Where is the judgement in Luke 4?

The lectionary reading for Epiphany 4 in Year C is Luke 4.14–21. As is often the case with the lectionary, the reading is rather displaced and truncated; the previous episode is the temptation in the wilderness, which we will read at the beginning of Lent, and the following week we revert back to Luke 2 as we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the temple. More serious, though, is the ending of the passage at verse 21, when the whole episode runs to verse 28, and we should take the lectionary here as ‘advisory’ and read through to the end of the story as Luke presents it to us.

The section linking the temptations in the desert with the Nazareth incident is brief but interesting. Luke’s mention of both the Spirit and ‘power’ is characteristic, and adds an extra dimension to the importance of Jesus having the Spirit come upon him (as I have explored elsewhere). Although Luke does relate the ‘power of the Spirit’ to Jesus’ miracles and healings elsewhere, he also regularly links this to Jesus’ teaching ministry, as he does here very clearly. The phrase ‘their synagogues’ is striking, suggestion (as Luke makes clear in other places) that he is writing to a gentile audience who are removed from the geographical area (note that Matthew talks of ‘their synagogue’ in Matt 13.54, but this is a specific rather than general reference).


The comparison with what appear to be parallel passages in Matt 13.54–58 and Mark 6.1–6 is instructive for two reasons. First, in Matthew and Mark the episode comes some way into Jesus’ ministry, and some of Luke’s account (such as Luke 4.23 which anticipates the taunt at the cross in all three Synoptics) confirms that this was later, rather than initial, teaching. This suggests that Luke has put the episode here because of its programmatic nature; it introduces this major Galilean section of the gospel up to Luke 9.51, when Jesus ‘sets his face to Jerusalem, and many of the following examples of Jesus’ ministry are examples of just the sorts of things mention in his reading from the scroll. But the connections continue into Acts, suggesting that Luke sees this teaching of Jesus as programmatic for his follower as well, and this is hinted at in the substitution of the well known gospel term kerusso ‘proclaim’ in Luke 4.18 where the LXX that this is quoted from uses a different term.

The other notable difference between Luke and the other two gospels is that most of the material here is unique to Luke, including the content of Jesus’ reading and teaching, the anticipation of the proverb, and the examples (omitted in the lectionary reading) of the grace of God coming to the gentiles in the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Despite this, there are also interesting details which are faithful to what little we do know about first century synagogue practice. It is unclear whether there would first have been a reading of the Torah prior to the reading of the haftarah and whether there was a set reading or Jesus himself chose what to read from. Luke uses the word for ‘unrolling’ rather than the more general term ‘open’, reflecting how you actually handled a scroll. Luke mentions the ‘attendant’ to whom Jesus gives back the scroll, an official in the synagogue, and when he ‘sits down’ this does not mean that he joins the congregation, but that he takes his seat as a teacher ready to give a sermon from a central place, which allows ‘the eyes of everyone’ to be on him. It is worth noting that here Luke is presenting Jesus as a good, observant Jew, just as he has presented earlier characters in a similar way, and he includes positive notes of the acceptance of Jesus teaching in this episode, as well as the rejected; Luke continues to be a ‘both/and’ rather than an ‘either/or’ gospel.


Luke is clearly summarising both the reading and Jesus’ teaching (as of course he does elsewhere), and though he records Jesus teaching in synagogues, this is the only time he offers a glimpse into the content of what he says. The reading actually combines verses from two or three different places, and not just from Is 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God… (Is 61.1–2a)

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (Is 58.6)

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. (Lev 25.10)

The link here between Is 61 and Is 58 is created by the repetition of the language of ‘release’ in relation both to the prisoners and the oppressed in Luke 4.18. Although this is commonly read as something ‘social’ rather than ‘spiritual’, it marks Jesus ministry in a number of ways in Luke’s gospel, and is used as often in relation to the ‘release’ from (that is, forgiveness of) sin as it is in other ways, including in one of the other ‘programmatic’ statements, the Benedictus (Luke 1.77). (There is a long list of other uses of the noun aphesis and the cognate verb aphiemi in both Luke and Acts in Joel Green’s NIC Acts commentary, p 211).

