Chapter XII


Event or sayings
95. His mission
96. Signs of the times
97. Other observations
98. He heals on the sabbath
99. Two parables
100. The kingdom of God
101. A warning from Herod
102. Healing on a sabbath
103. The marriage feast
104. Costs of discipleship




We are still in document P, which at this point reports some unconnected sayings about his mission:
(Luke 12:49-53;Matt.10:34-36)
        I came to fire up the earth; and what will I do, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I pressured until it be accomplished!
        Do you think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! for soon there shall be in one house three against two, and two against three! They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.

Here he bemoans the fact that some people are for him, and some are against him. The baptism he speaks of in the first paragraph must be his coming confrontation in Jerusalem with the authorities in which he has already told us twice that he will be killed, and we will shortly be given another forecast of his death.


We are not told to whom he made the previous statement, but now he speaks to the multitudes again, as follows:
(Luke 12:54-56)
        When you see a cloud rising in the west, you know that a shower is coming; and soon it comes. And when you see a south wind blowing, you know that there will be a scorching heat. and soon that comes. And thus you know how to interpret the earth and the sky; but why do you not know how to interpret this time?

        When it is evening, and you see that the sky is red, you know to say, It will be fair weather tomorrow. And when it is morning, and you see that the sky is red, you know to say, It will be foul weather today. You know how to interpret the face of the heaven; but you do not know how to interpret the signs of the times.

Matthew's is an older form of the well-known proverb:
        Red sky at morning, sailors take warning;
        Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Luke's version, probably the way it was in document P, cites other observations of the air and sky from which one can predict the coming weather. But we can ask, why is he talking about the clouds and the wind, or the red skies at morning or evening? What does he mean by the "time" or the "signs of the times"? Can we believe that this has anything to do with the coming of the end of the world or even of the kingdom of God? No, it seems clear that he is talking about the historical situation of Palestine in his times: the coming of one messianic claimant after another, trying to fight the Romans and all being crushed one after another, which Jesus sees will and finally did provoke the Romans to completely destroy Jerusalem and deport all the Jews out of Palestine. The Jewish historian Josephus of the 1st century C.E. documents all of these vain uprisings, right up to the time of the final destruction in 70 C.E., which we can feel sure that Jesus foresaw, based on this and other predictions.

The next sentence, found only in Luke, tells us that Jesus was trying to get them to look at what was happening, rather than even listening to him:
(Luke 12:57)
        Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?

In other words, if we may try to make this sentence clearer than it already is, Do not listen to the priests; do not listen to the men who come claiming to be the messiah, just look at what is happening all around you!

Then the compiler of document P wrote down another statement about avoiding fruitless struggle, which Matthew incorporates into the Great Sermon:

(Luke 12:58-59;Matt.5:25-26)
        If you are going with an adversary to the judge, on the way strive diligently to satisfy your adversary, lest he take you to court, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer shall cast you into prison. I tell you truly, then you will not come out until you have paid the very last penny.

Don't strive with people, he tells us; just go along with them lest they do something to make things worse for you. This would seem to be about worldly things, where a civil authority may punish you in some way. It would also seem to be part of his commandment to take up your cross, and bear it; if living by the will of God gets you in trouble with the law, you must be ready to endure it. How is this related to his concern about opposition to the Romans and following a messiah? this is a question which we cannot answer yet.


Luke has here some observations on contemporary events which help us to understand his viewpoint on those events, which are not found in any other gospel. After he was told about some Galileans who had died at the hand of Pilate, he tells them all:
(Luke 13:1-9)
        Do you think that those Galileans were sinners above all other Galileans, just because they died in prison? No, I tell you truly, unless you change your ways you shall all likewise perish.
        Or those eighteen, on whom the tower of Siloam fell, and killed them, do you think they were offenders above all others living in Jerusalem? I tell you again unless you change your ways, you shall all likewise perish.
        Listen to another parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and there was no fruit on it. So he said to his vinedresser, Say, for three years I have looked for fruit on this tree and found none; cut it down; why does it encumber the ground? But the vinedresser answered, Sir, let it alone this year also; and I will dig around it, and fertilize it; and if it bear fruit next year, that will be good; well; but if not, then you may cut it down.

We do not know anything about the specific events mentioned in these paragraphs: the Galileans, and the eighteen men in Jerusalem; but the parable seems to be telling the people, You can count on one last chance, but if you don't repent, then that will be the end of you.

But we may ask here, what does he mean by "repent" in this context? He seems to be addressing some current events, and it seems more likely that by "repent" he means backing off from deadly conflicts with the Romans, rather than just following him and listening to him and repeating his words and even trying to be more kindly and just in their daily lives.


