this will help you in that goal. And if you complain about our work, don’t forget that the price is right: FREE!

Discussion questions. Each section or chapter is outfitted with numerous discussion questions for small group study. We think these would work best in a small men’s or women’s group. In general, these questions are designed to prompt participants to explore the text or to stimulate application.

Discussing Bible difficulties. We highlight Bible difficulties with hyperlinks to articles on those subjects. All of these questions could make for dynamic discussion in a small group setting. As a Bible teacher, you could raise the difficulty, allow the small group to wrestle with it, and then give your own perspective.

As a teacher, you might give some key cross references, insights from the Greek, or other relevant tools to help aid the study. This gives students the tools that they need to answer the difficulty. Then, you could ask, “How do these points help answer the difficulty?”

Reading Bible difficulties. Some Bible difficulties are highly complex. For the sake of time, it might simply be better to read the article and ask, “What do you think of this explanation? What are the most persuasive points? What are the weakest? Do you have a better explanation than the one being offered?”

Think critically. We would encourage Bible teachers to not allow people to simply read this commentary without exercising discernment and testing the commentary with sound hermeneutics. God gave the church “teachers… to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). We would do well to learn from them. Yet, we also need to read their commentary with critical thinking, and judge what we’re reading (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21). This, of course, applies to our written commentary as well as any others!

In my small men’s Bible study, I am frequently challenged, corrected, and sharpened in my ability to interpret the word of God, and I frequently benefit from even the youngest Christians in the room. I write this with complete honesty—not pseudo-humility. We all have a role in challenging each other as we learn God’s word. We do well to learn from Bible teachers, and Bible teachers do well to learn from their students!

At the same time, we shouldn’t disagree simply for the sake of being disagreeable. This leads to rabbit trails that can actually frustrate discussion. For this reason, we should follow the motto, “The best idea wins.” If people come to different conclusions on peripheral issues, it’s often best to simply acknowledge each other’s different perspectives and simply move on.


Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984).

Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988).

Morris’ commentary was our favorite resource on the Gospel according to Luke. He dedicated his life to studying the gospels, and he balances theological and historical depth with practical insight.

Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992).

Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997).

Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50, Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994).

Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53, Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996).

Darrell Bock is a leader in the area of Lukan scholarship. His two-set commentary emphasizes the historical aspects of the gospel, and we highly recommend his work.

Table of Contents

Commentary on Luke. 5

Luke 1. 5

Luke 2. 23

Luke 3. 32

Luke 4. 39

Luke 5. 49

Luke 6. 58

Luke 7. 69

Luke 8. 79

Luke 9. 93

Luke 10. 114

Luke 11. 126

Luke 12. 139

Luke 13. 147

Luke 14. 154

Luke 15. 163

Luke 16. 169

Luke 17. 177

Luke 18. 185

Luke 19. 196

Luke 20. 204

Luke 21. 214

Luke 22. 225

Luke 23. 238

Luke 24. 247

Commentary on Luke

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Luke 1

Luke 1:1-4 (Introduction)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

In his prologue, Luke explains how he wrote his Gospel (for more on this subject, see “The Gospels and Oral Tradition”). These four opening verses are one “long, carefully constructed sentence in the tradition of the finest historical works in Greek literature,”[6] and Luke uses “classical vocabulary, rhythm and balance.”[7] Luke uses sophisticated Greek because he was addressing a high official (“Theophilus”). However, the rest of the book uses standard koine Greek, so it could be easily read by the average person. Luke may be “flexing” a little bit in his prologue to show that he is educated, but he doesn’t write in this style throughout the book, because this would lose his audience.

(1:1) “Many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us.”

“Many have undertaken…” How “many” accounts does Luke have in mind? We know that at least Mark preceded Luke, but who else? We’re simply not sure. The term “many” is used in “rhetorical prefaces”[8] and for “rhetorical effect.”[9] Therefore, it can simply refer to “others.”

“Undertake…” (epecheiresan) comes from the word “hand” (cheir). This term literally means to “set their hand to” or “attempted.”[10] This shows that at least written sources were in view—though this wouldn’t preclude verbal interviews and oral historical tradition.

“Account” (diēgēsis) is an “orderly description of facts, events, actions, or words narrative, account” (BDAG). These could be written or oral tradition, and the term was “frequently used by Greek writers to describe historical works.”[11]

(1:2) “Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

“Handed down” (paradidōmi) refers to the “passing on of authoritative tradition.”[12] The NT authors repeatedly use this word to refer to handing down sacred teaching (Mk. 7:13; Acts 6:14; 1 Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3; 2 Pet. 2:21; Jude 3). Moreover, Josephus used the term to describe the transmission of sacred rabbinical teaching.[13]

Is Luke referring to oral tradition here? Perhaps, but we already saw that the term “undertake” refers to sources created “by hand.” Moreover, the term “handed down” (paradidōmi) includes both verbal and written communication.[14] For one, the definition of the word means “to pass on to another what one knows, of oral or written tradition” (BDAG). Second, this term is sometimes used for written sources. Luke records, “While [Paul and Timothy] were passing through the cities, they were delivering (paradidōmi) the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). Of course, this refers to the “letter” composed by the apostles and pastors at the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:23, 30), not oral tradition. Third, some scholars like E. Earle Ellis[15] and Alan Millard[16] argue that the disciples may have immediately begun to take notes during the life of Jesus. We agree with Richard Bauckham who states that “writing and orality were not alternatives but complementary.”[17] He states that writing was actually a “supplement” to oral tradition. We see this complementarity (e.g. oral and written tradition) in Paul’s letters, when he writes, Paul writes, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2 Thess. 2:15).

“From the beginning” refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.[18] Indeed, Acts confirms this understanding: “It is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

“Eyewitnesses” (autoptes) literally means “seeing with one’s own eyes” (BDAG). Green notes, “Luke has used the term ‘eyewitness’ in his prologue in deference to the historiographical and scientific traditions.”[19]

“Servants of the word” is found only here in the NT. It seems to refer to “men who preached the Christian gospel.”[20] The use of the Greek article before “eyewitnesses” and “servants of the word” implies that these are the same group (Acts 26:16), not separate groups of people.[21]

(1:3) “It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus.”

“Consecutive order” (kathexēs) doesn’t necessarily mean chronological. It can refer to “logical and artistic arrangement.”[22] Specifically, it can refer to chronological (Acts 3:24), geographical (Acts 18:23), or topical/logical arrangement (Acts 11:4).[23] This term was used “throughout Greek literature by writers who sought to convince their hearers of the meticulous research and careful organization of their material.”[24]

“Most excellent” is later used for officials with a high rank (Acts 23:26; 24:3; 26:25).

“Theophilus” is a compound name that means friend (philys) of God (theos).[25] Some think that this is a symbolic name, but most commentators (Bock,[26] Liefeld,[27] Morris,[28] Stein[29] and Green[30]) hold that this refers to a literal person. For one, this was a common name at the time. Second, the designation “most excellent” fits with an actual official—not a symbolic person. Third, if Luke dedicated his book to a symbolic person, this would “be unparalleled in Luke’s literary culture.”[31] Indeed, Theophilus was most likely Luke’s “patron,” who “met the costs of publishing the book.”[32] We agree with older commentators who argue that Luke was writing a “legal brief” to show that Christianity wasn’t dangerous to the Roman Empire. This was the occasion for writing to (and for) Theophilus.

(1:4) “So that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

“Exact truth” (asphaleia) means the “stability of idea or statement, certainty, truth” (BDAG). Luke uses this to “determine the facts with certainty.”[33] (cf. Acts 2:36; 21:34; 22:30; and 25:26). Luke did not participate in a telephone chain. Instead, he went directly back to the eyewitnesses themselves.

Discussion Questions

Read 1:1-4. What can we learn about the writing of this Gospel from these opening verses?

Imagine if someone said, “The stories about Jesus were passed along like a Game of Telephone.” Using Luke 1:1-4, how could you respond to this assertion?

Luke 1:5-25 (John the Baptist)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(1:5) In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

“In the days of Herod…” Herod the Great reigned from 37-4 BC, and Mark Antony and the Roman senate gave him his authority in 40 BC.[34] Herod was the “king of Judea,” which is affirmed by extrabiblical accounts.[35] Bock dates Herod’s death to roughly 4 BC.[36] Considering all of these historical markers, we agree with Stein when he writes, “It is evident that Luke was writing Theophilus a historical narrative. Luke… is not written in the literary genre of myth. There is no ‘Once upon a time’ but rather ‘In the time of Herod king of Judea.’”[37]

“He had a wife from the daughters of Aaron.” Priests weren’t required to marry within the priestly tribe of Aaron. But Zechariah chose to. This shows us something about his desire for religious purity. The subsequent verses also show that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous people.

Why does Luke begin with the birth of John the Baptist?

Luke gives a lot of historical data regarding the birth of John the Baptist in order to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus. Jewish readers knew that John the Baptist was a powerful prophet; so, if Jesus was greater than John, he must be on a whole other level! While John is truly a miraculous child, fitting into the pattern of Samson’s birth (Judg. 13:7) and Samuel’s birth (1 Sam. 1:15), Jesus is far greater. Darrell Bock aptly writes, “John is the forerunner who announces fulfillment’s approach, but Jesus is the fulfillment. In every way, Jesus is superior to John. John is born out of barrenness; Jesus is born of a virgin. John is great as a prophet before the Lord; Jesus is great as the promised Davidic ruler. John paves the way; Jesus is the Way.”[38]

(1:6-7) They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 And yet they had no child, because Elizabeth was infertile, and they were both advanced in years.

“Yet they had no child…” We see the repeated theme of God moving through barrenness in the OT. Stein writes, “The Greek term ‘no children’ (steira) is used of Sarah (Gen 11:30), Rebekah (25:21), Rachel (29:31), and Samson’s mother (Judg 13:2-3; cf. also 1 Sam 1:5).”[39] Indeed, the expression “advanced in years” was used of Sarah (Gen. 18:11). Apparently, this old couple had been praying for a child for many years (v.13). Zechariah must have felt helpless. Green writes, “Zechariah cannot make Elizabeth pregnant; ultimately, her having a child (and having her honor restored) cannot depend on him.”[40]

Jewish readers would think that their childlessness was a result of God’s curse (Deut. 28:15, 18). But Luke defends the integrity of this couple. He calls them “righteous” to emphasize that their “childlessness… was not due to sin.”[41] They were part of the “righteous remnant”[42] in Israel who were graciously granted to hear about God’s plan.

(1:6) How can Zechariah and Elizabeth be righteous, if none are righteous?

(1:8-9) Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

This was an enormous privilege. All his life, Zechariah went up to the Temple to minister twice a year for a week. Being chosen to enter the Holy Place with the incense was a thrilling privilege, because this was believed to be entering God’s very presence. The priests cast lots to see who would receive this honor (m. Tamid 5.2-6.3), and only one out of 18,000 men was chosen. Liefeld writes, “An individual priest… could offer the incense at the daily sacrifice only once in his lifetime (v. 9), since there were so many priests. Therefore this was the climactic moment of Zechariah’s priestly career, perhaps the most dramatic.”[43] Indeed, this would bring Zechariah “as close to the presence of God as any person other than the high priest might ever come.”[44] So, this was a great day for Zechariah, and it could be called the “greatest ministry of his priestly career.”[45]

(1:10) And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

A huge multitude (18,000 people? More?) stood outside the Temple. This would be like getting the honor to light the torch at the Olympics: everyone would be waiting in excited anticipation. The reader might wonder what would happen when this many people band together in “prayer.” Incidentally, God moves powerfully (vv.21ff).

Zechariah was having a great day, but little did he know, this would be the most defining day of his entire life. Zechariah had been serving God faithfully in the Temple for many years. But now, God wants to take him to the next level.

The angel predicts the birth of John the Baptist

(1:11) Now an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

Even though Zechariah would be anticipating an exciting spiritual experience, we doubt he would’ve expected for an angel to appear.

(1:12) Zechariah was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.

Apparently, this caused Zechariah to jump right out of his sandals. The term “troubled” (tarasso) means “to cause movement by shaking or stirring, shake together, stir up” or “to cause inward turmoil, stir up, disturb, unsettle, throw into confusion” (BDAG).

Why was God sending an angel to interrupt him—especially in the Holy Place of the Temple? Zechariah must’ve thought he was in trouble. Did he do a ritual improperly? Was there something in his life that had been offensive to God? Was he about to come under God’s judgment?

(1:13-14) But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice over his birth.”

Zechariah had been praying for a child for a long time. Because he was an old man, we can infer that he held out hope for years. At this point, he must’ve assumed that being a dad just wasn’t in the cards for him. Yet God gave Zechariah more than he could imagine (Eph. 3:20). Zechariah asked for a son, but he received the final prophet of Israel: John the Baptist! This would be like asking for a Toyota Corolla, and getting a Porsche instead!

“You shall name him John.” John’s name means “God is gracious,” and this becomes clear to the couple later in the narrative when we read that “the Lord had displayed his great mercy” toward Elizabeth (Lk. 1:58).

(1:15) For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.

This message gives high praise to John the Baptist—yet Jesus is still greater. The angel states that John will be “great in the sight of the Lord.” But Jesus is described as simply “great” (v.32). Full stop. Indeed, John himself recognized that Jesus was greater than him (Lk. 3:16).

(1:16-17) “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

John the Baptist wasn’t Elijah, but he was coming in the “spirit and power” of Elijah. The two were similar to one another. This is why Luke cites Malachi 4:6, which in context refers to Elijah (Mal. 4:5). He is the final prophet (Lk. 7:26).

“Turn the hearts of fathers back to their children.” This citation shows that relationships will be restored as a result of John’s work.[46]

“The spirit and power of Elijah.” This could refer to Elijah’s spirit in some generic sense (not in the sense of reincarnation). Or it could refer to the Holy Spirit’s power that strengthened Elijah, and would now strengthen John. John didn’t manifest the power of the Spirit in miracles. The Gospel of John states, “John performed no sign” (Jn. 10:41). Yet Stein writes, “There was clearly present in his ministry and preaching the power of the Spirit.”[47] Similarly, God may never perform a miracle through you, but you can still be filled with the “spirit and power” in Christian work.

Zechariah’s response?

(1:18) Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in her years.”

What was wrong with Zechariah’s question? Well, don’t forget that he was talking directly to an angel! In fact, this is precisely what Gabriel points out to him (“I am Gabriel,” v.19). It isn’t that Zechariah was a modern-day atheist or skeptic. He was a firm believer in God. Yet, he refused to trust God—even after receiving direct revelation. Instead, he focuses on the problems: his age and his wife’s age.

(1:19) The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

We know Gabriel from Daniel 8-9. He is a powerful angel. To paraphrase, Gabriel is saying, “Zechariah, you just asked me how you can know if this promise will come to fulfillment. Do you know who I am? I’m one of the most powerful angels in the cosmos! I stand in God’s very presence!” While Zechariah was standing in the Temple’s Holy Place, Gabriel stood in the literal presence of God himself.

(1:20) “And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

To paraphrase again, Gabriel is saying, “You want a sign? I’ll give you a sign… You won’t be able to ask foolish questions again!” By striking him mute, Gabriel was ironically giving Zechariah “the proof he requested.”[48] Be careful what you wish for!

(1:21) “And meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and were wondering at his delay in the temple.”

Typically, the priest would come out and give a blessing to the people, and he would only be in the Temple for a short time (m. Yoma’ 5.1; Yoma 52b). Thus, the people started to wonder what was taking so long.

(1:22) But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple, and he repeatedly made signs to them, and remained speechless.

When a priest left the Temple, he was supposed to speak a blessing over the people (Tamid 7.2; Num. 6:24-26). This would be like the ‘father of the bride’ being silent when he needed to give a speech at the wedding. The people were shocked.

Just imagine being Zechariah. After having a conversation with an angel, you aren’t able to share about it! It would be agony to stand there silently when you just had the experience of a lifetime.

“He repeatedly made signs to them, and remained speechless…” And this is where we got the game of “Charades” (just kidding).

(1:23-25) When the days of his priestly service were concluded, he went back home. 24 Now after these days his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among people.”

“Take away my disgrace among people.” After Rachel was able to give birth, she uttered similar words, “God has taken away my reproach” (Gen. 30:23). Being childless was considered a curse in ancient Jewish culture. While the man (Zechariah) is filled with unbelief, the woman (Elizabeth) is a model of faith. This is a theme in Luke, as we see in the next account of a young woman named Mary…

God wanted to move Zechariah into a new and major role in his plan; yet Zechariah wanted to remain in the realm of the routine and the regular. He was an older man, and he might’ve been content to stay in a comfortable relationship with God. Many Christians can identify with Zechariah, settling for ease and comfort, rather than a thriving and adventurous relationship with God.

Discussion Questions

Why was Zechariah struck mute for merely asking some simple questions from the angel Gabriel?

Luke refers to Zechariah as “righteous” and “blameless” (v.6). Yet later, God disciplines him by striking him temporarily mute. What does this tell us about the nature of Zechariah’s righteousness and blamelessness?

Luke 1:26-38 (The Birth of Christ)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

In this section, we see Mary’s attitude of faith—despite difficult circumstances. Some argue that Luke took his concept of the virgin birth from Paganism, but this is patently false (see Matthew 1:23 and “Was Christianity Copied from Pagan Myths?”). In addition to the evidence in the articles above, Luke never cites Isaiah 7:14 as a fulfillment of prophecy, as Matthew does. This seems to show that these are independent accounts of the virgin birth, and thus, multiply attested.[49]

(1:26) Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth.

“In the sixth month…” Elizabeth was entering her third trimester (cf. v.36).

Nazareth was a tiny town (Jn. 1:46). Indeed, even though Josephus mentions 45 towns in Galilee, he never mentions Nazareth. This city wasn’t discovered until the 1960s.

(1:27) To a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Betrothal was “much more binding among the Jews of that day than is an engagement with us.” Indeed a legal “divorce was necessary to break it.”[50] Betrothal involved a “formal witnessed agreement to marry and a financial exchange of the bride price.” After betrothal, the “woman legally belongs to the groom and is referred to as his wife.”[51] The wife’s family was given money, because the family was losing a worker in the home, while the groom’s family was gaining one.[52] A year later, the couple would officially be married. Liefeld writes, “Since betrothal often took place soon after puberty, Mary may have just entered her teens. This relationship was legally binding, but intercourse was not permitted until marriage. Only divorce or death could sever betrothal; and in the latter event the girl, though unmarried, would be considered a widow.”[53]

(1:28) And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

“Favored one” (kecharitomene) means that “Mary is a recipient of God’s grace, not a bestower of it.”[54] It was the Latin vulgate that rendered this as “full of grace” (gratia plena).

(1:28) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic view of the sinlessness of Mary?

(1:29) But she was very perplexed at this statement, and was pondering what kind of greeting this was.

Mary was a “nobody.” She lived in Nazareth which was a “nobody town,” and she likely couldn’t even read. She must have been thinking, “Why would God send an angel to speak with ‘little old me’?” But God had a different view of Mary: He called her “favored.” While Mary couldn’t foresee it, God used a “nobody” to bring about a “Somebody.” God seems to enjoy using ordinary and average people like us to bring about eternal ramifications (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

How old was Mary? Women were typically betrothed when they reached puberty (~ages 12-14).[55] Males married around the ages of 14 to 20. Turner comments that engagement or “betrothal frequently occurred when girls were twelve years old.”[56] Kenner comments, “Jewish men in Joseph’s day probably often married around the age of eighteen or twenty (m. ‘Abot 5:2, 32; b. Qidd. 29b-30a; Qoh. Rab. 3:2). Jewish women often married as young as twelve or fourteen, upon reaching puberty (Gen. Rab. 95; Peseq. Rab Kah. 11:6), though some were older than twenty. Young men were expected to begin adult responsibilities around age thirteen, so Joseph at eighteen or twenty had already begun to fill that role and likely already saved some money for his marriage.”[57]

God never seems to break into our lives when we expect it. Mary was engaged to a good man, and she was ready to start her life with him. Yet God had other plans that she couldn’t foresee.

(1:30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

It isn’t that Mary was “full of grace.” The Greek states that she found grace from God. The term “found favor” (heures) means “to come upon something either through purposeful search or [to] accidentally, find” (BDAG).

(1:31-33) “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

“He will be great.” John the Baptist was called “great” in “the sight of the Lord” (Lk. 1:15). But Jesus was called “great” without any qualification.

“[He] will be called the Son of the Most High.” John is a “prophet” of God (Lk. 1:76), but Jesus is the “Son” of God.

“The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” This shows that he is the Messiah (2 Sam. 7:11-16; cf. Acts 2:30).

“He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.” He is a Jewish Messiah, and he will reign over the Jewish people forever.

“His kingdom will have no end.” He is the final Messiah, because he will reign forever (Isa. 9:7).

(1:34) But Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?

Mary isn’t punished for asking a question. After all, she was “pondering” all of this (v.29) and trying to work out this lifechanging news in her mind.

(1:35) The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of God.”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” This language is used to describe the Holy Spirit empowering the disciples (Acts 1:8). Of course, this is obviously not sexual, and these terms are a case of “synonymous parallelism,”[58] which means they carry the same meaning as the term “overshadow.”

“Overshadow” (episkiazō) also has no sexual overtones. It means “to cause a darkening, cover” (BDAG). It is used of the cloud of God “overshadowing” the disciples (Mt. 17:5; Lk. 9:34; Mk. 9:7), the Shekinah cloud “overshadowing” the Tabernacle in the LXX (Ex. 40:34-35; Num. 9:18; 10:34), or God protecting his people (Ps. 91:4; 140:7).

(1:36) “Behold, even your relative Elizabeth herself has conceived a son in her old age, and she who was called infertile is now in her sixth month.”

To answer Mary’s honest question, Gabriel gives Mary evidence to bolster her faith in God’s power. He tells her that her relative Elizabeth (an elderly woman beyond child-bearing years) is already six months pregnant.

“Relative” (syngenis) only appears “here in the NT and connotes nothing more specific than ‘kinswoman.’”[59] Therefore, it is mere speculation as to how closely Jesus and John the Baptist were related (e.g. Were they cousins? Second cousins?).

(1:37) “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Gabriel confronted Mary with God’s will and God’s power. But how will Mary respond? She may have been wondering:

“What will I say to Joseph?” As it turned out, this was a legitimate fear: Joseph did not initially respond well to the news. Indeed, Matthew tells us that he was planning to divorce her (Mt. 1:19).

“What will I say to my parents?” It would be hard for a teenage girl to tell her parents that she was pregnant today. But in this ancient traditional society, it would be far more difficult.

“What will the neighbors think?” Jesus was later persecuted for his mom’s pregnancy. His enemies accused him of being “born of fornication” (Jn. 8:41), not a virginal conception.

“I could be prosecuted and killed!” The Jewish law stated that adultery was grounds for capital punishment (Deut. 22:23). While there is no evidence of this being carried out in the first-century, it would still be scary.

“I’m not ready for this… Come back later.” When God calls us, it never feels like it’s the right time.

Mary could have simply refused, harbored bitterness with God, or engaged in outward compliance but inward resistance. She could have urged Joseph to bump up the wedding and sleep with him (like Abraham with Hagar). But this would’ve been legalism—using moral self-effort to get to God’s goals. Instead, God wanted Mary to trust him to produce the miracle.

Zechariah (the wise, old, righteous, and male priest) didn’t take a step of faith when Gabriel asked him. So, clearly this 12-year-old little girl isn’t going to do any better. She’s just an uneducated little girl, and of course, she will fold under the pressure, and go home crying… right?

(1:38) “And Mary said, ‘Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”

These words are quite powerful (cf. 1 Sam. 1:18). Despite her fears, Mary made herself available to God, showing greater faith in God than a righteous old priest! Mary stands a key figure of faith in the Bible.

Discussion Questions

Compare Zechariah’s response to Mary’s response: In what ways did they have a similar reaction to Gabriel’s message? In what ways was their response different from one another?

Why did the angel take a stern stance with Zechariah, but he chose to bless Mary instead? What were the key differences between these two?

What do we learn about the nature of biblical faith from these two examples?


We are free to follow God’s will or deny it. Following God’s will is costly, but it’s worth it. Also, the alternative is not risky, but certain to fail!

God doesn’t always speak to us through an angel, but God still does speak. Maybe he’s speaking to you right now. Will you have the reaction that Mary had? Or will you resist Him—justifying your own agenda and plan apart from his loving will?

Both Zechariah and Mary were confused, troubled, and afraid. It’s scary to follow God’s will into the unknown. But their emotions were not the issue. Mary exercised faith, but Zechariah did not. Indeed, Mary had more excuses than Zechariah, but she still chose to follow God’s will despite her excuses.

The difference between Gabriel and Mary was faith. Gabriel told Zechariah, “You did not believe my words” (Lk. 1:20). Yet, regarding Mary, we read, “Blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment” (Lk. 1:45).

Luke 1:39-80 (Two important babies: John and Jesus)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(1:39-40) Now at this time Mary set out and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

Mary is a young girl (12 years old?), but she travels ~70 miles to Judah from Galilee.[60] He rushes there to speak with Elizabeth. She had just heard that Elizabeth was pregnant, and she probably wanted to see this for herself. Being all alone, Mary must’ve wanted to exchange stories, looking for another person who would understand what she just experienced.

(1:41-44) When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

Why was Mary blessed? Using synonymous parallelism, Elizabeth calls Mary blessed because of the baby in her womb. In other words, Mary wasn’t blessed on her own merits, but because of Jesus.[61] Later, she is considered blessed for her faith (v.45).

This passage indirectly speaks to the personhood of the unborn. First, Luke uses the same word to describe the unborn “baby,” as he does a born “baby” (brephos). Later, the infant Jesus is called a “baby” (Lk. 2:12, 16), just as the unborn John the Baptist is called a “baby” (Lk. 1:41, 44). Second, Elizabeth is six months pregnant with John the Baptist (Lk. 1:36), and yet he is able to leap with joy in the presence of Jesus. Indeed, he has the faculties to be filled with the Holy Spirit—even before birth (Lk. 1:15). Third, Jesus’ personal identity doesn’t change when moving from unborn to born. Instead, Elizabeth refers to him as “my Lord” (Lk. 1:43), even when he is only in the first trimester.

Imagine what this would feel like to be these two women. No one else knows what they know about God’s plan. Imagine having God bless both of you, and you’re both in the same family. There would be a mixture of excitement and fear for what the future held, but at least, they were going through this together.

(1:42) Was Mary sinless?

(1:45) “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Mary received a blessing from God because she “believed” God’s word—unlike Zechariah who was sitting there mute.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think it was important for John the Baptist to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb? Is this significant?

“The Magnificat” (vv.46-55)

The title “Magnificat” comes from the Latin Vulgate’s translation of the opening verb in this section.[62] It refers to Mary’s prayer to God recorded in the next ten verses.

(1:46-47) And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

The “exalting” and magnifying of God is synonymously paralleled by her “rejoicing.” Stein understands this to refer to Yahweh God the Father,[63] and we agree. Yet, it is interesting that Jesus is also given the same title of “Lord” (kurios, v.43).

What God had done for Mary

(1:48-49) For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant; for behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.

Mary didn’t complain about her circumstances. Instead, she considered herself “blessed” (makarizo) or “happy” or “fortunate” (BDAG). Even though the birth of Jesus didn’t fit with her plans, she considered these events to be “great things” and a “mercy” from God.

What God had done for Israel

(1:50-55) And His mercy is to generation after generation toward those who fear Him. 51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty-handed. 54 He has given help to His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, 55 Just as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

As she made her four-day trek to Judah to see her family, Mary may have been ruminating over God’s work in Hannah’s life in 1 Samuel 2. This could be why she makes so many allusions to this account in her prayer. Whatever the case, Mary is reflecting on biblical history to remember how God has operated in the past through humble people.

It’s interesting that Mary prays that God has “exalted those who were humble” (Lk. 1:52). This becomes one of Jesus’ most repeated teachings. He may have learned this from his mom.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 46-55. What is the main reason Luke included Mary’s prayer? What function does it serve in the narrative?

John the Baptist is born

(1:56) Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

Mary stayed through her own first trimester, and then returned home. She would’ve been coming home to Joseph with a tiny “bump” in her stomach. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that the neighbors would’ve been raising questions regarding where she had been and why she was now pregnant. Of course, they wouldn’t have been able to see her pregnant belly beneath all of her clothing. But later, they would’ve done the math, wondering why she had been away from her husband during the time she became pregnant.

(1:57-58) Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

The neighbors gathered around Elizabeth to celebrate her pregnancy and the birth of John the Baptist. Since Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary arrived (Lk. 1:36), and Mary was there for three additional months (Lk. 1:56), it’s possible Mary stayed to watch birth. Perhaps she was one of the “relatives” who rejoiced with her (fulfilling verse 14).

(1:59-61) And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zechariah, after his father. 60 And yet his mother responded and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”

Jews would often name a male heir after the father or someone in the family line.[64] Yet they decide to call him John. When Zechariah surrendered to God on this, he regains his voice.

(1:62-63) And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all amazed.

Why did they “make signs” to Zechariah? He must’ve been thinking to himself, “I’m mute… not deaf!” Stein believes that this passage implies that Zechariah was both mute and deaf.[65] Yet, the text never says this, and the healing only consists of being freed of being mute (v.64).

The “tablet” would have been “a wood tablet (a pinakidion) covered with wax.”[66]

(1:64) And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began speaking in praise of God.

Zechariah learned a deep lesson from this divine discipline. He had been resisting God up until this point, but now, he decided to trust God’s agenda. While tradition warranted naming the boy after the father, who better than God himself to name your son?

(1:65-66) And fear came on all those who lived around them; and all these matters were being talked about in the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

This was a miraculous birth that was accompanied by miraculous signs. Moreover, John had a wide influence—even as a newborn baby (“all these matters were being talked about in the entire hill country of Judea”). This would raise questions in the minds of the people: Why is God moving to bring about this little boy? He must be important! Thus, the entire community started wondering what John would grow up to be.

“The Benedictus” (vv.67-79)

This next section is a single, run-on sentence in Greek.[67]

(1:67-79) And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying: 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David—70 Just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times—71 Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to show mercy to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, would serve Him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 And you, child, also will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; 77 to give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, 78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, 79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Zechariah praises God for his miraculous work in his life and in the nation of Israel. He affirms the Abrahamic Covenant (v.73), the prophetic identity of his son (v.76), John’s role to prepare the way for the Messiah, citing Malachi 3:1 (v.76), and the coming of the Messiah, citing Isaiah 9:2 (v.79).

(1:80) Now the child grew and was becoming strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

This verse leaves us with a cliffhanger. What will his “public appearance” be like? What will his service look like? How will he prepare the way for Mary’s special Child? John’s elderly parents probably didn’t live much longer, and so, John most likely needed to learn how to raise himself from a very young age. This may be why he lived out in the deserts, because he had become accustomed to independence.

(1:80) Was John the Baptist an Essene?

Discussion Questions

Read verses 39-80. Why does Luke emphasize God’s faithful record in the OT? Why does he choose to begin his Gospel in this way?

Why does Luke make so many parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus?

Why do you think that Luke thought it was necessary to include John the Baptist’s parents and his birth in his Gospel—especially when the other Gospels don’t include this historical material?


By referring frequently to these OT texts about salvation, Luke shows that Jesus is going to inaugurate God’s next (and final) step in salvation history. He includes these prayers from Elizabeth, Mary, and Zechariah to show that the appearance of Jesus fits squarely within the OT historical and theological backdrop.

Luke 2

Luke 2:1-7 (Birth of Christ)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

The story of Jesus’ birth is so familiar to us that we often lose the meaning. The old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” still rings true. However, try to wipe your mind of corny Christmas cards, children’s Christmas pageants, Christmas movies, etc. Do your best to see this text as if you were reading it for the first time.

(2:1) Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

“In those days…” Luke doesn’t seem to know the exact date in Caesar’s reign. This is why he later states that Jesus was “about thirty years old” (Lk. 3:23).

“Augustus” (literally “the revered one”) was Julius Caesar’s grandnephew and adopted son, who reigned from 27 BC to AD 14. Tiberius Caesar succeeded him (Lk. 3:1). Because of the “peace of Rome” (pax romana), many Romans considered Caesar Augustus to be a “savior” of the human race. Consider the Priene Inscription—an inscription about Caesar Augustus—which dates to 9 BC:

“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior [sôtêr], both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance [phanein] (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings [euangeliôn] for the world that came by reason of him,’ which Asia resolved in Smyrna…”

Luke’s message is subtly subversive: Caesar made his decree, but the true Savior and true King was about to silently enter the world.[68]

(2:2) This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

(2:2) Is this passage about Quirinius a historical contradiction?

(2:3-5) And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Joseph’s “own city” was Nazareth (Lk. 2:39). Yet Luke “did not see any conflict in calling both Bethlehem and Nazareth the hometown of Joseph.”[69]

They “went up” from Galilee to Bethlehem because Bethlehem was 2,500 feet higher topographically, and 1,800 feet above sea level.[70] This was also a 90 mile trip, if one went through Samaria.

“In order to register along with Mary.” Why did Mary join Joseph if she (likely) didn’t need to register? The most plausible reason is simply that she was “with child,” and this preteen didn’t want to give birth away from her husband.

(2:3-5) Why would Mary have to travel to Joseph’s place of birth?

(2:5) When did Joseph take Mary as his wife? (cf. Mt. 1:24)

(2:6) While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

If you were at all familiar with your OT, you’d be reading this narrative with anticipation to learn about the powerful entrance for the Messiah. However, where was the birth of the Son of God—the Savior and King of humanity? The answer is shocking…

(2:7) And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Her firstborn son.” This subtle comment shows that this is biologically Mary’s son—not Joseph’s (i.e. her son—not their son).

“She wrapped Him in cloths.” Of course, this means to “swaddle” the newborn baby.[71]

“Laid Him in a manger.” These descriptions confirm the lowliness of Jesus described by Paul (Phil. 2:6-7; 2 Cor. 8:9). Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus was placed in a “manger” (phatne), which is a “feeding trough” (see NASB footnote). Liefeld writes, “It may have been a cave, as tradition suggests, or some part of a house or inn. Even today in many places around the world farm animals and their fodder are often kept in the same building as the family quarters.”[72] Likewise, Justin Martyr tells of a tradition that Jesus was born in a cave (Dialogue with Trypho, 78). When I was growing up, I would absentmindedly leave the door open, and my dad would say, “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” If you had asked Jesus this question, he would’ve lowered his head and said, “Yeah…”

“There was no room for them in the inn.” Jesus was in his own town: the “city of Bethlehem” (v.4). Yet, even though he was the King in his kingdom of Bethlehem, he was born in the barn “because there was no room for them in the inn.” Imagine the people in the inn that night. They carried on eating, drinking, laughing, and sleeping, while the Son of God was outside entering the world. Is this a subtle metaphor for humanity? While we are focusing on the decrees of the powerful players of humanity (Lk. 2:1) and carrying on in life (Lk. 2:7), God enters the world, unnoticed (Isa. 1:3).

The incarnation of Christ is surely mysterious (see “Defending the Deity of Christ”). Paul writes, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).

Discussion Questions

Read verse 1-2. Why does Luke include a decree of the emperor to bring about the birth of Jesus? What might this signify about the sovereignty of God? Why did Luke include this at all?

Luke 2:8-24 (The Shepherds meet the Ultimate Shepherd)

[This material is unique to Luke. Earlier, we read, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (Lk. 1:52). Here, Jesus—the Son of God—doesn’t appear to the Roman emperor (vv.1-2) but to shepherds—the low class of society.]

(2:8) In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

“Shepherds.” The angel announces the birth of Christ to shepherds—the lowly and humble of society. They were considered lowlifes (b. Sanhedrin 25b), as well as “dishonest” and “unclean according to the standards of the law.”[73] Morris writes, “Shepherds had a bad reputation. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law which meant so much to religious people. More regrettable was their unfortunate habit of confusing ‘mine’ with ‘thine’ as they moved about the country. They were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law-courts (Talmud, Sanhedrin 25b).”[74] No one wanted to be a shepherd. This wasn’t the job that you would try to get; it was the job you got stuck with. This shows that God singled out the humble and lowly of society.

“Keeping watch over their flock by night.” Shepherds would watch their “flocks usually during the months of March to November.”[75] This is a broad span of time, but it would still seem to preclude the traditional date of December 25th.

(2:9-14) And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The angel addressed Jesus with three titles: (1) Savior, (2) Christ, and (3) Lord. Yet, this great King would be “lying in a manger.” Today, this would be equivalent to hearing about the birth of a prince… in a back alley. It is no wonder that this would be a striking “sign” to the shepherds (v.12). This would be hard to believe, but it was accompanied by a fleet of angels shouting praises to God.

(2:15-16) When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

The shepherds decide to look into the birth of the Messiah. They showed urgency in finding him (“came in a hurry”), and they found him just as the angel had predicted (v.12).

(2:17-18) When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

It’s easy to identify with the people. It would be puzzling to hear such an incredible report from shepherds (“wondered at the things which were told by the shepherds”).

(2:19-20) But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

While everyone was exclaiming with joy, Mary was sitting back, reflecting on what she had heard. Like the reader, Mary was trying to figure out what all of these events meant. Bock writes that “the reader is to identify with Mary’s response.”[76] We are supposed to be “mulling over” what these historical events mean.

Discussion Questions

How does the historical report of Jesus’ birth compare to popular portrayals in Christmas pageants, cartoons, movies, etc.? In what ways does the biblical account differ?

The incarnation is the concept that God took on a human nature. What does the incarnation tell us about God’s character, and how is this unique among world religions?


The incarnation must mean that God loves us far, far more than we can ever imagine. It’s hard to even visualize what it would be like to exist eternally as an infinite-personal being—only to take on a human nature. More than this, he was conceived in the womb of a teenager, and grew to maturity (Lk. 2:52).

Luke 2:21-24 (Jesus is circumcised)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(2:21) And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

As a good Jewish boy born “under the Law” (Gal. 4:4), Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Lev. 12:3). Mary named him Jesus, just as Gabriel had instructed (Lk. 1:31). Jesus’ name means, “Yahweh saves” (cf. Mt. 1:21).

(2:22-24) And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

“When the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed…” According to OT law, the parents needed to pay to offer their son to the Lord (Num. 18:15ff). Because this couple was poor, they offered two turtledoves instead of a lamb (Lev. 5:11; 12:6-13). This was forty days after Jesus was born (Lev. 12:3-4).

Luke 2:25-35 (Simeon)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(2:25-32) And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon was an old man who was following God. It doesn’t say that he was a priest, but he does turn out to be a prophet. God directed him to show up to the Temple (v.27), and God had somehow personally revealed that he would not die until he met the Messiah (v.26).

According to the text, to look at the infant Jesus was to look at God’s salvation (v.30). They are one and the same. This is a further way for Luke to demonstrate that Jesus was the unique Messiah of God, because this righteous man—being guided by the Holy Spirit—affirmed the identity of Jesus.

How could Simeon know that this little infant was indeed the Messiah? It seems that somehow God made this clear to him as well as the prediction. Simeon had tremendous insight into the Messiah’s mission. He cites from Isaiah 49:6 to show that the Messiah would be a light to all people—not just Jews. The “consolation of Israel” was thought to be “the inauguration of the messianic age.”[77]

(2:33) And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

Why were Joseph and Mary “amazed” at these things? It isn’t that Mary had amnesia from the earlier announcements. Instead, she was amazed that another prophecy was occurring.

(2:34-35) And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

“The fall and rise of many in Israel.” This uses the word normally translated as “resurrection” (anastasis). So, this could also be rendered as “the death and resurrection” of many. Or it could refer to the humble and the proud being lifted up or opposed by God.[78]

Simeon predicted the ministry of Jesus to Mary (v.34), as well as giving a mysterious prophecy of Mary’s own pain (v.35). This surely predicts Mary seeing her son crucified. This is most likely why Simeon directed his prophecy to Mary—not Joseph—because most commentators believe Joseph died before Jesus was crucified.

Luke 2:36-40 (Anna)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(2:36-40) And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna—an 84 year old prophetess—also shows up to praise Jesus. Her role and age also affirm Jesus’ identity. Luke is showing that people imbued by the Holy Spirit can recognize the greatness of this Child.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 25-38. God sent two prophets to identify Jesus’ nature and mission. Why is it significant that prophets were recognizing who Jesus was?

Luke 2:39-52 (Teenage Jesus)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(2:39-40) When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Jesus continued to grow in his humanity (v.40). Jesus’ growth is described with almost identical language to the growth of John the Baptist (Lk. 1:80).

“They returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.” Matthew describes that during this time Herod died. However, since Archelaus killed many people at the Passover, they decided to live in Nazareth in Galilee (see comments on Mt. 2:19-23).

(2:41) Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.

Jesus’ parents made the annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. This shows that they were observant Jews. Morris writes, “All male Jews were required to attend at the temple three times in the year, at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exod. 23:14-17).”[79]

(2:42) And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast.

Why did Jesus’ parents go to the Temple “every year” without Jesus, but waited until Jesus was twelve years old to take him? Some could argue that Joseph and Mary were waiting until Jesus was thirteen years old and had become a “son of the commandment,” having his Bar-Mitzvah (Mishnah, Aboth 5:21; Niddah 5:6; Nazir 29b). This is certainly a possible explanation.

On the other hand, Archelaus took power in 4 BC, and in the “tenth year of his government” he was “accused before Caesar” and thrown out of power.[80] Incidentally, this would be in the year ~AD 6. Since Jesus was most likely born in 5 BC, this means that his parents may have waited until Archelaus was gone before they brought him for the Passover.[81]

(2:42) Why don’t the gospels give us many details about Jesus’ childhood and young adult years?

(2:43-44) And as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances.

How did they lose their son? For one, Jesus was older at this point. At age 12, boys could be betrothed, so kids grew up quicker back then. Second, because Joseph and Mary travelled in a “caravan” (v.44), it would have been easy to lose Jesus in such a large group.

(2:45-46) When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.

Probably in a state of panic, they returned to find Jesus. Of course, this was before cell phones, Police, or children services. There were several hundred thousand people in Jerusalem, and they needed to find just one of them: their son. Indeed, it took three days to find him (v.46). Imagine the abject fear that these parents felt!

“Listening… asking them questions.” Jesus wasn’t teaching these great men in the synagogue; he was listening and learning from them (see Lk. 2:40). In great humility, Jesus was asking them questions.

(2:47) And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”

Jesus also answered questions from the religious teachers. This implies that the religious rabbis saw great wisdom in this young man; otherwise, they wouldn’t ask him questions. After all, Jesus was only twelve years old; yet they were amazed at his wisdom.

(2:49) And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

Jesus assumed that his parents would know where he was—namely, in the Temple. He was surprised that they didn’t know he would be there.[82]

(2:50) But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them.

How did they not understand—especially after Jesus’ miraculous birth (Lk. 1:26ff) and prophetic pronouncements (Lk. 2:21-40)? First, a decade had transpired between these events, and we don’t know how frequently Jesus’ supernatural identity broke through. Indeed, this verse may show that Jesus’ early years were normal. Stein explains, “The lack of other stories like this suggests that Jesus’ ‘silent years’ were quite normal. After over a decade of normalcy the supernatural nature of their son and his destiny broke in on them again. As a result they were surprised and once more needed to reflect on these things (2:19, 51).”[83] Second, Jesus’ statements were theologically confusing. They were probably wondering, “What does he mean by ‘My Father?’”

(2:51-52) And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Did Jesus sin by leaving his parents? We might think that Jesus was being impertinent by leaving his parents. Yet Luke records that he continued to subject himself to their leadership. Jesus didn’t run away to commit vandalism or get into trouble. He stayed where he would learn more about God. Could you really be angry with your kid if he ran away in order to read the Bible and learn from good Bible teachers?

Mary continued to “treasure” (diatēreō) these things in her heart (cf. Lk. 2:19). This term means “to keep something mentally with implication of duration, keep” (BDAG). She was still trying to put the pieces together as to who this young man was.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 39-52. Jesus wasn’t just pretending to be human; he really was human. He wasn’t like Superman pretending to be Clark Kent; he really was truly human and truly God. What does this section tell us about Jesus’ growth in his human nature?

Mary repeatedly pondered and treasured these events, trying to put the pieces together (Lk. 1:29; 2:19, 51). How does her example speak to us as the reader?

Luke 3

Luke 3:1-22 (John the Baptist)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 1:9-11 and Matthew 3:1-17.]

Israel had been a nation for a millennium when its final prophet (Malachi) predicted the coming of the Messiah. He famously wrote, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming” (Mal. 3:1). Before this event, Malachi predicted that Elijah would return to pave the way for the Messiah: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

And then, God went silent.

This would be like waiting for the next season of a Netflix show—only needing to wait for 400 years![84] What happens after this cliffhanger? When will God release the final stage in his plan?

Theologians refer to these four centuries as “the silent years,”[85] because there were no prophets and not even prophetic pretenders. Reflecting on this period, later Jewish rabbis wrote, “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel, but they still availed themselves of the bath qôl [the divine voice? The word of God?].”[86] The Jewish people regularly heard from prophets, even in their times of rebellion. Now they hadn’t heard from a prophet for centuries… Imagine the anticipation! What an epic cliffhanger!

It is in this context that we discover a man, preaching way out in the wilderness. He is the final prophet of the old covenant.

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 1:1.]

(3:1-2) Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.

All of these figures have been attested in extra-biblical sources:

“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…” Tiberius had been an effective general before he became a an academic in Rhodes.[87] He inherited his role from his stepfather Augustus. Originally, Augustus was going to make his grandson the emperor, but sadly, Augustus’ grandson died in battle. So, Tiberius was the next best choice. If we date the beginning of his reign from the death of Augustus in August 19th, AD 14, then the fifteenth year would be somewhere between AD 28 or AD 29, depending on the Roman reckoning.

“Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea…” He was the governor from AD 26-36. He is mentioned by Josephus,[88] Tacitus,[89] and Philo.[90]

“Herod was tetrarch of Galilee…” The term “tetrarch” comes from tetra (“four”) and arche (“ruler”). Hence, a tetrarch ruled over one of four districts that had been divided in Israel. “Herod the tetrarch” was the son of Herod the Great, who tried to kill the infant Jesus (Mt. 2).[91] He “ruled Galilee and Perea [from] 4 B.C.-A.D. 39.”[92]

“His brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis…” He was also the son of Herod the Great.[93] He “ruled a group of territories to the northeast of Palestine Iturea and Traconitis (4 B.C.-A.D. 33/34).”[94]

“Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene…” Critics like Julius Wellhausen[95] formerly held that the mention of Lysanias was a historical error, because Josephus states that Lysanius died in 36 BC.[96] However, a second Lysanius ruled “over Abilene, located to the north of the Sea of Galilee, from ca. 28 c.e. to ca. 29-37.”[97]

“Annas and Caiaphas…” Luke uses a singular term to refer to plural high priests (archiereōs). Why? Bock explains, “[Luke] is communicating that actual power was really shared and that the religious authority of the region was really a two-man affair with Annas exercising great power behind the scenes.”[98] Annas was high priest from AD 6-15, and Caiaphas was his son-in-law, who was high priest from AD 18-36/37. Joel Green writes, “The continuing presence of Annas throughout this period must have been ominous. His near-dynastic control of the office would have signified his overpowering influence, and this would explain Luke’s usage here.”[99] This is similar to continuing to call a person, “Mr. President,” even when they are out of office.[100]

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:1-6 and Mark 1:2-6.]

(3:3) And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

In Jewish culture at this time, the Gentile “sinners” needed to be baptized to convert to Judaism. But John scandalously performs baptism on Jewish people, showing that they were sinners as well!

(3:4-6) As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the LORD, make His paths straight. 5 ‘Every ravine will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; 6 and all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”

Luke cites Isaiah 40:3-5 to show God’s prediction of John the Baptist. While all three Synoptics cite this passage (Mt. 3:3; Mk. 1:2-3), Luke cites more of it than the others. In the Hebrew, Isaiah 40 uses the term “Yahweh” for the “Lord.” Thus, Luke is associating Jesus with “Yahweh,” reinforcing the deity of Christ (cf. Lk. 2:11).

Being “brought low” fits with Luke’s emphasis on the proud being humbled (Lk. 1:52; 14:11; 18:14). Likewise, the “crooked will become straight” could be metaphorical for the “crooked generation” finding repentance (Acts 2:40).

“All flesh will see the salvation of God.” This doesn’t mean that all will be saved, but that all will see Jesus—who himself is the salvation from God (Lk. 2:30). Moreover, the message will be available to all people—especially Gentiles.

Who was John the Baptist?

Mark (1:6) and Matthew (3:4) give a description of what John looked like, while Luke skips over this. John the Baptist looked and acted like the old prophet Elijah.



John the Baptist

“He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins” (2 Kings 1:8)

Clothes “John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt. 3:4).
Persecuted and lived in the wilderness Lived in the desert

Preached from the wilderness

King Ahab and his wife Jezebel

Confronted the wicked king King Herod Antipas
They hunted him and tried to kill him Persecuted by the king

Herod beheaded John. John condemned the fact that Herod had married his half-sister Herodias

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 3:7-10.]

(3:7) So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

Luke references the “crowds,” but Matthew specifies the presence of the “Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt. 3:7). This is most likely because Luke was writing to the Gentiles—not simply the Jews. Whenever there is a major religious movement, some join the crowd, following a fad. John the Baptist must’ve discerned this, and he was revealing their phony faith.