Reading Scripture aloud in a synagogue service was a common practice, and a person did not necessarily need to hold a special office to offer leadership in worship and instruction (compare Acts 13:13-15). The biblical text cited in Luke 4:17-19 is not a single passage from Isaiah but a combination of Isaiah 61:1-2a and part of Isaiah 58:6. These two passages are probably combined here in Luke because in the Greek translation of the Old Testament the same word is found in both places. This word is aphesis, which appears when Jesus says he is “to proclaim release to the captives” and also “to let the oppressed go free.” Combining the two passages from Isaiah emphasizes this theme of “release” that characterizes Jesus’ ministry. The same word appears elsewhere in Luke to describe people’s release (usually translated “forgiveness”) from sins. The word also appears frequently in Leviticus 25:8-55, which discusses the jubilee year, a “year of release” meant to preserve justice in Israel through the fair and regular distribution of wealth and personal freedoms. Jesus’ sermon, therefore, implies that his ministry is one that liberates people from social and economic oppression, just as other pronouncements indicate that Jesus also frees people from sin’s oppression. (Enter The Bible)

The connection with the Jubilee year in Leviticus clearly comes through its mention in Is 61, but together with Jesus’ claim that ‘Today this is fulfilled in your hearing’ suggests several things in relation to Jesus’ own ministry. First, it is prophetic, in line with Isaiah, so the subsequent comment about Elijah and Elisha completes this strong link with OT prophetic ministry. Secondly, it suggests Jubilee, and the offering of the rest for the people of God as they live in obedience to God’s commands and instructions. Thirdly, here is the final fulfilment of the eschatological hope that God will come and liberate his people. So we have the intertwining of prophetic ministry, Jubilee and eschatology.

Philip Long helpfully observes:

Did Jews think they were still in an exile and in need of restoration? A key text is Daniel 9, where Daniel reads the prophet Jeremiah and determines that the 70 year exile ought to be over. In response to his prayer for restoration and the end of the exile, God reveals to him that the exile will be extended for “70 Sevens,” presumably 490 years. Only after that period is over will God finally end the exile.

Another text found among  the Dead Sea Scrolls has a similar view that the end of the exile will be like a Jubilee.  11Q13 Melichzedek indicates that at least some Jews prior to the time of Jesus thought of themselves as living in the exile. While this text is fragmentary it appears to be a collection of texts from Isaiah describing the end of the age as a new Jubilee. Melchizedek appears as a messiah-like figure who was predicted by “the anointed of the spir[it] as Dan[iel]”in Dan 9:25. He will be a “the messenger of good who announ[ces salvation].” All this sounds very much like Jesus’ words in Luke 4.

In fact, if the community at Qumran is associated with scrolls like this one, then their location in the desert, near the place where Israel ended their 40 years exile in the wilderness and finally entered the Land is remarkable. They are enacting the prophecy of Isaiah 40 to go “into the wilderness and make straight the paths of the Lord.”


The final major question here relates to the common observation that Jesus fails to cite the final line of the quotation from Is 61.1–2. It is often thought to set Jesus apart from either Isaiah or John, as represented in these two online comments:

Mike, whatever actually was said at the time, I would find this scripture much more difficult if the line about vengeance had been included. At the heart of Jesus’ proclamation was the radical idea that instead of seeking vengeance upon our enemies, we are to bless them and pray for them and to care for their needs as if they were our own. Two thousand years later we are only beginning to get a handle on this outrageous concept. Turn on your TV and check out the latest from the Middle East or watch the sentencing of an American murderer when those concerned are given freedom to address the murderer. Think back a couple of years to the tanker load of vitriol thrown at Rob Bell for daring to suggest that love wins.

And in relation to John:

I think it might be something of a contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist. The Baptist was preparing the way for Christ by preaching repentance; in chapter 3, he’s just told the people that the Messiah would baptize the impenitent “with fire” – according to the next verse, the fires of judgment. But since the Baptist had prepared the way with the Law, Luke has Christ come with the Gospel. Perhaps it’s not a question of why Jesus Himself stopped where He did, but why Luke arranged the stories in their particular order.

