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Overview Of Luke's Gospel (part 2)

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St Luke (part 2) 

See also Luke part 1 

Audiences who have walked "The Life of Christ" at Dundas Castle have felt themselves uniquely transported back to first century Palestine. The study of the historical Jesus began in the nineteenth century in the Divinity faculties of German universities, and scholars today are of the opinion that it is important to understand what Jesus said and did against the religious, social and political background of the times in which he lived.  

The current lectionary readings from St Luke's Gospel, our Gospel for the year, are familiar passages. The following notes will perhaps provide a little more background to what many of us will already know. 

Luke 10: 25 - 37 The Good Samaritan : Who is my Neighbour? 

  • Road narrow; rocky defiles all around; home of brigands even into modern times.
  • The traveller was fool-hardy; most people waited to travel in protected caravan groups.
  • The priest, if he touched the dead body was unclean for seven days and would lose his turn of duty in the Temple.
  • The Levite may have been afraid the man was a decoy and put his own safety first.
  • The Samaritan may have been racially a Samaritan, despised as of a mixed race, or someone who broke the ceremonial law, but his credit was good as the inn-keeper trusted him.
  • The young lawyer, a scribe, was asking a genuine question for those days. At worst the Jews of the time confined the word "neighbour" to their fellow Jews. Jesus, when he told the young lawyer to read, was referring to the little leather boxes which strict Jews wore, bound on their foreheads and forearms. These contained quotations from scripture, among them Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18.

Luke 10: 38 - 42. Martha and Mary : Different Temperaments. 

  • God did not make people all alike. Some are mainly quiet and thoughtful, others are predominantly energetic and active but God needs both thinkers and doers.
  • Both Martha and Mary wanted to do their best for Jesus who may well have been tired that day and apprehensive about the future.
  • Perhaps on this visit what he needed was someone to be quiet with him - "the better part" - on this occasion.
  • When Jesus said " There is only need of one thing" he may have meant he did not need a big meal and that one course would be enough.
  • We are not told whether Martha realised Jesus was not criticising and she was not offended and became aware that active involvement is not always most helpful.

Luke 11: 5 - 13 Ask and you will receive. 

  • It was customary for a rabbi to teach his disciples a simple prayer and so the disciples' request to Jesus " Teach us to pray," was not unusual.
  • We have already seen that the word "parable" literally means ideas laid alongside each other.
  • The teaching from a parable can be drawn from the ideas in parallel being like each other or contrasting with each other.
  • The parable of the persistent host and reluctant neighbour is an example of contrast.
  • God is not like the unwilling neighbour. He answers our prayers in His way, if we make them regularly and sincerely.
  • We are not forcing an unwilling God by persistence to answer our prayers because He already knows that we need His spirit with us.

Luke 12: 13 - 30. The Place of Material Possessions. 

  • It was quite common for people in the time of Jesus to take their unsettled disputes to respected rabbis.
  • The lilies to which Jesus referred were scarlet anemones. After summer showers they bloomed brilliantly for a day and then died.
  • Wood was scarce in Palestine and it was the dried grass and wild flowers that were used to feed the oven fire.
  • Wealth was often in the form of costly garments. Moths could get at these and ruin them.

Luke 12: 49 - 56. Jesus brings Division. 

  • In Jewish thought fire is the symbol of judgement.
  • The Jews believed that God would judge other nations by one standard and themselves by another.
  • Jesus's coming did cause division in the Roman world tearing families in two.
  • The Jews knew that cloud over the Mediterranean meant that rain and wind from the south was the forerunner of the scorching Sirocco wind.

Luke 13:10 - 17. Healing in the Synagogue. 

  • This is the last time we hear of Jesus healing in the Synagogue.
  • Technically healing was work and Jesus had broken the Sabbath Law.
  • Jesus used the Law to answer his critics.
  • The rabbis opposed cruelty to dumb animals and so it was legal to loose animals from their stalls and take them to water.
Christian Education Committee, 2004


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