In Matthew, Jesus also called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 23:33). This was particularly offensive, because baby vipers would eat their way out of their mothers at birth. So, John was comparing the religious leaders to particularly repugnant creatures.

(3:8-9) “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

The religious people of Jesus’ day thought that they were secure because of their ritualism and their race (Jn. 8:39, 53). But John shows them several keys of what it looks like to come to faith in God:

(1) Inner heart change. The root of repentance is different from the fruit of repentance. We don’t do good works to repent; instead, we choose repentance and good works follow.

(2) Not based on family heritage. Many believe that if they grow up in a Christian home, then they are automatically born as Christians. Almost all Jews believed the same thing. But John disagrees with this view. Each individual person needs to choose where they stand with God.

(3) Urgency. If we don’t change our attitude toward God, we will have to pay for our own sins. The time is short! The imagery of the axe being laid at the root of tree shows the imminency with which God will judge.

(3:10-14) And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11 And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” 12 And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” 14 Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”

Luke is the only author to include practical steps from John on how to respond to God after they found repentance. He addresses (1) people, (2) tax collectors, and (3) soldiers.[101] At the center of his picture of repentance is honesty, fairness, and financial contentment. Regarding the tax collectors and soldiers, John doesn’t tell them to leave their immoral careers, but to cease and desist from their immoral choices in these careers.

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:11-12 and Mark 1:7-8.]

(3:15) Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ.

John was so famous and influential that many believed that he himself was the Messiah. Luke is the only gospel to include this anticipation.

(3:16) John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John flatly denied that he was the Messiah. While John placed people into water, the Messiah would place them into the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13) or into fire (i.e. hell).

(3:17) “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Ancient farmers would stomp pods of grain, breaking their shells. The shells would break (i.e. the “chaff”) and the “wheat” would fall out of the shell. Then, the farmer would throw the wheat and the chaff into the air. The heavy pieces of wheat would fall to the ground, and the light chaff would float away with the wind. The wheat was gathered for harvest, and the chaff was burned. This is a picture of judgment.

(3:18-20) So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19 But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20 Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison.

Herod locked up John in prison and later had him decapitated (Mt. 14). This was because John didn’t approve of Herod marrying his half-sister, Herodias. The Jewish and Roman historian Josephus agrees with the biblical account:

Now some of the Jews thought that it was God who had destroyed Herod’s army, and that it was a very just punishment to avenge John, surnamed the Baptist. John had been put to death by Herod, although he was a good man, who exhorted the Jews to practice virtue, to be just one to another and pious towards God and to come together by baptism. Baptism, he taught, was acceptable to God provided that… the soul had already been purified by righteousness. Because of this suspicion on Herod’s part, John was sent in chains to the fortress of Machaerus… and there put to death.[102]

It should be noted that Jesus’ ministry overlapped with John’s ministry to some degree (Jn. 3:22-23; 4:1-2).

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11.]

(3:21-22) Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

Was Jesus baptized because he was sinful? Not at all. Clearly Jesus was not baptized for repentance, because God himself affirmed how much he loved Jesus and was pleased with him. Jesus accepted this baptism because God uniquely anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit, which becomes key to his ministry (Lk. 4:1, 14).

(3:21-22) Why was Jesus baptized?

Was this a private vision? Matthew and Mark state that “he saw” this vision (i.e. Jesus saw the vision). As a result, some commentators hold that this could’ve been a private vision for Jesus. However, John 1:32-35 implies that at least John the Baptist could see the vision as well. So, this seems like a public theophany of God.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 10-14. John didn’t tell the tax collectors and soldiers to quit their professions. Why didn’t he encourage them to quit?

Read verses 21-22. What might be the significance of Jesus being baptized? Why would Jesus allow himself to be baptized?

Luke 3:23-38 (Jesus’ genealogy)

[The parallel passage for the genealogy is found in Matthew 1:1-18.]

(3:23-38) When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

(3:23-38) Do Matthew and Luke’s genealogies contradict each other?

What is the purpose of this genealogy? Luke’s purpose in his genealogy is to connect Jesus with all of humanity. Unlike Matthew, Luke doesn’t stop at Jesus’ Jewish ancestors—especially David and Abraham (Mt. 1:1). Instead, he takes Jesus’ ancestry all the way back to the first human—Adam himself.

What does this tell us about the historical Adam? This passage connects the historical person of Jesus to the historical person of “Adam,” the first human. Indeed, Adam has no earthly father, but he is considered “the son of God” himself. This strongly teaches that Adam existed, and that he was created by God himself.

Luke 4

Luke 4:1-14 (Jesus battles Satan)

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13.]

This passage comes on the heels of Jesus’ ancestry back to Adam—the first human (Lk. 3:28). Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus also repeatedly quotes from Deuteronomy 6-8, which recounts Israel’s failure in their 40-year wilderness wandering. Again, where Israel failed and grumbled against God for 40 years, Jesus succeeded.

(4:1-2) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.

Matthew and Luke state that the Spirit “led” Jesus there. Mark’s account uses more forceful language: The Holy Spirit “impelled [exballo] Him to go out into the wilderness” (Mk. 1:12). The Devil doesn’t drag Jesus into the wilderness, but rather, the Holy Spirit led him into spiritual battle. Even though Jesus was physically empty (“ate nothing… hungry”), he was spiritually full (“filled with the Spirit”).

(4:2) Could Jesus survive 40 days without eating?

“Being tempted.” This implies that Jesus “was tempted throughout the forty days and that the three temptations were the culmination of this time of temptation.”[103]

“Devil” (diabolos) literally means “slanderer.” We see him slandering and distorting the character of God and the word of God. Satan attacks three essentials to God’s character: (1) the provision of God, (2) the priority of God, and (3) the protection of God. Here we see a window into the spiritual realm, wherein there is a spiritual battle beyond our field of vision.

What does Satan get out of this temptation? From what we can gather in studying Satan, he seems to want to show that everyone else is really just faking God’s way, and they’re really out for selfish gain—just like him.

Satan first attacks the PROVISION of God

(4:3) And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

“If You are the Son of God” is a direct challenge to God’s very recent affirmation of Jesus. God the Father had said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Lk. 3:22). This accusation later reoccurs at the worst moment of Jesus’ life while he dangles from the Cross (Lk. 23:35-39). Satan attacked Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, and we can expect him to attack our identity as sons of God as well.

It would have been easy for Jesus to conclude that his needs were legitimate: After all, is it wrong to want food? But, then again, Jesus remembers that the Holy Spirit was the one who led him out into the desert for this extended fast. If the Spirit wanted Jesus to eat, then the Spirit would’ve provided the food. And, if the Spirit hadn’t provided food, then that must mean that Jesus wasn’t ready to break the fast. Here, Satan tempted Jesus to break from his convictions that God would provide bread for him (Lk. 11:3). Incidentally, Jesus would miraculously provide bread for others, but refused to do so for himself (Lk. 9:10-17). Instead of creating bread from nothing, Jesus didn’t want to do anything himself: “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (Jn. 5:19). He also said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (Jn. 8:28).

The reference to bread reminds us of the provision of manna in the wilderness. The Jewish people grumbled against God for better food. Jesus thinks of this event, and refuses to grumble. Instead, he rebuts Satan’s claim from Scripture.

(4:3-12) Why do Luke and Matthew place Satan’s conversation out of order?

(4:4) And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Jesus was ready with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). He refutes Satan by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. In a sense, he argues that our spiritual provision exceeds our material provision.

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13. Why does Jesus cite these OT passages? (see comments on Matthew 4:4-10)

Satan next attacks the PRIORITY of God

(4:5) And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

Matthew records that this event occurred on the top of a “high mountain” (Mt. 4:8). This was likely a “visionary experience”[104] or a “visionary spectacle.”[105] This fits with the language of seeing these kingdoms “in a moment of time.”

(4:6-7) And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

Satan’s words were tempting precisely because they were partially true: As the Messiah, Jesus would rightfully rule the world. God said, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession” (Ps. 2:8). God had promised to give the world to Jesus, but Satan wanted to give him a spiritual shortcut. Satan’s offer would be painless—if Jesus would only surrender to Satan’s will. In effect, Satan “offered Jesus a crossless path of messiahship.”[106]

It’s sometimes easy to justify an ungodly method to achieve God’s overarching goals. And as goal-oriented people, it’s easy to feel tempted by this. Yet Morris comments, “It is not difficult to see how such a vision might be regarded as a legitimate aim. It would mean government concerned only with the genuine welfare of the people and the way would be opened for much good. But it meant compromise. It meant using the world’s methods. It meant casting out devils by Beelzebub… It meant a cross, not a crown. To look for earthly sovereignty was to worship wickedness and Jesus decisively renounced it.”[107]

Satan told Jesus, “[All the kingdoms of the world have] been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (v.6). Jesus doesn’t dispute this claim. This is because (currently) the entire world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19).

(4:8) Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:13.

Satan attacks the PROTECTION of God.

(4:9) And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.”

The peak of the Temple was probably the royal porch. Bock writes, “The exact location at the temple is uncertain. Some think it is a high temple gate, but many think it is the Royal Porch on the temple’s southeast corner, which loomed over a cliff and the Kidron Valley creating a drop of some 450 feet. Josephus mentions that the height of this locale made people who peered over its edge dizzy (Josephus Antiquities 15.11.5 §§410-12).”[108] Stein agrees that the pinnacle was “the southeastern corner of the temple area overlooking the Kidron Valley.”[109] Some rabbis believed that the Messiah would appear on the top of the Temple.[110]

Satan is limited in his power. He cannot throw Jesus from the safety of the pinnacle. Instead, Satan merely suggests Jesus to throw hurl himself from the precipice. Similarly, Satan will give suggestions to believers, rather than appealing to force. Bock humorously notes that Jesus was told to “let go and let God!”[111]

Since Jesus is so set on quoting Scripture, Satan quotes Scripture… from memory! Much like false teachers today, Satan knows God’s word, and he twists it for his own purposes. Liefeld comments, “The mere use of Bible words does not necessarily convey the will of God.”[112]

(4:10-11) For it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ 11 and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’

Satan carefully omits a portion of Psalm 91:11. He neglects citing the words “in all your ways.” A godly person wouldn’t do such a rash act. This isn’t a messianic psalm, but Stein notes, “If the psalm states a truth concerning any believer, how much more (a fortiori) is this true of the Messiah. Yet knowing Scripture is not enough; one must interpret it correctly.”[113]

(4:12) And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, Jesus cites from Scripture to refute Satan (Deut. 6:16).

(4:13) When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

Satan isn’t all-powerful. He has limited resources, and he realized that this wasn’t going anywhere. So, he waited for a more “opportune time.” He enters the scene again through the use of various demons, and by ultimately manipulating Judas (Jn. 13:27). Matthew adds that “angels came and began to minister to [Jesus]” (Mt. 4:11; cf. Mk. 1:13). Don’t miss this key point: God will provide for our needs, but we need to wait for his timing.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 3-4. What do we gain by learning to wait on God’s provision?

Read verses 5-8. In what ways might a Christian be tempted to use the method of “the ends justify the means” in regards to doing Christian work?

Read verses 9-12. How might a Christian inappropriately bank on God’s protection to justify their own decisions?

What do we learn about Satan’s strategies from this narrative?

  • Satan can quote Scripture from memory.
  • Satan uses half-truths to tempt people.
  • Satan twists Scripture to tempt people.
  • Satan can bring a proof text to mind in order to justify our own sinful decisions and fulfill our own sinful desires.

What do we learn about how to battle Satan from this narrative?


God will bring us into times of testing and even pain. Will we operate out of our own power, pragmatism, and resources? Or will we actively depend on the Holy Spirit? We need to learn to depend on God to meet our needs and empower us in his timing—not our own (v.13).

Luke 4:14-30 (Nazareth)

[John 1:19-4:4 covers Jesus’ Jerusalem ministry. The Synoptics focus on Jesus’ Galilean ministry first, and skip over Jesus’ Jerusalem ministry. Some commentators hold that John has topically arranged Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem, rather than chronologically recording the material. This is possible, but unlikely in our view. We favor the view that Jesus began in Jerusalem because John mentions “the beginning of His signs” in Cana (Jn. 2:12). This can hardly fit with a ministry in Galilee before John 1-4 that contained numerous miracles.]

(4:14) And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.

Jesus doesn’t leave this encounter with Satanic suffering beaten and battered. Instead, he emerges stronger than ever—filled with the Holy Spirit!

Matthew and Mark mention that John was taken into custody at this time (Mt. 4:12; Mk. 1:14).

(4:15) And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

The crowds sided with Jesus. His fame spread to the surrounding regions. Of course, he is still in rural Galilee in the north. The powerful rabbis were located in southern Judea.

Rejected in Nazareth

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(4:16-19) And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus commits an audacious act. He claimed to fulfill this portion of the prophecy in Isaiah, telling the people, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk. 4:21). However, he stopped mid-verse, and in fact, it was in the middle of a Hebrew couplet. If he had finished the rest of the verse in Isaiah 61:2, he would’ve read, “To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Clearly, in his First Coming, Jesus didn’t bring “the day of vengeance” to humanity; he came to bring forgiveness (Jn. 3:17). Thus Jesus saw (at least) a two thousand year gap in between the events in this prophecy in Isaiah 61, which in Hebrew forms a couplet that should ordinarily hang together. This is concrete evidence for the hermeneutical principle of “gap prophecy.” Jesus saw (at least) a 2,000 year gap in the middle of an OT verse.

(4:20-21) And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It’s no wonder that the crowd was astonished. You probably could’ve heard a pin drop. People would’ve been wondering, “Are you going to bring God’s judgment on the Earth? Why didn’t you finish the verse?!” But Jesus didn’t come to bring judgment, but forgiveness.

(4:22) And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

The people had a mixed opinion. On the one hand, Jesus’ teaching struck them like a dagger to the heart. They had never heard grace-teaching like this before (“gracious words”). On the other hand, the people were surprised that such wisdom and knowledge could come from the son of a blue collar, working class carpenter.

(4:23-24) And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

Jesus says that the people will quote this “proverb” (parabolē) in the future. Euripides wrote, “A physician for others, but himself teeming with sores.”[114] And Jewish literature stated, “Physician, physician heal thine own limp!”[115] This may have been fulfilled at Jesus’ trial or his torment on the Cross, when they tell him to “save himself” (Lk. 23:35). It could also refer to the people taunting him to perform more miracles in his hometown. This is why Jesus states that his hometown is the last place that people would believe him (cf. Mt. 13:57; Mk. 6:4; Jn. 4:44).

This is the first miracle recorded in Luke. Yet, Jesus does refer to previous miracles performed in Capernaum. Indeed, John’s gospel records many earlier miracles. This shows that the word “orderly” was not necessitate strict chronology (Lk. 4:31-37; 7:1-10; 10:15).

(4:25-27) But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus points out that God does not give out an abundance of miracles. By definition, miracles are rare occurrences. If miracles were happening all the time, we wouldn’t consider them miraculous! Instead, Jesus notes that God only used Elijah to heal one widow’s son (1 Kin. 17:9), and Elisha only healed one leper (2 Kin. 5:1-14). Similarly, Jesus was under no obligation to perform miracles to these people. Stein comments, “For Jesus these examples demonstrated that Nazareth could not make exclusivistic claims on him; and since Nazareth had in fact rejected him, he would go elsewhere. Nazareth may have rejected him, but others would receive him gladly.”[116]

(4:28-29) And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.

The people went from praising Jesus to persecuting him. They loved his message earlier, but now they were offended to the point of attempted murder.

(4:30) But passing through their midst, He went His way.

Jesus was slippery! Somehow, surely by the protection of God, Jesus alluded the violent crowd (Jn. 7:30; 8:59).

Luke 4:31-44 (Capernaum)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 1:21-28.]

(4:31) And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath.

Jesus travelled “down” because Nazareth is 1,300 feet above sea level, and Capernaum is 700 feet below sea level.[117] Matthew records that Jesus made Capernaum his home and headquarters for his Galilean mission (Mt. 4:13).

(4:32) And they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.

In the OT, the prophets said, “Thus says the Lord…” roughly 500 times. Jesus would say, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” This is likely the “authority” to which Luke refers. It could also refer to the results of Jesus’ message (see v.36).

Power over the demonic

(4:33-34) In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

This is a singular man (“a man”), but he speaks in the first person plural (“Let us alone! What business do we have…?”). This shows that multiple demons can possess a single person.

(4:35) But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm.

Jesus’ simple and terse words had power over demons. Mark adds that the person was thrown into “convulsions” before coming out of him (Mk. 1:26), yet this was “without doing him any harm.”

(4:36-37) And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” 37 And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.

The people had never encountered power like this. Who else could simply boss demons around? Who else could demand them to flee? The news about him spread like wildfire (cf. Lk. 5:17).

Power over disease

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:14-17 and Mark 1:29-45.]

(4:38) Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.

Peter was clearly married. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have had a mother-in-law. Unless, of course, Peter received the rawest deal in history—having a mother-in-law without a wife! (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5)

(4:39) And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them.

Jesus could not only command demons to leave a person, but also diseases. He had authority over all forms of sickness—whether physical or spiritual.

(4:40) While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.

Why would the people wait until after the sun set to bring their sick relatives to Jesus? This little comment makes sense when we discover that it was the Sabbath (v.31), and in this culture, they couldn’t travel and carry their relatives to Jesus.

(4:41) Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.

This fits with the idea of the messianic secret. Jesus kept his identity hidden until the right time.

(4:42) When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them.

With all of this success and attention, it would’ve been easy for Jesus to soak up the praise of people. But Jesus preferred to get time alone to pray (Mk. 1:35). Francis Schaeffer taught that we should never become so influential that we lose our quiet before God.

(4:43-44) But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Jesus continues to teach through the cities of Judea. Even though Jesus came to heal, his central “purpose” was teaching.

Discussion Questions

Read verse 24. Jesus was rejected by his own family and in his hometown. Does this mean that we should be fatalistic about seeing our own family and friends coming to Christ?

Read verses 43-44. Why did Jesus emphasize teaching over miracles? What implications does this have for us today?

Luke 5

Luke 5:1-11 (Becoming a fisher of men)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20.]

Jesus begins to call his disciples. Luke gives more background on how Jesus reached Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He is the only one to explain that Jesus showed them a minor miracle by making a huge catch of fish before calling them. John tells us that Jesus had already met these men before the encounter below (Jn. 1:40-42). In fact, Luke mentions that Jesus had just healed Peter’s mother-in-law from sickness and likely death (Lk. 4:38-41), so Peter had seen two miracles before deciding to follow Jesus.

(5:1) Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret.

“The lake of Gennesaret” is another term for the Sea of Galilee, and Luke is the only author that uses this term. Liefeld writes, “This is the only place where it is called Gennesaret, the usual name being Galilee (Chinneroth in the Old Testament; Tiberias twice in John).”[118] Moreover, Luke is the only gospel author to call this a “lake,” rather than a sea. This is likely because he grew up in the Mediterranean around actual seas, while Matthew, Mark, and John were Jewish men who considered this to be a massive sea.

(5:2-3) And He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

Jesus asked Simon Peter to take him out to sea a little bit. This was most likely so his teaching could have a better acoustic effect—like a natural amphitheater. As we noted above, this is not the first time Peter has encountered Jesus. Peter met him earlier in his life, according to John 1:40-42. Peter sat in the boat as Jesus taught, listening to every word.

(5:4-5) When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”

The fish would most likely feed at night. This is the middle of the day, so Peter is skeptical that they’ll catch anything.

(5:6-7) When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

These fishing boats were extremely tiny. In 1986, we discovered a first-century fishing boat, which is called “The Sea of Galilee Boat.” It is only 27 feet long and 7 feet wide.

(5:8-9) But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken.

Why does Peter admit his sinfulness right at this moment? According to Scripture, it’s scary to come into God’s presence. When Isaiah saw God in his throne room, he said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). On the night of his betrayal, Jesus blasted the Roman cohort (600 men!) with just two simple words, “I am!” His words frightened these battle-hardened soldiers so much that they “drew back and fell to the ground” (Jn. 18:6). This is only a preview of the Second Coming, when all people will collapse in Jesus’ presence and “every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10). Hence, by collapsing in Jesus’ presence, Peter was adopting the “posture” of “theophany.”[119]

Maybe Peter had been considering whether or not to follow Jesus. Or maybe he wanted to follow Christ, but thought that a great rabbi like Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with a sinful man like Peter. Perhaps, in Peter’s mind, it would be better to simply come clean and tell Jesus just how sinful he was.

(5:10) And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”

Jesus puts Peter at ease. He knows that Peter is sinful, but he still wants him anyhow. Christ calls Peter, James, and John as a unit. These men were business partners and friends, and Jesus called them to work together for his kingdom. While this was only directed to Simon Peter, the parallel account states it was also given to Andrew (Mk. 1:17). This makes sense of why verse 11 states that “they left everything,” which would include more than just Peter.

(5:11) When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

This was quite a lot to leave behind. These boats were handmade and expensive. Also, this strongly implies that they left the big catch of fish behind too. Then again, looking back 2,000 years later, do you think these men regretted leaving their boats to follow Christ? No way! If they could do this all over again, they would surely make that same decision 100 times out of a 100!

Discussion questions

Based on verse 8. Isn’t this sort of a strange reaction? Why do you think Peter would have this reaction to meeting Jesus? Should we have this reaction to meeting Christ as well?

Based on verse 10. Why does Jesus compare evangelism with fishing? In what ways is sharing our faith similar to fishing? In what ways is it different?

Based on verse 10. Do you think it’s intolerant to share your faith with other people? What if they have a belief-system that already works for them?

Luke 5:12-16 (Healing the leper)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:2-4 and Mark 1:40-45.]

(5:12) While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Lepers were considered freaks of nature. Hansen’s disease is fatal, and people were paranoid of being infected. The ancient Jews would simply quarantine lepers to keep the bacteria from spreading. Even today in Africa and India, we still see leper colonies.

“If you are willing.”This leper knew that Jesus had the power to heal him, but was Jesus willing? He knew Jesus was powerful, but was he good, kind, and merciful?

(5:13) And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Mark tells us that Jesus was “filled with compassion” when he reached out for the man (Mk. 1:41). The term for “touched” (haptō) is really better translated “grasped.” In Jesus’ thinking, there were no “untouchable people.” This is why Christianity has spread across the lower castes of Hinduism in India—among people called the “untouchables.”

(5:14) And He ordered him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Why does Jesus send him to the priests? In Leviticus 14:2, the priests would judge if the person was really changed. It’s possible that a miracle had healed them of Hansen’s disease (i.e. leprosy). Or they may have only had psoriasis or eczema which went away. Either way, the priests served as the first line of defense against an outbreak.

(5:15-16) But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Mark tells us that the healed man disobeyed Jesus’ command to be quiet (Mk. 1:45). This explains why “news about Him was spreading.”

In ministry, we often feel the pressure of the work, and won’t stop to pray and read the word. After all, we’re “too busy” for such things. Yet such an attitude reveals that we either (1) think that we’re doing more ministry than Jesus Christ, or (2) think that we have less of a need for God’s empowerment than Jesus. Either way, we are spiritually deluded.

Discussion Question

What do you think is the significance of Jesus healing this leprous man?

Why did Jesus touch the man in order to heal him? Why didn’t he just speak a word of healing instead?

Luke 5:17-26 (Healing the paralytic)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:1-8 and Mark 2:1-12.]

(5:17) One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.

This is the first time that Luke specifically mentions the “Pharisees” in his gospel. For more on this religious group, see our earlier article, “Judaism in Jesus’ Day.”

“The power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” Jesus depended on the power of Holy Spirit to perform miracles, rather than his own power. Jesus has always possessed the attributes of divinity (e.g. omnipotence, omnipresence, omnipresence, etc.), but he willingly relinquished the use or access to these attributes at the incarnation (Phil. 2:6-7). Like a fighter only using one arm to fight, Jesus chose not to use his divine attributes—even though he still possessed them. Of course, he could’ve chosen to access these attributes at any time, but he depended on God the Father and God the Holy Spirit instead. Thus, he serves as the ultimate model of faith (Heb. 12:1-2).

(5:18-19) And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus.

God didn’t “open a door” or “open a window” (as the Christian trope states). Instead, these men took it upon themselves to burrow through the ceiling! These men wouldn’t be dissuaded.

Did they dig through the “roof” or through the “tiles”? Mark states that these men dug through the mud-thatch roof (stegē, Mk. 2:4), while Luke describes the roof as “tiles” (keramos) or “ceramic.” Stein[120] understands Luke as using “contextualization” for Theophilus, who would be familiar with tiles—not mud-thatch. Liefeld agrees that Luke could be “adapting the terminology,” but he also insists that “tile was not unknown in Palestine; and Luke’s terminology may be even more suitable to the specific nature of the roof than we realize.”[121] Similarly, citing the New Bible Dictionary, Morris states that “the tiled roof… appeared before New Testament times.”[122]

(5:20) Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

Why does Jesus forgive the man’s sins, rather than healing his paralysis? This must be because there is something worse in life than being paralyzed—namely, being under the judgment of God! Very often, we come to God asking for a need to be met, but he presses us to look beneath the superficial to something far more important. Indeed, this man could’ve been cured of paralysis, lived a happy life, and then still gone straight to hell. Jesus took away the ultimate pain and problem in the man’s life first, and then, because he is good, he healed his paralysis second.

(5:21) The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

They throw the gauntlet, asking him about his divine identity. Indeed, this is not a case of the divine passive, where Jesus was saying that God the Father was forgiving the man. Rather, it was “Jesus himself” who “is understood as having forgiven the man his sins.”[123]

“Who is this man…?” Luke records that people asked this question often (Lk. 7:49; 8:25; 9:9). This is historical record also confronts the reader with the same question: After all, if Jesus could forgive sins, then who is this man?

(5:22-26) But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.” 25 Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26 They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

“Which is easier to say…?” This question is infused with irony. One is easier to say, while the other is easier to do.[124] Technically, it’s easier to say that a person is forgiven, because we can’t see this. However, forgiveness is far more difficult to give, because it cost Jesus his very life!

These first-century Jews believed that people were punished with sickness for their sin, or maybe their parents’ sins (cf. Jn. 9:1-3; Lk. 13:1-5). According to ancient rabbinic teaching, sin was a result of divine retribution. Jesus meets them on their own terms: If sin was divine retribution, then healing could only be because of divine healing and forgiveness.

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 20. The paralyzed man must have thought his forgiveness was a broken expectation. After all, he came for physical healing—not spiritual forgiveness. Have you ever seen broken expectations in this way? When you came to Christ, what did you expect would change? What did actually begin to change?

Luke 5:27-32 (Jesus calls Levi/Matthew the tax collector)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:9-13 and Mark 2:13-17.]

(5:27) After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”

Who was Levi? This was another name for Matthew—the author of the first Gospel (Mt. 9:9). Stein comments, “Since first-century Jews often had two names (usually one in Hebrew or Aramaic and the other in Greek or Latin), there is no reason why this tax collector could not have been called Levi Matthew.”[125] We see the same practice in Peter/Cephas, Paul/Saul, etc.

What was tax collecting? For a concept of Matthew’s deplorable profession, see our earlier article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day.” The arrangement of Matthew’s calling here is quite intentional. In the previous pericope, Jesus proved that he could forgive sins. Here, he calls a horrendous sinner as a personal disciple. Not only could Jesus forgive sins (vv.1-8), but he could even forgive the sins of a tax collector like Matthew!

We might not like taxes today, but these are at least intended for a constructive purpose (e.g. governmental aid, roads rebuilding, education, etc.). In this day, the taxes were purely evil. The Jews were under foreign occupation from a tyrannical empire, and these taxes were given to the Roman Empire to build more weapons, pay soldiers, and add to their system of oppression.

(5:28-29) And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.

Why does Matthew drop everything and suddenly follow Jesus? We don’t see previous contact between Matthew and Jesus (as we did with Peter, Andrew, James, and John). But because Jesus was famous in Capernaum, Matthew likely heard about Jesus before meeting him.

After meeting Christ, Matthew threw a big party, and he invited a lot of his friends—fellow lowlifes! It’s interesting that when Matthew was thinking about who to invite to his party that he thought of Jesus. While not engaging in sin, Jesus was fun to have at parties, and people enjoyed him being there. How different Jesus is from so many stuffy and self-righteous Christians today!

(5:30-32) The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

It’s interesting that Luke the doctor used “a more ‘medical’ term here than we find in Mark and Matthew.”[126]

Is anyone truly righteous? No. No one is righteous (Rom. 3:10-20). The Pharisees thought they were righteous “in the sight of men” (Lk. 16:15), and they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous” (Lk. 18:9). The Pharisees (“the separated ones”) held that they should be detached from culture, much like “fortress theology” today where Christians create their own subculture. Jesus felt that these people were far from God because they couldn’t admit their own sin; in fact, the tax collectors came to God first (Mt. 21:31). In this account, the only people that weren’t healed or called were… the Pharisees!

Discussion Question

Read verses 27-32. Jesus unabashedly spent time with sinful people—even in a day when this wasn’t popular. What do we learn about the character and personality of Jesus from this section?

Should Christians go to parties filled with prostitutes, drug dealers, and criminals? What do you think of author and evangelist Sam Chan’s perspective? Regarding this subject, he writes, “We must also keep in mind that we are not Jesus. We are not the Son of God. It’s so nice that Jesus touches lepers, but if we did that, we could catch leprosy. It’s lovely that Jesus holds the hand of a dead girl, but if we did that, we could catch her disease and also die. There are many things Jesus did that we can’t copy 100 percent. Similarly, if we associate with ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ sooner or later we may find that our moral compass is affected.”[127] He suggests keeping ourselves accountable to fellow Christians in this area. Is there truth in what he is saying? Are there areas on which you disagree? What biblical principles should govern our thinking in this area?

Luke 5:33-39 (Wine and wineskins)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:14-17 and Mark 2:18-22.]

(5:33) And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.

The Pharisees and scribes started comparing his ministry with John the Baptist and the other rabbis who were Pharisees.

(5:34-35) And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”

These religious leaders were creating practices (e.g. rampant fasting) on the basis of human authority. Yet God never taught this (see comments on Matthew 6:16-19). Implicitly, Jesus is telling us that his message of love and forgiveness is infused with joy and happiness—not a dour life of religious practices. This sets the stage for Jesus’ teaching on wine and wineskins…

(5:36-39) And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”

When these old wineskins expanded, they would tear. Old creaky wineskins crack and spill the wine, and Jesus’ point was that these old wineskins need to be replaced periodically. Stein writes, “One cannot place the new wine of the gospel in the old wineskins of Pharisaic Judaism, for what will result is neither the gospel nor Judaism. Later history has shown that attempts to syncretize Christianity with another religious movement lead to an offspring inferior to both.”[128] Likewise, Morris writes, “Jesus is not simply patching up Judaism: he is teaching something radically new. If the attempt is made to constrict this within the old wineskins of Judaism (e.g. by imposing fasting), the result will be disastrous.”[129] We would define the parts of Jesus’ teaching in this way.

  • Old wine: This refers to the old covenant under Moses.
  • Old wineskin: Rabbinic teaching served as the human embodiment of the covenant.
  • New wine: This refers to the new covenant.
  • New wineskin: When the new covenant arrives, we will need new changing wineskins to accommodate it.

Jesus’ point here is that he isn’t trying to give the old wineskins a touch-up or tune-up. He will give them a replacement. Jesus isn’t a revisionist, but a revolutionary!


These two miracles show a prioritized ethic of what God finds important. We need to focus on what is important, rather than on our in-house Christian rules and culture. Rather than clinging to outdated traditions or wineskins, we need to learn to teach the transcendent and unchanging truth of God in ways that our culture can grasp—creating no barriers to God’s truth in the process. Consider several examples of this in modern church culture:

Church language. All of these words have lost their meaning in our culture: “repent,” “saved,” “sanctification,” “holiness,” “ordination,” “worship,” and “church.” Like Francis Schaeffer, we should constantly revise our language—even being verbose—in order to connect with our culture. So, instead of saying, “God,” Schaeffer would call him the “infinite-personal God” for clarity. Likewise, followers of Jesus should constantly use synonyms and language that will connect to our culture.

Church music. If we create a Christian music subculture, 99% of non-Christian guest won’t know what we’re talking about. This would include singing hymns from the 1800’s, organs, choirs, etc. Why would we create music like this? This isn’t from Scripture, so why do Christians do it?

Church clothing. When we wear robes or vestments, this is actually reverting to the old covenant—not the new. Nothing in the new covenant teaches what we should wear as pastors and teachers in a local church. Why not wear clothing that others wear? Indeed, do we imagine Paul or Peter wearing vestments and robes when they taught to the Greek Pagans in Corinth, Greece? Surely not.

Church architecture. Cathedrals, stained glass, pews, altars, and pulpits are all staples of church culture today. But why should churches look different from other buildings? Why choose these wineskins? Are these biblical? No. Are they helpful? Not at all.

Meeting times. Why do we need to meet on Sunday morning? Many college students have been out all Saturday night, and wouldn’t be awake Sunday morning. Why make this the time for our meeting—especially when most church buildings lay empty and unused six days out of the week?

Taboos and rules. Some Christians add to biblical teaching by saying we can’t go trick-or-treating on Halloween, can’t enter a bar, can’t dance, can’t go rap concerts, can’t watch certain movies, can’t drink alcohol, etc. While a person may have an individual issue of conscience on any of these issues (see 1 Cor. 8; Rom. 14), we should not mandate our personal issue of conscience for all Christians.

How big of a problem are these wineskins? In our estimation, this is a huge problem! Indeed, non-Christian people are allergic to Christian culture—not Christianity—because of these bizarre wineskins. The main criterion for a good wineskin is if it is flexible enough to not spill the wine (i.e. the universal truth of God). We dare not change the wine (i.e. the unchanging truths of Scripture), but we should periodically review the wineskins (i.e. the methods we use transmit God’s truth).

Luke 6

Luke 6:1-5 (Eating on the Sabbath)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:1-8 and Mark 2:23-28.]

Luke records two actions that Jesus performed on the Sabbath. This setting is important because the Pharisees held that it was morally wrong to do any sort of work on the Sabbath. In this setting, therefore, they were laying a trap to catch Jesus breaking the law. It seems clear that they didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching about the wine and wineskins from earlier. These religious laws were not the “wine” (i.e. God’s truth), but rather “wineskins” (i.e. additional rules to carry out God’s truth). Jesus was breaking the latter, but not the former.

(6:1-2) Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

Legally, the disciples were allowed to take some grain and eat it like this (Deut. 23:24-25). But the Pharisees were upset because they considered this “harvesting” on the Sabbath. Indeed, the Pharisees declared 39 types of work to be illegal on the Sabbath,[130] and the Mishnah contains an entire tractate (or chapter) describing what is and what is not work (m. Sabbat. 7.2; cf. m. Pe’a 8.7). Yet these rabbinical rules were bizarre and sometimes even comical elaborations on the Law, and Jesus firmly rejects this.

(6:3-4) And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, 4 how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?”

This event occurred in 1 Samuel 21. David’s men were starving, and David violated the ceremonial law (Lev. 24:5-9). Jesus defended David for doing this (Mt. 12:7), because mercy is more important than ritual sacrifices (see “Prioritized Ethics”).

(6:5) And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Since God created the Sabbath, Jesus was making an outrageous claim. If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, then he owns it and controls it. Yet, only God himself could make such a claim.

Luke 6:6-11 (Healing on the Sabbath)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:9-14 and Mark 3:1-6.]

(6:6-7) On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.

Luke uniquely states this was another Sabbath.” Reading Matthew and Mark, we might think these events occurred on the same day, but it was some time later—at least a week.

This physically handicapped man had a serious problem. In this day, his handicap would make it virtually impossible to get a decent job. This man’s plight was a crying need that was in front of Jesus and everyone else. But once again, the scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about the wineskins (i.e. the extra laws), than they were about helping this poor man.

Mark records that God created the Sabbath for humans—not for himself (Mk. 2:27). That is, God created the Sabbath as a humanitarian law so that people wouldn’t work themselves to death. Therefore, Jesus is actually displaying the spirit of the law by healing this man, because this was the very purpose of the Sabbath.

The Pharisees were “watching” Jesus to see if he would heal the man. Stein comments, “Jesus’ opponents did not doubt Jesus’ ability to heal. This is granted. The issue for them was whether Jesus’ healing power was divine or demonic (11:14-20).”[131]

(6:8) But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward.

“He knew what they were thinking.” Jesus could read minds!

Why would Jesus bring this man to ‘center stage’? Jesus felt no shame in doing good on the Sabbath. In fact, to do nothing would be a sin (Jas. 4:17). Because there was nothing to be ashamed of, Jesus wanted to act in full view of everyone around. Hence, he placed the man front and center.

(6:9-10) And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored.

Apparently, Jesus’ question was met with silence. Mark adds that Jesus was “grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mk. 3:5). Since they didn’t have anything to say, Jesus went ahead and healed the man.

(6:11) But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

These religious teachers couldn’t stand this. Religious legalism collides with the person of Christ.

Discussion Questions

Read 1-11. Jesus did his good deeds publicly to honor God and to make a point. What is the difference between what Jesus did, and self-righteous people “taking a stand for God” in the public sphere? When is it appropriate to publicly buck authority like Jesus did?

What do these religious rules communicate about the character of God? In other words, if you thought really commanded these religious rules, what would you think of God?

Luke 6:12-16 (Calling the Twelve)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 3:13-19.]

(6:12) It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Jesus knew that the Pharisees would eventually hand him over to be killed. Faced with this fact, he began to pray. This is where God led him to select his disciples. Do you spend the “whole night in prayer” before choosing whom to disciple? Jesus apparently felt the need to.

(6:13) And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:

The twelve disciples (i.e. learners) were also apostles (i.e. “sent ones”). They not only would learn from Jesus, but they would go out and speak for Jesus.

(6:14-16) Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Why do Matthew and Luke list the disciples in pairs, while Mark doesn’t? In Luke’s account, we see that the twelve disciples were paired: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot (Mt. 10-2-4). However, Mark just lists the Twelve without any pairings between them (Mk. 3:16-19). Is there any significance to these pairings? Yes! This is an example of an undesigned coincidence. Elsewhere, Mark explains that Jesus sent the twelve disciples out “two by two” (Mk. 6:7). Matthew doesn’t mention the “two by two” sending, but Mark does. Thus both gospels mention pairings, but in different ways, complementary to one another.

Simon is called “first” in Matthew’s account, even though he was not the first convert. This likely means that he was “first among equals.”[132] Carson writes this about Peter: “Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses.”[133]

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and he was a disciple of John the Baptist before following Jesus (Jn. 1:35-42). He is only mentioned in a few passages in the NT (Mk. 13:3; Jn. 1:35-44; 6:8; 12:22).

James was probably older than John, because he is always mentioned first between the two. He became the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2). James and John came from a fairly lucrative fishing business—at least successful enough to have “servants” working for them (Mk. 1:20). Their mom was one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:55-56). James and John were aggressive (Lk. 9:54); so, Jesus called them the “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). These sons of Zebedee were business partners with Peter and Andrew (Mt. 4:18-21), and Peter and John remained friends for years to come (Lk. 22:8; Jn. 18:15; 20:2-8; Acts 3:1-4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9).

Philip’s calling is recorded in John 1:43ff. He grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), as did Peter and Andrew. Perhaps they all knew each other in that small town.

Bartholomew is associated with Nathanael, whom we see in John’s gospel (Jn. 21:2; 1:43-51). Philip brought him to Christ (Jn. 1:43-46), so it would make sense that Jesus would pair these two together (“Philip and Bartholomew”). Of course, it wasn’t uncommon to have two names. After all, Peter, Paul, and Matthew had more than one name.

Thomas is mentioned throughout John (11:16; 14:5; 20:24ff; 21:2). He is typically cast as being merely a skeptical person—as if this was his only quality (i.e. “Doubting Thomas”). However, a more nuanced view reveals that he was also very courageous (Jn. 11:16).

Matthew mentions his own calling in Matthew 9:9. Matthew didn’t mind including the embarrassing detail that he had been a former low-life tax collector.

James the son of Alphaeus is most likely the man mentioned in Mark 15:40. Matthew is the son of “Alphaeus” as well (Mk. 2:14). So, if this is the same Alphaeus, then Matthew and James were brothers—though, we are uncertain if this is true. Besides these few conjectures, we otherwise “know almost nothing about him.”[134]

Simon the Zealot would’ve been a violent man (cf. Lk. 6:15). Zealots were trying to politically and militarily liberate Israel from her foreign, Roman oppressors. In fact, he would’ve hated Matthew, because tax collectors were considered one of the worst forms of traitors in Israel at the time.

Jude may be Thaddeus, who isn’t mentioned very much in the gospels (Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13). Carson speculates that Thaddeus could be another name for Jude—the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus (Jn. 14:22).[135]

Judas is given significant coverage throughout the NT. His name “Iscariot” was Hebrew for “man of Kerioth,” which was a city in either Judea or Moab (though most likely Judea). Thus, he was “the only non-Galilean of the group.”[136] By recording Judas, we see that even Jesus had unfaithful disciples.

Discussion Question

These disciples were not ideal men—yet Jesus chose them after an entire night of prayer. If you had to speculate, why did Jesus pick these men? What does this tell us about how God works through people?

Luke 6:17-49 (The Sermon on the Plain)

[This is similar content to “The Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5-7), but we would contend that this is a different sermon. The “differences are many,”[137] and this is given on a “level place” (Lk. 6:19), not a mountain. Furthermore, it is much shorter in length. These are indicators that this was a different—though similar—teaching.]

(6:17) Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

These cities (Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, etc.) were 60-80 miles away, and thousands were coming to learn from Christ.

(6:18-19) [These people] had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. 19 And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

Jesus could apparently feel God’s power go out of him when he healed him. We see the same expression when he inadvertently healed the hemorrhaging woman (Lk. 8:46).

(6:20) And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Unlike Matthew, Luke simply states, “Blessed are you who are poor,” rather than “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3).

Stein[138] argues that Luke is referring to being spiritually poor—not economically poor. He notes that David said that he was “poor and needy” (Ps. 40:17; 86:1; 109:22 NIV), but as the king of Israel, this surely didn’t refer to economic poverty. Furthermore, the term “poor” is used antithetically to the proud (Prov. 3:34; 16:19). However, this doesn’t fit the context where Jesus refers to the hungry (v.21), the rich (v.24), and the well-fed (v.25), all of which appear to be literal descriptors. Stein holds that the Sermon the Mount and the Sermon the Plain are the same teaching, so this might motivate his (over)harmonization here.

(6:21) Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

In God’s kingdom, all of our physical pain will be turned to joy. All of the psychological pain we carry will be lifted in that great day.

(6:22-23) Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.

In AD 85, there was a Jewish prayer that specifically targeted Christians: “For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes [Christians] and the minim [heretics] perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.”[139] It is alleged that this prayer needed to be read by people suspected of being Christians to “smoke them out” as heretics. Jesus tells us to stand proudly in our convictions—not cowering.

This blessing is conditional on being hated “for the sake of the Son of Man.” We shouldn’t expect any blessing when we are filled with egotism or pride, living for ourselves (cf. 1 Pet. 4:14). When everyone is happy with us, it’s very possible that we’re compromising our principles.

This happiness seems to be available to us now—not only later in heaven. We should “be glad in that day.” This seems to refer to the same day that “men hate you.” Indeed, Luke gives examples of this in the book of Acts (Acts 5:41; 16:25; 21:13ff).

(6:24) But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.

God has an unlimited source of happiness and joy. Money does bring some happiness. No one would argue against such an obvious reality. But money is a cheap substitute for the joy of the Lord. Moreover, the love and desire of money are antithetical to Jesus’ way (Mt. 6:24; 1 Tim. 6:8-11).

(6:25) Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Well-fed now… hungry.” In this day and age, being fat was a staple of social prosperity, because food was scarce. Similarly, in other cultures, it is considered unpopular to be tan, because this shows that you are “low class,” needing to work outside in the fields.



Being poor

Being rich
Being hungry

Being well-fed


Being put down

Being popular

Pharisees claimed that these qualities made you unfavorable in the eyes of God.

Pharisees claimed that these were signs of God’s blessing.


The disciples were making a conscious decision to be rejected or impoverished because of their commitment to Christ—not because they were unable to make money.

“Laugh now… mourn and weep.” Is Jesus against laughter? This can’t be the case, because being “blessed” (makarios) refers to being “happy, fortunate, fulfilled” (BDAG). Morris rightly comments, “Obviously Jesus is not objecting to laughter as such. His whole ministry was a protest against the killjoy attitude. He enjoyed life and must have laughed often. So with his disciples. But there is a laughter that is the expression of superficiality… It is this shallow merriment that will give way to mourning and weeping.”[140]

(6:26) Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

See comments on verses 22-23.

(6:27-28) “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

With so many people despising the Christian, it would be easy to retreat into an embittered state (see Mt. 5:44). Instead, Jesus tells us to move toward these people with love, good works, and prayer. Earlier, Jesus referenced four ways the people persecuted Christians (v.22), and here, he gives four commands regarding how to love these people in return. Stein wisely observes, “The last three commands reveal that the command to love one’s enemies does not appeal to the emotions but to the will. Jesus did not command his followers ‘to feel’ in a certain way but to act in a certain way.”[141]

(6:29) Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.

This is different than Matthew, who records being “slapped” on the cheek (Mt. 5:39). Morris writes, “Jesus is speaking of a punch to the side of the jaw rather than a light slap in the face.”[142] Since Jesus himself rebuked the man who struck him (Jn. 18:22), this likely refers to an “attitude” that we must “not seek revenge.”[143]

(6:30) Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.

If this is an absolute command, then it would mean that Christians would be morally obligated to give to drug dealers, criminals, thieves, and anyone else! It would also contradict others Scriptures (e.g. 2 Thess. 3:6-13). This must refer to giving to those who are truly in need, or perhaps to “a readiness among [Jesus’] followers to give and give and give.”[144] This could also be an “overstatement for effect,”[145] using hyperbole to drive home his statement of radical love. To be clear, however, most Western Christians are in zero danger of over giving! So, we should take Jesus’ hyperbolic statement to heart.

(6:31) Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.

This is the famous Golden Rule. While other religions have a similar commandment, they are not the same as Jesus’ wisdom. Consider each of these examples below:

Rabbinic Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you” (Mahabharata, 5:5157).

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga, 5:18).

We see no issue in other cultures recognizing a similar moral code. Indeed, from a Christian worldview, we should expect it (Rom. 2:14-15). However, while these moral teachings above are similar to Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule, they are not the same. Indeed, you might satisfy these moral imperatives above… by doing nothing! Jesus says that we need to actively love someone—not just passively do nothing. This is a much higher moral imperative.

(6:32-33) If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

This is similar to Matthew 5:46. Jesus is calling for a much higher form of love. Not just a love that is comfortable, but love given to those we don’t particularly like. This is love where we don’t expect or demand anything in return.

(6:34) If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.

This seems to be a similar idea as verses 30, 32-33. We should give to those in need. This is love without demands or expectations.

(6:35) But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Ingratitude may be one of our most severe sins. Thank God that he loves “ungrateful and evil men” like us! Ironically, this truth should lead us to deep gratitude.

(6:36) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

As objects of indescribable mercy, we should be the first to give out mercy.

(6:37) Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

This reciprocal attitude of being judged could refer to God’s judgment, but it could also refer to others being harsh in their judgment of us in return.[146] Morris adds, “When God accepts people God’s grace changes them. A forgiving spirit is evidence that the person has been forgiven.”[147]

(6:38) Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Jesus isn’t saying that if you give to others that they will give back to you. He’s saying that God will give back to you. The picture is that we’re taking as much as we can carry—and far more! You’re pouring the grain into your bag, tamping it down, and using your shirt to carry the overflow.

(6:39-40) And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”

An effect cannot be greater than its cause, just as water cannot flow higher than its source. Similarly, we cannot learn beyond the limits of our own speculative wisdom. This shows our need to learn from a source higher than ourselves—in this case, Jesus. Ten years ago, you probably thought that you knew it all, but now, you look back at that younger person as foolish. Similarly, in ten years, you will likely look at your current self in much the same way! We need a transcendent source of wisdom outside of ourselves. We need God’s wisdom.

(6:41-42) Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

This is parallel to Matthew 7:3-5. This shows our human tendency to see the faults of others, while minimizing or missing our own sinful contribution. We need to address our sin “first” before we are able to address another person’s faults.

(6:43-45) For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Jesus is saying that doing comes from being. It isn’t enough to clean up our behavior on the outside, when our souls are fundamentally sick on the inside. The mouth reveals what our carefully crafted appearance conceals.

(6:46) Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

This is similar to Matthew 7:21. It isn’t enough to hear Jesus’s words; we need to act on his teaching and build our lives around it. We don’t truly know the wisdom of God’s word until we act on it (Jas. 1:22-25).

(6:47-49) Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The people had come to Jesus to be healed (v.18). But Jesus was offering far more than mere physical healing. He claims that his teaching is and should be the foundation of our lives—the teaching around which everything else is built.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 41-42. How does addressing our own problems “first” make us more equipped to enter into a conflict with someone else? What might happen if we skip this crucial step?

Read verses 43-45. Does this passage teach that we should clean up our foul language in order to fix our sin problems?


Jesus spoke about building our lives on his teaching. Is anything more valuable to you than your life? After all, you only have one life, and then, it’s over forever! Will you look back on a life built on sand? Or will you begin to build your life on the teachings of the wisest man who ever lived?