Taking these in reverse order, I have already argued that John and Jesus are not so far apart as we might think. And a number of commentators note that Jesus does indeed complete the reading from Isaiah, but does so near the end of his ministry as he approaches Jerusalem for the final time:

When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of vengeance in fulfilment of all that has been written. (Luke 21.20–22)

Jesus, it appears, has not done away with the justice of God. But in his ministry a window of grace has opened up, inviting all who receive his good news of release from sin and sickness to know the restoration of God before the time of reckoning, when we must all give an account to God.


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24 thoughts on “Where is the judgement in Luke 4?”

  1. Thank you for this very interesting blog Ian. What stands out to me from it is the surfeit of literary activity that is going on, whether we talk about how Luke has composed this text or where he got the material from, or where he has sited it in his gospel in comparison to others, etc. The latter point makes the claim that Luke, and presumably all gospel writers, did not compose their gospels based on strict historical chronology but according to their own literary and thus, strictly fictional, narrative time. If we accept this, as you seem very much to in your blog, then it has far reaching conclusions. For if Luke can move material about at his own authorial whim then why should we trust his literary location at any point of his text as an appropriate historical location? What, then, is stopping us seeing Luke’s gospel, and Acts which most agree is Luke, part 2, as formed entirely on just such a basis of literary and narrative veracity but without an accompanying “true” historical chronology? Why does the point of these books not become a matter of literary sense rather than a mirroring of historical reality? This is pertinent, not least, because your blog is framed as the answer to a question posed only because of a need to understand Luke’s literary arrangement.

    It becomes even more pertinent, however, if we begin to be suspicious of the narrative and to question it, even if ever so gently. For example, is it realistic to imagine that Jesus could have read a book? The estimates I have seen suggest that somewhere between maybe 3% and 10% of people at that time and place could have read anything AT ALL. The higher end of that scale would also be more applicable to cities with their likelihood of more simple documentation for the running of civil administration than from villages such as Jesus the country boy came from. The question we must ask of this text is “How would Jesus have come to be able to read and why would he have needed to – in a plausible historical context?” That, of course, is not a question that Luke is remotely interested in in Luke 4 but the fact that we can be only throws us back again, once more, into questions about Luke’s LITERARY purpose which one commentary I consulted in tandem with this passage posited as “Luke’s rewriting of Mark 6:1-6”. This is in itself reasonable as is the messianic interpretation of Isa 61 which we also have, in Jewish milieu, from the Dead Sea Scrolls, specifically 1QH 18:14 and 1QMelch 1:18.

    So, for me, this all becomes a matter of literary activity and literary purpose as much as it is about historical representation. Indeed, the sinister element here (for some) may be that we can lop the “re” off and be left only with a “historical presentation” in literary form.

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  2. Good morning,
    I appreciate your commentary on this passage from Luke. I want to read it several more times and know that I will call upon it in my sermon on Sunday. I do have two comments/questions – you’ve identified this as the Gospel for Epiphany 4C; shouldn’t that be Epiphany 3C (it is the Gospel for Epiphany 3C on the Canadian side of the pond)?

    The second question is about a statement in the final sentence of the third paragraph, reproduced here:
    “But the connections continue into Acts, suggesting that Luke sees this teaching of Jesus as programmatic for his follower as well, and this is hinted at in the substitution of the well known gospel term kerusso ‘proclaim’ in Luke 4.18 where the LXX that this is quoted from uses a different term.”

    I’ve just checked the LXX’S translation of Is 61.1, and it (at least the version found currently on Accordance) does translate qara by a cognate of khrussw -“Is. 61:1 ?????? ?????? ??? ???, ?? ??????? ??????? ??· ?????????????? ??????? ?????????? ??, ???????? ???? ??????????????? ?? ??????, ??????? ??????????? ?????? ??? ??????? ????????? …” Have I misunderstood something?

    Thank you for offering this work to us all; it’s much appreciated.
    LS

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting! On lectionary numbering, there is some debate when the Feast of the Epiphany fall on a Sunday whether that one or the following one is Epiphany 1. Your lectionary seems to take the second option; mine takes the first.

