HANDBOOK OF THE GOSPELS
JESUS HEADS FOR JERUSALEM
80. A village in Samaria
81. Remarks about discipleship
82. 2nd report on the mission of the disciples
83. The good Samaritan
84. The home of Mary and Martha
85. About prayer
86. A charge of madness
87. The nature of blessedness
Document P in Luke begins with some narrative events, and then
runs through a series of teachings most of which are also found in
Matthew. One of the most notable features in this section of Luke
is that there are almost no place names or time indications in it,
from which we can deduce that this document was mainly a collection
of sayings of Jesus with no chronological order. Note how this
continuous portion of Luke looks like it has been cut apart by
Matthew with scissors and inserted throughout his gospel in
different discourses. That is the evidence that document P was
used in different ways by the two authors, Luke and Matthew.
A CITY IN SAMARIA
The first event contained in this portion of Luke or document P
is when Jesus reached Samaria. Samaria is the locale of the old
tribal holding of Ephraim, and the capital of the kingdom of Israel
during the days of the kingdoms. The Samaritans were descendants
of peoples who had been transported into the region by the Assyrians
after the Israelites had been deported in 722 BCE. They had learned
the Israelite religion but the Jews thought they had learned it
wrong and looked down on them and despised them. So perhaps it is
no surprise that the city refused to admit Jesus and his followers
because they were Jews. Again there is recorded a little dialogue
between the disciples James and John and Jesus:
(They came to a village of the Samaritans, who
did not receive them, because they were Jewish.)
JAMES&JOHN: Master, let us call down fire from heaven
and consume them!
JESUS (shaking his head): NO! You do not yet understand
what my teaching is all about! I, a son of man, did not come
to destroy lives, but to save them!
(So they went to another village.)
No wonder Jesus nicknamed them the "sons of thunder"!
Perhaps I have over-dramatized this little scene; Luke's report
says that the "sons of thunder" asked Jesus whether they could
call down fire, and that Jesus "rebuked" them. Most ancient
manuscripts do not have any words ascribed to Jesus here, but some
of them do have the sentences which are shown above. But it's clear
that Jesus was not offended; they picked up their things and "went
to another village."
REMARKS ABOUT DISCIPLESHIP
The next section reports on some remarks that Jesus made to
some volunteers who wanted to become disciples:
1st VOLUNTEER: Master, I will follow you wherever you go.
JESUS: Remember that the foxes have holes, and the birds of
the sky have nests, but the son of man does not have anywhere
to lay his head to sleep. (To another volunteer.)
Come, you follow me.
2nd VOLUNTEER: Master, first I need to go home and see to the
burial of my father.
JESUS: Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go, and proclaim
abroad the need for and the nearness of the kingdom of God.
3rd VOLUNTEER: I will come, Master; but first let me go and
say farewell to those at my home.
JESUS: Tut, tut; no man, having put his hand to the plough, and
looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
It's not clear whether these volunteers came with Jesus or not. He
warns them all that it is going to be difficult work and that they
will not be able to think about their family or their home. These
are probably memorable sayings that the folklorist who collected the
material in document P learned and wrote down, without knowing much
about the context or what happened.
ANOTHER REPORT OF THE MISSION OF THE DISCIPLES
Luke, or document P, here reports Jesus as sending the disciples
out on a mission, and gives them instructions for their journey. The
instructions are similar both in order and content to the earlier
mission in Mark following his visit to Nazareth. But it actually
looks like a fuller report of the mission reported in Mark, except
that seventy disciples were sent out rather than only the twelve.
Were there two missions? I think there was only one mission, and
Matthew conflated the two reports, one found in Mark and one found
in document P; but Luke retained both reports.
At this time the Lord appointed
seventy others and sent them two by two
to every place where he was going. And
he told them, The harvest is plenteous
but the laborers are few; pray to the
lord of the harvest to send laborers
to work on the harvest.
But go now; and take care;
I am sending you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves.
Carry no purse; no wallet, no shoes,
and salute no man upon the way.
And whatever house you shall enter
you shall say, Peace be unto this house.
And if a man of peace be there, good;
but if not, you have not lost your peace.
And in that same house remain,
eating and drinking such things as they give you,
for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go
not from house to house. And into whatever
city you enter, and they receive you, eat
such things as are set before you; and
heal the sick that live there, and tell
them that the kingdom of God is come nigh
And if you enter into a city, and
they do not receive you, then go out into the
streets of that city and say, Even the dust
that clings to our feet do we wipe off at
you. But tell them too, the kingdom of God
Mark's version of these instructions has been presented in
chapter VIII. I wonder why Jesus told them to wear no shoes; in
both Mark's version and this report he tells them to "shake the
dust off their feet" if a city doesn't receive them, which tends
to confirm the report that they went barefoot.
Luke (or document P) contains at this point a curse directed
at the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum:
Woe unto you, Chorazin! and woe
unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the great works
were done in Tyre and Sidon which were
done in you, they would have repented in
sackcloth and ashes. I tell you, it
shall be more tolerable for Tyre and
Sidon in the judgment, than for you. And
you, Capernaum? do you think that you
will be exalted unto heaven? No, you
shall fall down into hell.