Are you ready to face the storms of life? Right now, at this very moment, suffering is careening toward you at top speed. It might not strike today. It might not strike tomorrow. Nevertheless, suffering is coming. It could be a broken relationship, a disease, a disability, a loved one dying, or any other disaster. Are you ready? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could victoriously triumph during these “storms” of life? You can! Learn Jesus’ teachings. Memorize his promises. He will give you a firm foundation for these times of suffering.

It isn’t until we are tested that God reveals our character. After all, both the fool and the wise man look the same until the storm comes (vv.47-49).

Jesus’ teaching not only speaks to this life, but also the next. After all, the “greatest storm” comes when we die.[148]

Luke 7

Luke 7:1-10 (Healing the Roman centurion’s slave)

[The parallel passage is in Matthew 8:5-13. In our estimation, this miracle is not the same as the healing of the royal official’s son in John 4:46-52, which took place in Cana—not Capernaum.]

(Lk. 7:1-10) Does this contradict the account in Matthew 8:5-13?

(7:1-5) When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.”

Consider what the centurion could have said. As a powerful Roman man, he could’ve come forward and ordered a penniless, miracle working (Jewish!) preacher to come and heal his servant. Yet, this Roman centurion seems to be a godly man. He cares for his servant (v.2), he loved the nation of Israel (v.5), he financially supported the synagogue (v.5),[149] and he garnered a high level of respect and rapport from the Jewish elders. Furthermore, he was seeking after Jesus. Perhaps, as a Roman centurion, he knew that he couldn’t approach a rabbi like Jesus himself, so he sent the Jewish elders to request Jesus’ help (v.7).

Luke states that the slave is “about to die” (v.2), while Matthew states that he is “paralyzed” and “tormented” (Mt. 8:6), being in great pain. In this culture, servants were often considered part of the family.[150]

(7:6-7) Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

This is different than what the Jewish elders stated in verse 4: “He is worthy.” This man (a Gentile) understood his unworthiness before Jesus. Instead of a direct visitation, the centurion “sent friends” to Jesus—sensing his own inadequacy.

The centurion shows two things here: (1) his unworthiness in approaching Jesus and (2) his willingness to take Jesus at his word. Indeed, “we have no recorded evidence that up to this point Jesus had performed a healing miracle at a distance and by word alone.”[151] So, this implies a strong faith on this man’s behalf. He doesn’t try to twist God’s arm or control him. He places no conditions on Jesus.

(7:8) For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

As a Roman centurion, this man wielded powerful military authority over the people of Israel as a subjugated state—not to mention the authority he possessed over his own men. He knew authority well—both being under authority by his superiors and having others under his own authority. He knew that his own commands had the power to get soldiers to move (“Go!” “Come!”). From this, he inferred that Jesus had even greater authority with His powerful words. Like the centurion commanding people to visit Jesus (v.3), he knew that Jesus could heal the servant without even needing to enter the house.

(7:9) Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”

This is a powerful statement from Jesus! This man was a Roman centurion—a subjugator of the nation of Israel. Yet, Jesus says he had greater faith than any Jewish person Jesus had encountered thus far.

(7:10) When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

We don’t see Jesus give any kind of command here. Instead, the people return to find the slave healed.

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about Jesus from this interaction with the Roman centurion?

What do we learn about biblical faith from studying the Roman centurion? First, biblical faith is not for any particular race or ethnicity—Jew or Gentile. Second, conditions shouldn’t be placed on God. We should ask big prayers (Jas. 4:2), but we should trust God with the results. Third, it takes great humility to be a man in authority and to ask help of Jesus. For a person who is familiar with calling the shots, it can be hard to humble ourselves and submit to God.

Luke 7:11-17 (Raising the widow’s son from the dead)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(7:11-12) Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. 12 Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her.

It’s difficult to imagine the heart-wrenching grief that this woman was feeling, burying her son. Indeed, a “sizeable crowd” grieved with her, showing that this was quite a tragedy.

But the situation was even worse if we consider the historical context. In this patriarchal culture, women couldn’t provide for themselves, and without a male worker in the family, they would be destitute. In this case, this woman had no husband to provide for her (because she was a “widow”), and now, her only other male provider is dead (her only son”). She is on her way to facing abject poverty.

Put yourself in her shoes. She was thinking of how to pay for the funeral expenses. Then, she needed to think of how she would survive without an income. Would she be thrown out on the street? Would any relatives take her in? Worst of all, she had the crushing grief of losing her dear son. She must’ve felt totally crushed—totally paralyzed—with the pain.

Then she hears a voice, telling her not to weep…

(7:13-15) When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Touching a corpse made a person unclean (Num. 19:11, 16). This is a subtle message of substitution—namely, in order to heal this man of death, Jesus needed to become unclean. Perhaps this miracle subtly prefigures what Jesus would do for us at the Cross, by becoming our moral—not ceremonial—substitute.

(7:16-17) Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” 17 This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district.

For centuries, God had been silent to the nation of Israel—no words from heaven and no prophets. Yet now, the people were aware that God was on the move. We see them recognizing that a “great prophet has arisen.” Moreover, the people attributed Jesus’ healing to “God” visiting the people, which seems to go further, even supporting the deity Christ.

Discussion Questions

We argued above that this miracle might prefigure Jesus’ substitution on the Cross. Is this reading too much into the text? Why or why not?

Why did the people see this resuscitation and conclude that a “prophet” had appeared? What does this tell us about the Jewish view of what a prophet was?

Luke 7:18-35 (John the Baptist)

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 11:2-19.]

(7:18-19) The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. 19 Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”

John the Baptist was a great man of God, and he had great faith in Jesus (Jn. 1:29). However, here we see him questioning Jesus. This is surely doubt, but it is a conflicted doubt. After all, he continues to seek understanding, continues to ask questions, continues to explore, and continues to seek out Jesus. This isn’t descriptive of unbelief. If John was in a state of unbelief, he wouldn’t be seeking Christ in this way.

Why is John the Baptist doubting? Matthew gives us the detail that John was “imprisoned” by Herod at this time (Mt. 11:2). This probably explains a large part of John’s doubts: After all, if Jesus is the Messianic King, then why is John rotting in jail? John “heard of the works of Christ” (Mt. 11:2), but Jesus was not getting to work on John’s jailbreak! Surely, this would create a theological problem for John, as well as a personal problem.

  • Theologically, the Messiah was supposed to knock down the prisons and take over politically—but Jesus was doing no such thing.
  • Personally, John was rotting in prison and suffering, while Jesus was outside of the prison, healing people in large numbers.

Josephus tells us that John was imprisoned in the fortress of Machaerus,[152] which was east of the Dead Sea. Since John was in prison during Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mt. 4:12), he could’ve been there for “as long as a year.”[153] Why wouldn’t Jesus take the time to rescue John? Did Jesus not care? Did Jesus forget about John as his own popularity continued to soar? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the doubt that John was enduring as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months…

(7:20-21) When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind.

As John’s disciples are asking the question, Jesus is in the middle of miraculously healing “many people.” We can imagine Jesus saying, “Just wait one second, fellas… I’ll answer your question about whether or not I’m the Messiah after I miraculously heal this mass of sick, demon-possessed, or blind people.”

(7:22-23) And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”

Jesus isn’t upset with John the Baptist’s doubts or his question. In fact, Jesus gives John the Baptist more evidence: Not only does he show John’s messengers more miracles, but he shows that he is fulfilling biblical prophecy (see comments on Isa. 35:4-6).

Similarly, God wants to answer your doubts and questions, and he is always receptive of those who seek him (Mt. 7:7). However, make sure to allow him to give the evidence that he sees fit, rather than demanding your own arbitrary standard of evidence. After all, when we pursue any field of study, we always want more evidence (e.g. historical claims, scientific confirmations, forensic science, etc.). But we don’t base our beliefs on evidence that we wish we had, but on the evidence we do have.

(7:24-26) When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.

Why is Jesus asking these questions? Clearly, they are rhetorical: The people didn’t travel miles into the desert to watch the reeds blow—nor did they go to see a man of prestige. They went out there to see a prophet.

“A reed shaken by the wind?” This could metaphorically refer to a “weak, pliable person.”[154] Keener writes, “People who proved too weak for the test that awaited them were compared with the weak, tall papyrus reeds, easily moved simply by the wind (1 Kings 14:15; 2 Kings 18:21; 3 Macc. 2:22).”[155] Clearly, John was not a weak man, so this doesn’t explain why people would travel to see him. It could also refer to an “ordinary spectacle,”[156] such as the wind shaking a reed. Of course, this would be like watching grass grow: No one would travel that far to see something so ordinary. So, Jesus’ point stands—namely, they came to see John for another reason entirely.

“A man dressed in soft clothing?” John definitely didn’t wear wealthy clothing. Matthew records, “John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt. 3:4). Moreover, such “finely dressed people are not located in the desert.”[157]

“Those who wear soft clothing are in royal palaces!” This could be a jab at Herod’s palace. John dressed himself in the rugged garb of a prophet—not a pretentious king.

Jesus agrees that John is a prophet, but also adds that he is “more than a prophet.” Indeed, John is the final prophet who will announce the coming of the Messiah according to Malachi 3:1. He has been called a “superprophet”[158] for this reason.

(7:27) This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’

John the Baptist would be the final prophet to proclaim the coming of Christ (citing Mal. 3:1). This passage supports the deity of Jesus when read in its OT context.

(Lk. 7:27) Why does Jesus cite Malachi 3:1?

(7:28) I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

At this point, you would think that John is the greatest believer of all time. But Jesus turns this assumption on its head. Yes, John the Baptist was an incredibly righteous and faithful man, but he doesn’t compare to the person who is justified by the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 3:24ff).

Carson understands this to refer to John the Baptist’s functional role in pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.[159] His argument is that John knew more about Jesus as the final old covenant prophet than any before him. However, John never lived to see the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, etc. In this way, even the “least” in the new covenant knows more about Jesus than John. Similarly, Keener states that new covenant Christians had a “fuller message”[160] than John the Baptist. The problem with this view, however, is that some true Christians never witness for Jesus at all, playing no functional role. So, it’s hard to see why John would be less than them.

We agree with Blomberg that believers in the new covenant are “greater” in the sense of our privileges—not our function. These privileges would include “the once-for-all forgiveness of sins, the greater sense of immediate access to God’s presence, and the permanent indwelling of the Spirit.”[161] Likewise, Stein writes, “Membership in the kingdom is more wonderful than being the greatest of human beings.”[162]

(7:29-30) When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

Jesus magnetically attracted the sinners, but he had an equal and opposite reaction with the self-righteous, repelling them.

“Rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” This passage demonstrates that God’s will can be thwarted—despite the many claims of theological determinists.

(7:31-34) To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

What is the point of these illustrations? The Pharisees wouldn’t be moved by anything that John or Jesus did. This is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

  • John held a simple lifestyle out in the wilderness, and he chose not to drink alcohol. Did they listen to John? No. They accused him of being demon-possessed (v.33).
  • Jesus drank alcohol and spent time with sinners. Did they listen to Jesus? No. They used this as “evidence” that he was a drunkard and a scoundrel!

Yet, their filthy accusations either slide off Jesus like butter on Teflon, or they stick to him and transform into compliments. In the first case, Jesus was clearly not a drunkard, and in the second, he was a “friend of… sinners!” This accusation is ironically true—even though these self-righteous religious teachers don’t realize that they themselves are sinners.

(7:35) Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.

This cryptic statement seems to mean that the wisdom of Jesus and John will be shown by the effect it has on people.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 18-19. What is the difference between doubt and unbelief?

How can we tell the difference between doubt and unbelief?

How should we approach people struggling with doubt versus people in outright unbelief? (Notice that Jesus does not treat John harshly for doubting)

Is it always bad to doubt? In what ways can doubt bolster our faith? (In book The Case for Hope, Lee Strobel compares doubt to antibodies for a virus.)

Luke 7:36-50 (The woman with the alabaster vile)

[This material is unique to Luke. Stein[163] argues that this is the same event as John 12. However, we disagree, and believe that these are actually two different events. In fact, perhaps the faith of this woman inspired Mary to anoint Jesus’ feet with spikenard oil in John 12. That is to say, perhaps Mary got the idea from this event.]

(7:36) Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

One of the Pharisees apparently didn’t agree with his colleagues’ views of Jesus. He wanted to have Jesus over for dinner. He seems like a spiritual seeker, inviting Jesus into his home.

(7:37) And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume.

This “woman in the city” is most likely a prostitute.[164] This is why the Greek text includes the word “behold!” (idou) to introduce this woman. These two characters—the Pharisee and the prostitute—couldn’t be more different from one another (e.g. social standing, gender, financially, religiously, etc.).

(7:38) And standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

This entire event is spontaneous. We aren’t told who this woman is, why she is weeping, or why she comes directly to worship Jesus in such a premeditated way. As the reader, we need to speculate as to what might have prompted her to do this. But one thing is certain: She understood that coming to Jesus was the solution.

Her actions were quite shocking in her cultural context. Stein writes, “Letting down one’s hair in public was shameful and even a ground for divorce, but in her deep gratitude toward Jesus the woman forgot social propriety and used what was available to wipe Jesus’ feet—her hair.”[165]

(Lk. 7:38) Was this an erotic display?

(7:39) Now 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 person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

The Pharisee wanted to know Jesus more, but his self-righteousness got in the way. Jesus’ acceptance of sinners was revolting, and the Pharisee was allegoric to this entire display. He couldn’t come to Jesus on his Jesus’ own terms.

(7:40-43) And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.”

A “denarius” (singular) was a full day’s wage for a working man. Therefore, 500 “denarii” (plural) would be close to two years of pay. Jesus gives this illustration to show that forgiveness leads to love. The more forgiveness, the more the love.

(7:44-46) Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.”

None of these acts were mandatory in this culture, but each showed a high degree of love that went above the cultural requirements.[166] In each case, the woman outdid Simon the Pharisee. Green writes, “The woman’s actions are not only honorable by comparison, but extravagant. She does not provide water for his feet, but instead washes them herself, with tears; she has no towel but uses her own hair to dry them. She does not kiss his cheek or hand, but his feet. She does not anoint his head, but his feet, and that not with household olive oil but with costly perfume. All of her actions are performed on Jesus’ feet, that unseemly, unclean part of the body, thus accentuating all the more the extraordinary and humble nature of her attendance to his needs.”[167] She went above and beyond the normal culture custom, and still, Simon the Pharisee was criticizing her.

(7:47) “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Jesus connects the dots: a person who is forgiven much loves a lot more than a person who sees little need for forgiveness.

“For she loved much” isn’t a causal statement, but a resultative statement. That is, her love didn’t cause Jesus to forgive her, but instead, her love “provides the evidence (not the cause) by which Jesus was able to conclude that the woman’s sins were forgiven.”[168] Her actions gave “expression to her forgiveness.”[169] Indeed, later, Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”

(7:48) Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

Jesus didn’t agree with this woman’s lifestyle as a prostitute: Jesus specifically stated that she needed to be “forgiven.” But he was still able to love her without agreeing with her actions.

(7:49) Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?”

Good question!

(7:50) And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus connects forgiveness with faith—not works. The account leaves off on a cliffhanger: How did Simon the Pharisee respond? We don’t know. But more importantly, how will you respond to this message of radical grace?

Luke 8

Luke 8:1-3 (Women patronesses)

[This material is unique to Luke. These women were patronesses who helped fund Jesus’ itinerant ministry.]

(8:1) Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him.

From this point forward, Jesus had disciples who were following him. This core cadre of men and women would be the ones who eventually recorded the biographies of Jesus, or served as the chief eyewitnesses (Lk. 1:1-2).

(8:2-3) Some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

Luke names several specific women who followed Jesus—even “undesirables” who had been formerly possessed by demons. This passes the criterion of embarrassment in two ways: (1) women were second-class citizens in this culture, who certainly didn’t learn from Jewish rabbis, and (2) one of these women was formerly demon-possessed. This isn’t the sort of story one would intentionally invent. Rabbinical literature states, “Don’t talk too much with women… He spoke of a man’s wife, all the more so is the rule to be applied to the wife of one’s fellow. In this regard did sages say, ‘So long as a man talks too much with a woman, (1) he brings trouble on himself, (2) wastes time better spent on studying Torah, and (3) ends up an heir of Gehenna’” (m. Abot 1:5).

“Mary Magdalene” was not a prostitute, nor was she the woman from Luke 7:36-50. That woman was anonymous, while Luke gives considerable detail for Mary Magdalene. The interpretation that Mary was a prostitute was invented by a later pope five centuries later.[170]

“Joanna… Herod’s steward” explains how we can know what was happening in Herod’s closed quarters. Matthew records that Herod spoke his thoughts about Jesus and John the Baptist “to his servants” (Mt. 14:1-2). Joanna explains how we can know about these secluded conversations.

“Contributing” (diēkonoun) is the term used for ministry. These women were serving the Lord Jesus financially and were close and important disciples of his. Indeed, they are mentioned from among many others.”

Luke 8:4-18 (Parable of the soils)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 13:1-23 and Mark 4:1-25.]

(8:4) When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable:

A “parable” (parabolē) includes “proverbs, riddles and wise sayings as well as parables.”[171] Mark tells us that the disciples questioned Jesus’ approach in private (Mk. 4:10). They are wondering why they were able to receive Jesus’ direct teaching, but others only heard cryptic parables.

Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus taught from a boat to those on shore (Mt. 13:2; Mk. 4:1).

(8:5-8) The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. 8 Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate them.

Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered.

Soil #3: Among the thorns. These plants were choked out by thorns.

Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 30, 60, and 100 fold.

The parables either reveal or conceal God’s truth—depending on our hearts. When God speaks to us, it is actually painful when we don’t respond. We were designed to listen to God, and it hurts to push him away. We build a callous around our hearts. When guitarists play for years on end, they build up calloused tissue on their fingers so that they won’t hurt their fingers. Jesus tells us that this can happen to our hearts. This leads to God leaving us alone until our need for him increases (Hos. 4:17; Amos 8:11-12). In this instance, the problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand. This is what Jesus means by having “ears to hear.” They have the hardware, but they aren’t using it.

(8:9-10) His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

Jesus was not giving away precious truth to just anyone. He was choosing to give the deeper truths about the kingdom only to his disciples.

Is this determinism? The term “so that…” (hina) can be taken in two ways: (1) Jesus taught in parables to intentionally harden the hearts of his hearers—similar to Romans 11:25, or (2) Jesus taught in parables and the result or consequence was that the people didn’t believe—similar to the construction in Luke 9:45 (“they did not understand”). The first view implies determinism, while the second implies mere foreknowledge. Stein holds to the foreknowledge (resultant) view,[172] citing Acts 28:26-28 for support. We agree.

(8:11) “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”

In each case, the seed is the same and the sower is the same. The difference is the soil. Therefore, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our performance in sharing Christ: some soils are not ready to bring a harvest.

Soil #1: Beside the road

(8:12) Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.

Does this describe a believer losing his salvation? Hardly. Indeed, it “is wrong to conclude from this that the person in view actually becomes a Christian and church member and then rejects the message.”[173] Why? The person never even understood the message. Before they understood, Satan came right into the person’s heart and pulled away what they heard. Luke makes it explicit that this person is rejecting the message. Jesus explicitly states that “they will not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12).

How might Satan move to snatch the word from people’s hearts? He doesn’t do this by force, so then, how might this happen? This could be through distraction, intimidation, misdirection, misinterpretation, confusion, etc.

Soil #2: Rocky soil

(8:13) Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.

Does this describe a true believer? Perhaps. After all, they receive the gospel “with joy.” Yet suffering and persecution is what stops them from growing. Luke writes that “they believe for a while.” France comments, “To start is not necessarily to finish… Joy without understanding and commitment cannot last.”[174] This shows the need to disciple, equip, and teach young Christians.

Soil #3: Thorns

(8:14) The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

Does this describe a true believer? Yes, it seems so. But they are rendered unfruitful because they are obsessed with the things of the world (“worries… riches… pleasures of this life”). Matthew 13:22 records that materialism creates “deceitfulness” (apatē), which can also be rendered “pleasure” or “delight.”[175] They forfeit making an impact for Christ because of this delightful deceit. Matthew adds more detail (Mt. 13:22), stating this refers to the “world-system” (kosmos).

Soil #4: Good soil

(8:15) But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

What is the difference between this soil and the others? These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold (Mt. 13:23). Jesus tells us that this seed has several characteristics:

  • “Honest and good heart” implies sincerity, which would be the opposite of hypocrisy. This expression has an “emphatic position” in the sentence, and it “denotes what is different about this group.”[176]
  • “Hold it fast” implies that they cling to this as the foundation of their life. God bears fruit through people like this.

Lordship theologians teach that only this fourth soil consists of true believers, because only the fourth soil bears “fruit” which is key to Matthew (Mt. 3:8-10; 7:16-20; 12:33; 21:19, 34, 41, 43). Yet, even within this fourth soil, there are degrees of fruit. So, even on a Lordship view, God seems content with seeing any amount of fruit. This would fit with moderate Free Grace teaching as well.

The purpose of this parable is not fatalism. Jesus’ whole point is that you get to choose which sort of soil you want to be. Indeed, this parable “implicitly challenges hearers to ask themselves what kinds of soil they are.”[177] Furthermore, as France notes, “The wonder is not that some do not produce fruit, but that any do.”[178] Truly, these are not supernatural men or women. Instead, these are just people who are honest with what God communicated to them.

(8:16-18) “Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”

Our role is to listen and respond to God’s word. McCallum gives the illustration of a child who wants to eat a succulent steak. After you fix him one, he doesn’t eat it, and yet, he asks for another one. Not only will you refuse giving him a second steak, but you’ll also take away the first steak! The same is true with God’s word: If you don’t respond to what you’ve already heard, then God won’t give you more.


Which soil are you? More importantly, which soil do you want to be? Since this isn’t fatalism, you get to choose if you want to develop a “good and honest” heart.

Luke 8:19-21 (Family problems)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 12:46-50 and Mark 3:31-35.]

(8:19-21) And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

What a radical statement! After all, the family unit was much stronger in the first-century than it is today. Therefore, if we raise our eyebrows at Jesus’ statement, his original audience would’ve felt far more shocked at these words.

Luke 8:22-25 (Power over nature)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:18-19, 23-27 and Mark 4:35-41.]

(8:22-23) Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. 23 But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.”

Mark states that this event occurred at night, which makes sense of Jesus falling asleep (Mk. 4:35). The boats in the Sea of Galilee were very small (look up pictures of “The Sea of Galilee Boat” discovered in 1986), and waves can get up to seven feet tall. It’s no wonder that the men were afraid.

Was this a demonic storm? Blomberg holds that the parallel account in Matthew 8:24 could be a demonic storm. The words “great storm” (megas seismos) are usually translated “earthquake,” and it literally means “shaking.”[179] Blomberg takes these terms to have “preternatural overtones,” because Jesus’ rebuke (epitimaō) is the same word used for rebuking demons (Mk. 1:25; 9:25; Lk. 4:41). Turner holds a similar view.[180] Blomberg writes, “This seems to be no ordinary storm but one in which Satan is attacking.”[181]

Yet, this seems to read too much into the text. For one, the use of the word “rebuke” is mere word-association. Second, Matthew doesn’t use this word to refer to Jesus’ exorcisms—only Mark and Luke do. So, this isn’t even strong word-association. Therefore, we hold that this was simply a natural storm that Jesus overcame. This section is meant to show Jesus’ power over the natural realm—not the supernatural realm. We agree with Stein who writes, “There is no need to assume that demonic powers stood behind the wind and the waters and that Jesus’ command was directed to them.”[182]

“He fell asleep…” When we are panicking over our problems, Jesus is so in control that he can sleep through it! (see Ps. 3:5; 4:8) The disciples were so angry with Jesus that they even rebuked him (Mk. 4:38). The disciples didn’t have a robust view of God’s will. Jesus was saying, “Do you really think God brought you this whole way only to drown you?” They were in the very presence of Christ, but they were still panicking. Similarly, as believers, anxiety can fill our hearts despite the fact that Christ is always with us (Mt. 28:20).

(8:24) They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.

Mark adds that the boat was filling with water at this moment (Mk. 4:37). Turner adds, “The intensity of the storm is underlined when one remembers that four of the disciples were commercial fishermen who were used to the weather on the Sea of Galilee (cf. 4:18-22).”[183] Yet, just when everything looked hopeless, Jesus ended it all with a word of rebuke.

(8:25) And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”

In the OT, only God himself could control nature (Job 38:8-11; Ps. 29:3-4, 10-11; 65:5-7; 89:9; 107:23-32). Thus their question is a good one: Who (but God alone!) can calm a storm and have sovereignty over creation? Mark adds that the disciples were “afraid” after Jesus calmed the storm (Mk. 4:41). If Jesus had power over a storm of this size, then who exactly were they dealing with?

This section captures the mystery of the incarnation. The same One who was physically tired (v.24) was the same One who had the power to calm a storm with a word (v.26).

Discussion Questions

Read verses 23-27. What does this narrative tell us about Jesus’ identity?

Why was Jesus so disappointed in the disciples’ faith? After all, they were in the middle of a dangerous squall? Why does he reprove them so sharply?

Luke 8:26-39 (Power over the demonic)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:1-20]

(8:26) Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

Luke seems to offer a different location from Matthew. Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Luke and Mark write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). “Gadara” was one of the cities of the Decapolis, and it was six miles to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The Roman city of Gerasa, however, was 30 miles away.[184] However, Gerasa (modern day Kursi) rests on the eastern shore of Galilee. Mark Roberts favors this geographical location. He explains,

Recent investigations have focused on another town, known today as El Kursi. It was called Gergesa or Khersa in ancient times, which would have been spelled like Gerasa in Greek. Importantly, El Kursi sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. An ancient church had been built in El Kursi on top of a site that was considered sacred because Jesus had done something important there. Archeologists found evidence of an ancient graveyard nearby (where the demonized man could have been living). Moreover, there is a steep cliff at El Kursi… down which the herd of pigs could have run into the Sea of Galilee. Though the jury is still out on this one, it looks as if the event depicted in the Gospels happened, not at Gerasa or Gadara, but at El Kursi. The evangelists referred either to the city itself or to the region in which it was found.[185]

Blomberg agrees that the most likely “town in view was Khersa, close to the shore.”[186] Keener states that both authors are trying to describe the broader region of the Decapolis in general—not aiming for specificity: In both Gospels, the writer is simply identifying the region; Gadara and Gerasa were both parts of the Decapolis, a primarily Gentile area with a large Jewish population (Jos. War 1.155; cf. Ant. 15:354…).[187]

(8:27) And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

Matthew mentions two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke only mention one. This occurs throughout Matthew’s gospel: two demoniacs (Mt. 8:28ff), two blind men (Mt. 9:27ff), and two more blind men (Mt. 20:30ff). In each case, Matthew has two, rather than one. Is this a contradiction? No. Mark and Luke do not write that there was only one demoniac or only one blind man. Instead, they use a literary device called “telescoping,” where they choose to focus on one figure, rather than two. To explain this, imagine if I said, “I went to a concert last year.” Does this imply that I went alone? Does it imply that the stadium or theater was empty? Surely not! Instead, I was simply choosing to focus on my own experience—not my friends or the other 20,000 people at the concert. Furthermore, in Jewish law, a person needed two witnesses in court, and Matthew could’ve chosen to include both men in order to show that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be (compare with Mt. 26:60).[188]

(8:28) Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.”

This “torment” could refer to the “time of judgment” (cf. Rev. 14:20; 20:10). Demons know that they are going to lose, but they still persist sadistically and psychotically. Since Jesus was showing that his kingdom was dawning in this moment (Mt. 12:28), this demon could’ve been begging for mercy.

(8:29-30) For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. 30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.

A “legion” of soldiers was 6,000. This would make sense as to why they could possess a couple thousand pigs. Mark records that there were roughly 2,000 pigs in this herd (Mk. 5:13).

(8:31) They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

Why are these demons so fearful of being sent to the “abyss” (abussos)? Currently, demons do not live in hell—nor does Satan (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Jn. 5:19). They roam the Earth (Job 1:7; 2:2), and this means that they are given a certain amount of freedom. Hence, these demons do not want to be sent to the “abyss,” which seems like some sort of maximum-security prison. Later, God will open the “abyss” (abussos) at the end of history as a form of judgment, and freakish demons will be let loose (Rev. 9:1ff). This is the equivalent of Bane releasing the criminals from Arkham Asylum in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), flooding the streets with the criminally insane.

(8:32-33) Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission. 33 And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

This shows us the unique power of Jesus over his contemporaries. Typically, Jewish exorcists used many different concoctions and verbal formulas to expel demons. Keener writes, “Jesus’ contemporaries recognized the reality of spirit-possession, but sought to relieve it by means of incantations, pain compliance techniques like smelly roots, or invoking higher spirits to get rid of lower ones (Tob 6:7-8, 16-17; 8:2-3; Jos. Anti. 8:45-49; Jub. 10:10-13; Apul. Metam. 3.15). Jesus instead expelled demons simply by his word.”[189]

Mark records that there were roughly 2,000 pigs in this herd (Mk. 5:13). Imagine the shriek of this stampede of pigs as they ran down the hill and off the cliff. Consider the sight and smell of the water that contained a couple thousand rotting pig corpses. This must have been bone-chilling to witness! It surely made a statement: Demons have no power over Jesus!

Why did Jesus kill these pigs? Some people are horrified that Jesus would allow these demons to kill these pigs, and much ink has been spilt on answering this objection. A few observations are in order.

First, when we compare Jesus to any other figure from history (alive or dead), he stands out as an absolute moral exemplar. This objection really shows how deep critics need to dig to indict Jesus of sin. Pigs? Really?

Second, this objection is often hypocritical. Carnivores have no right to share this objection—especially those who eat ham, bacon, and pork loin. It isn’t polite to talk with your mouth full!

Third, Jesus didn’t actively kill the pigs, but passively permitted the demons to do so. This is God’s passive will—not his active will. Demons need to rest and reside somewhere (Mt. 12:43ff). So, Jesus merely gave this legion of demons permission to enter the pigs, and the demons were the ones who inflicted suicide.

Fourth, the critic seems to be missing the forest for the trees—caring more about pigs than people! Surely it was better to send these demons into a herd of pigs, rather than into a herd of people!

(8:34-39) When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country. 35 The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. 36 Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. 37 And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. 38 But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”

Why did the people send Jesus away? They may have been afraid of a superior power to a demon (v.37). That is, if the demon was powerful and scary, then who were they dealing with now? They also may have been afraid of losing any more of their livestock. Notice that it was the “herdsmen” who tattled on Jesus (v.34). This could’ve been fear of losing more money. Sadly, under this view, they were upset about their pigs, rather than celebrating the healing of a person!

Beware of the occult! When people enter into the occult, they haven’t carefully vetted the source of the power. If you’re lucky, nothing will happen, and it was just a scam. But at worst, you could be oppressed, or even possessed, by evil spirits. See our earlier article “The Occult.”

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about demons and demonic possession from this section?

  • Satan exists, and he has other supernatural agents that follow him.
  • Demons have supernatural knowledge (v.28).
  • Demons are afraid of Jesus’ power and judgment (v.28). Just hearing Jesus’ command was tormenting (v.29, 31).
  • Demons can come and go. The man was “seized many times” (v.29). This could imply that people can go through waves of demonic oppression that wax and wane.
  • Demons can give people supernatural strength—even breaking “shackles” (v.29).
  • Multiple demons can enter a single person (v.30). Perhaps, once one gets a foothold, others are invited in.
  • Demons can enter animals—not just humans (v.33). The fact that Jesus sent them into the “swine” symbolizes that these demons were “unclean.”

Luke 8:40-56 (Power over disease and death)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:18-26 and Mark 5:21-43]

(8:40-42) And as Jesus returned, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him. 41 And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus’ feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house; 42 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him.

This account opens with Jairus’ daughter being sick, but it gets distracted with the story of a hurting woman. The little girl is only a preteen (v.42), and this was Jairus’ only daughter (v.42). Only a parent can grasp this kind of pain and grief.

Was she dead or not? Mark records that Jairus said she was “at the point of death” (Mk. 5:23). But Matthew and Luke (Mt. 9:18; Lk. 8:53, 55) state that she was, in fact, dead. However, Matthew’s language (arti eteleutēsen) could be rendered “came to the point of death,” as in Hebrews 11:22.[190] Meanwhile, Mark’s language (eschatos echei) in Mark 5:23 could be rendered “is dying.”[191] The main point is clear: This little girl was facing the finality of death.

Interruption: hemorrhaging woman

(8:43) And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone.

Wait a minute! Jesus is supposed to go save the life of a little girl—not this hemorrhaging woman. However, this woman with a menstrual disorder[192] interrupts him. What is she doing interrupting Jesus? See verse 49…

This sensitive medical disorder would’ve made this woman ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25-33), and this means that she wouldn’t have been able to get married or participate in Temple worship of any kind. Indeed, the Mishnah dedicated an entire tractate to how women could stop their blood flow (Zabim).[193] Moreover, this had been going on for twelve years! Her whole life must’ve revolved around her condition, and Mark records that she “had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse” (Mk. 5:26).

(8:44) [She] came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.

In Judaism, rabbis wore tassels, and this is what the woman was trying to touch (Num. 15:38-39; Deut. 22:12). Yet by touching Jesus in an unclean state, this would make Jesus unclean. In other words, Jesus needed to take her uncleanness for her to become clean.

(8:45) And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.”

Peter seems incredulous of Jesus’ remark. There were so many people that this would be like someone asking who touched them in the middle of a mosh pit!

(8:46) But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”

Jesus healed people by the power of the Holy Spirit. He could apparently feel this power moving through him.

(8:47-48) When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

The woman confessed her plan to receive healing. Jesus didn’t mind this at all. In fact, he viewed her tenacity as an act of faith. While the previous people kicked Jesus out of their town for healing a possessed man, this woman was seeking to cling to Jesus for help. There is nothing to apologize for here!

Why did God heal her through merely touching Jesus’ clothes? God can heal through many different methods. But he wanted to make sure that she knew that the real condition for her healing was trusting in Jesus. God wanted her to know that Jesus was the source of her healing. Mark and Luke record that the woman was healed on the spot (Mk. 5:29; Lk. 8:44). Stein comments, “It was not simply the woman’s touching of Jesus’ garment that healed her, for others pressed against Jesus as well; it was the faith that caused her to touch Jesus that brought healing.”[194]

Back to the synagogue official’s daughter

(8:49) While He was still speaking, someone came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; do not trouble the Teacher anymore.”

We get back to Jairus again… only to find a dead girl! Because of this distraction from the hemorrhaging woman, Jairus’ daughter died in her bed. Jesus fixed a small bleeding disorder, but at what cost? If you were Jairus, you would probably say, “What on Earth was Jesus thinking?”

(8:50) But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.”

Jairus’ fear had likely tied him up in knots. The solution to his fear was faith.

(8:51) When He came to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the girl’s father and mother.

Jesus took his closest disciples with him: Peter, James, and John. The parents were invited to see the miracle also. This was likely a small room, so others probably couldn’t fit inside anyway.

(8:52-53) Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.” 53 And they began laughing at Him, knowing that she had died.

The people went from “lamenting” at death (v.52) to “laughing” at Jesus (v.53). When Jesus said that she had “not died, but is asleep,” this was “prognosis, not diagnosis.”[195]

(8:54-55) He, however, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Child, arise!” 55 And her spirit returned, and she got up immediately; and He gave orders for something to be given her to eat.

“Took her by the hand…” Jewish law held that touching a corpse rendered a person unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11). In order to give her life, Jesus took the uncleanness of her death upon himself.[196] This could be a foretaste of what Jesus would do in his substitionary death on the Cross (2 Cor. 5:21).

The girl must have been dead because her “spirit returned” to her. Jesus must have been saying that she wouldn’t be permanently dead, but only asleep.

(8:56) Her parents were amazed; but He instructed them to tell no one what had happened.

This fits with the messianic secret.

Discussion Questions

Is there any significance to the fact the both Jairus the synagogue official (v.41) and the unclean hemorrhaging woman (v.47) both fell at Jesus’ feet? What does this tell us about faith? What does it tell us about coming to Christ?

What does the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman tell us about how God answers our prayers? (e.g. timing, expectations, etc.)

Read verses 54-55. We argued that this might be a foretaste of Jesus’ ultimate substitution for humans on the Cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Is this reading too far into the text?


Interruptions don’t stop Jesus from accomplishing what he wants to do. He has more resources than we can possibly imagine. So, he has plenty to give to anyone who has need. This is why he could heal the hemorrhaging woman in the middle of a “911 call” to Jairus’ house.

God works on a different timeline than we do. To Jairus, this timeline probably seemed too slow, inefficient, and maybe even cruel. But by the end of the narrative, we see that Jesus showed his power over death itself—not just sickness. The end of the story shows that Jesus is far more glorious than we expected.

Luke 9

30% of the material is unique to Luke in chapters 9-19.

Luke 9:1-6 (Public Preaching)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 9:35-11:1 and Mark 6:6b-13.]

(9:1-2) And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.

Jesus was bringing the disciples close to himself before sending them out to serve God. This is a visual picture of what it looks like to serve Christ today: We draw near to him for our “power and authority,” and then we go “out” to reach others.

(9:3-4) And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.”

The idea was to travel light and trust that God would provide through the people who were being reached (v.3). The disciples could bring travel supplies with them, but they were to “acquire” (i.e. receive financial help) from the people they taught and healed (Mt. 10:9). This practice did not allow for them to get rich off of the people (v.9), and it showed them that they needed to actively trust God for his provision. Stein agrees when he writes, “This may have been due to the brevity of their mission or to Jesus’ desire to have them avoid the appearance of preaching for profit. It may also have been in order to require them to trust in God alone to supply their needs (cf. 12:22-31).”[197] France writes, “A church whose members are preoccupied with material concerns still finds it hard to convince the world that it should take God seriously.”[198]

Were they supposed to carry a staff or not? Luke records that they were not supposed to carry a staff, while Mark records that they could carry a staff (Mk. 6:8). Furthermore, the same word is used for the term staff (rhabdos). Liefeld[199] offers six ways to harmonize this, but only three are listed here: First, one could refer to a walking staff, while the other could refer to a protective staff (i.e. a club). Second, they were not to bring a staff, but they could acquire one on their mission. In support of this, Matthew uses the word “acquire” (Mt. 10:9), while Luke uses the word “take” (Lk. 9:3). Third, Jesus assumed that they would take a walking staff on their journey, but here he is specifying that they shouldn’t take an additional staff.

(9:5) “And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

This action was common when a Jewish person left Gentile territory. Jesus makes the scandalous claim that the disciples should do this after leaving hostile Jewish towns! (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6) Stein writes, “This symbolic act severs all relationship with the town, leaving it in a state of condemnation to await the final judgment (cf. Luke 10:12-15).”[200]

(9:6) Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

They balanced both words and works—both sermons and service. The Christian community errs when it denies one or the other in its mission to reach the world for Jesus.

Luke 9:7-9 (John the Baptist beheaded)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-29.]

(9:7-9) Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was happening; and he was greatly perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen again. 9 Herod said, “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see Him.

“Herod the tetrarch” was also called “Herod Antipas.” The term “tetrarch” comes from the roots tetra (“four”) and arche (“rule”). After the death of Herod the Great, the land was divided into four quadrants, and Herod oversaw just one of the four. Thus Herod the “tetrarch” was a “minor local ruler,”[201] while his father Herod the Great was a “king” (Mt. 2:1). Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as a “fox” (Lk. 13:31-32), likely because Herod put John the Baptist to death and because he killed many Galileans during a time of worship (Lk. 13:1).

“John had risen from the dead…” Typically, historians and apologists argue that Jewish people didn’t believe in a singular resurrection before the end of history (e.g. Dan. 12:2). Why then was John thought to have risen from the dead?

For one, it’s clear that the people were confused, speculating a number of different answers. Since Jesus and John were so close in age and were related (cousins?), they may have looked alike, which may have created confusion. At the same time, Jesus was so popular that most people must have known they were two separate persons.

Second, it’s possible that the people thought John was resuscitated—though not truly given a resurrection body (1 Kin. 18:21-22; 2 Kin. 4:34-36).[202]

Third, it’s possible that the people thought John’s spirit was being carried on in Jesus. Stein writes, “Possibly what is envisioned here is that the ‘spirit’ of John the Baptist had passed on to Jesus in much the same way as Elijah’s spirit came to rest upon Elisha in 2 Kgs 2:1-15.”[203]

Fourth, it’s possible that the people thought that Elijah was coming back (cf. Mt. 16:14; Lk. 9:7-8; Mk. 6:14-15). Since Elijah was a type of John the Baptist, he would be an obvious candidate for an individual returning from the dead.

Luke 9:10-17 (Feeding of the 5,000)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, and John 6:1-13.]

John records that this was during the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This makes sense of Mark’s comment that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Throughout the year in this arid place, the green grass was usually scorched, dry, and dead. But in this small sliver of time during the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that shows the truthfulness of the accounts. As the good shepherd (Mk. 6:34), Jesus has them recline on the green grass to eat (Ps. 23:1-2).

(9:10) When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.

The disciples were quite impressed with themselves (“all that they had done”). Jesus will give them a lesson in just how powerless they are in the face of overwhelming need.

(9:11-12) But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.”

This crowd was so massive that the disciples told them to go home to eat. They were impressed with their ministry so far, but Jesus was about to take them to the next level in this encounter.

(9:13) But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.”

In Greek, the “you” is emphatic (You give them something…”). While the disciples were impressed with their own abilities (v.10), Jesus led them into a situation where they were in over their head. The need was too big, and their supply was too small.

Why did Jesus specifically ask Philip where to buy bread? John tells us that Jesus specifically directed his question toward Philip (Jn. 6:5-6). Why Philip? Why not Peter, James, or John? Philip only appears in three places in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:43ff; Jn. 12:21ff; Jn. 14:8ff), so why is he singled out here?

The feeding of the 5,000 occurred near Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but John never mentions this. However, John does mention that Philip was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:43-44; 12:21). McGrew comments, “One can… picture Jesus asking the question in a slightly teasing manner. The fact that Philip was from that vicinity makes the question (and the joke) more pointed. If Philip is from the nearby town, Jesus is in essence saying, ‘Philip, you’re from around here. Where can we get bread for all these people?’”[204] This is another case of interlocking in the gospels, where the authors confirm each other without intending to.

“Five loaves and two fish…” This was hardly enough to feed themselves, let alone a crowd of 5,000 men (v.14). Lemke comments that this was “not a ‘loaf’ in the English sense, but a flat, round, pancake-like piece of bread, and small, pickled fish similar to a sardine.”[205] The person who offered this food was just a little kid (Jn. 6:9), yet he played an important role.

(9:14-15) (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” 15 They did so, and had them all sit down.

Jesus told the disciples to organize the people into groups of 50. He also told them to sit down. This was probably so there wouldn’t be a mob when the food started coming around.

(9:16) Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.

Jesus fed all of these people through prayer. Of course, Jesus could’ve done a miracle where the food appeared in front of each person (or even materializing in the people’s stomachs!). But instead, Jesus chose to work visibly and openly through the use of human agency. In John, we see that this was an object lesson for how Jesus would spread his message of forgiveness and life to all people (Jn. 6:35).

We need to take our meager resources and place them into the hands of Jesus for him to use them. We often feel like we don’t have a lot to give, and truly, we don’t. But Jesus can multiply what we have to meet people’s needs.

(9:17) And they all ate and were satisfied; and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.

The disciples must have been tired after feeding this many people. It must’ve been difficult to see everyone else eat first as they passed out the food. But in the end, they had more food than they could eat—a basket each! Again, John tells us that this bread carries symbolism for the life that Jesus himself gives us (Jn. 6:35). The same is true with regard to Christian service. When we put others first, we might wonder who will fill us up. The answer, of course, is that God himself will.

Discussion Question

The disciples were thinking logically and realistically about how to provide food (v.13). Yet they weren’t factoring in Jesus’ power. But imagine if someone said, “We’ll just pray about God giving us food for 5,000 people… I’m sure it’ll work out.” Would you agree with this approach? How do we balance being realistic about ministry situations, while also having a high view of God’s power?

Luke 9:18-25 (The two most important decisions of your life)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 16:13-20 and Mark 8:27-30.]

Consider how even small decisions have an effect on your life in large ways. When you started a friendship at age 6, you didn’t realize how much this would form your personality, your sense of humor, your habits, your artistic taste, etc. If small decisions like this can have life-altering effects, then what will happen with a massive decision like starting a relationship with Jesus?

In this chapter, Jesus calls on us to make two decisions that are life-altering: (1) trust our afterlife to him and (2) trust this life to him. Some call this the “first decision” and the “second decision.”

Decision #1: Trust Christ for the NEXT LIFE

(9:18) And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?”

Why was Jesus praying right before he asked this question? He may have been praying for God to reveal his nature to them. Indeed, Matthew records that God the Father revealed Jesus’ true identity to Simon Peter (Mt. 16:17). Revelation was needed. After all, Herod was aware of the public opinion surrounding Jesus, but he still didn’t grasp his identity (Lk. 9:7-9).

Where did this event take place? Matthew and Mark state that this occurred in Caesarea Philippi near Mount Hermon. Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22), and it was in the heart of Herod Philip’s rule. Augustus gave this region to Herod the Great (the man who tried to kill the infant Jesus in Matthew 2). Herod the Great built a “temple in honor of the emperor near a grotto consecrated to the Greek god Pan.”[206] Herod also rebuilt the village of Paneas and renamed it after Caesar. Caesarea Philippi “was as pagan a territory as one could find,” and the people here worshipped “the Greek God Pan.”[207] Josephus speaks of this territory numerous times (Antiquities 15.363-64; Jewish War 1.404-6; 2.168; 3.509-15)

Thus Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory to identify himself as the Son of God—in a place where it was common to hold that “Caesar is Lord.” Yet this is the same exact place where Jesus would reveal that He is Lord! This would be like Frodo walking into Mount Doom to identify that he is going to destroy the Ring.

(9:19) They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.”

Why was Jesus compared to John the Baptist? First, both preached about the same subjects: repentance, the kingdom of God, and God’s judgment. Second, both had a large following. Third, since they were roughly the same age and genetically related, they may have looked alike (?).

Why was Jesus compared to Elijah? Since John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, this probably wasn’t a stretch. This is an example of the transitive property (If A = B and B = C, then A = C). Matthew adds that the people confused him with Jeremiah (Mt. 16:14). According to 2 Esdras the Lord promised: “I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah” (2:18).[208] Though at the Mount of Transfiguration about eight days later, Elijah shows up to demonstrate that Jesus is far greater than a mere prophet (Lk. 9:28-36).

(9:20) And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”

In all three Synoptic gospels the “you” is emphatic and plural (i.e. “you guys” or “y’all”). Jesus was saying, “The people believe all sorts of things about me… but who do you guys think I am?” If you’ve been reading along so far, you realize that this is an important question. Jesus has taught better than any teacher of the day and with more authority. He performed miracles, showing his authority over nature, evil spirits, and death itself. Who is this guy? Just another prophet? Not likely.

People are very uneasy to outright accept Christ, but they’re often just as hesitant to outright reject him. Some people make it through their entire lives without ever deciding one way or another. But not Peter! Peter was the guy at the Bible study who spoke first, and thought about his statement second. Peter had a “Ready, fire, aim!” mentality, and in this case, he was spot on. Peter’s answer was a mixture of clarity and also confusion. He gets the title right, but he doesn’t fully realize what this meant. Like many Christians today, Peter called Jesus “the Christ,” but didn’t understand all of the implications.

Peter thought Jesus was merely a religious-political king. Later in the gospel, just hours before Jesus’ death, Peter was pulling out a sword to defend “the Christ” (Lk. 22:50; Jn. 18:10). In fact, toward the end of this chapter, Jesus said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it” (Lk. 9:44-45). The reason that they couldn’t grasp it was because they were focusing on being one of the greatest (Lk. 9:46).

No one expected that the Messiah would come to die on the Cross. Indeed, in Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts, Peter quickly rebukes Jesus for predicting his death and resurrection (Mk. 8:31-33; Mt. 16:22). Afterwards, we discover the obvious: It’s never a good idea to rebuke Jesus! It is only later that Peter grasps the gravity of this truth in his preaching and teaching (Acts 3:17-18).

(9:21) But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone.

Because the people had a different concept for what the Messiah was, he wants to be quiet about it. The people were so caught up with kingship and triumphalism that it would’ve clouded the subject even more (cf. Jn. 6:15).

(9:22) [He was] saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”

This is Jesus’ first prediction about his death and resurrection—a turning point in the Gospel. After this point, Jesus was “determined to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51), and we see “Jerusalem” and the raw terror of the Cross looming over everything in the rest of Luke’s gospel. The center of Jesus’ life was not to teach, but to die. He was on a “search and rescue” mission.

Up until now, Jesus has been like a larger-than-life superhero—healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and calming storms. But now that he has vindicated his identity, he teaches them that he needs to suffer and die. It’s right at the height of his popularity that Jesus announces his death, even saying that this “must” happen.

The people who were religious were the ones who rejected Christ (“suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes). Similarly, today, people who are religious are offended by the death of Christ (1 Cor. 1:23).

What do you believe about Jesus? Are you ready to accept him on his own terms?

Decision #2: Trust Christ for THIS LIFE

You might think that these two decisions are one and the same, but they are not. The first decision is separate from the second. God wants to come into our lives, forgiving us, accepting us, and showing us his indescribable love. This is why whenever the first decision is described we read about it in the past tense.