      I am sorry that languages are still not working properly on the blog. In Is 61.2 LXX the verb is kaleo in relation to the ‘year of the Lord’s favour’ whereas in Luke 4.19 the verb is kerusso though the rest of the phrase is identical. That is where the change has been made.

      I hope that helps.

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  3. ‘For example, is it realistic to imagine that Jesus could have read a book? The estimates I have seen suggest that somewhere between maybe 3% and 10% of people at that time and place could have read anything AT ALL. ‘

    Assuming your estimates are correct (Ive seen a few bandied around), scholars such as Craig Evans have argued that the Jewish people as a whole were likely to be more literate than the general population given their religion, which was their main distinguishing mark, was based on written Scriptures. It seems children were typically taught the Torah, for example, and whilst there was a strong oral tradition within Judaism, that was of course built on the written word. Given that Jesus was viewed as a rabbi and teacher, and was able to argue with scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees regarding their understanding of Scripture, it seems to me it is more likely than not that he was able to read, certainly from the Scriptures. We certainly cannot presume he could not, based on the possible literacy rates of the general population at the time.

    As such I see no good reason to disbelieve Luke.

    Reply
    • Peter, thank you for your reply. Yet I must admit myself confused that non-partisan anthropological study regarding literacy rates, all of which, even in the most generous cases, gives the likelihood of any individual’s ability to read as being far into the negative, but gospel stories, which would each require their own demonstration before they could even be regarded as evidence, are to be more immediately trusted.

      Perhaps this is what people mean when they say that some scholarship, or even just readerly appraisal, is historically fixated and merely sets out to defend the text as read out of some unspoken theological need for it to always be completely correct? This way leads us to scholars like Tom Wright who argue that bodies really did come out of tombs and wander around Jerusalem without making the slightest impact on non-Christian contemporary history. This, as my own teacher Philip Davies once wrote, may account for zombies but its not very good historical practice. In this case the proper procedure would be to start off from Jesus not being able to read and get our bearings from there. Or we could just read Luke without being concerned about its historical correlation at all. Luke didn’t imagine we could check his story out like Colombo anyway.

      PS if the gospels had never suggested that Jesus could read would anyone contemporary have had any need to invent it? I submit those who think he could read today are more guided by dogmas about the Bible than historical protocols.

      Reply
      • Well Colombo or Jessica Fletcher.

        ‘…the likelihood of any individual’s ability to read as being far into the negative,’

        There lies the problem. Youre applying the 3 – 10% figure of the population to an individual, in this case Jesus. Was Jesus a typical Galilean ‘peasant’? I doubt it. Is it not possible he is included in the 3 – 10% (assuming this applies to the Jewish people then rather than the population as a whole, which I doubt) of those who could read? Does your view not come under the ‘ecological fallacy’ as noted in Fischer’s “Historians’ Fallacies”? Are the Gospels not to be viewed as evidence?

        ‘PS if the gospels had never suggested that Jesus could read would anyone contemporary have had any need to invent it? ‘

        – but youre arguing that Luke did. Instead of making up the account of Jesus reading from Scripture in the synagogue as you allege, Luke could just have written after Jesus healed blind people etc that that showed he was fulfilling Isaiah. The point would have been made. Perhaps he didnt because Jesus really did get up in the synagogue and stated what he was about to do.

        Peter

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        • Yes, absolutely, perhaps. I’m not saying I absolutely know he didn’t. I’m not saying I know Jesus couldn’t read. I’m saying that’s the historically prudent course to take when reading Luke as literature that, even in this passage, has demonstrated Luke is a book concerned with its own literary sense which contradicts strict historical recitation. In effect, if Luke fictionalises at all then how far down does the rabbit hole go?

          PS Was Jesus a typical Galilean peasant? Yes and no!

