What does ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness’ mean in the gospel of Luke?

Chris Seglenieks writes: The question of what it means to believe is one that has shaped much of my researching New Testament studies. Faith is central to Christianity, but we don’t always stop to reflect on what it involves. When it comes to the gospels, I have found that many people assume the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, … Continue Reading

Staying faithful under pressure in Matt 10

The gospel reading for Trinity 2 in Year A continues to work through Jesus’ teaching on mission in Matthew 10, but has jumped across from the specifics of his sending out the Twelve to more general teaching about being faithful under pressure. 

It is easy to see that Matthew has here drawn together teaching of Jesus from several contexts, and integrated it thematically, for at least three reasons:

a. The beginning of this section appears to recount a particular occasion, when Jesus sends out the Twelve, but from Matt 10.16 the context changes to a more general one, and appears to make reference to later challenges in ministry after Jesus has gone, even looking towards the completion of the ministry in Israel in v 23. 

b. The material in the later parts of this chapter has parallels in several different places in the gospels, mostly in Luke. So the sending of the Twelve is found in Luke 9.1; the saying about the secret and hidden comes in Luke 12.2; Jesus’ bringing of division rather than peace comes in Luke 12.51, and so on. Some of the later sections of this chapter also reiterate teaching from the Sermon on the Mount earlier in Matthew—and there are several sayings which are unique to Matthew.

c. Though this is presented as continuous discourse, there are some sudden changes of subject, language and focus (for example, at Matt 10.24, 10.26 and 10.34) so that commentators differ on how to understand the overall structure of this section. 

Because of this, there is a wide diversity of material, and different elements of the text raise some large and important issues. The challenge in preaching on this passage as the lectionary will be to find a coherent set of issues that relate to the contemporary context of preacher and congregation. 

Before looking at the text within our lectionary reading, it is worth just noting the extent of the previous discourse up to verse 23. Jesus’ general description of opposition, division and persecution ends with a prediction that the disciples’ mission to ‘all the towns of Israel’ will not be complete ‘before the Son of Man comes’. There is a long history of Christian interpretation of this text which understands this as a reference to Jesus’ return—but this would make not only Jesus mistaken about the imminence of his parousia, but Matthew also either mistaken or happily recording that Jesus is mistaken, which would be rather odd. In fact the quasi-technical term parousia does not occur here (and in fact only occurs in Matt 24 in all the gospels); instead, Jesus is alluding to the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ in Daniel 7.13, in which this human figures comes not to the earth but to the throne of God in heaven, and is vindicated by being given authority and a kingdom. As with Matthew 24, this phrase is therefore Matthew’s way of talking about what Luke describes as Jesus’ ascension. 

Jesus the Good Shepherd in John 10 video

The lectionary gospel readers for the Fourth Sunday of Easter take the three parts of John 10 in turn; being in Year A, we are reading the first ten verses. But this is a good example of where our modern chapter divisions (first created by Stephen Langton, the 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury who helped to … Continue Reading

The politics of the cross

Elaine Storkey writes: As we reflect on the significance of the Cross this Easter, in the forceful political atmosphere of our times, its own political dimension hits us afresh. Like each of us, Jesus was born into a political context; he lived and died experiencing its pressures, posturing, and power-mongering.  Politics is wrapped up in the … Continue Reading

What on earth is going on?

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a … Continue Reading

Who’s in charge around here?

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,  and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him … Continue Reading

The Wounds of a Leader

I have been at New Wine B this week, and at the early morning meetings Simon Ponsonby (from St Aldate’s, Oxford) has been reflected on verses from 2 Corinthians. This morning we reflected on perhaps some of the most challenging: I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and … Continue Reading