The second decision is different. Once we come to know the love of God, we realize that he is trustworthy in all areas. If we trust him for eternity in the next life, then why wouldn’t we trust him for this life? Jesus addresses this in stark terms.

(9:23) And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Jesus has his Cross, and we have ours. Morris writes, “The disciples’ recognition that Jesus is the Messiah is followed immediately by the teaching that this means a cross for him, and a cross, too, for them.”[209] Jesus already taught, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40).

Is Jesus calling for martyrdom? Possibly, though not primarily. Jesus says that this is a daily endeavor. Ideally, God wants “living sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1), not dead ones. While we might be called to die for Christ, we shouldn’t minimize living for Christ each and every day.

Should we carry a literal Cross? A man named Arthur Blesset thought it was his Christian service to carry a literal Cross around the world. What a fool! Surely Jesus is not referring to a literal Cross, because Luke adds that this is to be done “daily.” If it was literal, it would only happen once (followed by certain death!). Likewise, Paul wrote, “I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31), and surely this cannot be literal either.

Luke is the only one of the Gospels to mention that this is “daily.” Nolland writes, “Taking up the cross refers to the Roman custom of requiring the condemned criminal to carry to the place of execution the cross-bar to be used in the execution (cf. Plutarch, de sera num. vind. 9.554b: ‘Every criminal who is executed carries his own cross.’”[210] We might modernize this to mean that we need to “put our neck on the chopping block” or “put the noose around our neck.”

(9:24) For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Does this refer to heaven and hell? While commentators like Stein[211] hold this view, we do not:

First, the expression “saving your life” stands in contrast to “take up your cross” (v.23). This, of course, is non-literal: We are told to take up our cross “daily,” which cannot mean that we physically die every day.

Second, the term life can refer to our soul, or it can refer to our physical life. Christ comes to give us abundant life (Jn. 10:10), and this term for “life” (psuche) is used for physical life in Luke 6:9 (“Is it lawful… to save a life or destroy it?”). Later, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life (psuche), as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on” (Lk. 12:22). Here, the term life refers to all of the aspects of our physical lives—not our spiritual souls—which include eating food and wearing clothes.

Third, earlier Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full” (Lk. 6:20, 24). Thus, we hold that Jesus is referring to giving our lives away—day by day in service to him and his cause—rather than referring to losing our souls to hell.

(9:25) For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

Here is a good reason to give up your life to Christ: There is no pursuit and no pleasure that could compensate us for losing our precious lives. We get only one life, and we lose it 24 hours per day! How will you spend this quickly depreciating time?

Discussion Questions

Read verse 18-22. What do we learn about discipleship from this section? Is this still applicable today? By what criteria do you decide if this does or doesn’t have application for today?

Was Jesus deliberately trying to get rid of pseudo-disciples? Is this cruel of him to do? (compare with Mark 10:21-22)

Luke 9:26-36 (Transfiguration)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 16:27-17:8 and Mark 9:1-8.]

Luke has the much longer account of the Transfiguration. At the same time, it is important to appeal to the other Gospels for further details.

(9:26) For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Our future hangs on our response to Jesus’ words.

(9:27) But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.

(Lk. 9:27) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming? (cf. Mt. 16:28)

(9:28) Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.

Why does Luke say it was eight days later, when Matthew and Mark say it was only six days later? (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2) Matthew and Mark both record that “six days” passed (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2), but Luke records that it was “eight days” (Lk. 9:28). How do we resolve this?

For one, Luke writes that is was “some eight days after these sayings,” which may imply a general time period.

Second, the reference to “eight days” is “based on a Greek way of speaking and means ‘about a week later.’”[212] Liefeld argues that this would fall under the notion of approximate figures, which is accounted for by the CSBI: “It is obviously an alternative way of indicating the passage of approximately one week.”[213]

Third, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days of travel. In other words, Luke might be marking his time from the point of this specific teaching, which would add another couple of days. After all, Luke begins the eight days from “after these sayings,” whereas Matthew and Mark might start the timeframe from a later date. We favor some form of this latter view.

Is the number of days important? Craig Evans writes, “According to Lev. 23:36 there are to be offerings for seven days and then on the eighth day there is to be ‘a holy convocation’ or gathering. During this time the people are to dwell in booths (tents or tabernacles) (Lev. 23:42), the purpose of which is to remind the people of the exodus long ago (Lev. 23:43)… Luke begins his episode on the eighth day, the day on which a ‘holy convocation’ was to take place (Lev. 23:36, 42). Undoubtedly, in the evangelist’s mind there could be no holier convocation than the meeting of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; God’s Law-giver, Prophet, and Son.”[214]

Which mountain is this? Luke just calls it “the mountain.” Matthew and Mark call it simply “a high mountain.” To put it simply, we don’t know which mountain this was. Tradition tells us that it was Mount Tabor, but this is unlikely because a fortress existed there during this time. Others think that this was Mount Hermon[215] or Mount Meron.[216] The importance isn’t the mountain, but what happened on the mountain—namely, the transformation and revelation of Jesus. Similarly, it didn’t matter which bush was burning when God revealed himself to Moses (Ex. 3). The more important issue was God’s revelation—not the specific location.

This event must’ve been an encouragement to these three men after hearing all about the difficulty of following Christ. It’s similar to Paul being taken up to the third heaven to be encouraged. The last time that Luke records Jesus going up on a mountain to pray, Jesus was picking his disciples (Lk. 6:12). Now, on this mountain, Jesus reveals himself to them.

Why just Peter, James, and John? These were Jesus’ “inner three” disciples whom he focused on more than the others (Lk. 8:51; Mk. 14:33; Acts 1:13).

(9:29) And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming.

Mark adds “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). He sounds like he is advertising for an OxiClean infomercial! Matthew goes even further saying that his face was like the sun, and his clothing was beaming with light (Mt. 17:2).

Luke omits the term “transfigured,” but Matthew and Mark both mention it (Mt. 17:2; Mk. 9:2). The word means “a change in appearance that comes from within,” and it gives us the English word metamorphosis.[217] To see the disguise taken away would be an incredible sight.

It isn’t that Jesus became the King here; it’s that he was revealed as the King. I recently watched a YouTube video of a professional athlete who dressed as an elderly man in disguise. Makeup artists used cosmetics and haggard clothing to make him look 80 years old. Yet beneath the veneer he was a pro athlete in his prime! As he took to the court, the men’s eyes lit up as the athlete ran circles around them. Finally, at the end of the game, the athlete pulled off the disguise, revealing his true identity. This is, in small measure, what Jesus is doing here—revealing the reality of who he is.

(9:30) And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah.

Luke uses this expression (“behold, two men…”) at the resurrection to refer to the two angels (Lk. 24:4) and at the ascension to refer to the two angels (Acts 1:10).

How would these Jewish men have reacted to seeing Moses and Elijah? It would be like meeting Michael Jordan and Lebron James, and having them tell you that your high school basketball coach was better than they were! You’d never look at your coach the same way again.

Why does God send Moses and Elijah? Luke seems to be showing us that Jesus is God, and this is a theophany. Consider a number of comparisons:

  • Both Moses and Elijah met with God on a mountain: Mount Sinai (Ex. 24) and Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19).
  • Both Moses and Elijah were taken into heaven. Elijah was taken before death (2 Kings 2:11) and Moses was taken after death (Deut. 34:5; Jude 9). God himself buried Moses (Deut. 34:6).
  • In Moses’ interaction with God on Mount Sinai, we read, “The skin of his face shone” (Ex. 34:30).
  • Both Moses (Ex. 33) and Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11) saw God revealed partially. These seem to be allusions to theophany, where Luke is picturing Jesus as God being revealed in human flesh.

While we favor the view that Luke is demonstrating a theophany, other reasons have been given for the presence of Moses and Elijah:

First, both are mentioned before the coming of God to Earth. Malachi calls attention to both Moses and Elijah before the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:4-5).

Second, Moses and Elijah could represent the Law and the Prophets (i.e. the OT witness of Jesus).[218] Later, Jesus makes it clear that the “law and the prophets” testified to him (Lk. 24:27, 44). We could be seeing this acted out here at the Transfiguration.

Third, Moses and Elijah symbolize entering the true Promised Land. After all, Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land because of his sin. But here, he finally enters, and this is only because Jesus is at his side!

(9:31) Who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

The word “departure” (exodus) could be an allusion to a greater exodus. That is, Moses took the people out of slavery from a horrible dictator, and Jesus will take people out of spiritual slavery from a spiritual dictator, Satan.

(9:32) Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.

Did this event happen at night? This would make sense of the disciples being asleep. This would also provide an incredible scene if it was a night. After all, Jesus would be brighter than the sun in the middle of the night.

Luke is the only author to mention Jesus’ “glory.”

(9:33) And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying.

Peter is the type of person that didn’t know what he’s thinking until he heard himself saying it. He had a “ready, fire, aim” mentality. In this scene, he must have wanted to celebrate by reenacting the Festival of the Booths (“Tents”). This is where Jews would remember the Exodus by living in small tents for a week (Lev. 23:42-44; Neh. 8:14-17).[219] In other words, Peter was looking back to the Exodus, while Jesus was looking forward to his future “exodus” (see v.31). If Jesus listened to Peter’s request, he would have avoided the Cross, but no one would have been rescued in this “exodus.” God didn’t want to return to tents; instead, he had put on a “tent” in the person of Christ (Jn. 1:14).

Some hold that Peter’s error was purely in the fact that he was trying to prolong the stay of Moses and Elijah by building three tents. There may be some truth to this. But the central error is placing Moses, Elijah, and Jesus on the same level with one another—all getting three equal tabernacles. “No,” says God the Father, “This is My Son. My Chosen One; listen to Him!

(9:34) While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

In the OT, God spoke from a “cloud” (Deut. 5:22); the Jewish people were afraid of God’s voice coming from the cloud (Ex. 20:19-20; 34:30); and Moses was chased out of the Tabernacle when the cloud descended (Ex. 40:35). Matthew mentions that the cloud was “bright” (Mt. 17:5), which is “reminiscent of the shekinah glory.”[220] Indeed, in the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:34-38). Luke records that they “entered the cloud” (Lk. 9:34), which must symbolize coming into the very presence of God.

Why did they react in fear and terror? Postmodern people often have a conception of God that reflects Hallmark greeting cards or Lifetime television shows: God is warm, cozy, and fuzzy like a teddy bear or like a warm quilted blanket. Yet most people in world religions don’t perceive God this way.

Scholars of world religions observe that people across the world have a “frightening and irrational experience” when they come into contact with the divine.[221] They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.”

  • Mysterium refers to “wholly other.”
  • Tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe.”
  • Fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.”

To most people, God isn’t comfortable and cozy, but terrifying and attractive all at once. The worshipper “finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum)… that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power. The numinous [i.e. God] presents itself as something ‘wholly other,’ something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic. Confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature.”[222]

If we collapse in the presence of a spectacular person (e.g. so much smarter, more charismatic, more attractive, so much better at something you think you’re good at), how will we respond in the presence of God himself? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your own personal inadequacy. If it can be traumatic to be in the presence of human glory, then how much more in the presence of divine glory?[223]

(9:35) Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”

The content of God the Father’s message is identical to Jesus’ baptism (Mt. 3:17), but God adds another thought that they should “listen to Jesus.” He doesn’t tell the disciples to listen to Moses or Elijah (though they certainly should); instead he tells them to listen to Jesus—the ultimate revelation of God. Indeed it was Moses who predicted a future prophet to whom the people should listen (Deut. 18:15). Remember, this scene comes on the heels of the people thinking that Jesus was just another prophet (Lk. 9:18-19). No, he is not just another prophet; he is the Prophet—God incarnate!

“My Chosen One…” At the Cross, the people taunt Jesus for being the “Chosen One” of God (Lk. 23:35). Little did they know that Jesus actually was God’s unique Chosen One.

(9:36) And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

“Jesus was found alone…” Just in case they didn’t know who God the Father was talking about, everyone was gone except Jesus. This reminds us of when Commissioner Gordon is talking to Batman in front of the bat signal, and when he turns around and… Poof! Batman is gone!

They really don’t grasp what they saw until after the resurrection (Lk. 24:44ff). Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid” (Mt. 17:7). God came into the world to direct these disciples to Jesus. While God’s transcendence is scary (as we mentioned above), Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God. The mysterium tremendum placed his hand on the disciples, and told them that there is no reason to be scared: the safest place in the world is to be in the presence of power and love like this!

This might be why John later wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). Perhaps C.S. Lewis got it right, when one of his characters in the land of Narnia asked if Aslan (Jesus) was safe—to which one of the Narnians replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”


This is a theophany of God through the person of Jesus. This entire scene reflects OT concepts of God revealing himself in what theologians call a “theophany” or “appearance of God.” However, rather than God appearing, Jesus himself is the focus! This shows that Matthew is drawing on OT content to show that Jesus is God himself. Regarding the Markan account, Lane writes, “The transfiguration scene develops as a new ‘Sinai’ theophany with Jesus as the central figure.”[224]

God typically appeared to the people in the form of a cloud in the OT (Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:14-19; 33:1), just as he does here. Moreover, Moses and Elijah had similar experiences to this event—though nothing to this extent:

Moses went up on a mountain with Joshua to meet with God (Ex. 24:12-13), but even the elders stayed behind at the bottom of the mountain (Ex. 24:14). Once Moses arrived at the peak, we read that “the cloud covered the mountain” (Ex. 24:15). Then we read, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Ex. 24:16-18).

Later, Moses wanted to see the “glory” of God (Ex. 33:18), but God told him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20) Moses was only allowed to partially see God’s glory (Ex. 33:21-23), but here, he sees it revealed in the face of Jesus!

Elijah was told by God to go and “stand on the mountain before the LORD,” and then we read, “Behold, the LORD was passing by!” (1 Kn. 19:11). Elijah was so scared that he ran and hid in a cave (1 Kin. 19:13).

We might compare the similarities in this way.

The Transfiguration as a Theophany[225]

Moses and Elijah in the OT

Transfiguration in the NT

Only Moses (and Joshua) could come up on the mountain, and the elders had to stay behind (Ex. 24:14)

Jesus only chose three disciples to come with him up the mountain
God appeared on a mountain: Horeb (Ex. 24:12-13; 1 Kn. 19:11)

God the Father appeared on a mountain

God appeared in a cloud (Ex. 24:15)

God appeared in a cloud
God appears in glory (Ex. 24:17; 33:21-23), but a full revelation would destroy Moses (Ex. 33:20)

God appears in inexpressible glory

Elijah was scared by what he saw (1 Kn. 19:13)

The disciples were terrified by what they saw
The people should listen to Moses and Elijah

The people should listen to Jesus

Because Jesus is God, we should “listen to him.” Who are you listening to in your life? Some take the teachings of religious leaders as similar to God’s very own inspired words. Others sense that something is wrong with themselves, and they read self-help books with a desire to change. Still others listen to their own thoughts, as though these had infallible authority. What a tragic mistake! God tells us unequivocally: Listen to Jesus! This means that we should study his teachings and his view of the entire Bible.

Are you hearing from God? Is your knee-jerk reaction in difficult or confusing situations to turn directly to him? We see so many Christians nervously biting their fingernails, churning their thoughts around and around in their mind. They might even bring themselves to ask for wise Christian counsel. But have they turned to God himself and heard from him? No! We all need to learn to hear from God through his word and prayer, and learn to seek his guidance and encouragement to do what he wills.

Luke 9:37-56 (Three Narratives: (1) Prayer & Faith, (2) Humility, and (3) Love for Enemies)

Luke shows three examples of how Jesus taught the essentials of Christian ministry.

Episode #1: Lack of prayer and faith

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 17:14-21 and Mark 9:14-29.]

(9:37-39) On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. 38 And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, “Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only boy, 39 and a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves.

While Jesus and the three disciples were up on the mountain, people still had pressing needs. The remaining disciples couldn’t heal this man’s son, who was afflicted with an evil spirit. In Mark’s account, we discover that this little boy had been tortured and terrorized since childhood (Mk. 9:21).

(9:40) “I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not.”

This man went “over the head” of the disciples and went straight to the source. The disciples may have been embarrassed that they couldn’t heal this little boy.

Why couldn’t the disciples heal the boy? Remember, Jesus already “gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Lk. 9:1). They had the authority, but they lacked faith and prayer.

Lack of prayer. In Mark’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because they didn’t pray (Mk. 9:29). What were they doing besides prayer? Waving their hands? Using meaningless phrases? Speaking to the demon without speaking to God first?

Lack of faith. In Matthew’s account, Jesus says that the disciples were powerless because of their lack of faith (Mt. 17:20). Jesus makes it clear that it isn’t the amount of their faith, but the object of their faith. The father of the boy was torn—only having a little bit of faith. But this was good enough for Jesus (Mk. 9:22-24). In the parallel account, Jesus tells his disciples, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt. 17:20).

(9:41) And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

Jesus seems really frustrated, and he openly expresses it. But he doesn’t let his frustration stop him from serving. Moreover, he isn’t frustrated by the inability or ineptitude of the disciples, but with their lack of faith.

(9:42) While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him to the ground and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father.

Jesus doesn’t strain or sweat to heal the boy; he simply gives commands in faith. Christ gives this same authority to believers.

(9:43) And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples.

While the people were amazed at the miracles, Jesus redirected his disciples’ focus back to the Cross.

(9:44-45) “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.

Jesus gives a four-fold emphasis on how the disciples didn’t perceive Jesus’ identity: (1) they lacked understanding, (2) its meaning was concealed, (3) they lacked perception, and (4) they declined to discuss this subject further. They couldn’t understand the Cross because they were too focused on who was the greatest (v.46; cf. Mt. 17:22-23; Mk. 9:30-32). The words “so that” (hina) can be rendered as either the purpose or the result. The resultant reading seems to fit the context better because the disciples were “afraid to ask Him about this statement.” This implies that they could have pressed Jesus if they wanted to know, but they chose not to.


God has his role in Christian work, and we have ours: faith and prayer. We shouldn’t resort to natural effort to accomplish the supernatural. Otherwise, we are doomed to failure! Rather, God wants us to actively trust him instead.

Episode #2: Humility

[The parallels are found in Matthew 18:1-5 and Mark 9:33-37.]

(9:46) An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.”

The disciples were expecting a powerful kingdom in Israel, and they were probably arguing about who would gain the prominent political offices in this kingdom. It sounds stupid to openly argue over who is the greatest like this, but when we carefully reflect on our own experience, we find that much of our time is spent thinking about ourselves in precisely this way!

(9:47-48) But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

“Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me…” This was high esteem from Jesus. The Jewish literature had this saying, “A man’s representative is like the man himself” (Berakot 5:5).

By contrast, the ancient world did not esteem children. Society looked down upon children as inferior. Keener writes, “Children were powerless, without status and utterly dependent on parents. On the one hand, parents loved their children… On the other hand, perhaps due to the high infant mortality rate among rural peasants, ancient Mediterranean parents sometimes may have been slower than are their modern Western counterparts to attach themselves too deeply to their younger children.”[226] France writes, “A child was a person of no importance in Jewish society, subject to the authority of his elders, not taken seriously except as a responsibility, one to be looked after, not one to be looked up to.”[227] Joel Green writes, “Children were the weakest, most vulnerable among the population. They had little implicit value as human beings, a reality that is related to the likelihood that they would not survive into adulthood. Even if women procured their place in the household by bearing children, especially sons, children themselves were of the lowest status.”[228] In the extrabiblical Jewish literature, we read, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man” (m. ‘Abot 3:10).

What is it about little children that Jesus was trying to extol?

It is NOT the gullibility or ignorance of children. Paul writes, “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Elsewhere he writes, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).

It is NOT the selfishness of children. Kids are born with a sin nature like everyone else, and sometimes children show this more flagrantly than adults.

It IS the humility and dependence of children. Jesus specifically says that we need to “humble” ourselves like little children (v.3). We need to become like children in our ability to (1) receive gifts, (2) admit our inadequacy, and (3) ask for help. Indeed, kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift” or “I won’t let you pay the bill.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. Likewise, they don’t stand aloof when they have problems; instead they cling to their parents for help, showing total dependence. Jesus is looking for this sort of humble attitude in his disciples, which we contend is the chief virtue of the Christian life (see “Humility”).

In Matthew’s account, he records additional words of Christ to make another point: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3-4). See “From Slaves to Sons” for further application on this topic.

(9:49-50) John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.

This is how John “answered” this object lesson about the child! Truly, he missed the point.

The disciples had just failed at healing the young boy of demon possession. Now they discover that a rogue Jewish exorcist has been casting out demons, and he wasn’t even a disciple of Christ. These men were so focused on ladder climbing (cf. v.46) that they were jealous of this other man.

This doesn’t contradict Jesus’ later statement: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Lk. 11:23). Here Jesus refers to being against “you” (the disciples), but in Luke 11, he refers to being against “Me” (Jesus).


We can have fellowship with other Christians who agree on the essentials: Salvation by grace (Gal. 1:6ff), Jesus is both God and human, (1 Jn. 4:1-2), and Jesus rose from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12ff). Of course, this doesn’t mean that we need to join their fellowship. After all, Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to go join this man, but merely to “leave him alone.”

Moreover, while we might debate and argue with other Christians, we should never repress them. As a result, we have freedom to disagree, criticize, and refute other Christians who are in error. But we don’t have freedom to be territorial, narrow, or repressive to other Christians.

Episode #3: Love for enemies

[A short parallel is found in John 7:10. This begins a new section in Luke, which is called the “travel narrative.” Luke contains a lot of unique material here, and his focus is on Jesus’ mindset of taking up the Cross.]

(9:51) When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem.

Soldiers often report that the worst part is not the war itself—but the night before. It’s the waiting that eats you up inside. Jesus didn’t just haphazardly face the Cross one day; he resolutely planned to face the raw terror of taking on the judgment of God for humanity. When I’m preparing for a scary situation, I’m normally pretty irritable and anxious. Yet Jesus’ mind was clear for this entire period—even though he knew what he would face. The Greek literally reads that Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”[229] Regarding the Servant of the Lord, Isaiah writes, “The Lord GOD helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” (Isa. 50:7).

(9:52-53) And He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.

The Samaritans had a sordid history, and the Jews hated these people on the whole (see “History of the Samaritans”). They did not “receive” him (cf. Lk. 9:48). Only Luke mentions this ministry to the Samaritans.

(9:54-56) When 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?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.

Now we see why the Zebedee brothers were called the “sons of thunder”! (Mk. 3:17) Later, Peter and John go to Samaria to see them receive the gospel (Acts 8). They go from wanting to see God judge the Samaritans to seeing God forgive the Samaritans.

The urgency of following Jesus

[The parallel passage is found in Matthew 8:18-22.]

(9:57) As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”

Matthew tells us that this man was a scribe (Mt. 8:19).

(9:58) And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

The scribe may have thought that following Jesus only referred to going across the Sea of Galilee (v.18). Jesus wanted this scribe to know what he was getting himself into. In a sense, Jesus is saying, “I don’t even have a house or a bed… Are you sure that you want to follow me?”

(9:59-62) And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

We shouldn’t wait around to make this decision. The author of Hebrews writes, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me” (Heb. 3:15).

(Lk. 9:60) Wasn’t this insensitive and cruel? (Mt. 8:21-22)


What do you learn about ministry from this section? God must be looking at you and me asking, “Why is he so self-reliant? Why is he trying to be great, and make himself such a big deal? Why is he always comparing himself to other people? Why does he think that he’s the only one who knows how to do it right? Why is he so angry at other people?” Instead of self-effort, self-aggrandizement, or self-focus, God wants us to concentrate on him, and the power and identity he gives to us.

Luke 10

Luke 10:1-24 (The Mission, Message, and Motivation of Ministry)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

Luke has already recorded that Jesus had set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51). In preparation for this final visitation, he sent his disciples ahead of him to prepare the way (similar to Luke 9:1-6). Luke is the only gospel to record the sending of the 70 (or 72?). In this chapter, Jesus explains their (1) mission, (2) message, and (3) motivation.

(1) Mission

(10:1) Now 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.

How many were sent out? 70 or 72? Morris calls this “one of the most difficult textual problems in the New Testament.”[230] But because the difference is so minimal, we shouldn’t lose sleep over it! We’re simply not sure. The main point is that it was common to send the disciples out in pairs like this (Mk. 6:7; Lk. 7:18-19; Acts 13:2; 15:27, 39-40; 17:14; 19:22).

“Sent them in pairs.” This became a biblical example for missions. Many believers went out in pairs including the twelve (Mk. 6:7), Peter and John (Acts 8:14), Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2), Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40).

Jesus called his disciples with two purposes: (1) to come to him and (2) to go out from him (Mk. 3:14; cf. Mt. 11:28). Those who only go out become weary, but those who never go out grow stale.

(10:2) And 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.”

The beginning of our service for Christ starts with prayer. After all, we have a supernatural mission, and we cannot accomplish a supernatural mission out of a reservoir of natural effort. Like having a five-year-old bench pressing 500 lbs., we simply cannot perform this mission without the supernatural power of prayer. Yet, prayer is most often neglected in ministry: After all, when you think of serving in the cause of Christ, is prayer the first thing you think to do?

“Few” in what sense? Few in comparison to the total population in the world? Few in comparison to the amount that need to be reached? Few in comparison to the church itself? We’re not sure. But we are sure that we need to pray for more workers!

(10:3) Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.

Lambs don’t stand a chance when they’re surrounded by a pack of wolves. Lambs are not smart or strong animals—nor do they have any self-defense mechanisms (like a shooting poison venom or a cool stegosaurus tail!). If a lamb ran into a wolf, they would just roll over and die. This imagery shows that the disciples needed to be totally dependent on the Good Shepherd for their protection.

(10:4) Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.

The disciples needed to learn dependence. They needed to trust that Jesus would provide in various ways to meet their needs.

“No shoes.” The lack of sandals probably refers to a second set of sandals. In a different mission, Jesus told his disciples not to carry two coats, sandals, or staffs (Mt. 10:9-10). Moreover, in the earlier sending of the Twelve, Jesus says to take “nothing,” yet later he says, “Do not even have two tunics apiece” (Lk. 9:3). Later Jesus tells them, “‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one’” (Lk. 22:35-36).

“Greet no one on the way.” This doesn’t mean that they should be impolite. It means that they shouldn’t waste time dilly-dallying on the road in a culture that was slow paced. Morris notes, “Eastern salutations can be elaborate and time-consuming.”[231] Stein agrees, “This is not to be interpreted as a discourtesy, but since Oriental greetings were long and time-consuming, such greetings were best avoided. The urgency of the mission did not permit such lengthy niceties.”[232] Like a soldier in active duty (2 Tim. 2:4), their mission was so urgent that they didn’t have time to sit and talk (cf. Lk. 9:60).

(10:5-6) Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ 6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.

The “man of peace” is someone who is receptive to the message. It would be important to find “beachheads” like this when entering into new territory. For one, they would materially provide for these missionaries (v.7). Moreover, after the disciples left, these people would stay behind to witness to their neighbors.

(10:7-8) Stay 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. 8 Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you.

The disciples needed to learn contentment with whatever was set before them (Phil. 4:12). They shouldn’t feel guilty for receiving food, drink, and a roof over their head. Paul later uses this principle to argue that vocational leaders and teachers should be paid, citing Luke’s passage as “Scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18).

However, the disciples were not supposed to make a profit off of the people they were supposed to be serving. Jesus told them to “not keep moving from house to house.” This means that they shouldn’t try to bilk as many people as possible for their hospitality.

(2) Message

(10:9) “Heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

Verses 9 and 11 explain that they have something to share with the people: both works and words or “healing” and “saying.” From this passage we learn a number of key aspects to sharing the message:

  • This is supposed to be done in a gentle way (v.3), like lambs and not like wolves.
  • It is supposed to be done for the good of all people (v.9).
  • We should never dilute or compromise the message (v.11), nor do we have the authority to alter the message.

(10:10-11) But 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.’

We can’t force people to come to Christ. If the people rejected the message of the disciples, then they were to take to the streets and publicly announce judgment (“go out into the streets”).

“Shaking off the dust from your feet.” This was a Jewish practice of communicating judgment (cf. Acts 13:51). Morris writes, “There was a rabbinic idea that the dust of Gentile lands carried defilement, and strict Jews are said to have removed it from their shoes whenever they returned to Palestine from abroad. The disciples’ shaking of the dust from their feet was a testimony against them. It declared in symbol that Israelites who rejected the kingdom were no better than the Gentiles. They did not belong to the people of God.”[233]

(10:12) I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.

The Jewish people agreed that Sodom deserved judgment. After all, they were guilty of sexual assault, greed, arrogance, etc. (Gen. 19; Ezek. 16:49-50). Here, Jesus says that these people were worse off than the people of Sodom. Why? What were they doing that was so horrific? They were rejecting the message of Christ—an unforgivable sin.

(10:13) “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.”

These “woes” are not words of vengeance, but lament. Morris writes, “Woe is not a call for vengeance, but an expression of deep regret, ‘Alas.’”[234]

Chorazin was a small town that was north of Capernaum, which was on the way to Bethsaida. Luke and Matthew record this town (Lk. 10:13-15; Mt. 11:21-23), yet it doesn’t exist in any other extrabiblical literature. However, archaeologists have shown that Chorazin had “substantial communities comparable in size and importance to Capernaum.”[235]

Bethsaida was specifically condemned because they saw the feeding of the 5,000 (Lk. 9:10-17), but still rejected the message.

(10:14) But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.

Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities that were judged by God (Ezek. 26; Isa. 23).

(10:15) And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!

Matthew tells us that Capernaum was a base of operations for Jesus’ ministry. These people may have believed that they would be “exalted” because of this. But no! Because they rejected Jesus’ message, the people would fall under God’s judgment.

(10:16) 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.

When people rejected the disciples, they were really rejecting Christ. And when people rejected Christ, they were rejecting God himself (Mt. 10:40; Jn. 13:20).

(3) Motivation

(10:17) The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

Apparently, the disciples didn’t face a lot of rejection on their trip. With great success, it’s easy for pride and ego to take over. Here, they seem to be focusing on their success, rather than Jesus’ power. It’s true that the disciples add the words “in your name” at the end of their bragging, but the focus seems to be on them (“subject to us).

(10:18) And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”

This could refer to (1) Satan being defeated as a result of the disciples’ work,[236] (2) Satan falling eons before, or (3) Jesus having a “prophetic vision”[237] of Satan’s fall in the future. Regardless, Jesus states this to reinforce humility in his disciples. In other words, the disciples shouldn’t be proud like Satan; indeed, their ministry efforts didn’t cause Satan to fall, because he already fell. Likewise, they shouldn’t take pride in having power over demons, because this was also the power of God.

(10:19) Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.

The “serpents and scorpions” are figurative, because they are connected with “all the power of the enemy.” The “serpents and scorpions” are similar to the pests out in the wilderness (Deut. 8:15). More likely, this concept is being lifted from Psalm 91:1-3.

(10:20) Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.

The disciples’ names “are recorded in heaven.” Luke uses the perfect tense to show that their names are permanently recorded there. While ministry success can change, God’s record of our name being in the book of life never changes.

Jesus isn’t saying that they should never rejoice in seeing results (Jn. 4:35; 13:17; Acts 20:35). His point is one of emphasis—namely, they should prioritize giving thanks for their salvation. If you wrestle with the temptation to take your joy from seeing results in ministry, this is actually a good sign. It shows that you are active in serving Christ. It would be a bad sign if you didn’t wrestle with this. That could imply (1) that you aren’t actively serving or (2) that you are blind to your own pride and arrogance. Rather than commanding them to repent in “sackcloth and ashes,” Jesus tenderly redirects them to what is most important.

(10:21) At 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.”

The disciples had a high view of themselves, but Jesus calls them “infants.” Matthew contains Jesus recording this in Matthew 11:25-26, which implies that Jesus repeated this saying.

(10:22) All 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.

The only reason the disciples were even able to know Christ was the fact that he initiated with them first (cf. Mt. 11:27).

(10:23-24) Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, 24 for 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.”

The disciples didn’t control how much revelation they received. This would be a humbling message to show them the privilege of knowing Christ—not the pride of knowing him.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Good Samaritan)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

Jesus debates a lawyer

This religious leader is putting Jesus to the test, and he’s trying to justify himself. He sees no need for Christ or his forgiveness. This must have been a reoccurring topic, because Jesus answers this objection on other occasions (Mt. 22:34-40; Mk. 12:28-31; Lk. 18:18ff). The key to properly interpreting these passages is the questions in verses 25 and 29.

(10:25) And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

This man’s act is akin to standing up in the classroom and challenging the professor. The term “test” (ekpeirazon) means “to subject to test or proof, tempt” or “to entrap someone into giving information that will jeopardize the person, entrap” or “to entice to do wrong by offering attractive benefits, tempt” (BDAG). He is in stark contrast to the “infants” that Jesus mentioned in verse 21.

The focus of the man’s question summarizes religion today: What should I do? As Watchmen Nee stated, Christianity doesn’t start with a do but with a done. Modern Christians ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” But how often do they ask, “What Did Jesus Do?”

(10:26) And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”

Jesus met this man on his own ground: Law.

(10:27) And 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.”

The lawyer combines Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The former passage (the Shema) was recited twice daily (Berakot 1:1-4). This lawyer knew the proper interpretation, but not the proper application.

(10:28) And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

Jesus says that the man’s answer is “orthodox,” using the word “right” (orthos). But it’s one thing to answer correctly, and quite another to correctly do what the text is saying (citing Lev. 18:5).

(10:29) But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This implies that there is such a person as a non-neighbor. Bock comments, “Jesus refuses to turn people into a subspecies or into things that can be ignored.”[238] This religious lawyer was looking for an “exception clause” in the law, but Jesus would have none of it. All people are made in the image of God, and possess infinite value and dignity.

The Good Samaritan

This parable should not be read separately from the context of Jesus answering this religious attorney. Jesus gives this parable to show the man what the definition of “neighbor” is. To his surprise, the man discovers that this even includes Samaritans—enemies of the Jews.

(10:30) 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.”

This route from Jerusalem to Jericho was dangerous territory. Bock writes, “[The road] was about seventeen miles in length. It was a rocky thoroughfare winding through the desert and surrounded by caves, which made good hideouts for robbers who laid in wait. Even centuries after Christ’s time, robbers continued to exploit travelers on this road.”[239] Nolland adds, “The location is suitable for robbers and for traveling priests and Levites, quite a number of whom lived in Jericho and traveled up to Jerusalem for their periodic responsibilities at the Temple.”[240]

The man would’ve been coming back from his religious duties when this happened. The robbers stripped him of his nice clothes, much like gangs have been known to kill people over their Starter jackets or shoes.

(10:31) And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

The priest shows up “by chance.” What luck! If you’re going to be found in this desperate condition, at least you’re being discovered by a priest! But the priest may have had many motives for ignoring this man’s plight:

  • Perhaps he didn’t want to touch a dead body. OT priests weren’t supposed to touch cadavers (Lev. 21:1-3; Num. 5:2; 19:2-13; Ezek. 44:25-27). Morris writes, “Since the man was ‘half dead’ the priest would probably not have been able to be certain whether he was dead or not without touching him. But if he touched him and the man was in fact dead, then he would have incurred the ceremonial defilement that the Law forbade (Lev. 21:1ff.).”[241]
  • Perhaps he didn’t want to help a “sinner.” Rabbinic teaching stated, “If you do good, know to whom you do it… and do not help the sinner” (Sirach 12:1-4).[242] The Essenes wrote, “Love the sons of light… and hate all the sons of darkness” (Manual of Discipline, 1:9-10).[243]
  • Perhaps he was scared of also being robbed. Whoever beat and robbed this man could be waiting in the shadows nearby. Out of self-protection, the priest picked up his pace to get out of there.

This is a parable, so we shouldn’t imagine what this imaginary character was thinking. Whatever the reason, the priest ignored this man’s suffering, and here is the point: When we fall into ommissive sin, we always have a “good excuse,” but it doesn’t matter in the end. This man was so concerned with committing a sin that he was willing to let a man die! Under this legalistic mindset, he would’ve thought it was actually God’s will to let the man die!

(10:32) Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

The same is true for the Levite—another godly line in Jerusalem.

(10:33) But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion.

In Greek, the order of words shows emphasis. This verse begins with “Samaritan.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “But a Samaritan… came upon him.”[244] We use the expression “good Samaritan” to describe a loving person, and rightfully so. However, this would’ve been a shock to the original audience, because Samaritans were considered enemies of the Jews (see “History of the Samaritans” for more historical background).

The term “felt compassion” literally meant that he felt for him in his gut. Instead of merely having good intentions, the Samaritan did something. Bock writes, “Jesus may not only be instructing the lawyer but also his disciples about how they had responded to the Samaritans (Lk. 9:51-56).”[245]

(10:34) And came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

The Samaritan had to walk, so that this man could ride. He needed to give up personal comfort in order to comfort this wounded man. This is truly sacrificial love—not a convenient love.

Why does he use oil for the man’s wounds? Oil was used medicinally (b. Shabbat 19:2). Burdick writes, “It is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times… Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 172 [vi. 5]) reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. The papyri, Philo, Pliny, and the physician Galen all refer to the medicinal use of oil. Galen described it as “the best of all remedies for paralysis” (De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis 2.10ff).”[246] Incidentally, this would’ve been somewhat of a scandal for Jesus to teach. Bock writes, “In some Jewish circles, to receive oil or wine from a Samaritan was not allowed.”[247]

(10:35) On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

This Good Samaritan not only met his immediate needs, but also his ongoing needs. He helped him get back on his feet. The Greek here is emphatic: “I will repay—not the man!” Bock writes, “Such innkeepers were not noted for their care, and so the man’s choosing to stay and offering his money ‘up front’ insures that the man will be treated until he recovers.”[248] Morris writes, “According to the historian Polybius, a man could secure accommodation in inns in Italy in his time (c. 150 bc) for half an as a day, i.e. 1/32 of a denarius. If rates in Palestine at this period were at all comparable, the Samaritan was paying for about two months’ board. J. Jeremias brings forward evidence that a day’s rations cost a twelfth of a denarius at this time. If this be accepted the period for which the Samaritan was paying is correspondingly reduced. But it was still a worth-while period.”[249] Bock adds, “The money was enough to take care of the man’s room and board for twenty-four days, since the daily rate for a poor man was about one-twelfth of a denarius (SB 1:291).”[250]

(10:36) “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

This incisive question would cut to the heart of the lawyer’s loveless legalism. While the conclusion is clear, it would be hard to consider the protagonist a Good Samaritan. In our culture, the “good terrorist” would be a similar conundrum. Liefeld writes, “To a Jew there was no such person as a ‘good’ Samaritan.”[251]

(10:37) And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

The legalistic lawyer cannot bring himself to even use the word “Samaritan.” He merely says, “The one…” Liefeld agrees, “The ‘expert’ cannot avoid the thrust of the parable, though he apparently finds it impossible to say the word ‘Samaritan’ in his reply.”[252]

Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(10:38) Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.

Martha invited Jesus into her home (in Bethany, Jn. 11-12). But she was too busy to sit, talk, listen, and relate with him.

(10:39) She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.

“Seated at the Lord’s feet.” This was the position that a disciple would take when learning from a rabbi (‘Abot 1.4). Thus, this is incredibly counter-cultural to read about a Jewish rabbi having a woman disciple! Luke continues to show Jesus’ love for all people—especially women who were treated as second-class citizens at this time.

(10:40) But 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.”

Martha has several problems:

  • Martha thinks that Mary isn’t doing anything important. In reality, Mary is doing the most important thing: learning from Christ! Do you ever feel guilty for making time to read God’s word? Don’t you dare! Sitting in front of the word of God is essential to a life of love.
  • Martha felt “alone.” She thought that she was the only one doing the serving.
  • Martha was “distracted.” Stein writes, “Martha also wanted to hear Jesus, but the tyranny of the urgent prevented her from doing this.”[253]
  • Martha attempts to manipulate Jesus, trying to boss him around.
  • Martha accuses Jesus and asks if he is not “concerned” (melei) for her.

(10:41) But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things.”

The double vocative (“Martha, Martha…”) shows emotion.[254] In reality, there are always many things that can distract, worry, or bother us. In this case, the thing that’s taking the place of listening to Christ is Martha’s ministry, which is a good thing. Yet this good thing was replacing her time with God, which made it a bad thing, poisoning various aspects of her ministry as we saw above.

(10:42) “But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Jesus said that Mary “chose” the good portion. It’s a choice to turn to Christ, rather than being distracted. From all we can tell, it seems that Martha was a good and godly woman (Jn. 11:5). This wasn’t the only time that she would serve the disciples in this way (Jn. 12:2).

Surely many Christian workers can relate to Martha. She was probably an active temperament. And like most active temperaments, she was judging the inactivity of the people around her. She was probably thinking to herself: “Why can’t everyone be as hardworking as me?” But unlike the rest of us who just think this without saying it, Martha was bold enough to speak up.

Martha’s service wasn’t wrong, but there was something wrong with it: She was obsessed with working without resting. We need both to find rest (Mt. 11:28-30), but Martha focused on the one at the expense of the other. Martha was operating out of self-effort, and it shouldn’t surprise us that anxiety filled her. Thus we find Jesus correcting her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10:41-42). Jesus certainly believed that serving him was incredibly important (Jn. 4:34; 13:17; Acts 20:35; Mt. 22:37-39). But he says that drawing strength from him is “necessary” in order to do this. If we don’t listen to Jesus on this point, anxiety will surely fill us.

Many workers and leaders for Christ have still never learned this simple but profound lesson. Like Martha, they are plagued with ministry anxiety. They haven’t learned that the most spiritual thing they can do for those around them is to sit quietly in front of the word of God. They haven’t learned that what their people need the most is a leader that has been transformed by Christ’s word (Jn. 17:17), who is full of faith (Rom. 10:17), who has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and who has let the word of Christ richly dwell within them (Col. 3:16).

This doesn’t mean that we cease serving Christ. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:30). The “yoke” was a device that tied cattle together as they plowed the fields. Jesus wants us to take on his yoke, and in serving him, we paradoxically find rest.

However, if we are fraught with constant ministry anxiety, then we are not in the yoke with Christ. We are pulling away from him and wearing ourselves thin. Like Martha, we are operating out of self-effort. Pastor Chuck Smith writes,

What I mean by devotional life is that private time the pastor spends with God. The time that is essential for feeding your own soul; that time of drawing close to God in personal worship. Not that time of sermon preparation or prayer for the ministry, but rather that time of personal study and intimate communion with God. What makes this so difficult for the pastor is his lack of time and the demands of the congregation. You will be tempted to feel that you should be attending to more urgent matters. You may even feel guilty that you take this time for yourself when others need you so badly. The usual approach is to begin to combine your devotional time with your sermon study time, and this is easy to justify because you are in the word. This temptation must be resisted! The pastor’s devotional time must become the greatest priority of his life. You must recognize the importance of this! You must make the necessary time! If you neglect this important discipline, you will begin to personally dry up spiritually, and that will begin to affect your ministry! You must resist the temptation to lessen its importance! You must resist the tyranny of the urgent and seek the eternal! This is what will make you the most effective person for God in the long run![255]

Christ doesn’t merely want us to do the right things; he wants to change us into the right people. As Francis Schaeffer writes, we need to do “the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.”[256]

Discussion Questions

What are some warning signs that our time with God has been dry?

If our time with God has been dry, what are helpful ways to turn this around?

Luke 11

Luke 11:1-13 (Prayer)

[This material is unique to Luke, though some would try to harmonize the “Lord’s Prayer” found here with the teaching found in Matthew 6:9ff. We simply think that Jesus repeated this prayer more than once.]

According to a recent Pew Study, prayer is still an active part in people’s lives: “More than half (55%) of Americans said they pray every day, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, while 23% said they pray weekly or monthly and 21% said they seldom or never pray.”[257] Yet according to the Bible, we need to learn how to pray. Indeed, Jesus taught that there are ways of praying that are helpful, and ways that are not. Jesus himself was a model for prayer and faith. Luke earlier recorded, “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Lk. 5:16). He also wrote, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk. 6:12; cf. 22:41; 23:34, 46). Hence, we would be wise to listen to Jesus to learn how to pray well.

(11:1) It 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.”

Prayer is not necessarily intuitive. Like other aspects of the Christian life, we need to learn how to grow in our prayer lives. After hearing Jesus pray, the disciples discerned that they were in the presence of a deep man of prayer, and this prompts their petition for Jesus to “teach” them how to pray.

(11:2) And He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.’”

“When you pray…” This is literally “whenever you are praying.” This is understood to be a “pattern” for how to pray.[258]

“Father…” In Matthew’s version, we read that Jesus began with “Our Father.” This implies corporate prayer, where we pray with one another and think of each other—not just ourselves. The mention of “Father” also implies that God is personal, being someone with whom we can relate.

In the OT, God is addressed as “Father” 15x, but never in a prayer. However, in the Synoptics, God is called “Father” 65x, and over 100x in the Gospel of John alone.[259] Abba is how Jesus addressed God in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36), which was unique to Jesus. This is where Paul probably picked up the term when praying to God (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). (For further reading, see “From Slaves to Sons”)

“Hallowed be Your name…” God is both imminent (“Our Father”) and transcendent (“Hallowed”). To “hallow” something is to make it your supreme and ultimate value in life.

Matthew’s account shows that we need to pray like this in secret. Our quiet life, when no one is around, shows what we love and value the most. Jesus lived this out in the Garden of Gethsemane. When no one was looking, he related to God in heart-wrenching, personal prayer.

(11:3) Give us each day our daily bread.

This refers to petitionary prayer. Once we have our minds and hearts focused on God… ask away! We have real needs that need met, and it is an act of humility to pray for these. This is something we do “daily,” which implies constant dependence on God’s provision, each and every day.

(11:4) “And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

After Jesus paid for our sins on the Cross, Paul is able to write that we have already been forgiven (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). In this model prayer, Jesus was preparing his disciples to make forgiveness a central part of their prayer lives.

“Lead us not into temptation.” It isn’t that God would normally lead us into temptation (Jas. 1:13). Rather, we might wander into it! This could refer to “being excused from further testing.” And the disciples should “recognize and acknowledge their lack of what might pass as heroic faith and their need for divine care.”[260] This is praying that God would lead us in a way that we can avoid temptation. This would fit with Paul’s imperatives to “flee” from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), materialism (1 Tim. 6:11), and idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). We don’t stand up to these things; we flee from them.

Luke 11:5-8 (Shameless audacity in prayer)

In our society, we might give someone directions or tell them the time if asked, but we wouldn’t give them a meal and a place to stay. This is why the historical context helps to inform this parable. Bock writes, “In first-century Palestine, food was not as readily available as it is today. There were no evening shops, and bread was baked each day to meet the day’s needs.”[261] Therefore, hospitality was so customary that it was an unwritten rule in the ancient Near East. If someone came and asked for help, you were obligated to answer.

(11:5-6) Then 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; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’”

This man wouldn’t have food prepared at midnight. He couldn’t just reach into his refrigerator and pull out a frozen pizza! In order to serve his guest, he needed to go next door and depend on the hospitality of his neighbor.

Therefore, the context here is not praying for ourselves, but for others. Indeed, the context refers to Christian ministry. For those involved in the cause of Christ, we can identify with the man in the story. We might say to ourselves, “I don’t have much more to give” or “I’m too burned out to give to others.” Jesus anticipates these very real feelings. In reality, we don’t have the energy or the power to give and give and give. This is why we need to depend on God—our supernatural and transcendent source.

(11:7) And 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.’

In this culture, the family would all sleep in one room and in one bed.[262] If you’re a parent, you know what a pain it is to have your kids woken up. Thus, it isn’t that the neighbor is unable to help, but that he’s unwilling. He wants his peace and quiet in the midnight hour. Indeed, the neighbor doesn’t call him, “Friend,” in return. He simply responds by saying, “Don’t bother me!”

(11:8) I 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.

Jesus emphasizes the fact that it is the man’s “persistence” that produces the result. The word “persistence” (anaideian) is only used here in the NT. It could be translated as “shameless audacity” (NIV) or even as “nerve.” After all, what kind of person would go and ring a neighbor’s doorbell in the middle of the night?

In our context, how on Earth could we approach God with this sort of “shameless audacity”? This is based on our new identity in Christ. We are his sons and daughters, and he welcomes us into his presence—needs and all. God isn’t disappointed when we ask big prayers; he’s saddened when we don’t! The Bible teaches that we can come to him in every situation (Phil. 4:6), and instead of letting the worry pile up, we can just slowly take our needs to God (1 Pet. 5:7). Since there is nothing too big or too little to ask (Eph. 3:12), we can talk to him about anything.

Does this mean that God is so bothered that he needs to give in to our prayers?

Why is Jesus appealing to a selfish, grumpy friend to explain prayer? Is he saying that God doesn’t want to answer our prayers? Not at all. This is what is called an a fortiori argument (Latin: “For a stronger reason”). After the Enlightenment, analogical reasoning became popular. But a fortiori arguments are much older and are very popular in rabbinic literature.[263] Rabbis called this argument form Qal waḥomer.[264] In this form of argumentation, it isn’t the similarity that is being compared, but the difference between the two. Jesus’ point is this: If even a selfish neighbor will even answer this man’s request, then how much more will a generous God?

(11:9-10) 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. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

We need all of these: ask, seek, and knock.