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          • Except that ‘historically prudent’ may very well = wrong conclusions. I think you would agree that in the end you have no real evidence that Jesus could not read, at least Old Testament Scriptures – your argument seems based on pure conjecture based on debatable statistics as applied to Jewish people 2000 years ago, and more specifically to a recognised Jewish ‘teacher’. But that apparently is sufficient to cast serious doubt on Luke’s truthfulness. I just find that an odd sort of reasoning. I suspect both Colombo and Jessica Fletcher would come to a different conclusion!

            What has Luke fictionalised?

          • Strange, Peter, that you would then put faith in two completely fictional detectives regarding the historical detail in Luke’s fictional gospel!

            There is no simple, or short, way to explain what I mean by this. I have written in longer form about gospels as fiction elsewhere in a book called “The Posthistorical Jesus”, specifically chapter 5 of the first part of that book, and if you want to read that click the link that is in my name above this post.

            If we want worked reasoning for it for Luke specifically though I fear that is a monograph I may never get around to writing. However, the clues to that description I believe are actually in what Ian Paul has written above and I would focus on his third and forth paragraphs particularly. Here Ian correctly points out that Luke is a matter of literary arrangement and NOT historical chronology. Whether or not Ian would fully follow through on that thought, I certainly would. As a consequence, Luke is not a document which is mere journalism, a “this happened, then this happened, then this happened” account. I don’t know what you would call the literary whole that results instead but a word I have found useful for that is “fiction”. But I stress, both for you and any others reading this, that there is more to it than that but in order not to write a post of inordinate length here I recommend those wanting to follow up go to my own writing for further information.

            As to being “historically prudent”, yes, it may be wrong, it is not certainty or even to claim to know, but unless you have access to incontrovertible proof then that’s all anyone will ever be able to be at their best. This same historical prudence, by the by, is not simply assuming the text of the gospels, which is presumably why you think Jesus was called “rabbi” and recognised as a great teacher. He may well have been but simply assuming it in documents which also rely on each other is no procedure I or any historically-minded enquirer should be interested in. Neither are the gospels the only evidence for the past. Gone are the days when scholars could simply do a bit of historical colouring in around the edges of the gospel text and call it “history”.

          • But Luke describes his writing as a careful and orderly (kathexes) account. By that phrasing, Luke denotes a clear sequence, but not necessarily a comprehensive chronology.

            John is a lot clearer on this in writing: “Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

            Perhaps, propaganda (which was originally not a pejorative, but understood as “that which ought to be spread”) is a better word for the gospel than fiction.

          • Hello David. It is surely open to question what Luke means by “orderly”. He says he knows of other “orderly accounts” (Mark? Q?) but what “orderly” surely does not mean is historically sequential in a way that mirrors the reality of the past. To think so would be to take a historical fixation to its absurd limits. Once one can discard this fixation, however, one is then free to appreciate how Luke makes sense as a book and to ask after Luke’s literary narration of meaning. My use of the term “fiction” for this is not rash or rushed into but has in fact probably been worked out over about 20 years. It is explained in my book “The Posthistorical Jesus” and relates not merely to gospels, which in my view is to lack ambition, but to a conception of how human beings make sense of anything at all. It is no less than a designation of people as hermeneutic beings. It may be that I could refine this when speaking of books and literary genre and “propaganda” is then a very interesting suggestion but I do think that the designation “fiction” does real work and not least because it contrasts with “fact” which is something a narrative, any narrative, can never be.

          • I think we’re mostly agreeing on this point.

            My main concern is that the word ‘fiction’ has decidedly pejorative connotation. So, the dictionary defines it as “literature…that describes imaginary events and people”; “something that is invented”.

            In contrast, propaganda has a far nobler heritage that some might care to admit.

            As described by Communications scholar, Ralph D. Casey:
            “In the ancient Asiatic civilization preceding the rise of Athens as a great center of human culture, the masses of the people lived under despotisms and there were no channels or methods for them to use in formulating or making known their feelings and wishes as a group.

