You will find an outline and introduction to Luke, here.
Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use with your reading.
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
V. The Journey to Jerusalem 9:51-19:48
A. 9:51-10:42 Discipleship: Hearing and Doing the Word
B. 11:1-13 The Fatherhood of God
C 11:14-54 Jesus Behavior Questioned
D. 12:1-13:9 Readiness for the Coming Judgment
E. 13:10-17:10 Who will Participate in the Kingdom?
F. 17:11-19:27 Responding to the Kingdom:
18:1-8 The unjust judge and the persistent widow. A judge’s duty was to hear complaints fairly and to maintain harmony in the community. There were no juries. Widows did not inherit the deceased husband’s estate which went to the husband’s sons or brothers. That the widow is addressing the judge suggests she has no kinsman to advocate for her. This parable is similar to the parable in 11:5-8 in theme and structure. If an unjust judge will finally do the right thing, how much more will the just God of Israel? When the Son of Man comes will he find a persistent faith which demands justice?
18:9-14 The pharisee and the tax collector. More on prayer and the importance of humility.
18:15-17 Receiving children, receiving the kingdom: Children in the ancient world were vulnerable and while they had future potential value as members of the family they had little value to society as children. Children certainly could not participate in Roman societies practice of hospitality as a reflection of status, wealth and honor. The phrase “little children” also was used to refer to household slaves and children. Child mortality was high. 30% of children were dead by 6 years of age, 60% by the age of 16. We are not told why people brought their children to Jesus, but perhaps these mortality statistics suggest a reason. Neither do we know why the disciples thought it important to deny children access to Jesus. What does this story suggest about power and access to God and God’s concern for people?
18:18-30 Power and wealth: Recall that wealth was considered a sign of God’s favor. This is the same question the lawyer asked in 10:25. Is Jesus answer substantially different here than it was before?
18:31-34 The third Passion prediction.
18:35-43 The blind beggar. What does it mean that once the blind man could see, he followed Jesus?
19:1-10 Zachaeus: Once again Jesus associates with “tax collectors and sinners” and people “grumble”. The last time a tax collector appeared in the gospel was in 18:9-14. How does that story connect with this one? How does the stories of a a blind man (18:35-43) who wants to see and Zachaeus who wants to see Jesus interpret each other? Verse 2 tells us Zachaeus was rich, how have rich people (see esp 18:18-30) been portrayed thus far in Luke’s gospel? What does being a “son of Abraham” imply in Luke’s gospel? (see 13:16, 3:8, 16:19-31) Why does Jesus mean when he says “Today salvation has come to this house…?
19:11-27 The parable of the vengeful King. This parable is similar to the parable of the talents in Matthew but is different. Notice what verse 11 tells us. The story of Zachaeus is an interpretive clue for this parable. Also, Jesus is addressing the peoples’ expectations about what would happen when Jesus entered Jerusalem. This story in this parable is similar to the historical event of Archelaus traveling to Rome in 4 BCE to obtain confirmation of his kingship in Judea. A Jewish delegation was sent to protest his appointment and when Archelaus returned home, his enemies were punished. Herod, Archelaus father) also traveled to Rome ( and Alexandria) to establish his rule. After Archelaus, Herod Antipas traveled to Rome to try to become king. Commentators disagree about how to interpret this parable. Joel Green writes,
“[T]he nobleman who becomes king serves as an analogy for Jesus primarily in a parodic or ironic way. It is true, of course, that Jesus is of noble birth;… The parody resident in the narrative identification of Jesus and the nobleman of this parable lies elsewhere, in the construction of Jesus’ kingship and kingdom within the Gospel of Luke. In fact, the kingdom of God as this has been articulated by Jesus may seem harsh and arbitrary to any who have oriented their lives around the quest for status grounded in wealth and around legal interpretations that lead to perpetual separation from the needy. …The question put forward by Jesus’ parable is a pressing one. Those who abhor the nobleman and reject his claim to the throne- are they rebels or patriots? The slave who blew the whistle on the character and practices of the nobleman- is his action noteworthy (though tragic) or blameworthy ( on account of his unwillingness to respond faithfully with what was entrusted to him by his lord)? Or, to change the terms of the discourse: Is Jesus really the heir apparent? Is this really the nature of God’s imperial rule? Those who hear the parable are left to take sides. (Green, 676,677)