  • Ask: We need to be willing to speak up. God will wait until we decide to simply ask (Jas. 4:2).
  • Seek: Part of seeking is that we need to seek God and his will—not our own.
  • Knock: This implies boldness and persistence like the man in the parable. He was willing to continue to knock until the neighbor opened the door. Sometimes, we need to lay requests before God for months or even years before they are answered. As Jesus say later, never give up in prayer (Lk. 18:1).

Luke 11:11-13 (God’s goodness in prayer)

(11:11) Now 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?

“Daddy, can I have a fish?” a child asks. With a cheerful tone and a warm smile, the father responds, “Okay, open your hands… Now close your eyes… There you go.” And he throws a king cobra at the little boy! This is ridiculous, right? Jesus is leveraging this bizarre picture.

(11:12) Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

A father asks, “What do you want for breakfast, honey?”

The daughter replies, “Can I have some eggs, Dad?”

“Sure!” the father says, and he gives her a plate full of scorpions! Ridiculous, huh? Of course! Again, Jesus is trading on this idea to show how absurd it would be for a father to act like that.

Humans are evil, and we would never do such a thing. But, if God is our heavenly father, how much more will he be willing to give us good things?

(11:13) If 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?

It’s interesting how Jesus just throws this comment right in the middle of his argument: “If you being evil…” Even evil fathers know how to love their children better than this. If this is true, then how much more does our loving Father? (v.2)

Luke records that the “gifts” are plural (Mt. 7:11). This seems to likely refer to the filling (or repeated fillings) of the Spirit in order to serve others. However, because of the plural, this could refer to any and every gift given by God (Jas. 1:17). For more on the subject of prayer, see our earlier article “Prayer.”

Discussion Questions

What are key ways that we can become bold in prayer?

How can we counter our personal cynicism when it comes to prayer?

Luke 11:14-27 (Spiritual warfare)

[A possible parallel could be in Matthew 12. Luke might have placed this material after Jesus’ teaching on prayer (vv.1-13), because this is the main way that we fight Satan and demons.]

(11:14-15) And 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. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”

Even the enemies of Jesus didn’t deny his ability to perform miracles:

Josephus (AD 100) wrote that Jesus was a “worker of amazing deeds” (Antiquities 18.3).

The anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (AD 150) argued that Jesus “served for hire in Egypt” and learned “certain miraculous powers” (Origen Contra Celsum 1.38).

The Talmud (AD 400-600) stated that Jesus “practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” (b. Sanhedrin 43a).[265]

What does Beelzebul mean? It can be rendered “Lord of the flies” or “Lord of dung” (Baalzebul). Morris writes, “Our best understanding of the evidence seems to be that the Jews took this name of a heathen god and understood it in terms of the similar sounding Hebrew, ‘lord of dung’. They applied it to a prominent demon, perhaps to Satan himself. Jesus clearly understood it to refer to Satan.”[266] It is also used of the god of Ekron in 2 Kings 1:2-6, 16.

(11:16) Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.

The people were asking for a sign, but Jesus already gave them a sign, and they were explaining it away.

(11:17) But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls.”

Satan is unified with his demons.

(11:18-19) If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges.

This shows that their argument is not only illogical, but also self-incriminating. After all, Stein asks, “Why should only Jesus’ exorcisms be attributed to Beelzebub?”[267] Why wouldn’t these religious leaders give equal skepticism to other Jewish exorcists? This next generation (“your sons”) has an active faith in Yahweh, but they do not.

(11:20) But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

In the book of Exodus, the non-believing Egyptian magicians could recognize the truth of God through miracles, saying that they were done by “the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19). Thus Jesus uses this expression (“the finger of God”) as a subtle accusation against them.

(11:21) When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.

In context, the “strong man” is none other than Satan. Jesus teaches that Satan is powerful. But there’s good news: Jesus can pin down this strong man!

(11:22) But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder.

Jesus (by virtue of the fact that he’s casting out demons) is the “stronger” man—indeed, he is infinitely stronger than Satan. He is moving on the offensive, and he is pulling away the “armor” of Satan. This could be a fulfillment of Luke 10:18, where Jesus said, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”[268] Jesus’ work—and the work of the apostles—was binding the strong man (to use the words in Matthew 12).

(11:23) He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.

There is no compromise with Satan. You need to pick your side. In WW II, Switzerland was surrounded by the Allied and Axis forces. They could stay neutral, but not forever. Once they picked a side, the other armies would instantly become an enemy. Similarly, we are currently an “enemy” of God when we refuse to come to Christ (Rom. 5:10), and once we come to faith and follow Jesus, we discover more opposition from Satan—not less.

(11:24-26) When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

Jesus doesn’t say that this demon was forcefully removed or exorcised, but rather, it left voluntarily to seek out someone else. Jesus’ point is that the person better have the “stronger man” in his heart; otherwise, he is vulnerable to an even worse scenario (Eph. 3:17; 1 Jn. 4:4).

The “waterless places” don’t give the demon “rest.” We shouldn’t infer that demons are allergic to water—or any other absurd conclusion. Rather, deserts do not contain human hosts to possess, and this is why the demon needs to return to the original host.

(11:27-28) While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Obedience to Jesus is more important than lineage to Jesus.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 21-22. Some interpreters think that the “attacking” and “overpowering” of the “strong man” refers to the binding of Satan in Revelation 20. After all, in the parallel passage, Jesus states that a person “binds the strong man” (Mt. 12:29). This is the same term used of the “binding” (deo) of Satan in Revelation 20. Hence, it is argued, Satan is currently bound in hell. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Should we pray that “Satan would be bound” before entering into ministry situations? Why or why not?

Luke 11:28-36 (Searching for a Sign)

(11:29-32) As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Returning to one of their original arguments (“give us a sign,” v.16), Jesus says that the only sign they will get is the resurrection. Indeed, demanding a sign was Satanic in nature (Lk. 4:9-12), and it wouldn’t lead to genuine faith anyhow (Lk. 16:31).

“The men of Nineveh will stand up… and condemn it.” Stein comments, “As wicked as the Ninevites were, they nevertheless were qualified to judge this generation, for they repented when Jonah preached. This generation, however, refused to repent, even though it was Jonah’s Lord who was preaching.”[269]

(11:33) No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.

This example is equivalent to taking a picture with the lens cap on, or having a projector with the cap on. Jesus used this illustration in several different contexts (Mk. 4:12; Mt. 5:15).

(11:34) The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.

Jesus seems to be saying that if you take in his teaching (i.e. “light”), then you will be enlightened (Lk. 1:78-79; 2:32; Jn. 1:4; 3:19-21; 9:39-41; Acts 26:18). Bock writes, “The implication is that if one has good eyes one will see the light Jesus offers, but if one’s vision is clouded by evil one will miss the light.”[270] Stein states, “Even as the whole person becomes filled with light upon acceptance of Jesus and his teaching, so does darkness fall upon those who reject him.”[271]

(11:35-36) Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.

Jesus is concerned that the people will reject his teaching (cf. 11:31-32). Only those who receive Christ’s light are in a healthy condition.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think Jesus was so opposed to giving these people miraculous signs? Wouldn’t that only help them come to faith?

What does this teach us about how God reveals himself to us? Is it wrong for us to ask God for a sign?

Luke 11:37-11:54 (Hypocrisy)

[This material is similar to Jesus’ words in Matthew 23, though this seems like it was on another occasion that Jesus gave this indictment.]

(11:37-38) Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.

This Pharisee must have felt like he already had the “light” that Jesus mentioned earlier. Yet instead of focusing on Jesus’ teaching, he focuses on ritual and “ceremonial washings.” Multiple people (namely Pharisees) were invited (v.45), and they would’ve been offended by Jesus’ practice. Indeed, the Mishnah Yadayim (1:1-5) explains some of these ritual washings:

A quarter [of a log, a specific unit of volume] of water is to be poured onto the hands, for [the ritual washing of the hands for] one person, and even for two. Half of a log [is to be poured from] for three or four. And from [a vessel containing] one log [of water], five or ten or even one hundred [people may wash their hands]. Rabbi Yose says: but only provided there not be less than a quarter [of a log remaining] for the last one of them [to wash]. One may add [water, by pouring it onto the hands past where it had fallen] on the second [pouring of water; i.e. on a third pouring, one can pour past where the waters fell on the second pouring]. But one may not add on the first [pouring; i.e. on the second pouring, one may not pour past where the waters fell on the first pouring]. 2 One may pour [water for washing] onto the hands from all [kinds of] vessels, even from vessels of bovine dung, from vessels of stone, or from earthen vessels. One may not pour [water for washing] onto the hands out of the sides of vessels [i.e. from vessel fragments], nor using the [broken off] bottom of a large jug, nor using the bung of a cask, nor may one pour [water] onto [the hands of] his fellow out of the hollow of his [own] hand, since one may only fill, sanctify, or sprinkle the chatat waters [the waters containing the ashes of the red heifer, used as part of the purification ritual] with a vessel, nor may one take them into one’s hands. And nothing can be preserved [from being rendered impure, in cases of an impurity caused by being overshadowed by an enclosed area containing an Origin of impurity] by means of a tight seal [which can sometimes protect against an overshadowing impurity], unless it is [contained within] a [whole] vessel. And something can only be preserved from [being rendered impure by an impure object contained beside it within] an earthenware vessel if it is itself a vessel. 3 Regarding waters which have become unfit for animals to drink, if they are in [any kind of] vessels, they are invalid [for washing one’s hands]; and if they are in the ground [i.e. in a ditch], they are valid [for washing with them, by immersing one’s hands in them]. If ink, sap, or metallic dye fall into them and change their appearance, they are invalid [i.e. the waters are invalid for washing]. If they had been used for any occupation, or if one soaked one’s bread in them, they are invalid. Shimon, the Teimani said: even if one intended to soak [one’s bread] in these [waters], and it fell into those [waters instead], they are valid [for washing]. 4 If one rinsed vessels in them, or if one cleaned out measuring vessels with them, they [i.e. the waters used] are invalid. If one rinsed out [already] rinsed or new vessels, they are valid [i.e. the waters are valid to be used for washing]. Rabbi Yose invalidates [the waters] regarding new ones. 5 Waters into which the baker has dipped [unbaked] rolls are invalid. And when he [instead] rinses his hands in them [and then splashes the rolls with water from his hands], they are valid [i.e. the waters in which he rinsed his hands]. Anyone is valid to pour onto the hands [of another person, in order to wash them], even a deaf-mute, shoteh, or a minor. A man may place a cask between his knees to pour [the water over his hands, to wash them], or tip a barrel onto its side and pour [onto his hands]. An ape may pour [water for washing] onto one’s hands. Rabbi Yose considers these two [i.e. tipping a barrel or using an ape] to be invalid.

Likewise, the Babylonian Talmud states, “Whoever eats bread without previously washing the hands is as though he had intercourse with a harlot.”[272] It also states, “When he washes his hands he should say: ‘Blessed is He who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the washing of hands.’”[273]

These ceremonial laws had nothing to do with personal hygiene. The text above even states, “One may pour [water for washing] onto the hands from all [kinds of] vessels, even from vessels of bovine dung, from vessels of stone, or from earthen vessels” (Mishnah Yadayim, 1:2). Morris rightly states, “This had nothing to do with hygiene, but was a rule made in the interests of ceremonial purity. Before eating anything, scrupulous Jews had water poured over their hands to remove the defilement contracted by their contact with a sinful world. The quantity of water and the manner of washing are prescribed in minute detail in the Mishnah.”[274]

Jesus resolutely rejected this teaching (Mk. 7:2-4, 15-23). The problem here is the fact that “when people concentrate on the trivial they are apt to overlook the important.”[275] This is a red flag for our discernment. When people focus on minutiae like this, it should warn us that they have fallen into legalism.

(11:39-40) But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?

Think about it: If you had to pick, would you rather have the inside of the coffee cup cleaned or the outside? The hypocrite chooses the latter over the former. Hypocrites try to present themselves on the outside in a way that is different from the inside. But there’s no use cleaning the outside, when our hearts are filled with filth.

“Robbery and wickedness.” The Pharisees were “lovers of money” (Lk. 16:14), and they would even rob widows—the poorest of the poor (Lk. 20:47).

(11:41) But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.

Luke later records that “the Pharisees… were lovers of money” (Lk. 16:14). Why is financial giving such a contrast to hypocrisy? When we give, no one sees it—only God. This is probably why God took such a strong stance on this hypocrisy in Acts 5 with Ananias and Sapphira. You might feel more righteous than these flagrant hypocrites, but do you give financially? If not, this is a major point of hypocrisy!

(11:42) But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Jesus isn’t against tithing (Lev. 27:30). Instead he’s against focusing on such minor issues. It isn’t what they’re doing, but what they’re not doing that bothers Jesus (Mt. 23:23). Jesus refers to these as “gnats” versus “camels” in his rebuke of the Pharisees (Mt. 23:24).



Moderate alcohol consumption

Love for God and others

Slander and division

Non-Christian music, books, movies

Sexual sin

Loving money

Foul language



Tattoos & piercings

(11:43) Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places.

Hypocrisy loves attention. Bock writes, “The greeting in the public place is not so much a quick hello as an involved salutation of respect. In the Talmud, such elaborate greetings were compulsory for teachers of the law (Luke 20:46; Jerusalem (Palestinian) Talmud, Berakot, 4b [2.1].”[276] In Jesus’ other attack of the Pharisees, he said, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long” (Mt. 23:5 NIV).

(11:44) Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.

In Jewish culture, if you touched a dead body, you became ritually unclean for a week (Num. 19:16; Lev. 21:1-4, 11; y. Šheqalim. 5.1). By being near an “unmarked grave” (NIV), people would become unclean and not realize it. What’s Jesus’ point? He’s saying that the Pharisees were leading ignorant and unknowing people into real and actual spiritual defilement.

(11:45) One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.”

One of the religious lawyers says, “Jesus, excuse me, I think you’re insulting us…” Jesus responds, “Yeah… you! I almost forgot about you scribes too!” Jesus continues to unload both barrels on this other species of hypocrisy.

(11:46) But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.”

It’s likely that the scribes knew all of the legal “loop holes” in these added laws. So they could get around God’s teaching, while the uneducated could not. Legalists and religious hypocrites won’t get their hands dirty in the lives of others. They pile on the imperatives, but don’t give the person any help. The scribes were crushing people and making God’s way seem onerous and burdensome (Mt. 11:28-30). The Mishnah went so far as to state that “it is more important to observe the scribal interpretations than the Law itself (Sanhedrin 11:3).”[277]

 (11:47-48) Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.

These men would rather love dead prophets, than listen to the living ones. The religious hypocrites of the day probably thought, “If only we were there for Isaiah, we’d protect him…” But even as they thought this, they were scheming to kill the son of God. As one commentator wrote, “The only prophet you honor is a dead prophet!”

(11:49) For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute.’

Jesus isn’t quoting a source. He’s quoting God’s plan in general (“the wisdom of God”).

(11:50-51) So that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.

Abel was the first prophet (Gen. 4), and Zechariah was the last (2 Chron. 24:20-25).

(11:52) Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.

It is a serious sin to take the Bible out of people’s hands (“the key of knowledge”). Morris writes, “[The scribes] turned the Bible into a book of obscurities, a bundle of riddles which only the experts could understand.”[278] Church history consists of this precise practice. Those in positions of abusive power hate it when people actually appeal to Scripture.

(11:53-54) When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54 plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.

With that, Jesus left. Afterwards, the religious leaders followed him, trying to corner him in a theological trap so that they could kill him. The word “catch” (thēreusai) was used of “hunting wild beasts,” and it was “a vivid word for intense opposition.”[279] These men could have taken Jesus’ rebuke, humbled themselves, and come to him. Instead, they learned nothing and only became more hardened. It only made them double-down and want to kill Jesus more.

Luke 12

Luke 12:1-12 (Hypocrisy)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(12:1) Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Jesus just confronted the religious establishment. This would be like a person chewing out Congress, the Senate, and even the President. As we would expect, this gained the attention of “thousands of people.” There were so many people that “they were stepping on one another.” This sounds like a riot or a mosh pit!

Why does Jesus compare hypocrisy to yeast? Yeast is contagious, puffs up, and silently spreads—just like hypocrisy. By saying “beware,” Jesus is warning the disciples that even they could fall into the same trap. The same is true of the believer today. We too can fall into hypocrisy—often in subtle ways.

(12:2-3) But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. 3 Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.

In the end, everything will be exposed (1 Cor. 4:5; Rom. 2:16). All of us have fallen prey to hypocrisy in one way or another:

  • Have you ever given a half-confession?
  • Do you use exaggeration to make your contribution seem better than it actually was?
  • Have you ever felt bad that someone received more recognition?
  • Do you act differently around your Christian friends?
  • Have you ever been defensive about personal failure?

Hypocrisy is exhausting. It renders friendships fake and phony. It makes spiritual growth impossible. Most importantly, it excludes the grace of God, because we cover up our problems rather than applying God’s forgiveness and acceptance.

(12:4-5) I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

The cure for hypocrisy is getting our focus off of humans (v.4), and onto God (v.5). He is the one who calls us “friends” (cf. Jn. 15:13-15), which shows us that we don’t need to lie to him or hide from him.

Does this “One” refer to Satan? Surely not! We are supposed to “resist” Satan, and he will “flee” from us (Jas. 4:7). We are supposed to “resist” Satan, standing “firm in our faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). The notion that Satan throws us into hell is a hallmark of American folk religion—not Christianity. God rules over hell, and Satan is merely another prisoner found there—not its ruler.

(12:6-7) Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

If God takes notice of common and cheap birds, how much more will he care for us?

(12:8-10) And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him.

This seems to refer to conversion (Rom. 10:9-11). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit seems to refer to the “persistent and unremitting resistance to the Spirit’s work as he brings conviction of sin and reveals the need for repentance and faith.”[280]

(12:11-12) When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.

“Synagogues and the rulers and the authorities.” This refers to both Jewish persecution (Lk. 21:12) and Gentile persecution (Lk. 21:12).

Jesus speaks against worrying—not working! We have our role to prepare and study, but we should leave the worrying with God (1 Pet. 5:7). When we sit on hot seat, we aren’t alone, because the Holy Spirit is with us, guiding and teaching us.

Luke 12:13-30 (Wealth and worry)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(12:13-14) Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

When life transitions occur, it uncovers the love of money that was there the whole time. The distribution of an inheritance was in the OT law (Deut. 21:15-17; Num. 27:1-11; 36:7-9). This unnamed man wants to use Jesus as a “Judge Judy” to give him a portion of the estate. But instead of adjudicating this specific case, Jesus gives us broader principles. Stein is right in his assessment: “Luke did not state what the specific problem was, but this is ultimately irrelevant. What is clear is that the motive behind the question was greed (Luke 11:39), not the fulfillment of Ps 133:1.”[281]

(12:15) Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

The term “beware” means “positive action to ward off a foe.”[282] Consider road signs that tell us to “beware.” This usually implies that the threat is (1) more dangerous than we think and (2) more unexpected than we think. Greed fits both criteria. We regularly underestimate the blindsiding blow of materialism—much to our own peril (1 Tim. 6:10).

What is a successful life? When someone says, “He is really successful,” what do they usually mean? Often, they are referring to the person being financially successful. But Jesus doesn’t measure success in this way. He says, “For not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” Jesus used an entirely different measuring rod to define a successful life, as his parable makes clear…

(12:16-19) And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’

“What shall I do?” This is a good question for the materialist. They have so much at their disposal. They could comfort themselves with more commodities, or they could make an impact for the cause of Christ. What will this man do with this money? It turns out—like many rich people—that he uses it to engage in a materialistic conquest.

“Grain and… goods.” This implies that he had more commodities than simple farming produce.

What do we learn about this rich man? First, the word “my” appears four times in verses 17-19, and “I” occurs eight times! The rich fool can only think of “me, myself, and I.” Second, he doesn’t just build additional barns, but he tears down the old barns to build the new ones. He wasn’t living simply; otherwise, he would’ve used the existing barns. Third, he talks to himself—not to God (v.19). He is his own god—praying to himself! God isn’t even in the picture. At least, not for long…

(12:20) “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”

The rich man controlled so much that he thought he could control his future (Jas. 4:14). Jesus’ rhetorical question (“Who will own what you have prepared?”) implies that this man wasted his life. All of his earnings disappeared in a single, terrible moment. Why couldn’t he see this coming? Likewise, why can’t we see this coming?

(12:21) So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

God isn’t against storing up treasure. He’s against storing up treasure for ourselves and storing it up on Earth. He wants us to be “rich” in heavenly rewards.

(12:22) And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.”

Anxiety is what drives materialism. Responsible saving is a biblical concept (see the Proverbs), but greed and anxiety exaggerate this. Can you prepare for your future without being worried about it? Followers of Jesus need to make sure that they are saving—not hoarding.

(12:23) For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

“Food” and “clothing” are not wrong, but there is “more” to life—like God, relationships, and the cause of Christ.

(12:24) Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!

Ravens were unclean animals in ancient Israel (Lev. 11:15). If God takes care of unclean animals, how much more will he take care of his image-bearers?

(12:25-26) And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?

The term “life span” (hēlikia) can refer to age (Jn. 9:21) or to height (Lk. 19:3). The context favors time—not height. Worry never solves any actual problems. It only creates problems in our own minds, which poison us and paralyze us from wise decision making and contentment.

(12:27-28) Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!

Jesus continues to get their focus off of themselves, their money, and their worries; he continues to get their focus onto God and the world around them. This is a proven technique for helping anxiety, which is called redirection. Even secular counselors use method today.

(12:29) And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.

The term “seek” (zeteo) means “to seek information, investigate, examine, consider, deliberate.”[283] The Bible uses this word to describe the way Jesus would “seek” to save sinners (Lk. 19:10), or how Herod’s men “sought” to kill Jesus as an infant (Mt. 2:20). This is in contrast to “seeking” the kingdom of God (v.31). We should replace seeking one for the other.

(12:30) For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.

People that don’t know God seek these things. There’s nothing wrong with them, but anxiety mutates need into greed.

Luke 12:31-59 (Investing in eternity)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

Jesus begins to speak more about eternity. In view of eternity, it is foolish to live for wealth when all that we accumulate will be taken away in a moment.

(12:31) But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

Instead of seeking materialism (v.29), we should “seek” (zeteo) God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. A rejection of materialism doesn’t result in asceticism, any more than the rejection of workaholism is unemployment. We realize that we can utilize these resources to further God’s kingdom.

(12:32) Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

“Little flock” is only used here.

(12:33) Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.

This doesn’t mean that we sell all of our possessions. We buy material goods, but we aren’t attached to them (1 Cor. 7:30-31). Zaccheus sold half of his goods (Lk. 19:8), and Christ was pleased with this. For a further explanation, see Luke 14:33.

Is it selfish to live for eternal rewards? No! For one, God wants to give these to us, and he has an unlimited supply of good things. So, he enjoys giving and has plenty to give. Truly it would be prideful to refuse rewards that God wants to give to us. Second, if we don’t live for eternal rewards, we will live for materialistic “rewards” on earth. So, the question isn’t, “Will we live for rewards?” Rather, the question is, “What kind of rewards will we pursue?” Indeed, if we are pursuing these with selfish motives, God won’t reward us (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5).

(12:34) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

This sort of investment doesn’t merely build up our eternal portfolio in the distant future. Rather, it will change our lives right now.

(12:35-36) Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.

Like the “rich fool” mentioned earlier, at any moment, we could die and stand before God (or Jesus could return and stand before us). Consider a professor who proctors the final exam, and leaves to go get a cup of coffee. People around you begin to cheat in his absence. But wouldn’t dare to cheat because you know that he’ll return and open the door at any moment. Likewise, because we don’t know when Jesus is going to return, the best attitude is to be ready at all times.

(12:37) Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

This is truly an outrageous statement: Jesus—the Ultimate Servant—claims that he will serve us in heaven (Lk. 22:27). This would be utterly blasphemy and egotism if we didn’t read this plainly in God’s word.

(12:38-40) Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.

The “second watch” was from 9pm to midnight, and the “third watch” was from midnight to 3am.[284] So, in the parable, this would be late at night, and it would be tempting to doze off. Jesus’ point is that we know that this event is going to come, but we don’t know when it will come. Because this is the case, the best posture is to be ready at all times.

What does it look like to “be ready”?
  • It means not being engrossed in materialism, because all of these assets are about to lose value.
  • It means not just working “when the Boss is watching.”
  • It means developing personal convictions on Jesus’ teaching.
  • It means cultivating a lifestyle of serving.
  • It means ceasing to procrastinate and becoming alert.

(12:41-44) Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

In heaven, we will have delegated leadership from Jesus, and we will get promoted if we are a good worker. Passivity leaves us losing our reward. Again, it’s not just that we’re going to go to heaven, but we get eternal rewards as well.

“He will put him in charge of all his possessions.” Stein brings together many passages to describe what this means: “Compare ‘rich toward God’ (12:21); ‘treasure in heaven’ (12:33; 18:22); ‘receive many times as much’ (18:30); ‘take charge of ten [five] cities’ (19:17, 19). Christian ‘managers’ have the potential for great reward or great punishment (12:46).”[285]

Paul explained more about this distribution of rewards in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. In an ancient city, the temples and expensive political buildings were constructed with stone and inlaid with precious metals. The houses of the poor were built with wood, thatch, and mud. When a fire passed through the city, only the stone buildings would remain. The “wood, hay, straw” refer to works done with impure motives or even outright sins (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5).

(12:45-46) But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

The problem with the violent and greedy is that they really don’t trust Jesus’ message about the Second Coming or eternity. If they did, their lives would change.

(12:47-48) And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

God will judge us based on the “light we were given.” That is, we will be judged for what we know—not for what we didn’t know (“knew his master’s will… the one who did not know it”).

Hell will have different degrees of punishment, depending on how we unjustly hurt others (many lashes… receive but a few).

(12:49-50) I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

The fire refers to God’s judgment (v.49; cf. Lk. 3:9, 17). Thankfully, Jesus will take our judgment before this happens.[286] However, people will be divided (vv.51-53) into two camps: those who face the fire of God’s judgment, and those who are covered by Jesus’ “baptism” into judgment at the Cross (cf. Mk. 10:38-39; Lk. 3:16).

(12:51-53) Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Jesus offers peace in one sense (e.g. eternal life, inner peace, etc.), but he ends peace in another sense (e.g. ideological and ethical differences, relational friction, etc.). When we adopt Jesus’ teaching, we disagree with others. Thus, this creates an ideological discord with others. To be clear, this is a war of ideology—not force. Morris writes, “When people do not rise to this challenge they not uncommonly become critical of those who do. The divisions that thus arise may run through families (cf. Mic. 7:6).”[287]

(12:54-57) And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. 55 And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time? 57 And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?”

These people were able to interpret the weather patterns, which are only temporary and fleeting. Stein explains, “The moisture-laden air coming from the Mediterranean Sea condenses into rain as it rises up the cooler hills of Palestine… ‘South wind’ is a sirocco blowing from the desert in the south southeast.”[288] Yet, they were unable (or unwilling) to analyze the momentous time in which they lived—a time in which God came to visit the Earth in and through the person of Jesus.

(12:58-59) For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.

We should try and settle in court before we get before the judge. That’s a pretty fair argument, and in fact, it’s extremely generous. God knows we’re going to court, but he has paid the price. Morris writes, “They should spare no effort accordingly to get right with God. When he finally condemns anyone the penalty will be inflicted to the uttermost (copper = lepton, the smallest coin in use).”[289]

Luke 13

Luke 13:1-9 (The problem of evil)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

This section is unique to Luke’s gospel.

(13:1) Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

We don’t have another source—biblical or otherwise—that also attests to this specific event. However, this fits with Pilate’s twisted character, being a vicious anti-Semite. Morris writes, “Some Galileans had evidently gone up to Jerusalem to worship and had been put to death by the governor as they were in the act of offering sacrifice. That their blood had mingled with that of their sacrifices was a particularly horrible detail. It is difficult to see what could justify an execution at such a moment.”[290] Both Jesus (Lk. 23:6) and Peter (Lk. 22:59) were Galileans; so this would’ve been a massacre of their own people. Considering the small size of these regions, he may have even known some of those who died.

Moral evil

(13:2-3) And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

This is what philosophers refer to as moral evil. Pilate committed a freewill decision to kill these people. In this culture, these religious people thought the problem of evil was a punishment for sin (cf. Jn. 9:2). The fact that they thought this was a punishment for sin implies that they weren’t sinners. Jesus disagrees directly, telling them to repent. Jesus is saying, “You think this is a tragedy? There’s an even greater tragedy coming… People being separated from God!”

Natural evil

(13:4-5) “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

This is what philosophers refer to as natural evil. The evil was not necessarily anyone’s fault—just the result of living in a cause and effect world.

What was the tower of Siloam? Bock writes, “Siloam, a reservoir for Jerusalem, was located near the intersection of the south and east walls of the city (Isa. 8:6).”[291] Hence, this was “most probably part of Jerusalem’s wall near the pool of Siloam.”[292]

What is Jesus’ answer to the problem of evil?

Jesus doesn’t give a philosophical answer, but a practical one. He states that evil and death should wake us up to how temporary life is. Can’t we see that death is coming for all of us—whether in a major disaster or in the quiet of our home in old age? The gruesome reality of death should rouse us to get right with God as soon as possible. After all, death could arrive at any time.

(13:6-9) And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

The “fig tree” seems to be Israel (Lk. 20:16; Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:25-28).[293]

While the vinedresser was patient, the main point is that they’re getting one final chance. God hasn’t brought his moral will on the world… yet.

Discussion Questions

Jesus wasn’t giving an exhaustive answer to the problem of evil and suffering. But what can we grasp from his teaching that helps us to begin to answer the problem of evil?

Luke 13:10-17 (Healing the woman on the Sabbath)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(13:10-13) And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.

Jesus healed this poor woman on the Sabbath. We might wonder how the religious authorities will react…

(13:14) But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”

This man was making a compromised position. He didn’t say it was explicitly wrong for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath; rather, people should come to be healed on the other six days of the week. After all, there are plenty of other days to be healed, so why specifically heal on the Sabbath?

(13:15-16) But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus’ response is uncompromising. His logic is that these religious leaders treat their donkeys better than they would their daughters! By healing her on the Sabbath, Jesus was giving this woman “rest” like she hadn’t experienced for 18 years. Ironically, by “working” on the Sabbath to heal her, the woman was experiencing true Sabbath rest for the first time in nearly two decades.

(13:17) As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.

The religious leaders were publicly refuted and humiliated. However, if they didn’t want to be publicly humiliated, then they never should have been publicly teaching such cruelty in the first place.

Luke 13:18-35 (What is the Kingdom of God?)

(13:18) So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it?”

The Jewish people were expecting a literal kingdom, where the Messiah would overthrow the world instantaneously. Jesus breaks these expectations, and tells them about the spiritual kingdom of the Church that would precede his Millennial Kingdom.

What does the Kingdom look like? (vv.18-21)

(13:19) It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.

Luke doesn’t mention the size of the seed, but the result. Indeed, the “precise plant in mind is not known for certain.”[294] Yet, a mustard plant can “grow to a height of eight to twelve feet.”[295]

“The birds of the air” are often held to be the Gentiles,[296] but we are not certain (cf. Dan. 4:12, 21; Ezek. 17:23; 31:6).

(13:20-21) And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

The yeast (“leaven”) is small. It won’t grow immediately. Look at the ground after a seed is planted or immediately after the dough gets the yeast. It is identical to the ground without the seed or the dough without the yeast. Both are exactly the same. But over time, the seed takes root growing a huge plant. The seed is growing and the yeast is spreading—even if you can’t see it. Only a small amount of leaven is needed to make a large quantity of dough to rise.[297]

Similarly, God worked through a small contingent of disciples to reach billions today. Our role is as important as it is small. Our role is to be patient—even when we can’t see the growth.

Who gets into the Kingdom? (vv.22-30)

The Jewish expectation was that the Jewish people would all get into God’s kingdom when it came. The Mishnah states, “All Jews have a share in the World to Come.”[298] Jesus upset this ethnic and nationalistic expectation.

(13:22-23) And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?”

How will Jesus answer this complicated question? Will he give a percentage of people? An exact figure? No, instead, Jesus tells the person, “Wrong question! Don’t worry about that… Just make sure that you make it in yourself!”

(13:24) And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

We cannot help anyone to be forgiven until we ourselves are forgiven. It would be like helping a drowning person in the ocean while we are drowning just as badly. This approach is foolish. First, we need to get into the boat, so that we can help others get out of the water as well.

Jesus uses strong language to describe entering the kingdom (agonizomai). Morris writes, “Strive is a word denoting whole-hearted action. It is a technical term for competing in the Games, and from it we get our word ‘agonize’.”[299]

Jesus said that all who seek will find (Mt. 7:7), but we need to authentically seek. Earlier in Luke, we read, “As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, ‘This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah’” (Lk. 11:29). Paul wrote, “I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Rom. 10:2-4 NLT).

(13:25) Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’

There will be a time when our time is up.

(13:26) Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’

This quite similar to nominal Christianity (i.e. Christians in “name only”). They are close to Christ in many formal respects (e.g. Bible reading, prayer, Christianese, etc.), but sadly, they were relationally far.

(13:27) And He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’

Conformity leads directly into hell.

(13:28-29) In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. 29 And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

Nationality is irrelevant. God welcomes all people, regardless of race.

(13:30) And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.

This would be double-mortification for Jesus’ religious audience: They’re out, but the Gentiles are in. However, this is great news for the rest of us. Does God want someone sinful like you? There isn’t a single thing God would want more!

Discussion Questions

In what ways were the first-century religious Jews similar to many church goers today? In what ways were they different?

(13:31) Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.”

Considering how the Pharisees have treated Jesus so far, this is likely an act of intimidation. On the other hand, it’s possible that Luke is not describing all Pharisees as evil hypocrites.[300] Indeed, many Pharisees became followers of Jesus (Jn. 3:1; Acts 5:34-40; 15:5; 23:6-10).

Herod had John the Baptist killed (Luke 3:19-20; 9:9), and now he is interested in Jesus (Lk. 9:9; 23:8). Later, Herod will demand that Jesus perform miracles for his amusement (Lk. 23:6ff), and then, let him die.

(13:32) And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’”

Why does Jesus call Herod a fox? Morris writes, “The fox was used by the Jews as a symbol of a sly man, but more often for an insignificant or worthless one.”[301] In this case, Herod was both sly and worthless. Jesus tells them that his mission will not be altered by Herod or anyone else. He has a goal to accomplish, and he won’t leave until it’s done.

(13:33) Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.

This sounds like sarcasm: It’s always the capital of the nation that kills the national prophets.

(13:34) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!

God wants us to be in the Kingdom. The question is, Do we want to be in his kingdom?

(13:35) Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple—the place these men held most sacred. Since Jesus is the temple (Jn. 2:19-21), the Temple in Jerusalem was soon going to be obsolete. Jesus will not return to the people until they sing Psalm 118. This hasn’t happened yet, so this must refer to the future. This is a key passage that speaks against Preterism. After all, there’s no way the Jewish people were blessing Jesus as the Messiah as the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple!

Luke 14

Luke 14:1-6 (Dinner with a Perfect Stranger)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

Have you ever been invited to really bad dinner party? Jesus can relate. Jesus would go to dinner with people that he didn’t get along with. But he wouldn’t schmooze and “be nice.” He would confront them with the truth in love. This is Jesus’ third dinner with the Pharisees (Lk. 7:36ff; 11:37ff). Each time, it ended awkwardly—yet they kept inviting him back. The religious leaders must’ve been gluttons for punishment!

Healing on the Sabbath: Admitting you were wrong (vv.1-6)

(14:1) It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

It was common for a rabbi to have a meal with his hosts after giving a teaching. Stein writes, “Visiting speakers were often invited to a Sabbath meal after the synagogue service.”[302]

Why were they “watching him closely”? Jesus has been confrontational each and every time there was a “Sabbath.” They were likely expecting more theatrics from Jesus, and they had their eyes peeled.

(14:2) And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy.

“Dropsy” was a sickness whereby the body filled with fluid. Bock writes, “Its symptoms are swollen limbs and tissue resulting from excess body fluids.”[303] What caused it? Bock continues, “Some rabbis argued that dropsy resulted from sexual offenses (b. Sabbat. 33a) or from intentionally failing to have bowel movements (b. Berakot. 25a).”[304]

Was this a setup? The use of “behold” (ESV, idou) suggests surprise. Did this man stagger into the dinner party, or was he sent there as a tool to trap Jesus?

(14:3) And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

It seems like a setup, because Jesus “answered.” He asks about the legality of healing before he does anything. Does this sound familiar? (Lk. 6:9)

(14:4) But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away.

The silence of the religious leaders is deafening!

(14:5) And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?”

Rabbinical Judaism allowed for saving some animals on the Sabbath. For instance, people were allowed to rescue their cattle on the Sabbath.[305] Jesus is using their own legal logic against them: If saving a cow was legal, then how much more is saving a human being? After all, have you ever tried to lift a cow out of a pit? I haven’t. But I imagine it’s a lot of work and heavy lifting. How could these religious leaders justify the laborious work of lifting a cow, but not allow the healing of a human being?

(14:6) And they could make no reply to this.

Their silence speaks louder than any of their words. Their problem was that they couldn’t swallow their pride, and admit that they were wrong.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-6. The Pharisees didn’t want this man to be healed of a debilitating disease—simply because it was the Sabbath. If you were standing there listening to the Pharisees, what would you conclude God was like based on their teaching?

Luke 14:7-24 (Humility)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

For more the subject, see our earlier article “Humility.”

(14:7) And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table.

Guests at a first-century Jewish dinner table were usually ordered “based on rank, reputation, or age.”[306] Bock writes, “Later Judaism spoke of a U-shaped table with a three-person couch located on each prong of the table. The host sat at the bottom of the U, in the middle between the two wings of the U; the most honored seat would be to the left and the next honored seat would be to the right.”[307] In this way, it was clear who was the most important person at the party.

(14:8-11) “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It would be mighty embarrassing to seat yourself at the head of the table—only to be removed and placed at the “kid’s table.” Jesus’ point is that we should take a low seat, because we’ll have nothing to lose. If the host decides to move us up, then so much the better. Bock writes, “The main point is that it is better for others to recognize who you are than to suggest to them your ‘proper’ (or improper!) place.”[308] Incidentally, the Pharisees loved taking the exalted seat (Lk. 11:43).

Where does the Host want me at the table? You’re going to end up in the same place no matter what. So why not just agree with the Host from the beginning? Let the Host (God) place you wherever he wants you. If you try to elevate yourself, it will end up worse than before. Similarly, if the Host (God) wants you to sit at the head of the table, you shouldn’t feign “humility.” You sit wherever he wants you. It’s his party; you’re just invited to it. As we relate this to our role, title, or place in God’s kingdom, ask yourself:

  • Am I content with the place God has placed me?
  • What kind of an attitude do I have about myself?
  • Would I be happy (happy!) serving others by mopping the floors in Heaven?
  • Do I want to see those I invest in succeed—as long as they don’t succeed more than me?
  • Am I angered when I’m slighted, insulted, or don’t get recognition?

Commenting on how Jesus told us to seek the lower seat (Lk. 14:7-11), Francis Schaeffer writes, “All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, ‘I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.’ Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one. The word extrude is important here. To be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape. Picture a huge press jamming soft metal at high pressure through a die, so that the metal comes out in a certain shape. This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility and authority… we should seek the lowest place because there it is easier to be quiet before the face of the Lord. I did not say easy; in no place, no matter how small or humble, is it easy to be quiet before God. But it is certainly easier in some places than in others. And the little places, where I can more easily be close to God, should be my preference. I am not saying that it is impossible to be quiet before God in a greater place, but God must be allowed to choose when a Christian is ready to be extruded into such a place, for only He knows when a person will be able to have some quietness before Him in the midst of increased pressure and responsibility. Quietness and peace before God are more important than any influence a position may seem to give, for we must stay in step with God to have the power of the Holy Spirit. If by taking a bigger place our quietness with God is lost, then to that extent our fellowship with Him is broken and we are living in the flesh, and the final result will not be as great, no matter how important the larger place may look in the eyes of other men or in our own eyes. Always there will be a battle, always we will be less than perfect, but if a place is too big and too active for our present spiritual condition, then it is too big.”[309]

What is pride?

Pride is competitive.

Pride is exhausting.

Pride ruins relationships.

Pride is the sin of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6).

Pride blocks God’s gifts (2 Sam. 12:8).

Pride is against the very nature of God. After all, Jesus was humble (Phil. 2:5-11; Mt. 11:28-30). God is always against pride:

(Prov. 13:10) Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

(Prov. 16:5) The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

(Prov. 16:18) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

(Prov. 16:19) Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

(Prov. 11:2) When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

(Prov. 21:4) Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!

(Prov. 29:23) A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.

(Ezek. 28:17) Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.

What is humility?

McCallum shows the differences between biblical humility and postmodern “humility” in this way.

Postmodern “Humility”

Biblical Humility

It would be arrogant for me
to declare what is “truth” or morality for anybody except myself

It would be arrogant for me
to declare what is “truth” or morality for anybody including myself
I decide what is true and right for me

I don’t decide what is true and right. Rather, I submit to what is true and right

I stand over truth and ethics, because I am the ultimate judge

I stand under truth and ethics, because God is the ultimate Judge
Since I agree not to tell anyone when I suspect they are in the wrong, nobody should tell me that I’m in the wrong

I’m so error-prone that I need others to tell me often when I’m in the wrong.

I also realize at times others might need me to tell them they are wrong

How do we gain humility?

We gain humility by agreeing with God’s placement.

We gain humility through suffering and failure.

We gain humility through focusing on others. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

The key to battling pride: Focus on others (vv.12-14)

(14:12-13) And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

The poor can’t give anything in return. Jewish tradition allowed the poor in the community… but only to serve the tables! (Mishnah Abot, 1.3-5). By contrast, the Jewish Law taught to take care of the marginalized (Deut. 14:28-29; 16:11-14; 26:11-13).

(14:14) And you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

God will reward this sort of service, because the people can’t repay. This doesn’t exclude strategic investment in others. This is an issue of the heart that Jesus is describing here. Why should I invest in people? To get acclaim and recognition? So they give something back to me? No. Christian love is for the sake of the other—not ourselves.

God’s incredible party: The humility of accepting God’s “free lunch” (vv.15-24)

(14:15) When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

It’s sounds like this man was trying to smooth over the tension—like at Thanksgiving dinner when the older aunt tries to make a joke out of her drunk husband. He’s trying to appeal to their common Jewish heritage, and in effect he’s saying, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Jesus doesn’t allow the tension to be broken, because this is the third time he’s dined with the Pharisees, and they still don’t get it. Indeed, the divine banquet is closer than this man thinks: These men were thinking about the banquet of the kingdom; meanwhile they were eating dinner with the King!

(14:16-17) But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’”

The following examples refer to responding to the invitation, but then being a “no show.”[310]

Worst excuses… EVER!

Think about asking a girl out for a date, and she says, “Sorry, I’ve gotta wash my hair that night.” Because her excuse is really bad, you would realize how much she doesn’t desire to go out with you. In the same way, Jesus shares a number of excuses that people give for rejecting the great banquet of the King (God). The low quality of the excuses shows just how little they cared about God.

Furthermore, these people created a grievous sin in rejecting the King (God). But they didn’t create a sin because they were obtusely evil. Instead, all of them were simply… too busy.

(14:18) But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’

PARAPHRASE: “I’ve… ugh… gotta watch my grass grow… that night.”

(14:19) Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’

PARAPHRASE: “I’ve gotta go chase my cows around the field for a while.” Morris comments, “No one would buy oxen without first satisfying himself that they would do the job. And if he did, there was no hurry for his testing. The oxen would keep.”[311] In other words, this was a lame excuse, because there was zero urgency to tend to the oxen. The oxen could wait, but the banquet was truly urgent.

(14:20) Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’

PARAPHRASE: “I’m married… so my social life should end.”

(14:21-24) And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’

The servant doesn’t take the rejection personally. He knows their problem is between them and the Host. In the same way, when Christians invite people to come to God, we shouldn’t take rejection personally. The problem is between them and God—not us and them (cf. Mt. 10:40).

God will provide an incredible feast—free of charge. And he will throw this party—whether you’re there or not. You’ve been invited (v.16), but God will respect your freedom to reject his offer. And this rejection cannot be revoked.

Are you humble enough to respond to this invitation? If you’ve accepted this invitation, Jesus has a second invitation for you.

Discussion Questions

How can you identify a person who has had growth in the area of humility?

What are signs of false humility?

Luke 14:25-35 (The cost of discipleship)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(14:25) Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them.

Jesus really got the attention of the crowds at this point. The imagery is that they were following behind him, and he “turned” around to give them this teaching.

(14:26) If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

(Lk. 14:26) Do we have to hate our parents?

(Lk. 14:27-28) Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?

(Lk. 14:27-28) How does this passage square with justification by grace apart from works?

Is investing in Christ worth it? The term “calculate” (psēphizō) means “to add up digits and calculate a total, count (up), calculate, reckon” (BDAG). We need to compare temporal rewards with eternal rewards—the material with the spiritual. If you only view life from the temporal and materialistic viewpoint, then discipleship will seem like a poor investment—a complete waste of time and resources. Yet, if you believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, following him is the only ultimate investment. All other pursuits of our time, talent, and treasure are ultimately worthless!

(14:29) Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him.

“Ridicule” (empaizein) has sense of “making fun of someone.”[312] When we don’t fully commit to Christ, and give up on following him after some time, we look like a fool to people in the world. People around us would rightly ask, “Why did you waste all of that time? You could’ve been working on a graduate degree, working a second job, or catching up on vacationing or television! Instead, you wasted that time serving in Christian community. What a waste!”

At the same time, for the person who follows Christ for their entire lives, they look at all other pursuits as a waste of valuable resources. In other words, dedicated followers of Jesus look like fools to people without Christ, but then again, they look like fools to us—trading the eternal for the temporal.

(14:30) ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

We need to commit to Christ to the end. Otherwise, we only build “half of a house.” Is “half a house” roughly 50% useful? No, it’s completely useless! That’s Jesus’ point: We need to see this through to the end.

(14:31-32) Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

The king would carefully contemplate whether battle was a wise decision. In the view of the king, the decision to go to war had consequences, but the failure to decide also would have consequences. The same is true with following Christ. God is asking you simply and plainly, “Do you think following Me is worth your time and investment or not?”

(14:33) So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

(Lk. 14:33) Do we have to give up everything?

(14:34-35) Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Some Christians look like this calcium deposit: They look like salt, but they taste like chalk. This is like looking at a nominal and committed Christian. Both may look the same outwardly, but they are far different. Regarding the concept of tasteless salt, Bock writes, “The modern idiom would be ‘running out of gas.’ ‘Running out of gas’ as a disciple is always the result of not having Jesus be primary.”[313]

Discussion Questions

Lordship theologians note that this address was given to the crowds—not the disciples (v.25). Hence, this was an evangelistic invitation, and it demonstrates the truth of Lordship Theology. For instance, Stein writes, “The conditions of discipleship that follow were not addressed to believers in order to make them apostles but to the crowds. They are therefore conditions for salvation, not conditions for Christians to become a spiritual elite or to reach a new level in their Christian lives.”[314] What do think of this claim?


We disagree that this passage is equating salvation with radical discipleship. While most commentators understand salvation and discipleship as one and the same, we disagree. We come to Christ by grace through faith and apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9). But God has good works planned for us (Eph. 2:10). The question before us is whether we are going to count the cost and choose to follow Christ.

We wholeheartedly agree that believers in Jesus should be radical disciples! We have the same goal as Lordship theologians, but different means to that goal. The security of our relationship with God should be the engine that motivates a dedicated Christian life—not fear or threats.

Jesus makes no apologies for telling us to follow him—nor should he! He is the only one qualified to lead our lives, and we should gladly hand over the reigns to him. Many Christians spend their time negotiating the cost, rather than simply counting the cost. Jesus isn’t here to barter with us, but to call us to follow him. Have you made the decision to follow Jesus with your entire life? If not, count the cost!

Luke 15

Luke 15:1-32 (Parables on God’s heart for the lost)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(15:1) Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.

Jesus came to seek and save lost people (Lk. 19:10). He specifically came for the sick—not the healthy. Earlier, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk. 5:31-32; cf. 7:34). In this chapter, we watch sinners flocking to Jesus.

(15:2) Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The religious authorities couldn’t stand this (“began to grumble…”). The love of God actually angered them.

(15:3) So He told them this parable.

In each of these parables, God is the one who seeks the lost. In these parables, therefore, Jesus reveals God’s heart for lost people. This is in stark contrast to the religious leaders, who were very far from the heart of God. Not only did religious leaders refuse to seek lost people, but they were also angry to see lost people who were seeking God.

PARABLE #1. The lost sheep

(15:4) What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?

In the OT, God himself is the Shepherd who goes out searching for his sheep (Ezek. 34:11-12). The reason why you’d leave the 99 is because they are safe. It’s the lost sheep that needs the help and attention. In verse 7, the 99 are seen as unrepentant, while the lost sheep is pictured as the repentant one. So, being in the religious majority might feel safe and secure, but in reality, it isn’t.

(15:5-6) When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

The shepherd doesn’t grumble about having to travel into the wilderness and poor weather to retrieve the lost sheep. He is happy to carry it home! In fact, he wants to tell other people about this great experience.

(15:7) I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Jesus’ message is quite different from this ancient Jewish source: “There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the world” (Siphré, ed. Friedmann p. 37 a, line 13 from top). Yikes!