            In Athens, however, the Greeks who made up the citizen class were conscious of their interests as a group and were well informed on the problems and affairs of the city-state to which they belonged. Differences on religious and political matters gave rise to propaganda and counterpropaganda. The strong-minded Athenians, though lacking such tools as the newspaper, the radio, and the movies, could use other powerful engines of propaganda to mold attitudes and opinions. The Greeks had games, the theater, the assembly, the law courts, and religious festivals, and these gave opportunity for propagandizing ideas and beliefs. The Greek playwrights made use of the drama for their political, social, and moral teachings. Another effective instrument for putting forward points of view was oratory, in which the Greeks excelled. And though there were no printing presses, handwritten books were circulated in the Greek world in efforts to shape and control the opinions of men.”

            Herodotus’ work is highlighted here as a striking example of propaganda: https://www.xavier.edu/xjop/documents/MartinXJOP2011.pdf

            This is the world into which Christianity was born and grew up, so it’s not surprising that it’s reflected in the gospels.

          • On ‘orderly’, Goulder thought of liturgical order. I have pressed for OT template order, and am again presenting on that in Hawarden (April). The same 5star source Papias who says Mark is not in order (and his OT structural template of the Servant Songs would explain why he can be both not in chronological order and be held by Luke to have written an orderly account) also says that Matthew’s logia were the fundamental gospel source, hence the various disconnected but plausible stories we find in Mark, and hence also Casey’s positive view of reconstructing what he calls Aramaic Mark, which is the same as this logia source.

          • Also Andrew, Mark and some hypothetical do not add up to ‘many…orderly account[s]’. I would identify these as Mark, John and Matthew. And those are of course the source material we find in big chunks in Luke.

            If you are emphasising what Luke says on ‘orderly’ then what he says about eyewitnesses and early preachers goes with it.

          • I am sure, David, that it cannot have escaped you that its pejorative sense is a further attraction to me. However, I do use the term with some nuance rather than as a blunt instrument. Your given dictionary definition “literature…that describes imaginary events and people”; “something that is invented”’ leaves much welcome room for discussion in my view. The other information you supply is also very apposite. Two further Greek terms that interest me are “rhetoric”, which I actually use interchangeably with fiction at times and which can also have negative connotations, and Cynic which, if applied to Jesus, also goes down like a lead balloon before some audiences. You will see in the book of mine that most closely resembles my reconstruction of Jesus, “Jesus and the Community Gospel”, that I characterise him as a purveyor of something strange I call “Cynic eschatology”. An example of my own rhetoric and fiction which, of course, are not negative terms for me and so, in my terms, not for the gospels either.

  4. “Jesus fails to cite the final line of the quotation from Is 61.1–2”

    Well, Jesus could just as easily be a rhetorical device, aposiopesis, deliberately breaking off and leaving the ending to be supplied by the imagination (like saying “once a liar,…”)

    This view is supported by Jesus’ later unflattering comparison of Nazareth to apostate Israel under Ahab during which God’s lavished extraordinary providence and healing on heathens through Elijah’s ministry. (Luke 4:24-27)

    In Acts 7, Stephen’s speech uses this kind of rhetoric when he reproves the idolatrous devotion to the temple by quoting the end of Amos 5. Despite the patent Sadduccean disdain for the prophets, one only has to read the omitted earlier verses to understand why the Sanhedrin was so enraged:
    “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

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  5. The quote towards the end of the description of the first Day of Pentecost (Are these not all Galileans) could easily imply that Galileans are ill-educated so how could they speak in a language all their listeners could understand. But I ponder whether (apart from the obvious) these Galilieans were expected to and actually did, speak a different language to their listeners, perhaps an educated form of Greek rather than their listeners Aramaic. Jesus’ ability to read then would not come as a surprise.

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    • But that he spoke Greek would. And it would also enable and encourage several further theses that the guardians of orthodoxy are keen to keep under wraps. An increasingly cosmopolitan Jesus is as unwelcome as a completely ignorant one for some.

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  6. Ian,

    Thank you for this – very interesting as I sit down to flesh out my own sermon on this passage for Sunday.

    You say that the lectionary truncates the passage, and it does. This troubled me at first, until I realised that the second half of the episode is next Sunday’s Gospel reading. It rather makes the week in between like an advertising break. I’m tempted to end my sermon along the lines of, ‘What happens next? Find out after the break!’