This seems harsh; he has instructed the disciples on their tour to
simply move on, shaking the dust off their feet, if they are not
received. Tyre and Sidon are the two largest cities in Phoenicia
which he visited previously. This sounds more like James and John
(the "sons of thunder") than it does like Jesus. Perhaps that is
where it came from. Luke continues:
He that listens to you is also
listening to me; and the one that
rejects you is rejecting me also;
and he that rejects me is rejecting
him that sent me.
Who does Jesus mean by "him that sent me"? Is it God? or John the
baptizer? Anyway, Luke then reports that the seventy returned with
joy, and told Jesus, Even the devils are subject to us through your
name. Luke then quotes Jesus as saying the following:
I beheld Satan fallen as
lightning from heaven. See, I have given you
power over snakes and scorpions, and over all
the power of the enemy; and nothing shall in any
way hurt you. But do not rejoice over that;
rejoice instead that your names are written in
This is suspiciously like the ending to Mark's gospel, which is
regarded as spurious, since it refers to Jesus as "Lord" which
Mark does nowhere else, and because the two oldest Greek manuscripts
do not contain the last twelve verses of Mark, which tell us
among other things:
And these signs shall follow them
that believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall
speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they
drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.
So we need not think that this last quotation in Luke
is from Jesus.
The paragraph which follows next sounds more like the gospel
of John than it does Jesus, at least the Jesus whose teachings we
have been reading about so far. It's all about Jesus claiming God
as his personal father and him being the special son to that
father; and blessing that father-god for revealing his secrets to
infants; and kings and prophets wanting to see those things which
the disciples (I presume) are getting to see.
JESUS: Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
I thank thee that thou didst hide these things from the wise
and understanding, and did reveal them unto babes; yes,
Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.
All things have been delivered unto me
by my Father; and no one knows who the son is, save the Father;
or who the Father is, save the son, and he to whom the Son
wills to reveal him.
Well, enough's enough. This high-flown manner of speaking may in
fact have been in document P, but then Luke didn't do us any favor
by copying it, since it's surely not from the real Jesus.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
The next event and parable may be the best-known and best-loved
religious story in the world, but it is not found in any other
gospel. It is called the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
It's another little dialogue, this time with a lawyer, a scribe, who is "tempting him"
according to Luke:
SCRIBE (sneeringly): Master, what shall I do to inherit
JESUS: Well, what is written in the Torah? What does it
SCRIBE: You should love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your strength, and with all your soul
and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
JESUS: Indeed, you have answered well; do this, and you
shall find life.
SCRIBE (haughtily): And who is my neighbor?
JESUS (after a moment): A certain man was going down
from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among bandits, who
stripped him, and beat him, and left him lying on the road
And by chance a certain priest was
going down that way and when he saw the man lying there, he
passed by on the other side. And in like manner a Levite also,
when he came to the place and saw him lying there, he too
passed on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he
journeyed, came to where the man was lying, and he was moved
with compassion, and came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring
on them oil and wine; and he set him on his own beast, and brought
him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took
out two dollars and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, Take
care of him; and whatever you spend more, I, when I come back
again, will reimburse you.
Now, which of these three, do you
think, proved neighbor to him that was beaten by the bandits?
SCRIBE: Obviously, the one who showed mercy on him.
JESUS: Then you go, and do likewise.
The scribe's answer is straight out of the Torah, Deuteronomy 6:5
and Leviticus 19:18. Neither the author of P nor the author of Luke
bother to point out that the Samaritans and the Jews, if they were
not actually enemies, still they had ill feelings towards each other;
but it makes no difference to the moral of the story. Mark reports
that Jesus cited these two commandments from the Torah in answer to
the same question from another scribe a little later, when Jesus
has arrived at Jerusalem; and Jesus commends him, saying, There is
NO OTHER commandment greater than these.
There is NO other commandment greater than these. That summary
says it all.
IN THE HOME OF MARY AND MARTHA
After that, we hear that he entered into "a certain village"
and a woman named Martha invites him to visit her house; and that
her sister Mary sat at the feet of "the Lord", and listened intently
to him. Martha was irritated that Mary wasn't helping her with the
serving and cleaning; and she complained to Jesus, and Jesus calmed
her in the following micro-dialogue:
MARTHA: Don't you care that my sister is leaving all the
work to me?
JESUS: Martha, you are all anxious and worried about many
things; it's more important to focus on only one thing;
therefore let Mary listen, for this will be her one chance
to hear my teachings.
I have tried to render Jesus' answer to Martha in a clearer way
than it is reported in Luke: "but one thing is needful, and Mary
has chosen the good part, which will not be taken from her." We
can note that referring to Jesus as "the Lord" is a characteristic
of document P, and is used nowhere else in the gospels of Luke,
Mark, or Matthew. But we do not have to take that as evidence
that Jesus was called "Lord" in his lifetime. Finally, the gospel
of John tells us that the "certain village" was Bethany; but since
Bethany is only a few miles from Jerusalem, and they've just started
the trip, we can guess that either Luke misplaced this report in
the journey to Jerusalem, or else Mary and Martha didn't live in
TEACHINGS ABOUT PRAYER
Three paragraphs follow his visit with Martha and Mary, all
about praying and prayer. The first is known as "the Lord's prayer",
where "the Lord" refers to Jesus and not to God:
When you pray, say this:
Father, sacred is your name.