PARABLE #2. The lost coin

(15:8) Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

A “coin” (drachma) was roughly a day’s wage. Morris writes, “An Eastern house would have no windows, or very small ones, so the lighting of a lamp was necessary for a close search even in the daytime.”[315] He continues, “If a man keeps seeking for a lost coin much more should he seek for the Law, said the rabbis (Canticles Rabbah I.i.9). There is no rabbinic equivalent to God’s seeking of sinners.”[316]

(15:9-10) When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Again, God rejoices over finding even a single lost person.

PARABLE #3. The lost son

The three parables follow the same pattern with the exception of the self-righteous son at the end. Just when you’re expecting the credits to roll, you get this commentary from the self-righteous son. Remember, these parables were given in the presence of two distinct groups: (1) the “tax collectors” and “sinners,” and (2) the self-righteous religious authorities (v.2).

(15:11) And He said, “A man had two sons.”

Given the context (v.10), the “two sons” represent the religious and the non-religious.

(15:12) The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.

This culture practiced primogenitor (i.e. the oldest son received the bulk of the inheritance). This is the “younger” son. He deserves less, but he asks for more.

(15:13) And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.

The son “gathered everything together,” leaving nothing behind to connect him to his Father. He cut all his ties. His brother said that this “loose living” even included prostitutes (v.30). By being in the distant country,” Jesus showed that this man was far away from the Father.

(15:14) Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.

The son definitely had some thrills—no one would deny that. But it ran out. He started to see his aching need. This happens when we are far from God. It’s fun at first, but then, a gnawing emptiness sets in.

(15:15) So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Pigs! Pork! Swine! To a Jewish audience, this would be repugnant, because pigs were unclean animals (Lev. 11:7; Deut. 14:8; cf. 1 Macc. 1:47). One rabbi taught, “Cursed be the man who would breed swine” (Baba Kamma 82b).

Not only was this man working with swine, but he was a hired hand—an indentured servant. He rebelled against his Father to gain “liberty” and “freedom,” but all he found was slavery and indignity. Fleeing the Father didn’t give him more freedom, but less.

(15:16) And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

He crashed down so low that he couldn’t even eat the pig’s food! Eating “pig pods” would be absolutely disgusting, but he couldn’t even get this going for him. When we’re far from the Father, we end up doing things we never thought we’d do.

(15:17) But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!’

This time of pain was good for the lost son. He started rethinking his life. He’d rather be a servant of his Father, than be a king in his own crumbling kingdom.

(15:18) I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.”

He realized that he needed to take some initiative. Specifically, he needed to admit his faults.

(15:19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.

Before all of this started, we see the son demanding his inheritance. Here he is dropping all of the conditions. He didn’t even want to be treated as a son, but as a slave.

(15:20) So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Was it just a coincidence that the Father happened to see his son that day on the horizon? Not likely. The Father must’ve been waking up early and looking out at the horizon every day—waiting and hoping for his dearly loved son to return. The heart of the Father still beat for this lost boy.

“Embraced him” is literally “fell on his neck.”[317] It speaks of hugging him with a tight grip around his neck, holding him close and not letting go.

The son had a choice to make. He needed to decide to return to his Father. The Father didn’t send search parties or private investigators to grab his son. The Father respected the son’s choice to leave: The son needed to make his own bed, and then sleep in it. However, the Father held out hope, watching and waiting for his son to return.

(15:21) And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

The son sees that his sin wasn’t just against people, but against God. He started his rehearsed repentant speech, but he couldn’t even finish before the Father forgave him.

(15:22) But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.’

The Father didn’t put the son on probation. He welcomed him back with full and complete royal status. The Father also didn’t ask permission from the older son. He chose to bless his younger son, and he wouldn’t allow the older son to boycott his choice to forgive.

“Put a ring on his hand.” This could refer the signet ring, which was a sign of royalty (cf. Gen. 41:42; Esth. 3:10; 8:2).[318]

“Sandals.” Stein writes, “Sandals were a luxury, and servants did not wear them.”[319]

(15:23) And bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.

The younger son may have thought that returning to his Father would result in boredom, rules, restrictions, and a life of serving. Yet what do we see here? The Father was no “joy-killer.” He wanted to give his son an even greater party than he could’ve imagined.

(15:24) ‘For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Calvinists understand “death” as total inability. But notice that Jesus states that death isn’t equivalent to inability, but to separation (“he was lost and now is found). Also notice that the son needed to take initiative to come back to the Father and repent. This is a parable, so we shouldn’t over-interpret the text, but we also shouldn’t under-interpret it either.

What will the older son think about all of this?

(15:25-27) Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’

We forgot about the “older son.” He was working hard in the field when he heard the party starting inside the house (v.25). He may have even thought that he himself was getting a party for all of his hard work… But no! A servant tells him the news that his bastard-brother is back; and far from being punished, his brother is being celebrated! How will the older brother react to all of this? Will he have the same love of the Father in his heart…?

(15:28) But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

He refused to have the same joy of the Father. In fact, his Father needed to come outside of the party to speak to his brooding, embittered son.

(15:29) But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.’

The term “serving” is the same word used for “slave” (douleuō). This older brother viewed himself as “slaving away” at the work, and he was bitter. Moreover, his focus is on himself. The first person pronouns give him away: I have been serving you… I have never neglected a command… you have never given me…” He can’t get the focus off of himself and his works. Morris writes, “The proud and the self-righteous always feel that they are not treated as well as they deserve.”[320]

(15:30) But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

This self-righteous man can’t bring himself to call his brother by name or by title. Instead, he calls him this son of yours.” This is “derogatory”[321] language that implies that he wants nothing to do with him (cf. Lk. 10:37). He can’t stand the idea that the Father would be this loving… much like the Pharisees who were “grumbling” (v.2).

(15:31-32) And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’

Here is the shocking reality: The Father loved both sons. He speaks kindly to both. The Father didn’t just give the older son a sacrificial goat; he gave him everything (“…all that is mine is yours…”). Morris writes, “In leaving these points unresolved he throws out a challenge to all his hearers, be they like the elder brother or like the younger.”[322]

Why did the older son never receive gifts from the Father? He never asked for it. Andrew Murray writes, “The elder son was living with his father and serving him ‘these many years,’ and he complains that his father never gave him a [fattened calf], while he gave his prodigal brother the fatted calf. Why was this? Simply because he did not ask. He did not believe that he would get it, and therefore never asked, and never enjoyed it. He continued to live in constant murmuring and dissatisfaction; and the key note of all this wretched life is furnished in what he said. His father gave him everything, yet he never enjoyed it; and he throws the whole blame on his loving and kind father. Is not that the life of many a believer? Do not many speak and act in this way? Every believer has the promise of unbroken fellowship with God, but he says, ‘I have not enjoyed it; I have tried hard and done my best, and I have prayed for the blessing, but I suppose God does not see fit to grant it.’ …Thus many are saying, when asked if they are enjoying unbroken fellowship with God:—‘No! I have not been able to attain [this]… I know of some who have it, and I read of it; but God has not given it to me, for some reason.’ But why not? You think, perhaps, that you have not the same capacity for spiritual blessing that others have… Do we desire it, do we? Why not get it? Have we asked for it? We think we are not worthy of the blessing—we are not good enough; and therefore God has not given it. There are more among us than we know of, or are willing to admit, who throw the blame of our darkness, and of our wanderings on God! Take care! …Let us come and ask why it is that the believer lives such a low experience.”[323]

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about God from studying the character and actions of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son?

Which son is further from the Father in the parable of the prodigal son? The younger son or the older? Why do you think that?

Why do you think Jesus ends this story with a cliffhanger? What might’ve been his intent in doing this?

Luke 16

Luke 16:1-18 (The Shrewd Steward: Financial Giving)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(16:1) Now He was also saying to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.”

In the ancient world, wealthy benefactors had stewards who would run their estate—sort of like money managers today. Green writes, “A manager would have enjoyed enviable status, so much so that persons were actually known to sell themselves, as a means of social promotion, to a wealthy man in order to administer his holdings.”[324] But in the parable, the manager was in deep trouble: he was caught squandering the rich man’s possessions. The term “reported” (diaballo) means “to bring charges with hostile intent” (BDAG).

(16:2) And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.

The rich man wants to see the accounting records. The manager might not have been immoral at this point. He was simply incompetent at running the business, and the rich man had already made up his mind to fire him (“you can no longer be manager”).

When you’re fired at a corporation today, they clean out your desk and walk you to your car, so you don’t steal from the company. This rich man wasn’t so careful…

(16:3) The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.’

It would be humiliating for wealthy corporate money manager to take a job flipping burgers. Similarly, this man was familiar with “pushing pencils,” but he wasn’t ready (or willing) to work a blue-collar job. Bock writes, “The expression I am not able is idiomatic of people who do not like their prospects… Digging (skaptō) is the labor of the uneducated… He had a white-collar job and does not feel capable of returning to menial labor.”[325]

What will this man do in his situation? What’s his move?

(16:4) ‘I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.’

He’s about to lose his position, but he might as well make the most of it before he does. What does he have at his disposal? He has a plethora of contacts with his soon-to-be-lost job. So, he utilizes those…

(16:5) And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

The manager knew how much they owed. He had accounting records (v.2). He must have been asking them for psychological impact.

(16:6) And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’

100 measures were equivalent to 875 gallons of olive oil—or 1,000 denarii (plural).[326] A denarius (singular) was equivalent to a day’s wage, so this would be a three years’ severance package.

(16:7) Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’

100 measures of wheat would be equivalent to 100 acres of wheat. Bock writes, “So the debt was between 2,500 denarii and 3,000 denarii—or about 8-10 years’ salary for the average laborer.”[327] The money manager is scratching their back, so that they would return the favor. He’s setting himself up for later in life.

(16:8) And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

Jesus himself is the “master” who “praised” the shrewd steward. Obviously the rich man (v.1) would not be praising this steward for stealing his riches.

Jesus doesn’t admire this man for being a thief—but for being shrewd. The manager knew he was going to be fired. His future with the rich man was over, and he could see that the end was near. So, he acted “quickly” (v.6) in light of this certainty.

Many Christians don’t pass this test. Even though death will claim us all, we need to invest in the right things. Much like the stock market, we need to sell before the value drops or invest before the value sky rockets. Why is it that Christians have less zeal in spiritual treasures than secular people have in their earthly treasures? They must not really trust that Jesus was right about the afterlife. We’re all going there very soon, and our investment on earth will be waiting for us.

(16:9) And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.

The “friends” that we make with our money refers to valuing people more than possessions. When we use our money to reach people with Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness, we will see them in heaven.

“The wealth of unrighteousness” doesn’t refer to money that was gained dishonestly (e.g. stealing, graft, etc.). In verse 11, this is something that we are expected to be “faithful” with, and it’s hard to imagine that God wants us to be “faithful” with stolen money! Instead, the expression (mamōnas ho adikias) is “idiomatic and refers to ‘filthy lucre’ or as the NIV translates it ‘worldly wealth.’”[328]

(Lk. 16:8-9) Why does Jesus praise the unrighteous steward?

(16:10-11) He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Most people treat money as their ultimate value in life. God calls money “a very little thing.” By contrast, the “true riches” refers to people (“make friends,” v.9). Stein notes, “Since it is the use of this worldly wealth, not the possession of it which is condemned, worldly wealth is in itself neutral.”[329]

(16:12) And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

We need to show that we are trustworthy in handling God’s money before he would give us more personal responsibilities.

(16:13) No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Jesus personifies money as though it is a “master” which can be “served.” This seems odd to describe the love of money in this way. Yet, upon closer reflection, we see that our love of money truly brings us under bondage: People sacrifice their marriages, their children, their health, and even their very lives in order to serve money. Money is a cruel master!

Why can’t we serve both? Why can’t we serve two masters? Alcorn comments, “For the same reason a woman cannot have two husbands. When we carry on a love affair with the world, we commit spiritual adultery… God will not be a half husband.”[330]

(16:14) Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.

Materialists don’t have a well-reasoned argument for their worldview or their lifestyle. How could they? Their lives are certainly going to end in a puff of smoke. So, how do they respond to Jesus’ airtight reasoning? All they can do is “scoff” at the biblical, eternal perspective.

(16:15) And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”

The Pharisees looked successful on the outside. In fact, in this religious culture, the people believed that their great wealth was a sign of God’s direct blessing. Yet Jesus has an opposite evaluation of these men: “detestable in the sight of God.”

(16:16) The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

We are in good company with Stein, who admits, “It is difficult to understand how this verse relates to what has preceded.”[331] Perhaps Luke only selected this one-liner from a larger teaching of Jesus. Or, perhaps, he placed this teaching here because of its importance. The same is true for verses 17 and 18, which seem to speak of unrelated subjects.

The “gospel of the kingdom” refers to God’s good news for the world, which has been a theme that has run throughout the entire Bible, culminating in Jesus.

“Everyone is forcing his way into it.” This can be taken as a middle voice or a passive. Matthew 11:12 and Luke 14:23 favor the passive (“everyone is being forced”). However, Stein favors the middle voice (“everyone is forcing his way”), citing the parallel in Luke 13:24.[332]

(16:17) But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.

Stein understands the Law to refer to the moral law in view of verse 18.[333] However, the preceding verse favors a fulfillment view. The fulfillment of the kingdom is certain because the word of God is infallible.

(16:18) Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.

It’s difficult to see why Luke includes Jesus’ teaching on divorce here. Perhaps, in the context of materialism and God’s word, Jesus had his debate with the Pharisees regarding divorce and remarriage (Mk. 10; Mt. 19). We’re not sure. For a biblical evaluation of divorce, see our earlier article “Biblical Ethics of Divorce.”

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-8. Why do you think Jesus used the fictional example of a lying manager to explain our need to be wise with our money?

Read 14. The Pharisees “scoffed” at Jesus’ airtight argument against materialism. What does their reaction tell us about them and their worldview?

Luke 16:19-31 (Lazarus and Hades)

Most commentators hold that this a parable. We agree, but it is a very unique parable. For one, Luke doesn’t introduce this as a parable. Instead, Jesus just starts telling a story. Second, parables don’t usually give names of real people (e.g. Abraham, Lazarus). Yet Robert Morey writes, “The rabbinic literature before, during, and after the time of Christ is filled with parables which built imaginative stories around real historical characters.”[334] He cites a number of rabbinic sources (Midrash: Lev. 407; Eth. Enoch 22; Kohelith Rabba 1.15, d. Rom. 6a; Ruth Rabba 111.3, 6c).

(16:19) Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.

The rich man doesn’t get a name, but the poor man does (Lazarus). This immediately shows the reader who is the protagonist in God’s eyes. Since the rich man identifies himself by his wealth, this is how he is named.

The “fine linen” (byssos) refers to his undergarments. Moreover, Bock writes, “Purple clothes came from dye derived from snails and were extremely expensive.”[335] The color “purple” was a royal color (cf. Mk. 15:17, 20; Rev. 18:12; Prov. 31:22). Thus even this guy’s underwear were expensive!

(16:20) And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores.

Lazarus is probably physically handicapped. He can’t even lift himself to ward off the dogs licking his sores, and he was “laid” at the gate to beg.

(16:21) [He was] longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

It isn’t that Lazarus was fed, but that he longed to be fed. He didn’t even imagine a great feast, but only the “crumbs” would’ve sufficed. But he didn’t even get these.

These “dogs” (kyon) weren’t cute little puppies or house pets. The term (kyon) refers to wild dogs. Because of this, dogs were associated with being unclean (Rev. 22:15; 2 Pet. 2:22; Mt. 7:6). These were mangy street dogs that saw that this man was about to die.

(16:22) Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

Both men “died.” This is the final destination of all people—rich or poor. In a naturalistic worldview, this is the end. The rich live in pleasure, and the poor suffer. But in the Christian worldview, this isn’t the end of the story.

“Abraham’s bosom.” Before Christ’s death atoned for sin, even faithful believers couldn’t come into God’s presence. So, they went to wait for Jesus to die alongside of Abraham—the father of faith (see 4 Macc. 13:17 for extrabiblical support for this concept).

“Carried away by the angels… died and was buried.” We already see a difference between the deaths of these two men: Angels met Lazarus in his death, and escorted him to heaven, while people merely dumped the rich man in a tomb.

(16:23) In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

Elsewhere Jesus spoke of the Pharisees weeping and gnashing their teeth at seeing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven with forgiven people (Lk. 13:28).

(16:24) And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’

He was still depending on the wrong things. By calling out Father Abraham,” the rich man may have been trying to rely on his heritage to get out of judgment. If he was, this was a grave mistake (Lk. 3:8).

Nothing changed in the rich man’s heart. The rich man still treats Lazarus like his water boy. Regarding his plea for mercy, Morris writes, “It is interesting that he who showed no mercy asks for mercy.”[336]

The rich man uses Lazarus’ name. This shows that the rich man knew who Lazarus was the entire time—but he didn’t help him. He wasn’t ignorant to Lazarus’ pain; he was simply insensitive to it.

(16:25) But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.’

The rich man received everything that he could get on Earth. For the rich man, Earth was the closest he ever made it to Heaven. For Lazarus, Earth was the closest he ever came to Hell. For people living apart from Christ, this is the best they will ever get.

(16:26) And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.

Judgment is fixed, and there are no second chances. No one can cross the “great chasm” between the place of judgment and the place of reward: “None may cross over from there to us.”

(16:27) And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house.’

The rich man changes his aim, but not his attitude. He still wants to be in control—even in Hades! He is still telling Abraham what to do, still bossing Lazarus around, and still treating Lazarus like his messenger boy! There is even a subtext that God’s revelation wasn’t good enough for him.

(16:28) ‘Send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Is there any significance to the fact that he has five brothers? We don’t see any importance or symbolism here.

(16:29) But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

Scripture is capable of generating the conviction to have a change of heart (Lk. 11:28). Miracles don’t typically produce a change of heart like this. Indeed, quite often, miracles scare people.

(16:30-31) But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’

He’s still arguing with Abraham. Nothing has changed in his heart—even in Hell.

Jesus eventually raises a man named Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11), but the Pharisees still didn’t believe in him (Jn. 11:47; 12:10-11). This could be an example of an “undesigned coincidence” between Luke and John. Of course, the Lazarus of John 11 had a family who cared for him (i.e. he wasn’t dirt poor), so the association isn’t necessarily literal.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 19-31. What do we learn about the rich man’s moral and spiritual problems from this section?

Some commentators believe that we cannot learn anything about the afterlife from this parable. Do you agree? Where do we draw the line in overinterpreting this parable? What might be some examples of crossing the line?

Luke 17

Luke 17:1-19 (Living a Life of faith)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

In this series of five vignettes, Jesus shows us what it looks like to live a life of faith.

1. False teaching

(17:1-2) He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

What is a stumbling block, and why does it warrant capital punishment? The NASB renders this term “stumbling” (skandalon) accurately. It is far better than the NIV translation which renders the term “sin.” After all, why would capital punishment be the result for causing someone to sin? Instead, in context, this “stumbling” refers to preventing someone from coming to faith in Christ. People will fall away from the faith, but we would never want to be a contributor! As followers of Jesus, we are held to a stricter judgment when we teach (Jas. 3:1), and false teachers are held to harsh punishment. Paul tells us that if we tear the church apart, God will tear us apart (1 Cor. 3:17).

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea…” Murder is incredibly evil, but what if there was such a thing as spiritual murder? What if we could not only kill someone’s physical body, but we could kill their soul for eternity? This would be a grave sin! No wonder Jesus takes such a strong stance, telling these people they will “sleep with the fishes” and sounding every bit as fierce as Don Corleone or Tony Soprano! Of course, Jesus is no crime lord punishing good people; rather, he is a just Judge who will bring justice on evil people.

When Christ refers to “little ones,” this could refer to children. But as Bock notes, “The reference to ‘little ones’ (mikrōn) may allude to new disciples who need instruction.”[337] This is the consistent interpretation throughout the Gospel of Matthew—namely, the “little ones” refer to Jesus’ disciples (cf. Mt. 18:6; Mk. 9:42).

2. Forgiveness

(17:3-4) Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.

This passage disagrees with the view of our culture on many levels.

Rebuke him

The postmodern view is that other people’s problems are “none of our business.” Yet, this view is really based on self-protection. Really, what we mean when we say this is that we don’t want to sacrifice our comfort or get our hands dirty.

The biblical view of love is based on the concept of a family (“if your brother…”). The people in Christian community are not strangers, but brothers and sisters. While you might not speak into the life of a stranger, you would (hopefully!) speak into the life of your own brother.

When we fail to rebuke, we cover up a bullet hole with a Band-Aid. Instead of open confrontation, we gossip, nurse a grudge, or even hate others in our hearts. It’s better for everyone involved to simply speak a word of truth and love (Eph. 4:15).

Forgive him

The postmodern view doesn’t have a basis for forgiveness either. Since they reject objective moral truth, they don’t have an intellectual basis for sin. But if there is no such thing as sin, then it would follow that there is nothing to forgive. The results in our culture have been as damaging as they have been widespread: Postmodern people give up on meaningful relationships, don’t respond to phone calls or texts, and overall keep their distance when they’ve been hurt. They might nurse bitterness for years, and suffer all the pain, alienation, and depression that comes with it.

The biblical view has a basis for forgiveness. Because Christians are the most forgiven people on Earth, we should be the most forgiving people on Earth.

The result of confrontation and forgiveness is quite interesting: Friendships grow closer, even as they grow stronger. We realize that others see our flaws, but at the very same time, we also realize a greater sense of acceptance and love. In other words, we realize the twin truths that we are more sinful than we thought, but more loved and accepted than we imagined! These relationships in Christian community are a glimmer of the love and acceptance that we have with God.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 3-4. Your friend tells you that he forgave his boss for embarrassing him in public. However, on Monday morning, your friend felt hostile feelings of anger toward his boss again. He wonders if his forgiveness was inauthentic. After all, he clearly continues to have ongoing bitterness. He asks you for help. What would you tell him?

3. Faith

(17:5-6) The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”

As skeptical or cynical people, we often wish that we had a stronger faith. How do we grow our faith? Jesus addresses this question here.

What are mulberry trees? Bock writes, “This tree (sykaminos)… is probably the black mulberry, with a vast root system that enabled it to live up to six hundred years.”[338] Jesus picked this tree as an example of something naturally immovable—only moveable by the power of God.

Why aren’t mulberry trees flying around all the time? Jesus isn’t saying that the purpose of prayer is to move mulberry trees, but rather, the power of prayer is able to move mulberry trees. God only answers prayers according to his will (1 Jn. 5:14-15), and God sometimes performs massive miracles like this. But this is his prerogative. A true follower of Christ would never want God to answer a prayer outside of His will. For instance, Elijah prayed for a supernatural drought (Jas. 5:17), but this was according to “God’s command” (1 Kings 18:36).

What is the significance of the mustard seed of faith? The sincerity of our faith is less important than the veracity of our faith. Likewise, the object of our faith is more important than the amount of our faith. Morris writes, “It is not so much great faith that is required as faith in a great God.”[339]

(Jas. 1:6) Is it a sin to doubt?

Discussion Questions

Read verses 5-6. If a friend asked you how they could grow their faith, what would you say? What are essential ways that we can grow our faith? What are often overlooked ways that we can grow our faith?

4. Faithful servants

(17:7-10) Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? 9 He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’

Some people feel like God owes us if we do the right thing. This is an entitlement mentality. We never ever want to approach God based on what we deserve. Indeed, what we deserve is a one-way ticket to hell!

To a person with an ungrateful attitude, it wouldn’t matter how many blessings God gave—it would never satisfy. McCallum compares this to paying off a friend’s debt of 100,000 dollars—free of charge. After you agree to this, the friend says, “Can you pay for some new furniture too?” When you object, he says, “What’s your problem, man?! You have the money… What is an extra thousand dollars between friends?” Similarly, since God has paid our debt of not going to hell, we shouldn’t have any sort of entitlement attitude in view of his generous gift.

Luke 12:37 has the picture switched: While God doesn’t need to wait on us, he will freely choose to do so, because he has the ultimate heart of a servant (Lk. 22:27). It would be the absolute height of arrogance for measly mortal people to suggest God serving us like this, unless of course, we were reading it in God’s own inspired word.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 7-10. If we are expected to follow God’s commands, then how does this fit with the idea of getting spiritual rewards in heaven? (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15)

5. Forgetting

(17:11-13) While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Hansen’s disease (leprosy) invades the nervous system through a microbacterium, causing numbness in various parts of the body. Those with this disease are prone to injury, sores, and blisters, and it is communicable to others. We only diagnose 200 cases a year in the US, and 150 of these are from people entering the US. Outside of developed countries, the impoverished still contract Hansen’s disease because of poor sanitary conditions. Then they are ostracized from the rest of their community—both because it is communicable and also because it’s so ugly and disfiguring.

Why did these lepers call to Jesus from a distance? The OT Law prescribed a form of quarantine for such communicable diseases (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-3). So, those with leprosy needed to stay “at a distance” from healthy people.

(17:14) When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.

The OT law prescribed lepers to show themselves to the priests to be sure they were healed (Lev. 13:19; 14:1ff). Morris writes, “Jesus was putting their faith to the test by asking these men to act as though they had been cured.”[340]

“As they were going, they were cleansed.” What a remarkable event in the lives of these men. Their entire world was changed in this one moment. You’d expect all of them to come back and thank Christ for this miracle… right?

(17:15-18) Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

The man was formerly distant from Jesus (v.12), but now he is close—at his feet. The alienation was all gone.

The man was a Samaritan. This would really catch the attention of the original readers, because the Jews and Samaritans hated one another (see “History of the Samaritans”).

Ten healings but only one thank you! How could the other nine not be utterly overcome by seeing this miracle? Occasionally, we feel thankful for one or two blessings, but days can go by without gratitude. Morris observes, “If people do not give thanks quickly, they usually do not do so at all.”[341]

(17:19) And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

It took faith to walk toward the priest, while still in a state of leprosy. Jesus commends his faith, as well as his gratitude.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 11-19. What does this passage teach us about gratitude?

What is the significance in the fact that only the Samaritan gave thanks? (v.16)

Luke 17:20-37 (The Second Coming)

[This material is unique to Luke. The introduction (“Now having been questioned…”) implies that this is not chronological. Rather, this is teaching material that Luke chose to include at this point in his biography.]

(17:20) Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”

The Pharisees may have been questioning Jesus about the “kingdom of God” to see if they could get him to openly announce himself as the Messiah.

(17:21) Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Does this imply that the kingdom is in our hearts? The NIV renders Jesus’ words as, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Some interpreters believed that Jesus was teaching that the kingdom is not an external entity, but an attitude of the heart, where Jesus reigns in our lives. While we are all for Jesus reigning in our hearts (!), this is not his meaning here. First, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, and surely, Jesus was not reigning in their hearts! Second, Jesus always tells us to enter the kingdom. Thus Marshall aptly writes, “Jesus speaks of men entering the kingdom, not the kingdom entering men.”[342]

This doesn’t refer to Jesus’ future Millennial Reign. No, this refers to the Church Age. The term “kingdom” comes from the words “king” and “domain.” Since the “King” is present, then it would follow that the “kingdom” is also present. The Pharisees expected the great messianic age, where the Messiah would rule from a throne in Israel. But they were unprepared for the intermediate Church Age. Jesus wanted the Pharisees to get on board with his kingdom in and through the Church.

(17:22) And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.”

What will they not see? This could refer to Jesus (the King) being gone. It could also mean that they will not see the kingdom because “they are looking for the wrong thing.”[343] The subsequent context refers to people looking for a false messiah (vv.23), and Jesus commands against this.

(17:23-24) They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. 24 For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.

Jesus’ return will not be secret or silent. No one will need to wonder whether or not the King has returned.

(17:25) But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Before the Second Coming, we need the Cross and the First Coming. Otherwise, no one would be under the forgiveness of Christ when he comes to rule and reign. Everyone would be judged. Put simply, if Jesus came to save the righteous and judge the sinners in his First Coming, then he would’ve judged everyone. Instead, he is giving us time to receive his forgiveness before he comes to judge (2 Pet. 3:9).

(17:26-27) And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Jesus compares his Second Coming to the destruction of humanity in the Flood. Jesus claims that “all” were judged in Noah’s flood—not just some people. This means that Noah’s flood was at least large enough to wipe out all of humanity.

Some interpreters understand this passage to refer to the moral depravity of the people in Noah’s day. We’re sympathetic to this view because people will be incredibly immoral at the end of history (2 Tim. 3:1-9). However, this seems like a case of “right message, wrong passage.” Jesus’ point seems to be that the people were going on with life as usual, and they weren’t aware of the impending judgment.[344]

(17:28-29) It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.

The same picture occurs in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). While it is true that the people of Sodom were evil, Jesus doesn’t focus on this. He merely refers to them eating, drinking, buying, selling, and planting. These aren’t (necessarily) evil acts. Instead, the people were oblivious to God’s judgment because they were too busy with the worldly affairs of life. They were carrying on with life, not realizing that judgment was coming.

(17:30) It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

In the same way, at the end of human history, people will be going along with their lives—not realizing that judgment is hanging over their heads in and through the return of Jesus.

(17:31) On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.

This could refer to the Tribulation. When people see the destruction happening, it’s time to run!

(17:32) Remember Lot’s wife.

These short words speak volumes! Lot’s wife escaped from Sodom, but she still longed for the immorality that took place there. In a sense, Lot could take his wife out of Sodom, but he couldn’t take the Sodom out of her. Similarly, believers shouldn’t long for this world when escaping the Tribulation, but rather, they should have a single-minded focus to flee to Jesus.

(17:33) Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

Those who have a lifestyle of egoism and selfishness won’t be able to resist staying in the middle of destruction. However, those who have given their lives away to others will follow Jesus’ leadership. If they survive, they will make it into the Millennium, likely limping as they crawl out of the death and destruction of the Tribulation.

(17:34-35) I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left.

Some believers in the pre-tribuluation rescue of the Church take this to refer to the rapture. However, we respectfully disagree. In context, who is “taken”? The people taken in the Flood were the unbelievers, and the people “taken” in Sodom refers to unbelievers. In other words, we don’t want to be taken! This refers to judgment—not the rapture.

(17:37) And answering they said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”

Where are they “taken”? They are taken into judgment where vultures will feed on their dead corpses. This imagery comes up in Revelation as well (Rev. 19:17-18).

We disagree with the oft-repeated statement that “just as vultures know where carcasses are, so the world unmistakably will know when and where the Son of Man returns.”[345] The disciples ask where these people will be taken—not how they will be judged. Moreover, surely Jesus could have used a less opaque and less macabre illustration if he was referring to Jesus’ omniscience.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 20-37. Why do you think Luke inserted this material about Jesus’ Second Coming here—especially when he will address his Second Coming more fully in chapter 21?

What common theological misconceptions about Jesus’ Second Coming does this section address?

Luke 18

Luke 18:1-8 (Parable of the unjust judge)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(18:1) Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.

Should we really pray at “all times”? Elsewhere, Paul writes, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18; cf. 1 Thess. 5:17). Yet Bock writes, “The call is to continued prayer, not in the sense of praying at all times, but in praying again and again.”[346] Likewise, Stein calls this “continual” prayer—not “continuous” prayer.[347] Indeed, it would be odd if Jesus taught us that there were times when we should not pray! Later in the context, Jesus says that believers pray “day and night” (v.7), not necessarily at all moments. Finally, we should note that praying at every moment is literally impossible, and any impossible or nonsensical reading should be rejected.

(18:2) He was saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.”

The unrighteous judge was the sort of man that couldn’t be budged by either God’s law or even secular public pressure.

(18:3) There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’

The widow doesn’t have money to bribe the judge. All she has is the truth and persistence.

(18:4-7) For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?”

This is a case of an a fortiori argument (see comments on Luke 11:8 above). That is, if even an unrighteous judge would listen to the petition, then how much more will a righteous judge like God listen to us?

(18:8) I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

Jesus is referring to the people on Earth at his Second Coming. Morris writes, “He is not suggesting that there will be no believers. He is saying that the characteristic of the world’s people at that time will not be faith. People of the world never recognize the ways of God and they will not see his vindication of his elect.”[348]

Discussion Question

What is the difference between persistence in prayer and the “meaningless repetition” that Jesus spoke against (Mt. 6:7)?

Persistence in Prayer

Meaningless Repetition

Looks for God’s will

Looks for my will

Asks God for guidance

Demands results
Expects an answer

Demands an answer


Mechanical and impersonal
Based on God’s goodness

Based on self-righteousness

Luke 18:9-14 (The Pharisee and the Tax Collector)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

This parable isn’t just for a dead fraternity of religious Pharisees. If we’re thoughtful readers, we’ll realize it’s about you and me today.

(18:9) And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.

Jesus turns again to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. They “trusted” (peitho) in their own righteousness, rather than God’s righteousness. We are supposed to trust God—not ourselves. These men were convinced or persuaded of their own righteousness.

(18:10) Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

Josephus records that the Pharisees comprised about 6,000 men (Antiquities of the Jews, 16:42), and they were “known for surpassing the others in the observances of piety and exact interpretation of the laws” (Jewish War, 1.5.2). For more on the history of the Pharisees, see our earlier article, “Judaism in Jesus’ Day.”

The Pharisee’s attitude

(18:11-12) The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

This passage fits with our extrabiblical knowledge of legalism in Pharisaic circles:

[Regarding who will get into heaven:] If there be a thousand, I and my son are among them; if a hundred, I and my son are among them; and if only two, they are I and my son. (Babylonian Talmud Sukkah, 45b).

I give thanks to thee, Lord my God, God of my fathers, that you cast my lot with those who sit in the study hall and the synagogues, and you did not cast my lot with those who sit in the theaters and circuses. For I toil and they toil. I arise early and they arise early. I toil so that I shall inherit [a share of] paradise [in the world to come] and they toil [and shall end up] in a pit of destruction. (Palestinian Talmud Berakhot 7d, 4.2)

Rebbi Yehudah says, “A person is obligated to say [the following] three Berachot (blessings) every day: Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a gentile. Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a woman. Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a boor” (Tosefta Berakhot, 6:23).

We discover a number of the emphases in the Pharisee’s prayer:

First, the Pharisee focuses entirely on himself—not God. He only mentions God at the beginning of his prayer, but refers to himself five times (“I… I… I… I… I…”). This must be a world record! Indeed, the prayer isn’t really directed at God, but rather, he was “praying to himself.” Morris writes, “The Pharisee came short of congratulating God on the excellence of his servant, but only just. ‘He glances at God, but contemplates himself’ (Plummer). After his opening word he does not refer to God again, but he himself is never out of the picture.”[349]

Second, he doesn’t ask God for anything. Stein writes, “There was no petition in the Pharisee’s prayer. He really did not need God.”[350] This implies that the Pharisee thinks that he already has everything that he needs.

Third, he compares himself with others. Specifically, he compares himself with a notorious sinner, rather than comparing himself with God—the real standard.

Fourth, he narrowly defines sin. He doesn’t consider omissive sin, subtle sins, or attitudes of the heart. He only mentions gross external sins.

Fifth, he neglects loving others. He forgets the greatest commandment, and he sees no issue at having open contempt for others (v.10). He attacks the tax collector who is standing right there in his presence. Imagine praying about someone’s personal problems and sins in a Bible study while they were sitting right next to you. This toxic and twisted form of spirituality is degrading and dehumanizing.

Sixth, he creates arbitrary and invented religious laws. The OT Law only commanded fasting once a year—not twice a week![351] But this man fasted 100 times more than necessary. Plus, what really is the moral importance of fasting? He makes a molehill into a mountain.

Apologetic point: All man-made religions have legalism at their core. Even the early Christians fell into legalism quickly. In one very early text we read, “Let your fasts not [take place] with [those of] the wicked. They fast on Monday and Thursday;[352] you, though, should fast on Wednesday and Friday” (Didache, 8:1). How arbitrary! Biblical Christianity stands out in its radical teaching regarding grace.

Meanwhile, the tax collector…

(18:13) But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

The tax collector was a sinner—no doubt about it (see the article in the Jewish Encyclopedia titled “tax-gatherers” as well as our article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day”).

The (evil) Roman Empire occupied Israel.

Rome encouraged “tax farming,” whereby the highest bidder could collect taxes in each region (Josephus, Antiquities, 12.4; 14.163). The tax collector (publican) would collect a fixed sum, and any additional money went to him.

People were killed for not paying their taxes (Josephus, Antiquities, 12.4).

Rabbis refused accepting the financial giving of the tax collectors in the Temple, because it was considered dirty money or blood money (Jewish Encyclopedia: B. K. x. 1; “Yad,” Gezelah, § 5; Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 370, 389).

Tax collectors couldn’t be judges or witnesses in court (Sanhedrin, 25b). Even his family couldn’t perform this function (Sheb. 39a).

Rabbis held that it was okay to make a false vow to tax collectors (Nedarim, 3:4).

Rabbis held that tax collectors were on par with murderers and highway robbers (Nedarim, 3:4; Bava Qamma, 10:2).

Many people can admit that they are a sinner, but repentance needs to go a step further. We need to ask for mercy. Morris writes, “He, too, puts himself in a class of his own, but how differently from the Pharisee!”[353]

On one side of the prayer is “God,” and on the other side is “the sinner.” In the middle of the prayer is “be merciful to me” (hilaskomai). This is the Greek term used for the “mercy seat” (Heb. 9:5) or Jesus’ “propitiation” (1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10; Rom. 3:25).

(18:14) I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

The term “justified” (dikaioo) means to be legally acquitted or declared righteous. This is a wordplay on verse 9. We can either seek “righteousness” (dikaioi) from within ourselves, or we can be “justified” (dikaioo) by God.

Discussion Questions

Consider the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. In what ways did they approach God differently?

Luke 18:15-30 (The rich young ruler)

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 19:13-30 and Mark 10:13-21.]

(18:15-16) And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

The ancient world did not esteem children. Society looked down upon children as inferior. Keener writes, “Children were powerless, without status and utterly dependent on parents. On the one hand, parents loved their children… On the other hand, perhaps due to the high infant mortality rate among rural peasants, ancient Mediterranean parents sometimes may have been slower than are their modern Western counterparts to attach themselves too deeply to their younger children.”[354] France writes, “A child was a person of no importance in Jewish society, subject to the authority of his elders, not taken seriously except as a responsibility, one to be looked after, not one to be looked up to.”[355] Joel Green writes, “Children were the weakest, most vulnerable among the population. They had little implicit value as human beings, a reality that is related to the likelihood that they would not survive into adulthood. Even if women procured their place in the household by bearing children, especially sons, children themselves were of the lowest status.”[356] In the extrabiblical Jewish literature, we read, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man” (m. ‘Abot 3:10).

In stark contrast to the cultural norms, Jesus was “indignant” with the disciples for barricading children (Mk. 10:14). Jesus wasn’t angry that the kids were there, but that his disciples were rebuking them.

What is it about little children that Jesus was trying to extol?

It is NOT the gullibility or ignorance of children. Paul writes, “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). Elsewhere he writes, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).

(Mt. 18:3) Are believers supposed to be gullible like children?

It is NOT the selfishness of children. Kids are born with a sin nature like everyone else, and often children show this more flagrantly than adults.

It IS the humility and dependence of children that Jesus is extolling. Jesus specifically says that we need to “humble” ourselves like little children (v.3). We need to become like children in our ability to (1) receive gifts, (2) admit our inadequacy, and (3) ask for help. Kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift” or “I won’t let you pay the bill.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. Likewise, they don’t stand aloof when they have problems, but rather, they cling to their parents for help, showing total dependence. Jesus is looking for this sort of humble attitude in his disciples, which we contend is the chief virtue of the Christian life (see “Humility”).

Bock adds that this event shows us that Jesus had time for kids. He comments, “That Jesus receives children and takes time to bless them in the midst of a pressure-packed ministry is touching and reveals much about his concern for individual people.”[357]

(18:17) Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.

We believe that Luke purposefully placed this material about children directly before the next account of the rich young ruler—a man who had it all but still lacked everything: the rich young ruler. The humility of these children is the utter antithesis of the pride of the rich young ruler…

Rich young ruler

(18:18) A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

This isn’t like saying, “Good morning!” And the person says, “What’s good about it?” No, it’s more like The Princess Bride (“You keep using that word ‘good,’ but I don’t think it means what you think it means”).

We’ve seen this question earlier in Luke (cf. Lk. 10:25ff). Here we see it again. The man was rich (Mk. 10:22), he was “young” (Mt. 19:20), and he was a “ruler” (Lk. 18:18). Hence, commentators refer to him as the “rich young ruler.” In this religious culture, wealth “was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing.”[358] So, he must have thought he was on the right track when he asked how to get to heaven. At the same time, perhaps he had a gnawing sense that something wasn’t right. Like so many wealthy people today, he may have sensed that something was missing. This is what brought him to Jesus.

The man is sincerely seeking Jesus, and he’s asking the most important question ever! But his focus is on himself and his good deeds (“What good thing shall I do…?”). In Marks’ account, Jesus had just said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (v.15). This man isn’t coming to Jesus like a child, but like competent ruler. Jesus’ response is interesting…

(18:19) And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

(18:19) Was Jesus not God?

(18:20-21) You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

Jesus meets this man on his own terms: he gives the requirements of the Law. This man had lowered the righteous requirements of the Law, and Jesus carefully asks incisively questions to expose this. As Rabbi Eliezer asked, “Akiba, have I neglected anything of the whole Torah?” (Sanhedrin 101a) This shows the way in which the rabbis had lowered the standard of the Law.

Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments (specifically commandments 5-9). Jesus’ objective is to show the crushing weight of the Law, so that the man will become open to grace. Jesus stopped before citing the 10th Commandment: “You shall not covet.” But in his next statement, he reveals and exposes just how far this man had fallen short of this commandment…

(18:22) When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Do we have to sell everything? For one, this isn’t a universal moral imperative: it’s directed at this particular man. Secondly, this is a case of “Plan A” versus “Plan B” theology for salvation. By showing that “Plan A” is impossible (i.e. the Law), the logical disjunct drives us to “Plan B” (i.e. grace). Thirdly, Jesus makes this call for the man’s own benefit. In Mark’s account, he notes that Jesus told him this because “Jesus felt a love for him” (Mk. 10:22). Fourth, this isn’t a uniform or consistent command. Jesus tailored this command for this individual man. The Talmud allowed financial giving up to 20% of one’s income, but no higher (b. Ketub. 50a).[359] By contrast, Zaccheus gave away half of his money (Lk. 19:1-10), and the old widow only gave a few pennies (Lk. 21:1-4). By telling him to sell everything, Jesus had a custom-fit imperative to break this man’s pride.

Before Jesus called on the rich young ruler to sell his possessions, Mark records that “Jesus felt a love for him…” (Mk. 10:21). When we call people out of materialism, it should be with love in our hearts—not because of self-righteousness or moral disgust. The purpose of giving up materialism is for the man’s own good: doing good for others (“distribute it to the poor”), gaining eternal rewards (“have treasure in heaven”), and having a closer relationship with Jesus (“come, follow Me”). (see comments on Luke 14:33)

The man thought that he was righteous enough to stand under the weight of the Law. Instead of debating this, Jesus adds to the Law. He presses on the point where the man was weakest: materialism. This man had everything, but he needed to come to Jesus with nothing! He needed to come “like a little child” (Mk. 10:15).

(18:23-24) But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

This man thought that he was following God perfectly. The problem is that he was following the “god of money” perfectly—and no one can have two masters (Mt. 6:24). He couldn’t give up his god of money when he was asked. Jesus’ statement struck a nerve, and the man went away “very sad,” realizing that he didn’t measure up. Matthew uses the word “grief” to describe this man’s disposition (Mt. 19:22). We usually reserve such a word for the death of a loved one. This man felt grief for his possessions and finances! This was clearly the most important thing in his life—far more important than people.

(18:25) “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Is there a “needle’s eye gate” that leads into Jerusalem? Pastors often claim that Jesus was referring to the “needle’s eye,” which was a little gate that camels had to stoop to get through. In this way, it is alleged, Jesus was saying that rich people need to humble themselves by prostrating themselves before Christ’s authority. William Barclay writes, “It is said that beside the great gate into Jerusalem through which traffic went, there was a little gate just wide and high enough for a man to get through. It is said that that little gate was called the needle’s eye, and that the picture is of a camel trying to struggle through it.”[360] The problem with this interpretation… is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists or ever existed. Another scholar writes, “The so-called needle’s eye gate in ancient Palestine has no historical basis, and is purely the concoction of a European expositor several centuries ago.”[361]

(18:26-27) They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

In this culture, wealth was seen as a sign of God’s favor. So, if the rich couldn’t get into Heaven, who could? Morris writes, “All this represents a reversal of accepted ideas. It was commonly held that riches were a sign of God’s blessing, so that the rich had the best opportunity of getting the good things of the next world as of this.”[362] Turner writes, “The disciples’ incredulous question may be based on the notion that riches are always proof of God’s approval… If such a notion were correct, the rich would be most likely of all people to enter the kingdom.”[363] This is the backdrop for their astonishment.

God can do all things that are logically possible. This is obviously assumed by Jesus—even if it is not so obvious to skeptics today. Jesus’ point is that God has a plan to rescue people through the Cross, and this is now possible. At the same time, the principle of what Jesus is saying still holds true—namely, wealth is a powerful inhibitor that keeps people from coming to Christ (cf. Mt. 13:22). Mark records, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mk. 10:23)

(18:28-30) Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” 29 And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”

God does bless our lives and meets our needs when we put him first (Phil. 4:19). Furthermore, it’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter for seeking eternal rewards. Apparently, Jesus sees no problem with believers desiring these rewards. Indeed, if we do not seek eternal rewards, our hearts will seek earthly ones.

Never worry about outgiving God. In Mark’s account, the conjunction is not “and” this “and” that. Rather, Jesus says that we might give up this “or” that. What does this imply? Surely, it means that we may give over one thing or another to God, but he is going to give far, far more in return.

Peter had given up a lot to follow Jesus. Yet, Jesus tells him that he will “receive many times as much” in this life and in the next. A man interviewed Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and asked him about how he had taken a 90% pay cut to become a pastor, rather than continuing in his high-paying medical career. The reporter asked if his sacrifices were worth it. Lloyd-Jones responded, “I sacrificed nothing.” He felt like he hadn’t sacrificed anything, because God had given him so much in return.

Does this passage support “health and wealth” preachers? Quite the opposite. Wealth is the only reward the non-believer has, but God promises to give rewards to those who sacrificed for the cause of Christ. Mark’s account adds “along with persecutions” (Mk. 10:30). Health and wealth preachers never like to add this part to this promise!

Luke 18:31-34 (Jesus predicts his death and resurrection)

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 20:17-28 and Mark 10:32-45]

(18:31-34) Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, 33 and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” 34 But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

They were oblivious to God’s plan. How could they not understand the plain prediction of Jesus? (see our earlier article, “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).

Luke 18:35-43 (Jesus heals a blind man)

[The parallel passages are in Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-52]

(18:35) As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging.

Was Jesus leaving or approaching Jericho? (Mt. 20:29; Mk. 10:46; Lk. 18:35) Matthew and Mark state that Jesus was “leaving Jericho” when he healed these two blind men (Mt. 20:29; cf. Mk. 10:46), while Luke states that he was “approaching Jericho” during this time (Lk. 18:35). How on Earth can this be harmonized?

As it turns out, there were two towns called Jericho—an old town and a new one. The OT describes the old Jericho (which Matthew and Mark depict), while Josephus records the new Herodian town,[364] and which Luke describes. Matthew and Mark likely referred to the ancient Jewish Jericho, because they were Jewish men. Luke, however, likely referred to the town built by Herod the Great, because he was a Gentile.[365] If a Bible harmonizer asserted two Jericho’s to explain this difficult, they wouldn’t be taken seriously. Yet, this is exactly what we see in this particular text.

Why does Matthew mention two blind men, but Luke mentions only one? Critics see this as a contradiction. However, Mark doesn’t say that there was only one man. Instead, he simply chooses to focus on Bartimaeus, rather than both men. This is a common literary device that older commentators called telescoping. This is where a historian or author chooses to focus on one character, not mentioning others. Such a device is not an error. After all, imagine if I said, “I saw a rock concert in August.” What if a skeptical listener asked, “Did you honestly go to the concert by yourself? Were you the only person in the arena? How can I trust anything you have to say??!!” Of course, by claiming that I went to a concert, I am not saying that I was the only person at the concert. Indeed, I could’ve mentioned my spouse, my friends, and the 20,000 other people in the arena! Similarly, historical accounts are free to focus on one figure, rather than exhaustively explaining every detail. Such an omission is the prerogative of the narrator. As one older commentator put it, “Silence is not contradiction.”

(18:36-37) Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. 37 They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

He could hear the ruckus of the crowd, but he didn’t know what it was. They told him it was Jesus of Nazareth.

(18:38) And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Ironically, the blind man can see better than the crowd. He calls him “Son of David” (Messiah), while the others call him “Jesus of Nazareth.” This has been called “the irony of blindness.”[366]

(18:39) Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Just like the widow and the unjust judge (Lk. 18:1-8), seeking Christ is rewarded. Who cares what others think? If they want to reject Christ or refuse to seek him, that’s their choice. This man made up his own mind and acted on his own convictions.

(18:40-43) And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, 41 “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

While the blind man was rejected by the crowd, Jesus accepted him. Christ called him over and immediately healed him. Picture this man as he insecurely hobbled through the crowd, groping in the dark, reaching out for Jesus.