Earlier, in Mark, we read an event where Jesus is reported to have healed someone on the sabbath, and challenged the religious leaders to show that it was not a good action. A similar story is reported at this point in Luke (document P), introduced just by saying that he was teaching in the synagogue, and there was a woman there who was crippled in some way and had been so for eighteen years. Luke tells us that he called the woman to him, laid his hands upon her, and she was healed. And a person called the ruler of the synagogue was indignant, and there was this little dialogue:
(Luke 13:10-17)
RULER (sternly): There are six days on which Jews are supposed to work, so this lady should have come on one of those days to be healed, and not on the sabbath.

JESUS: You hypocrites, doesn't each one of you loose his ox or his ass on the sabbath, and lead him to water? Therefore shouldn't this lady, a daughter of Abraham, be freed of her condition on the day of the sabbath?

Luke refers to Jesus here as "the Lord", which shows that this story was written down long after Jesus had lived and taught. But Luke finishes the story by telling us that the critics were put to shame and that the multitude rejoiced. But his answer here is not really any different from the event reported in Mark.

At this point in Luke (document P) occur the two parables which Matthew has inserted into the discourse on the parables of the kingdom of God, narrated in Chapter VII: the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven. We shall not repeat them here.


Document P includes at this point some further remarks on the kingdom of God and entering into it. Before going on we need to recall that the Greek word "basileia", translated as "kingdom" by the King James translators, and by most translators since, can be rendered more accurately by the words "reign" or "rule". Thus a more accurate translation of the phrase "kingdom of God" would be "reign of God", which does not carry the notions of a specific place in the sky nor a time in the indefinite future, but as Jesus said, it is something which is attainable right now. His first remark here is about the difficulties of getting in:

(Luke 13:22-24;Matt.7:13-14)
        Strive to enter in by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, shall try to get in but shall not be able.

Matthew reports, probably from document M, the opposition of the broad and the narrow way, the one leading to destruction and the other leading to life, whereas Luke remembers only the narrow way. Jesus goes on, with another pessimistic view:
(Luke 13:25-30)
        When once the master of the house has risen, and locked the door, and you all cluster outside, knocking, and saying, Lord, let us in, please! he shall say, I do not know you. And if you say, But we did eat and drink in your presence, and you taught in our streets; then he shall say, I tell you, I do not know you; depart from my doorway.
        And I tell you truly, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall Abraham and all the patriarchs, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God and all of you left outside. And behold they shall come from the east and west and the north and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

Document P adds, And there will be many that are last which shall be first, and many that are first shall be last; but that saying although repeated in other parts of the gospels does not help us understand what it means.


Next in this document and gospel comes the warning from some Pharisees that Herod is now seeking to kill Jesus. Here again is the brief dialogue which we have inserted earlier as the explanation for why he wanted to flee to Phoenicia, but I am repeating it here because of its importance in understanding the teaching of Jesus:
(Luke 13:31-33)
PHARISEES: Get out of Galilee; for Herod is seeking to kill you.

JESUS: Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils and perform cures today and tomorrow, and after three days it will be all over. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.

(Luke 13:34-35;Matt.23:37-39)
JESUS (continuing): O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered your children together as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not let me! Behold, your house will be left unto you desolate; and you will not see me, until you can say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!

This seems to make it perfectly clear that what he was preaching about was the destruction of Jerusalem because of the recalcitrance of the Jews towards the Romans and the coming of one claimant to be the messiah after another such claimant. Jerusalem and the Jews were not listening to him preaching in opposition to the Zealots; and finally Rome lost all patience and just destroyed Jerusalem and deported all the survivors out of Palestine.


Luke reports one more healing on the sabbath, this time in the home of a Pharisee. Luke says they were "watching him". Then the document reports that "there was a man before him" who had the dropsy. How did the man happen to be in the home of a Pharisee? Anyway, Jesus poses two questions to them:
(Luke 14:1-6)
JESUS: (challengingly) Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?

PHARISEES: (silence)

JESUS (turning to everyone): Which of you has an ox or an ass, and if it falls into a well on a sabbath, will you not immediately pull him out again that same day?

PHARISEES: (no answer)

This answer was copied by Matthew and inserted into the story of the healing of a man on the sabbath reported by Mark, which we told about in chapter III. But Jesus' attitude is clear: the sabbath rules made no difference when the well-being of a living creature was at stake.


In this next section of Luke, there are three parables or discourses on the question of giving or attending a feast. The first is about which seats to take:
(Luke 14:7-11)
JESUS: When you are invited to a marriage feast, do not go to the head of the table, because someone more important than you may arrive, and you will have to leave that seat and take one lower down, and you will be shamed. No, when you arrive you should take the lowest seat; and the master of the feast may come and tell you, Friend, sit up higher; and then you shall have glory in the eyes of all the people there. For everyone that exalts himself shall be humbled; and everyone that humbles himself shall be exalted.