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  7. Ian, thank you for raising this matter. As I have read Luke 4 over the last few days I have come to the view that, when he stood to read, Jesus read a large section of Isaiah that included chapters 58 to 61. In his subsequent teaching he focussed on certain phrases from the passage and Luke has selected these phrases to convey the central themes of his teaching.

    The question then is not whether Jesus read the passage, or even that he did not mention it in his teaching (of course we do not know whether he did nor not) but rather that judgement was not the focus of his teaching at this time.

    Of course this does not really answer your question, but I think it highlights the difference between John’s ministry and Jesus. John was bringing a message of judgement and calling for repentance. Jesus was bringing a message of Salvation. Perhaps that is why Jesus’ ministry really only started properly once John was in prison.

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    • Nick, I think the verses below contradicts your conclusion of different ministry between John and Jesus. They were by Matthew’s account preaching the same message.

      In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”Matt 3:1-2

      Now when he (Jesus) heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali…From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 4:12-13,17

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  8. I believe a very simple answer as to why Jesus does not mention ‘the day of vengeance of our God’, can be found in David Gooding’s book “The Riches of Divine Wisdom’, where he states; ” Joshua, for example, was commissioned by God to execute the wrath of God on the corrupt culture of the Canaanites, and to do so by force of arms. Christ did not dispute that fact. But throughout His earthly ministry He was at pains to distinguish between the purpose of His first coming and that of His second. At His first coming He insisted that He was not sent to judge the world or to execute the wrath of God on sinners. That solemn task He would perform at His second coming. The sole purpose of His first coming was, at the cost of His own suffering and death, to seek and to save those who were lost (John 3:17; Luke 19:10).”

    I believe as was pointed out at the end of the article that there will be a final judgement on this earth, ‘the day of vengeance of our God’. Therefore with respects to where Joshua stands in type to Jesus, its fulfillment can be seen in the following verses: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:king of kings and lord of lords.” (Rev 19:11-16)

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    • Thanks, Mark, that is a helpful observation. But we also need to note the way that the Fourth gospel brings this judgement forward proleptically, and also Jesus’ own saying that ‘I have come to bring division and a sword’. If, as you rightly say elsewhere in this discussion, Jesus and John the Baptist’s ministries are closer than we sometimes allow, then John’s comment that Jesus will bring judgement also sits in tension with this, as does Luke’s explicit comment about the judgement on Jerusalem in chapter 19.

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      • I would agree on your use of the word “proleptically” but to be honest, I had to look it up first. But I would say that is true of all prophetic utterances, they are already seen as accomplished facts to an eternal God.

        With respects to the ministry of John and Jesus being closer than we sometimes allow. I would say the closeness stems from the fact that they were the same, neither the Baptist nor Jesus say one word of explanation as to what the ‘Kingdom of heaven’ was. Why? It seems quite evident , they were using a phrase which everybody knew and therefore had a commonly understood meaning. Not any of the four gospel writers inserts an explanatory comment to define it. Again why, it is because the Jews knew they were referring to the long awaited promised Messianic Kingdom based upon 2 Sam 7. Confirmed by the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

        So where Jesus states about the ‘division and the a sword’ I believe he is talking about the division between those to whom the promised Kingdom was to come first, the Jews. Go not into the way of the Gentiles or the Samaritans, I have come only for the lost sheep of Israel. His message would divide those for and against him as King. Those Jews against, yes finally, did face the sword of judgement after another 40 year period of grace of an outstretch hand of God following Pentecost with the signs and wonders ministry of the Apostles to affirm that Jesus was the Christ (See Heb 2:1-4). But with the final obstinacy of Jewish leadership, with the words of Joseph’s brothers ringing loud “His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.(Gen 37:8) God brings judgement through Titus, and the earthly temple, which was only a type of the heavenly is struck off the face of the earth, for the true had been established through the perfect sacrifice in heavenly places. “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” 1 Cor 13:10

        I believe that judgement in 70AD, like all judgments, stand as warnings to the impenitent that God will judge the wicked with the final judgement as shared in my last post. The fullness of ‘the day of vengeance of our God.’

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