This man also didn’t beat around the bush: He made a direct request, showing his dependence and trust (Jas. 4:2). And Christ was more than willing to heal. This man was rewarded because he simply asked in faith.

Typically, Jesus would tell people to be quiet. However, now that he is ready to take up the Cross in Jerusalem, Jesus lets the cat out of the bag, allowing this blind man to follow him and talk about the miracle as much as he wanted.

Luke 19

Luke 19:1-10 (Zaccheus)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(19:1) He entered Jericho and was passing through.

See comments on Luke 18:35 for Jesus “entering” Jericho.

(19:2) And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.

Zaccheus was not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector.” Remember, these men were despised (see “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day”). Moreover, “Jericho was a well-known toll place in Palestine.”[367] So, Zaccheus would have had prime real estate for his dark business.

(19:3) Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.

Not only was Zaccheus “small in stature,” but other people were boxing him out from seeing Jesus. This would be like having bad seats at a concert. But Zaccheus didn’t let his “shortcoming” stop him. He was tired of being “belittled” and “overlooked.” Though was a tax collector, and he was tired of “stooping so low.” He was also tired of being “looked down on.” (In case you were wondering, yes, these are all really bad puns!)

“Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was.” Zaccheus wasn’t seeking Jesus out of idle curiosity, or to see Jesus do a miracle. Rather, he wanted to see him for who he really was.

(19:4) So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

Zaccheus was so ambitious that he climbed up the tree to see Jesus. This was “undignified behavior”[368] for a man in this day—especially a rich man like Zaccheus.

(19:5-6) When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.

Jesus knew Zaccheus by name. Zaccheus must have been one part honored, and one part intrigued. He could probably hardly have believe it, scampering down the tree.

(19:7) When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Why are the people grumbling? The crowd loved Jesus and Jesus’ miracles, but they didn’t like his friends. They didn’t like that he was a “friend of sinners.”

(19:8) Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.

Zaccheus’ giving exceeded the law, which only called for 20% restitution (Lev. 6:5; Num. 5:7). He gave 400% instead! To be clear, he gave half of his “belongings,” and “not his earnings.”[369] This was a major restitution.

(19:9-10) And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus “breaks the fourth wall” here, giving the principle for all people—not just a sinner like Zaccheus. This is a lesson for all of us. Christ wants to come into your life, “seeking” and “saving” sinful people like you and me. Zaccheus’ giving did not cause his salvation with his good works, rather his generous giving was “realized”[370] by it. Jesus practiced what he taught here: “The lost Zacchaeus had been sought (19:5) and now saved (19:10).”[371]


Rich young ruler. His legalism, self-righteousness, and materialism brought him sadness.

Zaccheus. His licentiousness and materialism were truly evil. Indeed, he was likely much more immoral than the rich young ruler. Yet, that didn’t stop him from fleeing to Jesus. However, he understood that he needed Jesus. Grace brings joy and excitement—not licentiousness. Maybe you don’t understand why Zaccheus would be so generous. That’s probably because you haven’t met Christ.

Christ didn’t only want to come into Zaccheus’ house for dinner. According to the Bible, he wants to come to your house for dinner too (Rev. 3:20).

Luke 19:11-27 (Parable of the minas)

[This material is unique to Luke, though a similar parable appears in Matthew 25:14-30. Since Jesus travelled so much, he likely repeated different forms of this parable.]

Jesus is still in Jericho—about 17 miles from Jerusalem.

(19:11) While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

“While they were listening to these things…” This connects directly with the story of Zaccheus. As Jesus was finishing up with Zaccheus, another parable came to mind.

(19:12) So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.”

The “nobleman” was going out to receive a kingdom. This could harken back to two actual historical events: (1) Herod the Great and (2) Archelaus.

Herod the Great (40 BC) travelled to Rome to get the authority to rule over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.[372] Meanwhile, Archelaus (4 BC), the son of Herod, went to Rome to receive his title ethnarch.[373] The people openly opposed Archelaus, which fits with verse 14 (“his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him”). Jesus may have used this relatively recent historical example as a precedent for his parable, because the people would’ve been familiar with this story.

(19:13) And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’

A “mina” was approximately worth 100 drachmas (or 100 days’ pay for a laborer).[374] This is far smaller than Matthew’s mention of “talents” (60x the value of a drachma).

Were there ten servants or three? In the parable, the nobleman gave the money to ten servants, but when he returns, he only addresses three of them.

In a similar account, Matthew writes that the master “entrusted his possessions to them” (Mt. 25:14). What has been entrusted to us as believers? Everything! (Ps. 24:1)

  • Physical beauty or strength
  • Intelligence
  • Opportunity
  • Wealth
  • Health
  • Education
  • Creativity
  • Spiritual gifts

Some people are entrusted with more, and some with less (e.g. 10, 5, or 1). But this shouldn’t fill us with pride or discouragement. God only expects what he’s given to you—nothing more and nothing less. There is no reason to be jealous of the man with 10 minas, nor to scorn the man with only 1 mina. God will judge us according to what we have—not according to what don’t have.

(19:14) But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

Jesus is the King who would be rejected.

(19:15) When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.

In Matthew, the master “settled accounts with them” (Mt. 25:19).

(19:16) The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’

They didn’t take credit for the money which was made. They call it your mina.” They were stewards of the money—not owners. Similarly, gifted Christians do not have the right to boast in their gifts, because these come as a gift from God. This unarguable proposition is anything but obvious to those who are highly gifted: You can’t boast about something that was given to you!

(19:17) And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’

He says that the money was a “very little thing.” Truly, this is very little in comparison with leading “ten cities.” This show that our small sacrifices in this life will pay huge dividends in the next.

(19:18-19) The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

This second man doubled the return on the money. So, the King rewards him proportionately to how much he made.

(19:20) Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief.

This is the worst security deposit ever! Even putting the money in your mattress would be better. But a handkerchief? The man is effectively saying, “I valued your money so little, that I blew my nose in a piece of cloth, and then I wrapped your money with my snotty-tissue.” How much did he have to disrespect the King to do something so stupid and insulting?

(19:21) ‘For I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’

“Take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” These are “proverbial expressions for making gain through other people’s efforts.”[375] This sounds less like a defense, and more like an accusation! He’s challenging his character, and saying he’s a thief and the money doesn’t belong to him in the first place. He’s trying to blame-shift onto the King. Liefeld writes, “In his case conservatism was born of fear and was wrong.”[376]

Was he a hard man? Not at all! He was more than generous with the first two men, giving them a full return on their investment.

(19:22) He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?’

The man is judged by his own words—the fairest form of prosecuting a person.

(19:23) ‘Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’

This shows that the third servant’s excuse was an irrational smoke-screen. He was too lazy to even put it in the bank. What was wrong with what this man did? He did nothing! Apathy and omission are serious sins before God.

(19:24) Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’

The guy who doubled the return on the mina gets more money.

(19:25) And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’

This doesn’t seem fair because the man with ten minas was already dripping with money. But why not give to the man who was the most faithful?

(19:26) I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.

Our window of opportunity will soon be over. God has plenty of rewards to give out. If we don’t receive the reward, he will give it to someone else. We concur with Liefeld writes, “Whether a person has little or much depends on his use of opportunities to increase what he already has.”[377]

 (19:27) But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.

The severity of judgment is related to their sin and violence in verse 14 (“his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’”).

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about Jesus’ view of faithfulness from this parable?

What clues from the text explain why the final man chose not to invest the money?

Luke 19:28-48 (The [Un]triumphal entry)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:1-17, Mark 11:1-11, and John 12:12-19.]

The religious leaders were trying to seize Jesus—not merely to apprehend him—but also to kill him (Jn. 11:57). Meanwhile, the people were trying to apprehend Jesus to crown him! These couldn’t be more different responses, though days later, many of these same people will be crying out, “Crucify, crucify!”

(19:28-29) After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples.

Jesus didn’t just saunter or stumble into Jerusalem. He planned his entrance carefully. Up until this point, he was keeping his identity secret to some extent. Here he is plotting a big reveal.

(19:30-31) He was saying, “Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of it.’”

Jesus chose a young donkey to be his “stallion.” His feet would’ve been dragging on the ground as he rode this animal into the city. This is why Darrel Bock refers to this entire event as Jesus’ “untriumphal entry.”

(19:32-34) So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord has need of it.”

The owner of the colt didn’t stop the disciples from taking the animal. Once he heard the reason, he freely let them take the animal. This isn’t stealing, as some skeptics have claimed. For one, Jesus likely returned the animal. Second, the animal wasn’t currently being used by the owner; it was just sitting still. In fact, no one had ever sat on it. And third, since everything belongs to God (Ps. 24:1), Jesus technically owned this donkey in the first place. Thus the owner was really just holding it for the true Owner.

(19:35-36) They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road.

By putting their coats on the ground, this was showing that they believed Jesus was the King (cf. 2 Kin. 9:13). John adds that they were laying palm branches as well (Jn. 12:13).

(19:37-38) As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, 38 shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

The people recognized Jesus as the messianic King because of his three-year ministry of teaching and miracles. This all fulfilled Zechariah 9:9.

Does this fulfill the prophecy of Luke 13:35? Not at all. Earlier, Jesus predicted that the Temple would be destroyed, and then they would sing this song (Ps. 118:26). Matthew 23:39 makes this chronology quite clear.

(Lk. 19:38) Why did the crowds shout out Psalm 118:26? (Mt. 21:9)

(19:39-40) Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

The Pharisees were expecting Jesus to deny this claim. But since Jesus was the true King, he accepted it. His reference to the “stones crying out” could be a “proverbial saying.”[378] (cf. Hab. 2:11)

(19:41) When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it.

The word “wept” can be rendered “wailed.”[379] In effect, Jesus burst into tears. He knew all of the earlier pageantry was just a fleeting emotional response, but not a deep conviction regarding who he was. Soon, many of these same people would be calling for his crucifixion. Even on the precipice of his own torture and death, Jesus was weeping for his killers—not himself.

(19:42-44) He was saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Jesus knew that the city would be conquered. He knew the future, and it filled him with deep sorrow. Morris writes, “Josephus tells us that when the Romans besieged Jerusalem they set up siege works (Bellum v.262, 264). There must have been a good deal of timber in them, for the Jews destroyed them with fire (Bellum v.469ff.; the Romans replaced them with a wall).”[380] Josephus gives considerable detail of this war (see Wars 7.1.1; 7.8.7).

“You did not recognize the time of your visitation.” The “time” could refer to a general sense of time, or it could refer to the fulfillment of Daniel 9:24-26.

Luke 19:45-48 (The Cleansing of the Temple)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:12-13, 18-19 and Mark 11:12-18. The first cleansing of the Temple occurred in John 2 at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.]

(19:45-48) Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘And My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a robbers’ den.” 47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, 48 and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on to every word He said.”

Jesus cleanses the Temple because of the rank profiteering of the religious leaders.

(Jn. 2:14-15) When did Jesus cleanse the Temple? (c.f. Mt. 21:12; Mk. 11:15; Lk. 19:45)

(Jn. 2:14-15) Why did Jesus get so angry? Was his anger justified? (cf. Lk. 19:45-46, Mt. 21:12-13, and Mk. 11:15-17)

Luke 20

Luke 20:1-19 (Religious leaders challenge Jesus’ authority)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 21:23-22:14 and Mark 11:27-12:12.]

Up until this point, Jesus hasn’t directly confronted the religious leaders. He debated them to some extent and answered their questions, but he didn’t take a direct approach. At this point, the “gloves are coming off” and Jesus directly confronts the false religion of his day. These debates are set against the backdrop of Jesus cleansing the Temple (Lk. 19:45-46). Jesus’ visual demonstration is followed by these verbal debates.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, this was not good for business. This would be like shutting off the power at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. The religious leaders wanted to dispense of Jesus, but they couldn’t because he was so well liked.

The Jewish people couldn’t exercise capital punishment. They could beat and imprison people, but not put them to death. They needed their Roman rulers to do this. So, this chapter demonstrates how the leaders were seeking to find grounds for having Jesus put to death by the Romans (Lk. 19:47-48). The greatest minds in Jerusalem prepared all of their top questions to grill Jesus—center stage in the Temple.

The question of authority (vv.1-8)

(20:1) On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him.

What terrible irony! Jesus’ enemies were plotting to kill him, while he was speaking about “good news.” The text tells us that some of the most powerful and influential religious leaders came to confront him (“the chief priests and the scribes with the elders”). Imagine the intimidation you would feel if you needed to face people with this level of clout and control.

How could Jesus preach the “gospel” before the Cross and Resurrection? We have heard emergent authors asking this question, claiming that this undermines the clarity of the gospel message. However, Bock writes, “Euanggelizomenou (preaching) has no object, so ‘the gospel,’ ‘the kingdom,’ or a similar idea must be supplied.”[381] In other words, Jesus was speaking about the good news of the kingdom, and this laid the foundation for fuller revelation in his death and resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-3). Stein agrees, “What Jesus was teaching and preaching is not stated, but Luke would have expected his readers to assume that it was the material found in Luke 4-19 and the subsequent chapters of Luke and Acts.”[382]

(20:2) They spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?”

“These things” is plural, and it could refer to all of the things Jesus did. What gave him the right to cleanse the Temple, uniquely interpret the Law, and perform miracles?

(20:3-4) Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

To paraphrase, Jesus was asking, “Was John the Baptist from God, or was John the Baptist a false teacher?” Which horn of the dilemma would these religious leaders choose?

  • OPTION 1. John the Baptist was from God. Because John the Baptist pointed to Jesus (Lk. 3:16), Jesus’ authority is wrapped up with John’s authority. If they chose this option, then they would need to affirm who Jesus claimed to be.
  • OPTION 2. John the Baptist was a false teacher. John clearly came from God, and the people all affirmed this. If they chose this option, the people would likely revolt.

Again, these religious leaders know that they are stuck on one of the horns of the dilemma. Which will they choose?

(20:5-6) They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”

These religious leaders care about the pragmatic consequences—not truth. Morris writes, “They concentrate on the effects, not the truth of the possible answers.”[383]

(20:7) So they answered that they did not know where it came from.

They feared death, so they wouldn’t tell the truth. Jesus told the truth, and as a result, he faced death. Bock comments, “Sometimes agnosticism is really an evasion of the truth.”[384]

(20:8) And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Jesus’ answer was silence. If we aren’t truly seeking him, he won’t give any information. Indeed, why bother giving reasons to someone who is irrational? Reason is not the issue.

McCallum compares this attitude to a court jester in medieval times. Court jesters were usually smarmy people who would do tricks for the royalty to laugh at. But God is not our court jester! We can’t demand that God will perform the miracles that we want. We need to seek out the evidence that he has given to us. In the same way, a jury might desire more evidence in a court trial, but that’s inconsequential. They need to make a decision based on the evidence they do have.

Discussion Questions

Read 1-8. Jesus refused to give more information to these religious people. When is it appropriate to refuse to answer more spiritual questions? What signs would indicate that we shouldn’t continue a dialogue in the present moment?

Evil vineyard workers (vv.9-20)

(20:9) And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.”

Apparently, the “people” or general population were present to hear this debate. Matthew and Mark add that the owner planted the vineyard, created a hedge, dug the winepress, and built a tower. In other words, he not only owned the vineyard, but created it from the ground up. The vineyard is a regular metaphor to describe Israel (Isa. 5:1-7; 27:2; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1-4; Ps. 80:8-13).

(20:10-12) At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.

The workers obviously didn’t think that the owner deserved anything from their winepress. Mark 12:5 adds that they even killed some of these men (“beating some and killing others”).

(20:13) The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’

God called Jesus his “beloved Son” earlier in Luke (Lk. 3:22; 9:35). Clearly, this parable is about him.

(20:14-15) But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

This Owner (God) gave them this beautiful vineyard to work in and gain a sustenance from (see Isa. 5). Are they grateful? No, they get delusions of grandeur, and kill the Owner’s son. This shows the absolute insanity of sin.

The Owner (God) was merciful and patient, but not weak (2 Pet. 3:9). His motivation was one of love. But as we see, there was a limit to his patience, and eventually he came to judge.

(20:16) [Jesus said,] “He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!”

The people may have sensed that Israel was the vineyard, and this is why they disagree so vehemently. Now Jesus makes the parable personal by quoting Scripture: Psalm 118.

(20:17-18) But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”

Why does Jesus cite Psalm 118:22? This is a messianic psalm (Lk. 13:35; 19:38), and it demonstrates that the people could actually reject the “stone” that God had chosen. Moreover, it shows us that there is no winning scenario in a fight with this stone: If the stone falls on the pot, the pot will break; if the pot falls on the stone, the pot will break. Either way, this situation won’t end well for the pot! Citing Isaiah 30:14, an ancient Jewish commentator wrote, “If a stone falls on a pot, woe to the pot! If a pot falls on a stone, woe to the pot! In either case, woe to the pot!”[385]

(20:19) The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.

These leaders were wildly angry with Jesus. They were probably thinking, “Who gave him the authority to tell us what God would or wouldn’t do?!” Incidentally, people still hold this animosity today.

God loves us, and that’s why he wants to lead us (Mt. 11:29-30). Our problem is that we refuse his leadership. God is trying to reach us, but we are too stubborn to accept his initiation.

Discussion Questions

What does this parable tell us about God? What does it tell us about how he chooses to interact with people?

Luke 20:20-26 (Paying taxes to Caesar)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:15-22 and Mark 12:13-17. Jesus’ enemies later said that Jesus spoke against taxes at his trial in Luke 23:2. Here, it is clear that this was not the case.]

(20:20) So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.

The religious leaders send their secret agents to employ loads of flattery, presumably to get Jesus to drop his guard. Then, they spring a hot-button political issue on him. To be clear, this was not the Temple tax (Mt. 17:24-27), but the Roman poll tax. This was the “head tax” (tributum capitis) that came from Israel’s census taken by the Romans (Lk. 2:1-4; Jewish War, 1.154; 2.118, 403-5, 433; Tacitus, Annals, 2.42).[386] Rejection of this tax would result in death.

Josephus: “Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders” (Josephus, Jewish War, 2.8.118).

Josephus: “[Judas and Sadduc] became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.4).

Josephus: “The sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemy’s fire” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.8).

Pharisees and Herodians were both present and both took different views on the poll tax (cf. Mk. 12:13).

What would the Herodians want? These were later called the “zealot” party after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They supported Herod’s family which was in authority at the time. They were also violent. They would blend in with the crowds and stab Roman-sympathizers with sicae (i.e. daggers) and then disappear into the masses.[387] These men were as tough as nails! Bruce writes, “Under every form of torture, none of the sicarii [zealot assassins] who were taken captive, whether young or old, could be compelled to acknowledge Caesar as lord.”[388] Bock writes, “The Herodians favored a solution that let Rome have a mediated presence through the house of Herod.”[389]

What would the Pharisees want? Bock writes, “Preferring that Rome not be present at all, the Pharisees would have opposed the tax.”[390] However, they wouldn’t have openly stated that they rejected the tax because this would be considered seditious, and it would land them hot water.

Why were they using this question to trap Jesus? They wanted Jesus dead, but at this time, the Romans didn’t allow the Jewish people to exercise capital punishment. If they could get Jesus in trouble with Rome, then the Romans would execute Jesus for treason. These same people later lie about Jesus’ answer anyway (Lk. 23:2). This was all pure pageantry to trap Christ—one way or another.

(20:21) They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.”

They are buttering him up for a blunt and binary question in order to trap him. It is not unlike political arguments today…

(20:22) “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

This might be similar to asking, “Who would God say we should vote for in the next Presidential election?” Only this question was even more controversial, because paying taxes to pagans was thought to be immoral. Moreover, these Roman taxes were quite severe, so the people would’ve hated Rome because of them. Liefeld writes, “These totaled over one-third of a person’s income and included a poll tax, customs, and various indirect taxes.”[391] And remember, the Romans didn’t use the money to pave roads, collect trash, or help the Jewish populous; they used the money to keep them under their thumb.

(20:23) But He detected their trickery and said to them.

Jesus discerned their motives in asking this: Their question wasn’t an academic question about political science or public policy… It was a trap!

(20:24) “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”

By asking them for the coin, Jesus was implicitly showing that they were idol-worshippers; that is, they carried around the image of a false god in their pockets. In fact, the inscription on a denarius read, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.”[392] Keener comments on their hypocrisy, “Jerusalemites preferred death to allowing Caesar’s image to enter Jerusalem on standards (Jos. Ant. 18.59), yet they carried it in on coins.”[393] In other words, we might imagine Jesus saying, “Why are you asking me about taxes, when you carry money that engages in explicit idolatry?” Bock writes, “The inscription on a silver Tiberian denarius reads, ‘Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.’ On the reverse side his mother Livia is portrayed as an incarnation of the goddess of peace, along with the inscription ‘high priest.’”[394] These hypocrites used this image for trade all day and every day. They were lawbreakers, breaking the first and second commandment.

(20:25-26) And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent.

Jesus’ answer is brilliant. He splits the horns of this dilemma in a multitude of ways:

The political and spiritual authorities are different. By saying so little, we could interpret Jesus to be saying that we should pay taxes to Caesar, because that is his money (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). But we can also see a not-so-subtle subtext in Jesus’ answer: radical commitment to God. After all, what things belong to God? Everything! (Ps. 24:1) Keener affirms, “Surrendering to God ‘what is God’s’ implied the surrender of all one was and possessed.”[395]

The term “render” means that they owed the money. Therefore, it would be wrong to withhold it from Caesar. In Greek, there is a subtle play on words in the text: When the disciples of the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to “give” (didomi) this tax (v.17), this is different than the word “render” (apodidomi) which means “to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill” (BDAG).

Jesus subtly points to the hypocrisy of these men carrying around a pocket idol. After all, they carried money with a deified, Pagan emperor in their pockets (see comments on v.24). This implies that they are breaking the 2nd commandment (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 5:8).

Neither group gets what they want to hear. Jesus tells the Pharisees to pay the taxes because of God’s providence in placing the Romans in power (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). The Herodians are told that their fidelity to God should supersede loyalty to Rome. Both groups hear that “the inscription on the emperor’s coin is wrong—he is neither God nor high priest—and his blasphemous coin does not belong in God’s temple.”[396] In the end, Jesus supports aspects of each view, but none of either view.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 20-26. What do we learn about how to answer hot-button questions from Jesus’ example? How does Jesus maneuver to avoid falling into this trap?

Luke 20:27-40 (The Sadducees and the resurrection)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27.]

The Sadducees only accepted the Torah, and they rejected the resurrection of the dead, so they attack Jesus on this topic.[397]

(20:27) Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection).

Josephus confirms that the Sadducees denied the afterlife (Acts 23:8). He writes, “The doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies.”[398]

(20:28-33) And they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”

Instead of a political trap, they leverage a theological trap. They cite the levirate law found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman. The Mishnah also devotes an entire tractate to this subject as well (Yebamot).

The Sadducees are using a reductio ad absurdum argument form. In this type of argument, you carry out the premises of your opponent to their logical and absurd conclusions. They are trying to show that the concept of resurrection is absurd, because it would make marriage (an eternal bond) absurd. They had probably used this argument before on the Pharisees, and they thought it would work on Jesus as well.

(The real question is why seven men would continue to marry such a deadly woman! We can only imagine the seventh brother sweating at the altar as he married this black widow…)

(20:34-36) Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

Jesus hinges his argument on the fact that the afterlife is not like this life. For one, death will not exist. Moreover, marriage will not exist. We stay in marriage “until death do we part” as the saying goes, and as Scripture teaches (Rom. 7:2-3).

(20:37-38) “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”

Jesus chose to cite from a passage that they would consider inspired Scripture: Exodus 3:6. If the patriarchs are dead, then so are God’s promises to them. As I. Howard Marshall writes, “Only living people can have a God.”[399] In Matthew’s account (Mt. 22:31-32), Jesus not only used grammatical-historical hermeneutics (hinging his argument on the chronology of the events), but he also believed in verbal plenary inspiration (hinging his argument on the verb tense of a word).

(20:39-40) Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

The scribes (who affirmed the resurrection) said, “Good point!” They probably liked seeing the Sadducees shut up for once. At the same time, the scribes didn’t know what else to say (v.40). So much for the postmodern claim that debate and argumentation are modernistic or irrelevant! Jesus used both effectively.

Luke 20:41-44 (Jesus goes on the offensive with Psalm 110)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 22:41-46 and Mark 12:35-37.]

(20:41-44) Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 43 until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ 44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”

Jesus cites from Psalm 110. Bock comments, “Jesus’ point is simple enough: how is it that David can call a son, a descendant, by the title Lord? This is a significant act in a patriarchal society, where a son is under his father. The answer is not a denial of Davidic sonship, but rather an implication that Messiah as David’s Lord transcends him. It recognizes the key authority that is ascribed to the Davidic heir—an authority that David acknowledges. So the key title to be associated with this important figure is Lord, not son of David.”[400] For more on this important prophecy, see comments on Matthew 22:41-46.

Luke 20:45-47 (Jesus’ warning and rebuke of the religious leaders)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 23 and Mark 12:38-40.]

(20:45-47) And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Now that their intellectual arguments were defeated, their moral and spiritual issues emerge (cf. Lk. 11:43; 14:7-8; Mt. 23:6-7). When they “devour widows’ houses,” this likely refers to “cheating widows of their houses and estates while serving as the executors of these properties.”[401] Afterwards, they loved giving public “prayers” for all to see! With the intellectual case being soundly defeated, Jesus showed them their moral and spiritual problems quite clearly.

Discussion Question

It’s clear that the religious leaders didn’t simply have intellectual barriers to believe in Jesus. They had moral and spiritual issues that prevented their faith. What are ways to discern between these two types of barriers? What are ways to address these barriers when they are muddled together?

Luke 21

Luke 21:1-4 (The widow’s two copper coins)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 12:41-44.]

(21:1) And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.

Thirteen trumpet-shaped bowls sat outside the Temple (Sheqalim 6:5). These collected the offerings of the people. Jesus is watching what “the rich” were putting into the collection.

(21:2) And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.

This old widow was “poor” (penichros) which means “very poor” (TDNT). She puts two copper coins (lepta) into the collection. These were “small copper coins, the smallest currency available, whose value was one-eighth of a penny.”[402]

(21:3-4) And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; 4 for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.

Jesus isn’t putting down the rich; rather, he’s lifting up the poor. He stands in stark contrast to the Pharisees who “devour widows’ houses” (Lk. 20:47). This poor woman exemplifies the wise investor who gave her money to God and was abundantly rewarded (Lk. 19:17, 19). Remember, Jesus had said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6:20).

It’s quite difficult to justify not giving to the cause of Christ after reading this account. A set amount of financial giving is not required in the NT for the poor. But the NT regularly praises the poor for their liberality. For instance, regarding the churches in Macedonia, Paul writes, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem” (2 Cor. 8:2-4 NLT). If we put our “two fish and five loaves” into the hands of God, he can do amazing things with them. He also rewards us based on what we have—not on what we don’t have.

Luke 21:5-24 (Olivet discourse: Part 1: The Regathering of Israel)

[The parallel passage for the entire Olivet Discourse is found in Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13:1-37.]

(21:5) And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts.

Josephus describes the Temple as made out of white marble stones, and covered with gold.

Josephus: “Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over the plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. (223) But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white” (Josephus, Jewish War, 5.222-223).

What did the Temple look like? The Jewish Temple was beautiful and enormous. Josephus writes that its stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall.[403] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[404] Indeed, the Temple was “known throughout the Roman world (2 Macc 2:22; Ep. Arist. 84:91).”[405] Stein writes, “Some of these stones can still be seen in the lower courses of the Wailing Wall.”[406]

When was the Temple destroyed? Virtually all interpreters agree that the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction occurred in AD 70 at the culmination of the bloody Jewish War. Regarding the destruction of the Temple, Josephus recorded, “It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came [near] believe it had ever been inhabited.”[407]

Where did Jesus give this teaching? Luke tells us that this was on the Mount of Olives (Lk. 21:37). This would be an epic setting for Jesus to give his predictions about the future. After all, in light of Zechariah 14:4, this would be the very place that Jesus would return, and it had a breathtaking view of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

(21:6) He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”

The Temple was absolutely razed to the ground. Josephus recorded, “It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came [near] believe it had ever been inhabited” (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1).

Did Jesus really predict this beforehand, or did Luke put this “prediction” on Jesus’ lips. Critics say this must post-date AD 70 (because Jesus couldn’t possibly predict the future). But if this is an ex eventu (“after the fact”) prophecy, it’s odd that the NT never records the fulfillment. Specifically, Luke surely would have recorded the fulfillment in Acts, but instead, he is completely silent about it. Furthermore, if Jesus’ prediction was truly an ex eventu prophecy, then why isn’t there more detail? Indeed, multiple problems confront those who use this specious argument.

The disciples were marveling at the opulence and beauty of this Temple, but they couldn’t see the spiritual decay within. Jesus, however, held that “the widow’s two very small copper coins were more precious to God than all this.”[408]

(21:7) They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

Luke’s account focuses on the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 more than Matthew’s account or Mark’s account (at least until v.25).

False teachers

(21:8) And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.

Notably, Jesus opens this discussion with the warning that many teachers will try to highjack this particular teaching. He tells the disciples not to get swept up in their mania! False teachers were rampant before the fall of Jerusalem:

  • Theudas (AD 45) led a number of people to the Jordan River, claiming he was a prophet and claiming the ability to divide the water like Moses. Josephus states that “many were deluded by his words.” Fadus sent a troop to kill these people, capture Theudas, and decapitate him (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.97-99).
  • An Egyptian impostor claimed to be a “prophet,” and he “advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives.” This unnamed Egyptian predicted that “the walls of Jerusalem would fall down,” and “he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.” Felix sent in the cavalry and the army to annihilate 400 of these people, taking the remaining 200 alive as prisoners. The Egyptian escaped from this fight and disappeared (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.169-172). Incidentally, Josephus gives an expanded account of the brief mention in Acts 21:38.
  • A certain impostor promised the people deliverance, as long as “they would but follow him as far as the wilderness.” Festus, however, sent in the military and “destroyed both him” and those he had “deluded” (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.188).
  • Manahem (the son of Judas) led the revolt during the Jewish War at Masada. When he was eventually found, they publicly “tortured him with many sorts of torments,” and then they “slew him” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448).
  • Other examples include Theudas, who is different from the man mentioned above (Acts 5:36-37), as well as a couple others (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448; 6.285-287).

(21:9-10) “When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.”

The Jewish War lasted from AD 66-70. This seems to be the referent in view.

Natural disasters

(21:11) And there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

“Earthquakes” (Acts 16:26) and “famines” (Acts 11:28) are recorded in the book of Acts. Therefore, this seems to refer to the first century world—not the end of history.

“Great signs from heaven” occurred in the first century. Josephus said that a star (a comet?) stood over Jerusalem for a full year during its destruction (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.289). Tacitus writes that celestial signs accompanied the destruction of the Temple: “There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing” (Tacitus, History, 5.13).


(21:12-13) But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.

“Before” all of these events, the disciples would face persecution. We see these events coming to fruition in the book of Acts (Acts 8:3; 12:4; 21:11; 22:4; 27:1; 28:17). The disciples stood on trial before various rulers (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:1; 18:12; 21:27; 24:1-2; 25:8; 26:1).

(21:14-15) So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

They didn’t need to worry, because God would give them the words that they needed to say. They needed availability—not ability. The opponents wouldn’t be able to refute their testimony.

(21:16) But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.

The disciples would face persecution—even from friends and family. Sean McDowell’s PhD dissertation (The Fate of the Apostles, 2016) assesses the historical plausibility of the disciples’ deaths.

(21:17) And you will be hated by all because of My name.

This must be a case of hyperbolic language.

(21:18-19) Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

How can Jesus promise complete protection if Christians can be killed? Martyrdom is clearly possible (see v.16). Therefore, some hold that this is a “proverb” that “is meant to contrast what humanity can do and what it cannot do to God’s people.”[409] Thus, on this view, Jesus is saying that he will protect the believer from hell (Lk. 12:4-7). Such a view is possible, but the specific language of “not a hair of your head will perish” seems oddly specific—especially in view of martyrdom.

In our view, Jesus is speaking of their literal and physical protection. If the disciples follow Jesus’ orders in the subsequent verses, then they will be rescued from the Jewish War (vv.20-24). That is, if they get out of Jerusalem when the armies are surrounding the city, then not a single “hair” on their heads will be harmed. The “perseverance” does not refer to the “perseverance of the saints,” as we find in the Calvinist/Arminian debates. Rather, this perseverance refers to a literal run for their lives and escape from imminent death. In effect, Jesus is saying, “If you persevere in getting out of the city, then you will be completely spared… But if you don’t… Well… You’re in trouble!” Though Jesus later refers to the end of history,[410] his later words support our reading: “Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place” (Lk. 21:36).

(21:20) But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.

Luke focuses on the short-term fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, whereas Matthew and Mark focus on the long-term fulfillment at the end of history. All three versions of the Olivet Discourse have their own focus and emphases. Luke conspicuously omits Jesus’ teaching that (1) all life would be destroyed, (2) this is the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen, and (3) this period is connected with “the abomination of desolation.” Luke seems to focus on the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and he doesn’t flash forward to the end of history until after verse 25.

Comparing and Contrasting Matthew and Luke’s account

Luke 21

Matthew 24

Many are misled (v.8)

Many are misled (v.4) by false Christs (v.5)
Rumors of wars (v.9)

Rumors of wars are “not yet the end” (v.6)

Wars (v.10)

Wars (v.7)
Plagues, famines, great signs from heaven (v.11)[411]

Famines and earthquakes (v.7) called “birth pangs” (v.8)

Persecution in the synagogues (vv.12-16)

Persecution (v.9) and apostasy (v.10)

More false prophets (v.11)


Love will grow cold (v.12)
Divine protection for committed believers (vv.17-18)

Divine protection for committed believers (v.13)

Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (vv.20-24)


All nations hear the gospel “and then the end will come” (v.14)


Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (v.15)
Command to flee Jerusalem when Judea is surrounded (v.20)

Command to flee Judea after seeing the Abomination of Desolation (vv.16-20)


“A great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (v.21)

“Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (v.22)


More false teaching predicting the Second Coming (vv.23-26)
Second Coming of Christ with signs in heaven (vv.25-27)

Second Coming of Christ with signs in heaven (vv.27-31)

Fig tree illustration (vv.29-31)

Fig tree illustration (vv.32-33)
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (v.32)

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (v.34)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (v.33)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (v.35)

Josephus states that 1.1 million Jews were killed, and 200,000 were taken captive (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.5.271-73; 6.9.420; 7.5.118; 7.5.138; 7.5.154). Stein comments, “Even allowing for exaggeration, the number is enormous.”[412] The siege was so horrific that people cooked and cannibalized children for food! (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.3.201-213).

(21:21) Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city.

The early Christians fled Jerusalem—just as Jesus commanded.

Epiphanius (church historian—late fourth century AD): “The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea… Pella, and in Bashan… That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged” (Epiphanius, Panarion 29:7:7-8).

Eusebius (church historian—early 4th century AD): “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella” (Eusebius, History of the Church, 3.5.3).

(21:22) Because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.

Unfaithfulness to the covenant brings judgment (Deut. 28; Lev. 26). These “blessing and cursing” texts seem to be the writings that are being fulfilled in AD 70. This explains why this judgment is referred to as “vengeance,” namely, God’s vengeance.[413]

(21:23) Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people.

“Woe to those who are pregnant… nursing babies.” Pregnancy and babies were normally considered a blessing in Scripture and in this culture. But because of the circumstances, a great reversal occurred. These were hindrances to escaping the city.

The term “earth” (ge, ESV, NET) can be translated as “land” in this passage (NASB, NIV, NLT). We favor this latter translation because the context for Luke is local persecution. Of course, this is a foreshadowing (i.e. a type) of the final destruction that is recounted by Matthew and Mark.

(21:24) And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

This implicitly predicts the regathering of Israel, because Jesus says the city will be trampled until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

Are Matthew and Luke both describing the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? No. Luke records Jesus’ teaching on the destruction in AD 70, while Matthew includes Jesus’ teaching on the end of human history. As we’ve argued so far, up until this point, Jesus is predicting the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Luke’s account is far different in its description from Matthew. He fails to mention three key components of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew: (1) no human would’ve survived these days unless God cut them short, (2) this was the greatest tribulation the world had ever seen or will see, and (3) the abomination of desolation would occur—only mentioning “its desolation.” In short, Luke records the predictions about the local and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, while Matthew records the predictions about the global and long-term destruction of the Planet.

Do the similarities between Matthew and Luke mean that they are both describing the same event? Not necessarily. Suppose I said that I was describing a man who is famous, who six feet tall, who was born in 1961, and who has salt-and-pepper hair. Someone might think that I’m referring to George Clooney, while others might think I’m referring to Barack Obama. Both men fit this description. Yet what if I said that the man was the former President of the United States? The original description would no longer fit both men. These men have similarities, but they are clearly not the same.[414]

Likewise, Matthew and Luke make predictions that are similar, but not the same, as we demonstrated above. To use a biblical illustration, the predictions about Jerusalem’s first destruction by the Babylonians (6th century BC) are similar to her second destruction by the Romans (1st century AD). But these are not the same events. Instead, the fulfillment of the one offers confidence that the second will be fulfilled later in history. Stein allows that this passage “may suggest that there is a time coming when Jerusalem/Israel will be restored.”[415]

Luke 21:25-38 (Olivet discourse: Part 2: Preparing for the Second Coming)

Up until this point, the focus has been on the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. Here, there is a gap between verses 24 and 25. After the nation of Israel is regathered, events will take place at the end of human history. We justify a gap based on the fact that (1) Luke’s subsequent language (vv.25ff) doesn’t fit with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and (2) Luke’s language expands to a global scenario.

(21:25) There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.

The end of human history will simply be a terrible time to live without the security of Christ. The focus here is on the “nations,” not believers. People without Christ will experience two overwhelming emotions:

(1) “Anguish” (synochē) means “a state of distress that involves a high degree of anxiety, distress, dismay, anguish” (BDAG). If you were living to see all of the events in verse 25, you would likely feel the same way!

(2) “Perplexity” (aporia) refers to “being at a loss over a circumstance.”[416] Picture how people felt after the most recent flood or tsunami or pandemic. These events will capture the spirit of that perplexity—only far more.

(21:26) Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

People will be seeing where the world is headed, and the result will be an unbridled and crippling fear, as the skies themselves shake. Indeed, the fear alone will cause them to fall flat to the ground: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bowevery tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (cf. Phil. 2:11).

(21:27) Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

This certainly doesn’t refer to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Again, this demonstrates that we have a gap beginning in verse 25. Indeed, this is an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus will return for people to “see” him physically and literally (cf. Acts 1:11).

(21:28) But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

Jesus contrasts those without hope (e.g. “anguish… perplexity… fear”) with those who know him (e.g. “straighten up and lift up your heads”). While the world will be fainting in fear, believers can look up with their heads held high—filled with hope and anticipation. Both the believer and unbeliever will witness the same event—the return of Jesus. But to the unbeliever, it will point to his judgment; to the believer, it will signify his rescue by King Jesus. To the unbeliever, Jesus will be the most horrific sight in the entire world; to the believer, he will be security and love personified—a sight beyond all human imagination or conception.

Skeptics often accuse Christians of being “alarmists” regarding eschatology. While we do believe there is reason for alarm, we are not alarmists. We have the security that everything is going to be okay. The King is coming back to rescue us, and all of his angels with him (Mt. 24:31). Therefore, “straighten up” and “lift up your heads,” because Jesus is coming back!

Parable of the fig tree

(21:29-31) Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

We cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return (Mt 24:36), but we can know that it is getting closer. When we see the things listed above, we should know that Jesus’ return is near.

Be ready!

(21:32) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming?

(21:32) Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.

In context, “this generation” refers to those who see “these things” in Jesus’ sermon. Stein agrees that it is “the final generation that stands in solidarity both in descent and behavior with the generation of Jesus’ day.”[417]

(21:33) Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

Jesus emphasizes that this teaching is a reality. These things will occur exactly as he predicted them. His words are more stable that “heaven and earth” itself.

(21:34) Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap.

Is eschatology a meaningless subject? Not at all. Jesus teaches that reflecting on the future should change us in the present.

“Weighted down” (bareō) refers to having “insensitive hearts.”[418]

“Dissipation and drunkenness.” This is an “allusion is to living in excessive attraction to an intoxicating, sinful world.”[419] For those in this state, Jesus’ return will feel “sudden” (cf. Lk. 12:45-46).

(21:35) For it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.

This is a universal language (all the earth”) that is dissimilar to the earlier, local account of Jerusalem’s destruction (vv.6-24). Again, this shows that a gap occurred at verse 25.

(21:36) But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

No matter which generation we’re in, we should all be watching for Jesus’ return. The early Christians lived as though Jesus could return in their lifetimes, but not that he would return in their lifetimes.

“Praying that you may have strength to escape.” This teaching about the return of Christ should drive us to prayer. Specifically, we’re supposed to pray for the courage and strength to make it through this period of history. If believers make it through the Tribulation, Christ will personally rescue them at his Second Coming, and they will live to enter the Millennial kingdom.

(21:37-38) Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. 38 And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him.

People were attracted to Jesus. Once they got a taste of his teaching in the Temple, they would get up early just to hear him speak.

Luke 22

Luke 22:1-2 (The Pharisees plot to kill Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:1-5 and Mark 14:1-2.]

(22:1) Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.

The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” is technically different from the Passover (Num. 28:16ff), but they occurred simultaneously. So, most people associated the two together. It lasted for seven days from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan (~March).

(22:2) The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.

Why were the religious leaders “afraid of the people”? They could be afraid in the sense of losing their following. It could also be a fear that the people would turn on them. Indeed, Mark tells us that they were afraid that the people would “riot” (Mk. 14:12). Both fears are plausible, but the latter is most likely the fear in view here.

[Luke skips over the anointing of Jesus’ feet at Bethany in Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, and John 12:2-8.]

Luke 22:3-6 (Judas bargains to betray Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:14-16 and Mark 14:10-11.]

(22:3-6) And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. 4 And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. 5 They were glad and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.

Satan twice enters Judas—both here and again in John 13:27 (“Satan then entered into him”). Satan entered Judas in order to encourage and coerce him to kill Jesus. The last time Satan was active in the narrative was in Luke 4:13 (cf. Lk. 10:18; 11:18; 13:16). There we read, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). This is that “opportune time.”

Judas heard the teachings and saw the miracles over a three-and-a-half-year period. Yet in the end, he rejected Christ. This shows us that we can be in close proximity to Jesus’ followers—or even Jesus himself—but this doesn’t make you a Christian.

The religious leaders “discussed” (stratēgoi) how to betray Christ (v.4). They were taking such a tactical and careful approach because of their fear—not only of the people—but also of Jesus himself. They were likely scared of Jesus, because he was a miracle worker (Jn. 18:6).

Matthew 26:15 states that Judas asked for compensation and money, and Matthew specifies that he betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. The religious leaders literally rejoiced over this. Ironically, the death of Jesus brought them great joy, but for all of the wrong reasons.

Luke 22:7-13 (Preparing the Passover meal)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:17-19 and Mark 14:12-16.]

(22:7) Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.

The word “lamb” is not in the Greek text, but rather, it is inferred by the translators. They could have sacrificed a young goat at this time. If the Synoptics and John are using different calendars, then this would harmonize the differences between the two.

(22:8-9) And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?”

They didn’t know where to set up the dinner because they were from out of town (i.e. Galilee).

(22:10-13) And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

Jesus sends Peter and John to set up the Passover, and he makes a short-term prediction that comes to fruition “just as he had told them.” He had recently made a similar short-term prediction about the young colt that had been fulfilled (Lk. 19:30ff).

(22:14) When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.

In ancient Israel, the people would “recline” or lay down on their sides under the comfort of a cushion. With their faces near the low dinner table, they would stretch their bodies and filthy feet away from the table (for obvious reasons!).[420] While Leonardo da Vinci pictured the disciples all sitting at a table (and all on one side of the table!) in his painting of “The Last Supper,” this doesn’t fit with the culture of this time.

(22:15) And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

“Earnestly” (epithumia) refers to an “over desire.” Jesus couldn’t wait for this meal, because it looks forward to a future meal—after the Cross in the kingdom (v.18). This passage shows that the Passover meal is in view—not just a generic meal.

What must Jesus have felt at this moment? As he is looking at this sacrificed animal, was he probably thinking, “This is going to be me in a little while…” Though, Jesus was no begrudging martyr. John tells us that love for his disciples filled his heart at this moment (Jn. 13:1).

(22:16) “For I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

This is a good passage to support Dispensational theology regarding the regathering of Israel in the Millennium. After all, Jesus says that they will “eat” the Passover in the kingdom. This means that commemorative sacrifices will continue into the Millennium (cf. Ezek. 40-48). We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper “until” Jesus returns (1 Cor. 11:26).

Luke 22:17-20 (Jesus’ final meal)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-25.]

(22:17) And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.”

The term “given thanks” (eucharisteō) is where we get the term “Eucharist.” Paul also picks up on this concept of “sharing” when he explains the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17). Indeed, Paul cites from Luke’s version in 1 Corinthians 11:23ff.

(22:18) “For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”

This must mean that the Mormon doctrine of Jesus travelling to the Native Americans to celebrate communion is false. Here, Jesus authoritatively says that he won’t drink wine again until he enters the kingdom with his disciples. This still hasn’t historically occurred. Incidentally, this means that Jesus must be keeping some vintage bottles in heaven for this moment in the Millennial Kingdom!

(22:19-20) And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

The Passover symbolized what Jesus would do to enact a new covenant with the people. It wouldn’t be inaugurated with the blood of an animal, but with the blood of Jesus himself. This will forever demonstrate the gravity of the new covenant.

(Lk. 22:17-20) Does this statement support the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation? (cf. Mt. 26:26; Mk. 14:22; 1 Cor. 11:24-25)

Luke 22:21-23 (Jesus predicts his betrayal)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:21-25 and Mark 14:18-21 and John 13:21-30.]

(22:21-23) “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” 23 And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.

Judas was so clever and charming that the disciples were more likely to indict themselves, rather than Judas! John records that the disciples were “at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:22). In Matthew’s account, the disciples asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Mt. 26:22). Judas must have been a skillful showman and a cunning deceiver to betray his close friends this well.

The term “determined” (horismenon) can mean (1) to set limits to, define, explain, etc., or it can mean (2) to make a determination about an entity, determine, appoint, fix, set (BDAG). This second definition is in view, because God was certain on bringing about the Cross. We do wonder how this works with regard to Judas’ free will and God’s sovereignty. Though, we must note that Jesus said the act and event were both determined (“the Son of Man is going as it has been determined”), but the agent of that sin was held morally responsible (“but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”). So, God determined that this would happen, but Judas freely chose to betray Jesus. Both statements are held to be true.

Even as Judas was in the process of betraying him, Jesus chose to wash his feet at this time (Jn. 13). None of this was a surprise for Jesus (Lk. 9:22).

Mere participation in the Lord’s Supper didn’t make Judas a believer. Similarly, today, many church goers take the Lord’s Supper, but this doesn’t make them authentic Christians either.

Luke 22:24-32 (Who is the greatest?)

(22:24) And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, torture, and death, this is surely the world’s worst time to start arguing about who is the greatest! Perhaps they were so troubled about being the one who would betray Jesus that they started to “one up” each other in their personal dedication to Jesus.

(22:25-27) And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

This is a good case of “interlocking” between the gospels, because John mentions that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at this time. Were the disciples bickering over their greatness, only to discover Jesus quietly taking the basin and rag and washing their feet? This only adds gravitas to this account.

The “you” of verse 26 is emphatic (“not this way with YOU”). Christian leaders are to be fundamentally different from leaders in our world today. While Christian leaders do have authority over how to run the ministry, this is a servant authority and servant leadership that makes decisions to serve the Church.

(22:28-30) You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Again (see v.16), the kingdom would be related to Israel in some way, further supporting the Dispensational perspective of a return of national Israel.

What was the final teaching that Judas heard from Jesus? What was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for Judas? What was the final thought that convinced him, “I can’t follow Christ anymore”? It was Jesus’ teaching on self-giving love and servant leadership. Judas was finally coming to the realization that he couldn’t get self-promotion from following Christ. So, he left.

We can harmonize Luke and John’s accounts like this below:

John’s Account (Jn. 13)

Luke’s Account (Lk. 22)

The devil had “already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him” (v.2).

This must be before the Last Supper.

Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them” (vv.3-4).This must be before the Last Supper.
Jesus eats the Passover (v.2). Jesus eats the Passover (vv.7-20).
“During supper…” Jesus washes the disciples feet (vv.2-12).

Since John doesn’t tell us when he washed the disciples’ feet, we don’t know when this occurs in Luke. It could’ve been before or after they were arguing over who was the greatest (vv.24-30).

States that the Scriptures predicted his betrayal and death (vv.18-19). Announces that one of them will betray him (v.21).