Sounds pretty devious to me; is not seeking honor and glory one of the behaviors Jesus has been preaching against? Then Jesus turned to the Pharisee who had bidden him to supper and told him:
(Luke 14:12-14)
JESUS: When you give a feast, don't invite your friends nor your brothers and sisters, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, for they will invite you back, and it's just a trade. No indeed, when you give a feast, invite the poor and the lame and the maimed, the blind; and you shall be blessed, for they cannot make you any recompense; and you shall be recompensed by being benevolent.

Luke expresses this last phrase as "in the resurrection of the just"; but we don't know what that means, unless Jesus did actually believe in a general resurrection of all deceased persons.


Luke (or document P) inserts a comment from one of them at that meal who said, Blessed is he that eats bread in the kingdom of God. This sounds innocuous enough; but the narrative tells us that then Jesus told another long parable, which Matthew has included in his final discourse:

(Luke 14:16-24)
        A certain man made a great supper, inviting many guests; and at suppertime he sent forth his servant to tell those who had been invited, Come, dinner is ready.
        But then each one made some excuse. The first said, I have just bought a field, and I must go look at it. The second said, I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I need to prove them.
        And then the third said, I have just gotten married, and so I cannot come. So the servant came back, and told the master all these excuses.
        Then his master grew very angry, and told the servant: Go out quickly into the lanes and streets of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and lame and blind. And the servant went out, and came back and said, What you wanted is done and still there is room. Then the master said, Go out then to the highways and hedges, and bring in everyone you meet, so that my house may be full. For I am determined that none of those men I invited shall taste of my supper.

        The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who made a marriage feast for his son and sent his servants out to call the invited guests, and they would not come.
        But they all made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, one to his merchandise, and the rest laid hold of his servants and beat them unmercifully.

        Then the king was enraged and sent his army to destroy those men and their city.
        And the king said to his servants, Go out into the partings of the highways and bring in as many as you can find to partake of the feast. And the servants did so; and they brought in both the bad and the good, and the wedding was filled with guests.

So what is this parable all about? It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the blessed or eating bread in the kingdom of God. Who is this "master"? Is it God? is the kingdom of God being compared to a marriage feast? When the men who had been invited declined to come, who are all these others, poor, crippled, bandits, anyone, who get to join in the feast? If the first invitees symbolize the Jews, and their refusal to attend symbolizes their failure to live according to the precepts of the Torah or to the teachings of Jesus, is the parable saying that everyone else on earth may enter into the kingdom of God? Matthew certainly seems to have interpreted it this way. Can Jesus really have taught that if those that first heard his teachings, but left them or did not practice them, then anybody at all would be accepted in the kingdom, whether they followed the teachings of Jesus or not? Can that possibly be the meaning of this parable?


Luke again inserts a little transitional sentence, saying that Jesus turned to the multitudes and gave them some warnings about what it would mean to become his disciple. These were:
(Luke 14:26;Matt.10:37)
        If any man comes to me, and is not willing to give up his family, his wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:27;Matt.10:38;Mark 8:34)
        Whosoever doesn't bear his own cross, in coming after me, cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:28-33)
        For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn't first sit down and calculate the cost, to know whether he has sufficient means to complete it? Otherwise, when the foundation has been laid, and he has to stop work, all those that see it will mock him, saying, This man didn't have enough means to complete the work.
        Or what king, when he goes to war against another king, will not sit down and consult whether he can with 10,000 men win a battle against another king who has 20,000 men? If not, then he will send an embassy and ask the conditions of peace. So too, any of you who do not renounce all that you have, cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:34-35a;Matt.5:13;Mark 9:50)
        Everyone knows that salt is good; but if salt itself has lost flavor, how can anything be salted? It is fit for neither the land nor the compost pile; we just throw it away.
(Luke 14:35b;Matt.11:13,13:9,43;Mark 4:9,23)
        He among you who has ears to hear let him hear my words and understand.

The adjuration about if you have ears, you'd better listen, occurs several places in the gospels. Luke actually in the first paragraph says that we should "hate" all our family and relatives, but Matthew softens it to read that if we love them MORE than we love him, then we cannot be his disciple. It's also difficult to understand how renouncing all you have is a requirement or consequence of negotiating for peace, in the case of the two kings about to make war. And finally, it is disturbing to hear him say you must give up your family to be in the kingdom of God.

But he makes it pretty scary, following after him; this surely is founded on what he knows is going to happen to him when he gets to Jerusalem. Even so, there's no saying that other people are necessarily going to share his fate.