May your kingdom come to us.
Give us bread for this day.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive those who have harmed us.
Bring us not into temptation
but may we be delivered from evil.
Matthew's version is better known, but since he apparently took it
from document P and inserted it into his Great Sermon, it may have
been edited by him. Also it may be noted that Matthew's version
says, OUR Father, which makes it a public prayer, but in the Great
Sermon he has just told them to pray IN SECRET, rather than publicly.
So it seems out of place where Matthew has put it. I like to think
that it was a grace which Jesus uttered before the meal at Mary
and Martha's, but there is no way of proving that. The ending
phrase "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever" was probably added by the early Christians, since he has
already covered the essentials in the lines found in Luke,
including the sacredness of God.
The second teaching is a parable about
a friend helping you at night:
Which of you shall have
a friend, and you go at midnight and say to him, Friend, loan
me 3 loaves; for I have a friend who has come
a long way, and I have nothing to give him; and
will he answer, Don't trouble me; the door
is now shut, and my children are in bed;
I cannot get up to give you anything. Truly I
say to you, though he would rather sleep, yet
because he is his friend, he will rise and give
him what he asks for.
The point of this parable seems to be that, if you keep praying for
something, God will respond, if it is something you have need of.
The third is a series of aphorisms
regarding asking, seeking, and knocking, which we have already seen
in Matthew's Great Sermon:
And I say to you, Ask, and it shall
be given you; seek, and you shall find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone that asks will receive;
and the one that seeks will find; and to
the one who knocks it shall be opened.
And of which of you that is a father
will his son ask for bread, and he give
him a stone? or for a fish, and he give
him a snake? or for an egg, and he give
him a scorpion? If you then, being
human, know how to give good things to
your children, how much more shall God
the Father give needful things to those
who ask him!
Matthew again has taken this quotation and inserted it into the
Great Sermon. We can note that in the last sentence, Luke (or
document P) reads "give the Holy Spirit", whereas Matthew reports
it as "give good things". I have translated it above as "needful
things", as being more in keeping with Jesus' teachings so far.
JESUS IS ACCUSED OF BEING INSANE
Luke (or document P) next reports that Jesus is accused of
being insane, in a story very similar to the one reported in Mark
in chapter VII and copied by Matthew. Jesus scoffs at this and
(Mark 3:23-26;Luke 11:14-26;Matt.12:22-28)
Every kingdom divided against itself is
brought to desolation; and a house divided
against itself must fall. And if Satan is
divided against itself, how shall his kingdom
stand? This is why saying that I cast out
devils by Beelzebub is nonsense.
And if I cast out devils by Beelzebub
by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore
let them be your judges. But if I by the
finger of God cast out devils, then is the
kingdom of God come upon you.
Thus we can conclude that this is the same event as the one reported
by Mark, and Luke did not copy the report from Mark because he had
this second report in document P. Jesus continues:
(Mark 3:27;Luke 11:21-23;Matt.12:29-30)
When the strong man fully armed guards
his own court, his goods are at peace; but
when a stronger man than he shall come upon
him, he shall overcome him and take away
the armor on which he trusted, and also his
He that is not with me is against me;
and he that gathers not with me only
What is he talking about? We can conclude with some assurance that
at some point the scribes accused him of madness; but he outwitted
them with his remarks about a house divided against itself and
something about a strong man being overcome by a stronger man. He
may be referring to himself as the stronger man, and the so-called
devils being the strong man who is overcome. The remark about
being with him or against him is contradicted at Mark 9:40 and by
Luke himself at verse 9:50. So we don't know which way Jesus
actually said it. Jesus concludes with another parable:
An unclean spirit, when it has been
driven out of a man, may come back; and
even if the man seems to be cleansed of
that spirit, when it returns it can be
worse than it was originally.
I have tried to make sense of this parable, which in Luke declares
that the spirit roams around and finally comes back with seven other
spirits to reside in the man. But it makes it sound like Jesus is
not claiming permanence for his exorcisms.
THE NATURE OF BLESSEDNESS
Finally, Luke tells us that a woman called to him from the crowd
and Jesus responded to her:
WOMAN: Blessed be the womb which bore you, and the breasts that
gave you milk!
JESUS: No, no, rather, blessed are they which hear the word of
God, and then go out and do it and live it.
This response by Jesus is consistent with the remark he made on
the occasion that his mother and brothers came to take him back
home again: Whoso does the will of God, the same is my mother and
In the next chapter we shall continue with Luke (document P).
Despite the confusions and differences with Mark and Matthew which
it contains, it commends itself as a faithful record of many of
Jesus' sayings, even if there is no chronological order or place
names in it.