Announces that one of them will betray him (v.21). This has been “determined” (v.22) by Scripture.
The disciples are shocked and ask who it is (vv.22-25)

The disciples are shocked and discuss who it is (v.23)

The disciples argue over who is the greatest, and Jesus teaches against this (vv.24-30)

Announces that it’s the one to whom he gives the dipped bread (v.26)

Satan enters Judas (v.27)

Disciples are still confused (vv.28-29)

Judas leaves to betray Jesus

Peter promises he will lay down his life for Jesus (v.37)

Peter promises to face death or imprisonment for Jesus (v.33)

Jesus predicts Peter’s betrayal (v.38)

Jesus predicts Peter’s betrayal (v.34)

(22:31-32) “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Why does Jesus call him Simon, instead of Peter? This “pre-Christian name” could be “intentional.” Indeed, “Peter shortly would revert back to an earlier life-style and behavior, predating his following Jesus.”[421]

This first “you” is plural, referring to all of the disciples. The second “you” is singular (v.32). In order words, Satan wanted to bring down all of the disciples, but Jesus prayed specifically for Peter’s perseverance through this trial. Jesus allowed Peter to fall, but not ultimately to fail. Jesus prayed for Peter to be strengthened afterwards. This could be similar to our experience: When we fall, we need to turn to Jesus to be strengthened again (cf. Jn. 21:15-19).

Luke 22:33-39 (Peter’s betrayal predicted)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29-31, and John 13:37-38.]

(22:33-34) But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” 34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”

Peter apparently didn’t grasp what Jesus had just said. He was filled with self-effort and willpower. Jesus needed to break this self-reliance in Peter before Peter could be of any use to him as a leader.

Ironically, Peter does end up going to prison (Acts 5:19; 12:3ff) and to death for Jesus (2 Pet. 1:14; 1 Clem. 5:4-5; cf. Jn. 13:37). But before he is able to do this, Jesus has to break Peter’s pride and self-will. The courage to follow Christ even to death didn’t come from within. Peter needed to learn that all courage comes from Christ. This was fulfilled within 24 hours (Lk. 22:54-62).

Does Mark contradict Luke? Mark states that Peter would deny Jesus three times “before a rooster crows twice” (Mk. 14:30). This is a case where “silence does imply contradiction.” A contradiction occurs when A = non-A. But silence is not a proposition to be contradicted. Therefore, Mark mentions both crows of the rooster, while Luke only mentions one.

(22:35) And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.”

Once again, the “you” is plural, which means Jesus is addressing the disciples (cf. Lk. 9:3; 10:4).

(22:36) And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

Why does Jesus tell his disciples to buy a “sword”? A number of observations can be made: First, this doesn’t refer to a sword used by soldiers (which was called a rhomphaia; cf. Rev. 2:16; 6:8). Instead, Jesus uses the word for “dagger” (machaira), which was “a relatively short sword or other sharp instrument, sword, dagger” (BDAG). The fact that Jesus lists this along with other benign items (e.g. money belt, bag, coat) indicates that this is not some sort of sword used for warfare. Second, Jesus limited this to “two swords,” which is hardly a “call to arms” against the Roman or Jewish authorities (v.38). Third, Jesus rebukes Peter for using his sword to harm the servant of the high priest (Jn. 18:10), even in a state of self-defense. Thus, again, violent revolution is not in view. To conclude, in our estimation, this was given for the purpose of self-defense—certainly not for waging war.

Stein understands the “sword” to be best “understood in some metaphorical sense as indicating being spiritually armed and prepared for battle against the spiritual foes.”[422] This is hardly likely in view of the other literal items mentioned (e.g. money belt, bag, coat).

(22:37) “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”

Jesus claims to fulfill Isaiah 53:12.

(22:38) They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Stein[423] and Morris[424] understand this to mean that Jesus was saying, “Enough of this kind of talk!” This would mean that one sword was sufficient. Bock adds that this could be “a Semitic expression that means he is dismissing the topic.”[425] In other words, Jesus is saying, “I’ve heard enough of that.” (cf. Deut. 3:26)

It’s also possible that Jesus was simply saying that two swords was “enough” in the sense that it was sufficient. Either way, Jesus wasn’t telling them to build an armory of weapons. They needed to bring enough to defend themselves. How does this relate to the extent to which Christians should own guns in the United States? While principles might apply, that ethical question simply cannot be resolved in this passage. Indeed, Peter’s use of force with this dagger is incisively rebuked by Jesus (Jn. 18:10), so these texts simply aren’t clear—and more importantly, these texts should not be used for making public policy.

Discussion Question

Peter needed to fail before he could lead for Jesus. What are lessons that we can only learn from failure that we cannot learn from success?

Luke 22:39-46 (The Garden of Gethsemane)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:30, 36-46, Mark 14:26, 32-42, and John 18:1.]

(22:39-40) And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke doesn’t specifically mention Gethsemane—though Matthew and Mark supplement this detail (Mt. 26:36; Mk. 14:32).

Jesus told them to pray to avoid falling into temptation. Even on the worst night of his existence, Jesus was still looking in outward love and care for his disciples. He was concerned about their spiritual lives, and urged them to pray. Even though this would be the worst event in all of history, Jesus still looked with concern toward the disciples, knowing that this night would be difficult for them as well—albeit to a much less degree.

Remember, Satan wants to sift the disciples like wheat (v.31). So, Jesus tells them to pray for this temptation. As Christian workers, we need to pray for those around us just like Jesus did, but we also need to encourage them to pray for themselves. The disciples didn’t pray, so they did fall into temptation, even though Jesus told them this twice (v.46). There is no doubt about it: this was a failure. But not for long. The disciples eventually learned this important lesson later in their walk with Christ (Acts 4:24-31).

(22:41-42) And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

The “cup” refers to God’s wrath (Ps. 11:6; 75:8-9; Isa. 51:17, 19, 22; Jer. 25:15-16; 49:12; 51:57; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:31-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2).

Jesus’ petition (“remove this cup from me”) is sandwiched between submitting to God’s will (“If you are willing… yet not my will…”). Jesus prepared his mind to suffer for the Cross (1 Pet. 4:1). The battle was won before the Cross in prayer and trusting in God’s sovereignty. By way of application, if Jesus needed to pray through this coming suffering, then how much more do we need to turn to prayer during such trying times?

(22:43) Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.

God the Father responded to Jesus by strengthening him with an angelic messenger. Did he give words of encouragement? Courage? Compassion? The text doesn’t say—being surprisingly terse.

(22:44) And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.

Jesus was in abject “agony” thinking about what was to come. Jesus was going to face torture and execution, but worse than this, he was going to face the judgment of God himself. He is realizing just how horrific this will be.

The text does not say that Jesus sweat blood. It uses the language of simile (like drops of blood”). This refers to the sweat streaming down Jesus’ face in thick rivulets. He was filled with terror at what was going to come. Incidentally, this is the only time that we see Jesus afraid in the Bible. He is not afraid of people, pain, or persecution. He is only afraid of coming under the judgment of God.

(22:45-46) When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

“Sleeping from sorrow.” The disciples were filled with sadness on this night (Jn. 16:6, 20-22), sending them into a grief-stricken sleep. On the worst night of his life, the disciples couldn’t stay awake. They needed to be doing what Jesus was doing—namely, praying. But they failed in this simple task. And because they failed in prayer, they later failed in action.

Discussion Question

What do we learn about prayer from observing Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Luke 22:47-53 (Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-52, and John 18:2-11.]

Why did Judas betray Jesus? First, he was greedy (Mt. 26:14-15; Jn. 12:6). Second, he could see that following Jesus was about servant love—not authority (Jn. 13). He took his opportunity to “cash out” and cut his losses when he realized that following Jesus wouldn’t get him anywhere. Third, he probably was aware that following Jesus could result in martyrdom. As he heard Peter pledging life and limb to Jesus, Judas realized that he wanted nothing to do with such extreme sacrifice.

(22:47-48) While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. 48 But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Why did Judas need to mark out Jesus? It was dark, so it would’ve been difficult for the soldiers and religious leaders to see Jesus in the light of their torches. John records that they brought an entire Roman cohort (Jn. 18:3), which was “a tenth of a legion, or about six hundred men.”[426] Judas put a clear mark on Jesus to point him out to the soldiers.

Judas was so sly and sneaky that he used a “kiss” as the marking sign. A kiss was a sign of affectionate love, but Judas used it as a sign of betrayal. This was probably Judas’ way of covering his tracks, giving himself plausible deniability if things went sideways. He was making it look like he wasn’t responsible, pretending to get ambushed along with the other disciples.

But Jesus isn’t fooled. He knows precisely what is going on. He is being betrayed by a dear friend. It is significant, however, to note that even though Jesus wasn’t fooled, he was shocked at this level of two-faced hypocrisy from Judas (v.48).

Why 600 men for one Jewish rabbi? Temple police tried to apprehend Jesus before, and they failed (Jn. 7:32, 45-47). Moreover, there might have been a “crowd” which was separate from the cohort (Mt. 26:47; Mk. 14:43). Thus they may have been worried about an ensuing riot, or perhaps they might have been afraid of Jesus, because he was a miracle worker (Jn. 18:6).

(22:49-50) When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

Before Jesus could answer this question, “one of them” struck the high priest’s slave in the ear. John tells us that this was Peter who struck the slave (Jn. 18:10). Peter had the “Ready, FIRE, aim!” attitude.

Yet, how did the “mighty Peter” perform when it was his moment to shine? He gathered all of his courage to defend Jesus, and all he could do was sloppily swing his sword at a slave. But he didn’t even decapitate the man or land any sort of direct shot. Instead, he only wounded his ear! We can imagine the slave saying, “Dude, did you seriously just cut off my ear…? Owww! Not cool, man… Not cool!” Clearly Peter flubbed fulfilling his bold promise. Peter was not cut out for fighting, and should have stuck to fishing!

(22:51) But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him.

Jesus didn’t want any violence, and even if he did, he certainly didn’t need Peter to lead it.

(22:52-53) Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come against Him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs as you would against a robber? 53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”

Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the fact that the religious leaders needed to come at night. Clearly, it was because they “feared the people” (Lk. 20:19) and were “afraid of the people” (Lk. 22:2). Is Luke using symbolism in the fact that this happens at night? (Jn. 13:30; Col. 1:13; Eph. 6:12)

“Robber” (lēstēn) was a term for an insurrectionist (Lk. 23:19; Mk. 15:7) or terrorist of the state.

Luke 22:54-62 (Peter denies Jesus three times)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 26:58-75, Mark 14:54-72, and John 18:15-27.]

(22:54-55) Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. 55 After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.

So far, Peter had tried to defend Jesus, as he had recently promised (Lk. 22:33). But instead of defending Jesus, he just hacked the ear off of a slave (rather than fighting the 600 man cohort!), and Jesus rebuked him for this.

Now he’s following Jesus back to the high priest’s house. Will he help Christ escape or lay his life down for Jesus? Peter followed in order to see “the outcome” (Mt. 26:58). Peter had committed to die for Jesus in front of his fellow disciples (Lk. 22:33), but will he do so in the public square? Who will be the intimidating person he needs to stand up to?

Denial #1. To a slave girl (“You were WITH him”)

(22:56-57) And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

It’s night time, and they can only see each other by the dim light of the fire. This was why she was “looking intently” (atenizō) at him or “staring.” She announces her suspicion to the courtyard: “He was with him!” John tells us that multiple people accused him (Jn. 18:25).

The text doesn’t say that she was a big girl or a particularly muscular girl—merely a little slave girl! Again, the “mighty Peter” couldn’t hold his own under the scrutiny of a little girl.

“I do not know Him…” Bock writes, “The phrase is like the Jewish ban formulas used against those dismissed from the synagogue.”[427] It might be like saying, “We no longer know you…” or perhaps “You’re dead to me…”

Denial #2. To a man (“You are ONE OF THEM”)

(22:58) A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”

Matthew and Mark record that Peter got up from the fire and went to the porch (Mk. 14:68) or the gateway (Mt. 26:71). In his second denial, he rejects his fellowship with the disciples of Jesus: “I’m not one of those people!” Matthew and Mark state that a young girl accused him (Mk. 14:69; Mt. 26:71), but Luke uses the masculine pronoun (“another”). It could be that more than one person accused him around the fire in the courtyard at the same time. We’re not sure.

Denial #3. To a man (“This man also was WITH him”)

(22:59) After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.”

An hour goes by, and Peter’s accent gave him away (Mt. 26:73). One of the relatives of Malchus (the slave whom Peter attacked) spotted him (Jn. 18:26). Matthew records that Peter invoked a curse on Jesus at this point, swearing before God that he didn’t know him (Mt. 26:74).

(22:60) But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.

If you’ve ever heard a rooster crow, it is startling. Before Peter could finish the sentence, the staccato shrill of the rooster pierced the air. This sound must have sent a shiver down Peter’s spine.

(22:61) The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”

Peter was so self-absorbed with defending against their claims that he didn’t notice that they were transporting Jesus across the courtyard. Jesus said nothing. He only looked at Peter. Morris writes, “We do not know where Jesus was at this moment. He may have been in a gallery overlooking the courtyard, or in a room looking out on to it, or even in it, perhaps passing through on his way from Annas to Caiaphas. At any rate he was in some place from where he could see Peter and he turned and looked at him.”[428]

(22:62) And he went out and wept bitterly.

This was an all-time low for Peter, and a definitive moment in his life. This term for “wept bitterly” is often used of weeping over the dead (Lk. 8:52; Jn. 11:31, 33). So, this was probably an uncontrollable sob. Yet, this whole time, Peter had forgotten that Jesus not only predicted Peter’s failure, but also his repentance and restoration (Lk. 22:32). Similarly, our sin isn’t a surprise to God. The question is: what will we do when we fall into sin?

Luke 22:63-71 (Jesus’ interrogation in a Kangaroo Court)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:1 and Mark 15:1.]

(22:63-65) Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, 64 and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, “Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?” 65 And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming.

The soldiers began mocking and beating Jesus. They knew that he claimed to be a prophet. By beating him blindfolded, Jesus wouldn’t be able to see who hit him. So, they set up this macabre theater to mockingly test if he was a true prophet. Ironically, at this very moment, Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s betrayal had just come true!

(22:66) When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber.

“When it was day.” The religious leaders waited until morning to hold a court.

(22:67-68) [They were] saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe; 68 and if I ask a question, you will not answer.”

These people wouldn’t listen to Jesus’ teaching, but neither would they be honest in answering his questions. Jesus knew that there was nothing else to talk about.

(22:69) “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

This is a mixture of Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110.

(22:70) And they all said, “Are You the Son of God, then?” And He said to them, “Yes, I am.”

Jesus openly admits his identity.

(22:71) Then they said, “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

The claim of being the “Son of Man” and “Son of God” was considered blasphemy. If only they listened to his teachings (vv.67-68), they would’ve known that he was telling the truth.

Luke 23

Luke 23:1-5 (Jesus before Pilate)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:2, 11-14, Mark 15:1b-5, and John 18:28-38.]

(23:1) Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate.

Why didn’t the religious leaders simply execute Jesus themselves? Because the Romans held Israel as an occupied state, the religious leaders lacked the legal authority to execute Jesus themselves (Jn. 18:31). This is why they took him to Pontius Pilate, who alone had the authority to exercise capital punishment.

Jesus’ hands were tied when he faced Pilate according to the parallel accounts (Mk. 15:1; Mt. 27:2). How odd it must have been for Jesus to allow himself to be bound, when at any moment he could’ve snapped the ties loose.

(23:2) And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

They accused him of (1) misleading the nation, possibly through sedition, (2) forbidding the paying of taxes, possibly alluding to Luke 20:25, and (3) claiming to be the King of Israel—namely, the Christ. Regarding (1), Jesus was not misleading the nation, but rather, he would “teach the way of God in truth” (Lk. 20:21). Regarding (2), this was openly false (Lk. 20:20-26). Regarding (3), Jesus was the true King, but not in the way they believed (Jn. 18:36).

(23:3) So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

Pilate immediately jumped to the most important charge: “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus literally says, “You say.” This is probably because Jesus was not the type of King that Pilate had in mind.

(23:4) Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”

Why does Pilate not care that Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews? Pilate just finished asking Jesus, “Are you leading a rebellion against Rome? Are you guilty of treason and sedition?” And Jesus calmly replies, “It is as you say” (Lk. 23:4, NASB) or “You have said so” (ESV) or “Yes, it is as you say” (NIV) or “You have said it” (NLT). While this response is slightly enigmatic, it was clear that Jesus was affirming Pilate’s question. When then does Pilate tell the chief priests, “I find no guilt in this man”? How odd! Why would Pilate respond in this way?

John explains this difficulty (Jn. 18:33-38). He explains that Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (Jn. 18:36). Once Pilate discovers that Jesus is no political or military threat, he says, “I find no guilt in this man.”

(23:5) But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”

The religious leaders leverage further accusations by asserting that Jesus had a far-reaching ministry, and thus, a large impact. He was not a minor threat, but a major influence on the people of Israel.

Luke 23:6-12 (Jesus before Herod Antipas)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(23:6) When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.

Pilate sends him to the tetrarch Herod, because Jesus was from that district. Perhaps, Pilate was hoping that Herod would deal with Jesus, because Jesus was in Herod’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, Pilate may have been trying to squash a conflict between the two of them (v.12).

(23:7-11) And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. 8 Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. 9 And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. 10 And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. 11 And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate wanted to pass the “hot potato” to Herod for him to deal with Jesus. But this didn’t work, because Herod found him innocent of anything warranting capital punishment (v.15). Furthermore, Herod was altogether unimpressed with Jesus. He was expecting a magician, but Jesus wouldn’t do any “parlor tricks,” as if he was a court jester. Herod had him humiliated as a result.

(23:12) Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.

What was the source of Pilate and Herod’s conflict? We don’t know. This is the only historical record that Pilate and Herod had conflict.[429] However, if we had to guess, it likely had something to do with Pilate’s murderous atrocity in Galilee which was mentioned earlier (Lk. 13:1). By murdering people during a religious ceremony, it’s likely that Herod and Pilate hated each other. Consequently, Stein rightly notes, “The irony here should not be lost. Jesus’ passion brings reconciliation even between such people as Herod and Pilate.”[430]

Luke 23:13-25 (Jesus faces Pilate again)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:15-26, Mark 15:6-15, and John 18:39-19:16a.]

(23:13-16) Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.”

Pilate points out that neither Herod nor himself saw any illegal activity from Jesus. Pilate even interrogated Jesus “before you” (i.e. the religious leaders), so they would’ve been present during Jesus’ trial. Yet, none of them raised a salient legal accusation. Jesus would not be let off light if Pilate “punished” him. This would have involved a “beating or whipping,”[431] but not a full-fledged scourging and torture.

(23:17) This text doesn’t exist in our earliest manuscripts. Though, the same content appears in Mark 15:6-8.

(23:18-25) But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” 19 (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21 but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” 22 And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” 23 But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24 And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25 And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.

We don’t know how big of a crowd this was that surrounded Pilate’s praetorium. It could’ve been small enough for the religious leaders to influence, and hence, influence Pilate. Moreover, Barabbas may have had many of his compatriots there to get him off the hook. Even though Barabbas was an “insurrectionist” and a “murderer” (v. 25; Acts 3:14), they chose to set him free.

This is a stark picture of substitionary atonement! The evil person deserved to die, and Jesus deserved to live. However, Barabbas only lived because Jesus took his place on the Cross.

Discussion Questions

Some argue that Pontius Pilate wasn’t responsible for Jesus’ death, because the religious leaders forced his hand. After all, Pilate merely “granted” what they wanted (v.24). How would you respond?[432]

Luke 23:26-43 (The Cross)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:31-56, Mark 15:20-41, and John 19:16b-30.]

(23:26) When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.

Mark records who this man was with more detail (Mk. 15:21). This boosts the credibility of this account; otherwise, why would Mark have mentioned him at all?

(23:27-30) And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28 But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’

Even in this moment of agony, Jesus was thinking of others. He cites Hosea 10:8 and demonstrates that the destruction of the city of Jerusalem will be horrific. Moreover, in a moment of agony, Jesus had Scripture on his mind.

(23:31) For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Morris understands this proverbial saying to mean, “If the innocent Jesus suffered thus, what will be the fate of the guilty Jews? If the Romans treat thus One whom they admit to be innocent, what will they do to the guilty?”[433]

Stein understands “they” to refer to God.[434] He cites other examples using the third personal plural pronoun for God (Lk. 6:38; 12:20, 48; 16:9). This would mean, “If God didn’t spare his innocent son, then what will He do with Jerusalem?” We reject this reading, because the nearest antecedents refer to the religious leaders or the Romans—not to God.

(23:32-33) Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

The “place called The Skull” in Latin is calvariae (or Calvary). Jesus was crucified in the middle “with the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). Stein writes, “This is most likely the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day this site was outside the walled city.”[435]

(23:34) But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

There is debate as to whether Jesus’ words of forgiveness were in the original manuscript. They do not appear in many early manuscripts, but do appear in others. Morris accepts this as authentic, because there could have been motive for scribes to remove this prayer. After all, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, and this would risk the appearance of looking like Jesus’ prayer wasn’t answered.[436] Yet, if this was the case, this was surely a mistake. After all, Jesus was praying for the people around him—not the nation as a whole.

How could Jesus believe that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong? This could refer to the extent of their sin (i.e. not realizing Jesus’ true identity), or their sincerity of their beliefs—even though their beliefs were false (Rom. 10:4). The Bible elsewhere speaks of culpable ignorance due to a “hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:17-18; cf. Acts 3:17; 13:27; 17:30; 1 Tim 1:13).

“They cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” The dividing of Jesus’ clothes fulfills the prophecy of Psalm 22:18.

(23:35) And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”

This fulfills Psalm 22:6-8. Ironically, the only way to save others was for Jesus to not save himself.

(23:36-37) The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”

This fulfills Psalm 69:21. Little did they know that Jesus possessed the ability to save himself. Yet, love kept him nailed to the cross.

(23:38) Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

It was standard practice to place the crime of the victim on a placard.[437] All four gospels record this placard somewhat differently. However, this could be due to abbreviation, summary, or the fact that it was written in three languages (Jn. 19:20).

Two crucified men have two different responses to Jesus

(23:39) One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”

One of the crucified men “hurls abuse” (blasphēmeō), which literally means to blaspheme Jesus. His question is “bitterly sarcastic.”[438] Of all people, this man should be humble: He is facing imminent death, and now would be the perfect time to repent. Instead, he continues to mock Jesus—right to his bitter end.

(23:40-41) But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

Earlier, both men were mocking Jesus. Matthew records, “The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words” (Mt. 27:44). But as this other man hung from his cross, he had a change of heart—a “deathbed confession.” The other thief points out that they are both guilty and getting what they deserve. But he realizes that Jesus is innocent and who he claimed to be (see v.42).

(23:42) And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”

The crucified man didn’t merely believe that Jesus was innocent, but he also affirmed Jesus’ identity. By calling it Your kingdom,” the man was claiming that Jesus was the King!

The man probably thought that Jesus’ kingdom was a long time from now—especially since Jesus was about to die. So, it would’ve taken the man a lot of faith to trust in what Jesus would do in his distant, future kingdom. But Jesus’ response is quite surprising.

(23:43) And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

The criminal on the cross affirmed (1) Jesus’ goodness and (2) Jesus’ greatness. And this was good enough for Jesus. At that moment, Christ accepted this criminal on the basis of these simple terms. Even though the man had been previously mocking him, and even though he had only a few words of faith, Jesus told him that he would be with him “Paradise.”

This really counters the notion of soul-sleep. This man expected Jesus’ kingdom to be in the future, but Jesus contrasts this with the word “today.” Those who affirm soul-sleep argue that the comma should go after the word “today.” They would render this passage like this: “Truly I say to you on this very day, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” In other words, Jesus was saying that he was telling him this truth today—not that the man would be in heaven today. The problem with this view is that the natural flow of thought brings the expectation that Jesus’ kingdom would be distant, but Jesus is correcting this view by bringing the man to paradise “today.” Furthermore, we don’t see a single other example of this grammatical construction anywhere else in the Gospels. The expression “truly I say to you” is quite common, and it is its own introduction to what follows. If Jesus was including the word “today” in this regular formulaic statement, it would be the only time in recorded history.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 39-43. According to this text, what do we learn about the salvation Jesus offers? Specifically, what is salvation? How do we get salvation? And who gets salvation?

Luke 23:50-54 (Jesus’ Burial)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 27:57-66, Mark 15:42-47, and John 19:31-42.]

(23:44-45) It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

The “sixth hour” is noon, and the “ninth hour” is 3pm.

Do the Synoptic Gospels contradict John’s account of the time? Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the darkness from noon to 3pm (Mt. 27:45; Mk. 15:33; Lk. 23:44), whereas John states that Jesus was still on trial at noon (Jn. 19:14). While these time measurements do differ slightly, we shouldn’t consider this an error. A measurement is only false if we expected a further level of precision. So, for example, if I said, “The next town is an hour up the road,” no one would be disgruntled if they discovered that it was actually 56 minutes up the road! Similarly, the times surrounding Jesus’ death are approximate, because they didn’t have watches or clocks. Indeed, they told time by the position of the sun, which was obscured during the crucifixion.

“Darkness” held symbolic value for God’s judgment in the OT. In this context, the darkness over the land shows that the Father was judging the Son.

The “veil of the temple” ripped in half, which symbolically shows that access to God was now achievable—not through the Temple—but through Jesus’ own body (Jn. 2:19-21).

(23:46) And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.

This fulfills Psalm 31:5 (cf. 1 Pet. 4:19). Morris notes, “The word rendered breathed his last, exepneusen, is not the normal one for saying that someone has died. In fact none of the Evangelists says ‘Jesus died’, which may be part of the way they bring out the truth that in Jesus’ death there was something most unusual.”[439] Stein agrees, “Even in his death Jesus was in control. He was not killed. He did not die. Rather he voluntarily gave up his life to death. Jesus was Master even in his death.”[440] Jesus—the second person of the Trinity—cannot die in his divine nature. His immaterial Spirit continued to live—even though his physical body was clinically dead. This subtle language—that refers to his physical death—fits with the hypostatic union (see “The Incarnation”).

(23:47) Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

Usually, crucifixion victims would spit or scream or urinate on those around them. But Jesus held himself with such composure that this man was deeply moved deep in his spirit. This begins to fulfill Jesus’ prayer: “Father forgive them…” (Lk. 23:34).

Furthermore, it isn’t insignificant that a Gentile recognized the reality of Jesus life and death. This fits with the overall theme of Luke’s biography, which emphasizes the spread of the gospel to Gentiles. Not only did this Roman recognize the innocence of Jesus, but Matthew records that he affirmed Jesus as “the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54).

(23:48) And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts.

Many of these people may have been some of those who came to faith at Pentecost (Acts 2).

(23:49) And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.

These women knew where Jesus was buried because they watched this from a “distance” (cf. v.55).

(23:50-53) And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man 51 (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; 52 this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain.

Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four Gospels (Mk. 15:43; Mt. 27:57; Jn. 19:38). He was a “secret disciple” (Jn. 19:38; Mt. 27:57), and he didn’t agree with the vote of the Sanhedrin. Thus, he asked for Jesus’ corpse to give Jesus a proper burial, because Jewish law dictated that a person needed to be taken down from hanging before sundown (see 11Q Temple 64:11-13; Josephus, Jewish War 4.317). Matthew tells us that this was Joseph’s personal tomb (Mt. 27:60). This fulfills the prophecy that Jesus would be “with a rich man in his death” (Isa. 53:9).

“Waiting for the kingdom of God.” This is the same language used of Simeon at the beginning of the gospel (Lk. 2:25). True believers existed throughout the gospel, and the language of their hope in God’s kingdom has now come full circle.

(23:54-56) It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.

Women were present to witness where Jesus was buried. This becomes integral to the next chapters where these women become the first witnesses of the resurrection.

Luke 24

Luke 24:1-8 (Sunday morning)

[The parallel passages are found in Matthew 28:5-8, Mark 16:2-8, and John 20:1.]

(24:1) But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.

The women waited until after the Sabbath (Saturday) was completed, and they showed up at the crack of dawn (Sunday) to dress Jesus’ corpse with spices.

(24:2-3) And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

The women were the first witnesses of the empty tomb.

(24:4-7) While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

Two angels greet the women, and they announce that Jesus rose from the dead—just as he himself predicted in Galilee (Lk. 9:22; cf. 17:25; 18:32). It’s clear that these angels are working for Jesus!

Luke 24:8-12 (The empty tomb)

[The parallel passage is found in John 20:2-10.]

(24:8-9) And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

“And they remembered His words.” As we stated above, Jesus predicted all of this (Lk. 9:22; cf. 17:25; 18:32).

“Reported all these things to the eleven.” Why doesn’t it say “the twelve”? Luke doesn’t explain what happened to Judas. He merely mentions “the eleven.” This would leave the reader guessing what had happened. We only learn about his death when we turn over to Matthew 27:3-5 or Acts 1:18 for an explanation—namely, suicide.

(24:10-11) Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.

“They would not believe them.” The mighty male apostles are described as unbelievers! This fits with the culture at the time: In first-century Israel, men didn’t view the testimony of women in high regard. The word “nonsense” (leros) means “totally devoid of anything worthwhile, idle talk, nonsense, humbug” (BDAG).

(24:12) But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

Peter took the testimony of the women and literally “ran with it.” While it seemed like implausible “nonsense” (v.11), Peter wanted to see for himself.

Luke 24:13-35 (On the road to Emmaus)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(24:13-14) And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place.

Luke leaves Peter’s journey to the tomb on a cliffhanger, and he moves the plot to a road on the way to Emmaus, where two disciples were walking and talking about Jesus’ death.

(24:15) While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.

Little did they know, but a Perfect Stranger encountered them on the road…

(24:16) But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

Why couldn’t they recognize Jesus? What was it that “prevented from recognizing Him”? The theme throughout this chapter is that the unbelief of the disciples prevented them from recognizing Jesus (cf. v.38; Mt. 28:17). Later, Jesus needed to open their minds to understand the Scriptures (v.45), and perhaps something similar is happening here: That is, neither Jesus nor the Scriptures were any different, but the disciples couldn’t see them because of unbelief. Most commentators believe that this was because “sight” is connected with faith (Lk. 1:78-79; 2:30; 6:39-42; 10:23; 11:34; 18:35-42; 19:42).[441]

(24:17-20) And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.

Cleopas’ question implies that Jesus’ death was such a monumental event that it had the city of Jerusalem in an uproar. As Paul would later say, these events had “not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

(24:21-24) “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”

This account occurs on the “third day,” so we know this is the same day as the earlier account of Peter and the women witnesses. They recount the testimony of the women, and say that “some of us” inspected the tomb. Earlier in this account, only Peter went to the tomb (v.12). But in John’s gospel, we discover that both Peter and John went to the tomb. It makes sense of their statement that some of them went, rather than one of them went. This small and subtle shift in language harmonizes well with John.

(24:25-29) And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. 29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them.

Jesus implies that they should have realized that he was risen from the dead at this point. He takes them through the Bible to show them the predictions concerning the Messiah. Significant time passes, because it was nearly sundown when Jesus entered their home (“getting toward evening”). Thus, we can conclude that this is Sunday night.

(24:30-31) When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.

Jesus had the same body as before. Mary could recognize Jesus’ voice (Jn. 20:16), and Jesus still carried his wounds from the Cross (v.39; Jn. 20:27). Moreover, the disciples knew who Jesus was when they saw him in person (Jn. 21:12). At the same time, Jesus had changed, receiving an “upgraded” resurrection body. Here, these two disciples had spent the entire day and into the night before they “recognized Him.” Therefore, Jesus could change his appearance if he wanted to. More incredibly, Jesus could apparently teleport his material body in an instant: here, he “vanished” right before their very eyes! (cf. v.36) While Jesus retained his physical identity, his body was significantly upgraded. Thus, we might say that Jesus wasn’t less than his former physical self, but he was certainly more.

Was Jesus performing the Lord’s Supper here? Some commentators hold that Luke “purposely portrayed this meal as a kind of Lord’s Supper.”[442] We disagree. While the language is similar to the Lord’s Supper, it is also similar to the feeding of the 5,000. Mere word association holds little weight. Moreover, Jesus told his disciples that he would “not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:29). Regarding the Passover, Jesus said, “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:16). At this point, Jesus hadn’t entered into his kingdom. So, this cannot be a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

(24:32-35) They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

These two disciples returned to the rest of the disciples to report Jesus’ appearance. Only one of them was named (Cleopas), but Luke chose to keep the other anonymous.

Luke 24:36-43 (The risen Jesus)

[The parallel passage is found in John 20:19-25.]

(24:36-37) While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.

Jesus appeared to the disciples after they heard the report about Jesus’ appearance on the Emmaus road. Comically, Jesus greets them with a message of “peace,” but this causes them to be “startled and frightened.” He must have appeared so suddenly that they screamed in startled shock! They thought they were seeing a g-g-g-g-ghost!

Jesus could “vanish” (Lk. 24:31) or appear in the middle of locked rooms (Jn. 20:19, 26). Interestingly, while Luke and John emphasize the supernatural capacity of Jesus’ resurrected body (e.g. teleporting, ascending, unrecognizable, etc.), they are also the two gospels to emphasize the physicality of his body (e.g. eating fish, touching his wounds, etc.).

(24:38-40) And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

Jesus invites them to “touch” his body to demonstrate that he was physically risen.

(24:41-43) While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them.

What is the allegorical or symbolic interpretation of Jesus asking for a fish to eat? There is none! This simply shows that he had a physical body—not an immaterial body like a spirit or ghost.

Luke 24:44-53 (Jesus appears in Jerusalem)

[This material is unique to Luke.]

(24:44-47) Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Jesus explained the predictions and message of the Hebrew Scriptures to the disciples, explaining why he needed to die and rise from the dead. The connecting word “now” (de) doesn’t imply a strict temporal succession. Rather, it connects this account with the previous account. After all, Jesus taught the disciples over a period of several weeks before the festival of Pentecost in Acts 2.[443]

(24:48-49) “You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The disciples had visual testimony and evidence from the Scriptures, but they lacked what was most important: the Holy Spirit. They need to “stay in the city” of Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. Luke doesn’t add too much detail because this is explained in much more detail in the Book of Acts.

(24:50-53) And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God.

Bethany is on the Mount of Olives—the place where Jesus ascended (Acts 1:12). Again, the connecting word “and” (de) doesn’t imply strict temporal succession (cf. v.44). These events took place over 40 days. Luke gives a very succinct explanation of Jesus’ ascension, because his sequel explains it further in the book of Acts.

Discussion Questions

Luke opens and closes his gospel by focusing on the Temple? (Lk. 1:8; 24:53) This is what theologians call an inclusio, where these themes form “bookends” to the account. Do you think there is any significance to the fact that Luke opens and closes his gospel by focusing on the Temple?

[1] Maurice Casey, Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths? (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), p.104.

[2] William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), p.222. For a more modern treatment of this, see A.W. Mosley’s article titled, “Historical Reporting in the Ancient World.”

[3] A.N. Sherwin White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament: The Sarum Lectures, 1960-61 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1963), p.189.

[4] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), p.178.

[5] Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker (Cambridge: O’Reilly Media, 2009), 57.

[6] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.821.

[7] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.81.

[8] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.63.

[9] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p.38.

[10] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.55.

[11] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.63.

[12] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.63.

[13] Josephus writes, “The Pharisees have delivered (paradosen) to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the law of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers (ek paradoseōs tōn paterōn)” (Antiquities, 13.297).

[14] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.82.

[15] E. Earle Ellis, “New Directions in Form Criticism,” Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (WUNT 18; Tübingen: Mohr, 1978) 242-47.

[16] Alan Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2000), see chapters 7-8.

[17] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2nd edition, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2017), p.287-288.

[18] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.64.

[19] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p.41.

[20] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.82.

[21] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.64.

Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p.41.

[22] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.83.

[23] Compare Acts 11:15 with Acts 10:44-45. This shows a topical—not chronological—arrangement.

[24] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.65.

[25] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.66.

[26] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.63.

[27] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.823.

[28] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.83.

[29] Robert Stein, Luke (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.66.

[30] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p.44.

[31] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p.44.

[32] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.83.

[33] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.65.

[34] Josephus, Antiquities 14.14.4-5; 14.16.1.

[35] Tacitus, Histories 5.9.

[36] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.75.

[37] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 79-80.

[38] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.68.

[39] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 74.

[40] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 66.

[41] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 74.

[42] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 73-74.

[43] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.826.

[44] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 70.

[45] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.79.

[46] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 77.

[47] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 77.

[48] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 79.

[49] Indeed, most modern NT scholars do not believe that Matthew and Luke were aware of one another’s gospels—hence, the appeal to the “Q” document.

[50] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.89.

[51] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.106.

[52] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 82.

[53] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.830.

[54] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.109.

[55] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.106.

[56] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.65.

[57] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.88-89.

[58] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 85.

[59] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997).

[60] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 94-95.

[61] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 90.

[62] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 91.

[63] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 91.

[64] Sometimes, Jews would name the child after the father (Tobit 1:1, 9; Josephus, Life 1; Jewish War 5.13.2; Antiquities, 14.1.3) or after the grandfather (1 Macc. 2:1-2; Jub. 11.15).

[65] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 97.

[66] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 97.

[67] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 99.

[68] Regarding the Priene Inscription, Green writes, “Appearing as it does in such close proximity to 2:1, this ‘good news’ [2:10] must be seen as countering the exalted claims made by and on behalf of Augustus.” Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 134.

[69] Emphasis mine. Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 106.

[70] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 106.

[71] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 107.

[72] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.843.

[73] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 108.

[74] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.101.

[75] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 108.

[76] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.223.

[77] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 114.

[78] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 117.

[79] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.107.

[80] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17.13.2.

[81] Some readers might calculate only eleven years between these two events, but they need to remember that there is no “year zero.” The calendar moved from December 31, 1 BC to January 1, AD 1. This is similar to how we have no “zero century,” but instead, we move from the first century BC to the first century AD.

[82] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 123.

[83] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 122-123.

[84] I am indebted to my friend Scott Risley for this insight.

[85] The technical term is the “Intertestamental Period.” That is, this is the time between the Old and New Testament.

[86] Babylonian Talmud, Yomah 9b. This sentiment is also reflected in Sota 48b, Sanhedrin 11a, and Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs, 8.9.3

[87] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.282.

[88] Josephus, Jewish War 2.9.2-4; Antiquities 18.3.1.

[89] Tacitus, Annals 15.44.

[90] Philo, Embassy to Gaius 38.

[91] Josephus, Jewish War 1.33.8; 2.9.1; Antiquities 17.8.1; 17.11.4; 18.5.2.

[92] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.854.

[93] Josephus, Antiquities 17.2.2; 17.4.2-3; 17.8.1; 17.11.4.

[94] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.854.

[95] Julius Wellhausen, Das Evangelium Lucae. Berlin: Reimer. p.4.

[96] Josephus, Antiquities 14.13.3; 15.4.1.

[97] Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[98] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.284.

[99] Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (p. 169). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[100] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 127.

[101] Stein argues that these were not Roman soldiers, but Jewish soldiers employed by Herod. Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 134.

[102] Flavius Josephus, Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, 18:116-119. Josephus puts a political spin on John’s execution, while the Synoptics place a moral and religious angle on it. These can be harmonized because the religious and political were so closely conjoined at this time.

[103] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 146.

[104] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 147.

[105] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 194.

[106] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 147.

[107] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), pp.121-122.

[108] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.379.

[109] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 147-148.

[110] Strack and Billerbeck: Kommentar vein Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrash, 1:151. Cited in Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.864-865.

[111] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.380.

[112] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.864.

[113] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 148.

[114] Euripides, Incertarum Fabularum Fragmenta 1086.

[115] Genesis Rabbah 23:4.

[116] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 159.

[117] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 162.

[118] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.133.

[119] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 169.

[120] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 176.

[121] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 882.

[122] Emphasis mine. Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 137.

[123] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 176.

[124] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 177.

[125] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 181.

[126] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 182.

[127] Sam Chan, How to Talk about Jesus Without Being That Guy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), pp.31-32.

[128] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 186.

[129] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 141-142.

[130] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50: BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), p.523.

[131] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 189.

[132] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.237.

[133] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.238.

[134] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[135] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[136] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 194.

[137] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.146.

[138] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 200.

[139] This prayer was called the Shemoneh ’Esreh.

[140] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.148.

[141] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 206.

[142] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.149.

[143] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.149.

[144] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.150.

[145] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 208.

[146] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.152.

[147] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.152.

[148] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.194.

[149] It’s surprising to read that this Roman man helped to financially support the synagogue, but then again, this is frequently mentioned in history. Stein writes, “The giving of contributions by Gentiles to support Jewish synagogues is well attested.” Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 219.

[150] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.266.

[151] John 4:46ff is a possible exception. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.201.

[152] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.119.

[153] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.261.

[154] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.197.

[155] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.336.

[156] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.263.

[157] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 229.

[158] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.293.

[159] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.264.

[160] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.339.

[161] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.187.

[162] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 230.

[163] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 236.

[164] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.166.

[165] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 236.

[166] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 237.

[167] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 313.

[168] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 237.

[169] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 313.

[170] Pope Gregory I (AD 591) gave a series of sermons conflating the “sinful woman” of Luke 7:36-50 with Mary Magdalene.

[171] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.224-225.

[172] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 245.

[173] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.313.

[174] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.223.

[175] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.314.

[176] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 247.

[177] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.310.

[178] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.223.

[179] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.165-166.

[180] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.244.

[181] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.149.

[182] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 253.

[183] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.244.

[184] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.166-167.

[185] Mark Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), p.153.

[186] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.150.

[187] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.282.

[188] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.167.

[189] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.272.

[190] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.160.

[191] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.160.

[192] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.174.

[193] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.230.

[194] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 262.

[195] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 263.

[196] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.305.

[197] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 268.

[198] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.183-184.

[199] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 919.

[200] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 268.

[201] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.237.

[202] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.398.

[203] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 270.

[204] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[205] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.98.

[206] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.289.

[207] Keener, C. S. (1997). Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[208] Craig Evans, Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), p.142.

[209] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.187.

[210] Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21-18:34 (Vol. 35B, p. 482). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[211] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 279.

[212] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.384.

[213] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.926.

[214] Craig Evans, Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), pp.150-151.

[215] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.112.

[216] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.263.

[217] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible Exposition Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 207). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[218] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 284.

[219] Craig Evans, Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), p.154.

[220] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.385.

[221] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[222] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

[223] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[224] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.317.

[225] For an elaboration of the comparisons, see Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.436-440.

[226] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.447-448.

[227] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.274.

[228] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[229] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 298.

[230] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.200.

[231] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.201.

[232] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 305.

[233] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.183.

[234] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.202.

[235] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.438.

[236] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 309.

[237] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 419.

[238] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1028.

[239] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1029.

[240] Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21-18:34 (Vol. 35B, p. 593). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[241] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.208.

[242] Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21-18:34 (Vol. 35B, p. 592). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[243] Cited in Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21-18:34 (Vol. 35B, p. 584). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[244] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 317.

[245] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1032.

[246] D.W. Burdick, James (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p.204.

[247] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1033.

[248] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1033.

[249] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.209.

[250] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1033.

[251] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.943.

[252] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.944.

[253] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 321.

[254] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1042.

[255] Chuck Smith, Pastor’s Textbook.

[256] Schaeffer, Francis A. No Little People. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003. 63.

[257] Michael Lipka, “5 Facts About Prayer.” May 6, 2015.

[258] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 324.

[259] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 324.

[260] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 444.

[261] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1057.

[262] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1058.

[263] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1062.

[264] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 328.

[265] The Mishnah (the “Tannaitic” literature) dates from the first century to roughly AD 200. The Amoraic period wrote commentaries called the Gemara on the Mishnah: one in Palestine and one (larger, more important tome) in Babylon. The Mishnah and the Gemara later became the Talmud. This excerpt comes from this later literature. It confirms what the NT teaches regarding the antagonistic view of Jesus’ miracles.

[266] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), pp.215-216.

[267] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 331.

[268] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 332.

[269] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 336.

[270] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1101.

[271] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 338.

[272] Sotah, 4b.

[273] Berakoth, 60b.

[274] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.221.

[275] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.222.

[276] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1117.

[277] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.223.

[278] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.225.

[279] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.225.

[280] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 349.

[281] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 351.

[282] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.230.

[283] W. Arndt (et al.), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 428.

[284] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 360.

[285] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 361.

[286] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.237.

[287] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.237.

[288] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 367.

[289] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.238.

[290] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.239.

[291] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1207.

[292] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 370.

[293] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 370.

[294] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.242.

[295] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 376.

[296] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 376.

[297] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.242.

[298] Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1.

[299] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.243.

[300] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 382.

[301] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.245.

[302] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 386.

[303] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1256.

[304] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1256.

[305] See m. Sabbat. 5; 15.2; m. Erubin. 2.1-4. Cited in Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1258.

[306] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 389.

[307] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1263.

[308] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1264.

[309] Francis Schaeffer, No Little People (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), pp.29-30.

[310] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1273.

[311] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 251.

[312] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1288.

[313] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1291.

[314] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 396.

[315] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.256.

[316] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.256.

[317] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 406.

[318] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.260.

[319] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 407.

[320] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.261.

[321] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 407.

[322] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.262.

[323] Andrew Murray, The Deeper Christian Life (Fleming H. Revell, 1895), pp.16-18.

[324] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 590.

[325] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1328.

[326] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), pp.1330-1331.

[327] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1331.

[328] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 416.

[329] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 417.

[330] Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003), p.42.

[331] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 418.

[332] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 419.

[333] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 419.

[334] Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1984), 85.

[335] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1365.

[336] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.270.

[337] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1385.

[338] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1391.

[339] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.273.

[340] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.275.

[341] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.276.

[342] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke. NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), p.655. Cited in Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 654.

[343] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 633.

[344] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 439.

[345] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 441.

[346] Emphasis mine. Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1447.

[347] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 444.

[348] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.281.

[349] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.282.

[350] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 449.

[351] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.282.

[352] B. Taanit 2A.

[353] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.282.

[354] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.447-448.

[355] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.274.

[356] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[357] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1472.

[358] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.287.

[359] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.298.

[360] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.

[361] William E. Phipps, The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 90.

[362] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.285.

[363] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.473.

[364] The Jewish War 4.459.

[365] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.435.

[366] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 661.

[367] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 467.

[368] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 467.

[369] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 468.

[370] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 468.

[371] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 468-469.

[372] Josephus, Antiquities 14.13.1-4 (14.370-85) and Wars 1.14.4 (1.284-85).

[373] Josephus, Antiquities 17.9.1-3; 17.11.4 (17.206-23, 318) and Wars 2.2.2; 2.6.3 (2.18, 94).

[374] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.291.

[375] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.292.

[376] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.1009.

[377] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.1010.

[378] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.296.

[379] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.297.

[380] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.297.

[381] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996).

[382] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 487.

[383] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.301.

[384] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1588.

[385] Midrash Esth 7.10.

[386] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.527.

[387] F.F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Anchor Books, 1983), p.99.

[388] F.F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Anchor Books, 1983), pp.99-100.

[389] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1609.

[390] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), pp.1609-1610.

[391] Walter L. Liefeld, “Luke,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.1015.

[392] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.459.

[393] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.525-526.

[394] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1612.

[395] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.525-526.

[396] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.529.

[397] Blomberg, Craig. Jesus and the Gospels: an Introduction and Survey. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1997. 48.

[398] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.16. Cf. Jewish War 2.162-66.

[399] I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke. NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), p.743. Cited in Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 503.

[400] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1639.

[401] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 507.

[402] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1645.

[403] To be more accurate, he states that the dimensions were 25 cubits long, 12 cubits deep, and 8 cubits tall. A cubit is thought to be 18 inches long. Josephus, Antiquities, 15:392.

[404] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[405] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.559.

[406] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 511.

[407] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.

[408] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 511.

[409] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 518.

[410] We see a gap-prophecy between verse 24 and verse 25.

[411] This might refer to the fact that when the temple burned (AD 70), a bright star appeared over the Jewish Temple (see Josephus, Jewish War, 6.5.1-3).

[412] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 522.

[413] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 521.

[414] We are appealing to Leibniz’ Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals to make this argument. The law states that “if A is identical to B, then any property had by A is also had by B.” In the case of these two accounts, the two descriptions make various propositional statements that demonstrate that they are not identical. We are not merely appealing to differences or omissions, but to contradictions between the two accounts.

[415] Emphasis ours. Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 522.

[416] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1683.

[417] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 528.

[418] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1693.

[419] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1693.

[420] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 541.

[421] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 552.

[422] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 555.

[423] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 556.

[424] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.329.

[425] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1749.

[426] Merrill Tenney, John: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9: John and Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 168.

[427] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51-24:53 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), p.1783.

[428] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.334.

[429] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.340.

[430] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 578.

[431] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 580.

[432] We agree with Robert Stein who writes, “No sympathy… should be lost over a man who willingly executed someone he knew to be innocent. The one human being who had the most to do with Jesus’ crucifixion was Pontius Pilate. He had the authority to release an innocent man or crucify him. He chose the latter to preserve his political career. As a result history and the church will always confess that Jesus ‘was crucified under Pontius Pilate.’” Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 583.

[433] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.343.

[434] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 586.

[435] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 588.

[436] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.344.

[437] Suetonius, Caligula 32 and Domitian 10; Eusebius, Church History, 5.1.44.

[438] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.346.

[439] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.348.

[440] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 596.

[441] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 845.

[442] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 613.

[443] This is contra the specious view of Licona who holds that Luke 24 depicts all of these events in one day, while Acts 1 depicts these events over forty days. Licona appeals to a literary device called “compression” to fix this alleged contradiction, but no contradiction even exists! As we have shown, the narrative in Luke 24 does not demand that these events only occurred in a 24-hour period. See Michael Licona, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? (Oxford University Press, 2017), p.177, 180.