Sunday’s lectionary reading from the gospels is Luke 13.31–35, and once again the lectionary does us something of a disservice by cutting this short passage off from its surrounding narrative. That is not such a problem in relation to what follows, since Luke begins chapter 14 with a clear narrative break, ‘And it happened, he [Jesus] going to the house of a Pharisee on a sabbath…’ which is emphasised in many English translations by starting the sentence with the time marker: ‘One sabbath, Jesus went to…’. But the there is more of a problem in the detachment of the lectionary reading from the passage that precedes it, for several reasons.
First, the previous pericope begins with a generalised reference to Jerusalem in Luke 13.22: ‘Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.’ Luke is not here offering any specific reference to allow us to locate the discussion that follows, but is reminding us of the ‘journey’ motif that he introduced in Luke 9.51, so that this second section of his account picture Jesus as travelling determinedly to the city, and that the challenge of discipleship is to join Jesus on this spiritual and metaphorical journey. That journey motif is implicit in our reading as background to the Pharisees’ question, and the reference to Jerusalem becomes explicit in Luke 13.34.