Culpepper, in his commentary writes:
The parable’s use of this cultural type scene [ the parable uses very familiar elements which the audience will recognize and thus will anticipate the outcome] rules out any possibility of interpreting the parable as an allegory in which the king represents either God or Jesus. On the contrary, placed just before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the parable establishes the common pattern of kingship so that the distinctive features of Jesus’ kingship (and the kingdom of God) can stand in relief against the common pattern of kingship. …Thus the greedy and vengeful king in the parable, who conforms to the contemporary pattern of kingship, serves as the antitype for Jesus’ kingship. The parable underscores not the similarity between the king’s servants and the followers of Jesus but the contrast between such a king and the kingdom of God. (Culpepper, 363)
G. 19:28-48 Jesus Arrives in Jerusalem: Entry processions by kings and conquering military leaders were familiar events in the first century and had particular features. The ruler/conqueror were escorted into the city by the people or the army. Hymns and acclamations are associated with the procession. The authority of the ruler/conqueror are shown by symbolic acts in the procession. There is a ritual act (i.e. sacrifices in a temple) where the city is symbolically acquired.
Jesus has walked to Jerusalem but now, at the end, rides a donkey. This tells us that riding a donkey is a symbolic act (Zech 9:9). The spreading of garments on the path was a greeting for a royal person. Before the exile, Psalm 118 (see v 38) was a hymn of royal entry. In later times Psalm 118 was used during festivals.
verse 41-44 Jesus’ prophetic lament and judgment. Jesus’ words recall the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and anticipates the coming destruction of the war of 66-70 CE.
verse 45-48 cleansing and teaching in the Temple: Recall the last time Jesus was in the Temple. The pattern of ancient entrance processions meant Jesus would go to the Temple, but rather than offer a sacrifice, he addresses corruption. Recall the importance of prayer in this gospel. Would not a house of prayer recognize the coming kingdom of God and Jesus? Jesus quotes two prophets, Isaiah (Is 56:7) and Jeremiah (Jer 7:11). Then Jesus begins to teach. Remember the gospel began in the Temple. It may be interesting now to re read the birth narrative, especially the songs and prophesies.
VI. Teaching in Jerusalem 20:1-21:38
A. 20:1-21:4 Conflict with the Jerusalem Leadership Notice the roles the three main groups of characters fulfill, Jesus, the chief priests, scribes,elders, Sadducees, and the wealthy (historically these were all distinct groups but here they are joined by their association with the Temple and their opposition to Jesus), and the people.
20:1-8 The Question of Jesus’ Authority: The proclamation of the good news is interrupted by questions of authority. Jesus is in the “home court” the locus of the authority of those who question him, yet the question remains, where does authority come from and how can we know who has proper authority?
20:9-19 The Parable of Wicked Tenants. A vineyard is a common metaphor for Israel in the Old Testament. See Is 5:1-7 which is the Old Testament text Jesus’ listeners would have recalled. The response “Heaven forbid!” (v16) is the response of people who recognize the metaphor of Israel as vineyard.
20:20-26 Taxes and Authority: This story is often discussed but interpretation benefits by keeping the story in relationship to the surrounding texts. Is it really about authorizing the payment of taxes to the state? Recall that in Rome, there was no separation of “church” and “state”. (See here
for information about the Imperial cult) A silver denarius had the image of Tiberius and the inscription “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus”. The payment of taxes to Rome was a volatile topic. It was a reminder that Israel was not free, but failure to pay was to deny Roman rule and treated as sedition.This is a dangerous question on many levels.
20:27-40 Moses authority: Belief in the resurrection of the dead was not universally accepted, even among Jews. A clear reference to a believe in the resurrection of the dead does not appear in the Old Testament until the book of Daniel, a relatively late text written 167-164 BCE. Historically Jews believed that a person lived on through one’s descendants and in their memory. So to die without children was a serious state. Underlying the Sadducees question is another question about authority- the authority of Moses and Torah. And who is authorized to interpret Moses and Torah?
20:41-44 The Messiah’s Authority; Jesus now asks a question. Sons normally showed honor to their fathers, not fathers to sons. So how can David, the father of the Messiah, call his son “Lord”? Luke ( and Jesus) do not deny that the Messiah is the son of David, so what does Jesus mean?
20:45-47 The Scribes denounced. More warnings against privilege and power. What Jesus describes in verse 46 is normal social custom.
21:1-4 The Widow’s offering. Read this story in the context of the previous verses. The two small coins were “lepta”. 128 lepta made a denarius- a day’s wages. Two lepta is a tiny amount, which illustrates her extreme poverty.
B. 21:5-38 The Coming of the End Jesus is speaking about the coming destruction of the Temple in the war of 66-70 and of the End. Rather than distinctive markers of the End, Jesus calls for faithfulness in future events. In verse 9, Jesus separates the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem from the End.
21:5-19 coming wars and persecutions
21:20-24 the destruction of Jerusalem foretold. Predictions of destruction, in the Bible, are not so much views into a predetermined future but serve to call people to repentance. Remember that Luke’s readers live after the destruction of Jerusalem. How would they interpret Jesus’ words?
21:25-36 The Coming of the Son of Man:This echoes the words of the prophets (Isa 13:10; Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:30-31, Dan 7:13) these are a way of speaking about a theophany, the appearance/ the arrival of God. It is a way of speaking about cosmos changing events.
21:37-38 The concluding statement of this section balances the opening statement in 19:47-48.
VII. The Suffering and Death of Jesus 22:1-23:56 Much can be written about these chapters, indeed, entire books have been written on them. We will intentionally keep our comments brief and let Luke tell the story.
A. 22:1-38 The Last Supper : verse 3 Satan has not been named since the temptation scene and 10:18, 11:18, 13:16. Satan’s return signals an escalation of events. Verse 7 Jesus sends two disciples to make preparations, as he did for the entry into Jerusalem. Jesus directs events. Verse19 remember the Passover is a remembrance. Remembrance is more that simply recalling a previous event. Remembrance also involves some response or action. The past is remembered in order to affect the present and future. Why do we carve this phrase on Communion Tables? Verse 30 “to judge” also carries the sense of “ruling”. Verse 31, Satan has entered Judas and is after Simon. Verse 36 is a marked change from Jesus’ earlier instructions. Culpepper writes “the sword was evidently standard equipment for a traveler…The sword carried by a traveler was for self- defense.” (430) Green sees this reference to a sword as “a metaphorical reference to the coming reality” that the disciples will now be prepared for hostility toward themselves (774). Both commentators write that Jesus’ “It is enough” is dismissive of the disciples actual swords.
B. 22:39-46 Jesus on the Mount of Olives Notice that in both verses 40 and 46 the disciples are told to pray to avoid falling into temptation.
C. 22:47-53 Jesus Confronts the Arresting Party: Notice the swords and Jesus’ repudiation of violence.
D. 22:54-65 Jesus and Peter at the High Priest’s Mansion :Luke’s telling of Peter’s denial is dramatic. Jesus and Peter are in the same area and after Peter’s denial, Jesus) looks at Peter and Peter remembers Jesus’ words.
E. 22:66-23:25 The Trial of Jesus
22:66-65 Immediately after Jesus’ pronouncement about Peter is fulfilled, the guards demand Jesus prophesy.
22:66-71 Again the question, who is Jesus?
F. 23:26-49 The Crucifixion
G. 23:50-56 The Burial
Read More About It:
Craddock, Fred B., “Luke”, in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Culpepper, R. Alan, “The Gospel of Luke Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)1995.
Green, Joel B., The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans) 1997.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 9 “Luke-Acts”.
Tilden, Elwyn E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Luke” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible,Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.