Rev. Dr. Edgar Mayer – Toowoomba 2000

Studies in Luke – Acts: Luke 9:10b–50 (3)

1. Introduction

Scholars agree that Luke worked hard to establish Lk 9:1-50 as a narrative unit. Only Luke combined the pericopes of the sending of the disciples (Lk 9:1-10a), the feeding of the 5000 (Lk 10b-17), the confession of Peter (Lk 9:18-20), the first announcement of Jesus' passion and resurrection (Lk 9:21-22), the teaching on discipleship (Lk 9:23-27), the transfiguration of Jesus (Lk 9:28-36), the healing of a possessed boy (Lk 9:37-43a), the second announcement of Jesus' passion (Lk 9:43b-45), the disciples argument on who is the greatest (Lk 9:46-48), and the disciples dealing with an unknown exorcist (Lk 9:49-50) – only Luke combined these pericopes in such a way that they form an unbroken narrative unit. For instance, Luke consistently joined the various pericopes better than Mark or Matthew. He avoided a change of location for Peter's confession (cf. Mk 8:27; Mt 16:13). Only he linked Jesus' transfiguration with the preceding teaching: "And it happened about eight days after these words ... " (Lk 9:28; cf. Mk 9:2; Mt 17:1). And only he linked the events after the transfiguration closely with the transfiguration: "The next day, when they came down from the mountain ... " (Lk 9:37). Only Luke joined the healing of a possessed boy and the second announcement of Jesus' passion with the words: "While everyone was still marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples" (Lk 9:43b), and avoided the Markan and Matthean change of location (cf. Mk 9:30; Mt 17:22). See also Mk 9:33 and Mt 17:24-18:1 for a further change of locations which Luke omitted. Luke simply continues his narration before the same people at the same location: "But John answered (single tradition) and said ... " (Lk 9:49). There is scholarly agreement on the Lukan effort to present Lk 9:1-50 as one literary unit and therefore the verses of this chapter need to be read as one interdependent unit.

We will investigate the main thematic threads of Luke 9:1-50 and then uncover their dynamic development and typological background.

2. The Main Thematic Threads Of Luke 9:1-50

Luke 9:1-50 contains a dense proliferation of Christological statements. The crowd responds to the mission trip of the disciples (Lk 9:1-6) and the feeding of the 5000 (Lk 9:10b-17) with various speculations: " ... some were saying John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life" (Lk 9:7-8; cf. Lk 9:19). Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ of God (Lk 9:20), disciples address Jesus as epistatees (Lk 9:33,49), Jesus announces his future sufferings twice (Lk 9:21-22; 9:44), for the first time the coming glory of the Son of Man is mentioned (Lk 9:26), and a man in the crowd calls Jesus didaskalos (Lk 9:38). The climax of Christological declarations comes when God calls Jesus "this is my son whom I have chosen" (Lk 9:35) on the mount of transfiguration.

In Lk 9:1-50 Christological statements give insight into the person of Jesus and at the same time function as the basis for teaching and discipleship training. When Jesus sent the disciples out on a mission assignment, he asked them to copy his behaviour. They were also to heal, drive out demons and preach the kingdom (Lk 9:1-6). Thus, the disciples' mission feats trigger the people's speculation about the identity of Jesus (Lk 9:7-9). After Jesus revealed to the disciples that he was the Christ who had to suffer and rise, he encouraged them to share his fate: " ... deny himself . take up . cross daily and follow me ... whoever loses his life for me will save it ... " (Lk 9:23-27). After the second announcement of Jesus' passion the disciples did not comprehend what that meant (Lk 9:44-45). Thus, they fought about who was the greatest among them (Lk 9:46). Then Jesus taught them that greatness was in suffering and serving others: "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest" (Lk 9:48). In this way Jesus' imminent suffering was shown to correspond to greatness – greatness which also reflects on the one who is least among the disciples.

3. Dynamic Developments Within Luke 9:1-50

The varying level of Christological understanding of the people/disciples in Lk 9:1-50 is of interest. On their mission trip the disciples seem to be in the know (Lk 9:1-6). They do what Jesus subsequently does when he feeds the 5000 (Lk 9:10b-17). They preach the kingdom and heal the sick. The people speculate whether Jesus might be a risen prophet (Lk 9:7-9,19; cf. check the single traditions in relation to "risen") and therefore are on the right track. After Easter Jesus will be a risen prophet (cf. Lk 24:19). Then Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ (Lk 9:20-22) and thus makes the right confession about Jesus. At this point of time Luke avoids any discord and omits Peter's negative reaction to Jesus' passion announcement which in Mark and Matthew (Mk 8:31-33; Mt 16:21-23) results in a rebuke by Jesus. Before the events on the mount of transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36) the disciples and the people have positive Christological insights.

On the mount of transfiguration Jesus is revealed as the son whom God has chosen (Lk 9:35). The disciples Peter, John and James first sleep while Jesus talks with Moses and Elijah about his "exodus". However, then they do witness God's attestation of Jesus' glorious status.

After the events on the mount of transfiguration a breakdown of the disciples' Christological understanding occurs. Suddenly they and the people are called: "O unbelieving and perverse generation ... " (Lk 9:41). The disciples respond to the second announcement of Jesus' passion with a complete lack of understanding: "But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it" (Lk 9:45). Then they argue as to which of them would be the greatest (Lk 9:46) and finally they are wrong in feeling threatened by someone who drives out demons in Jesus' name (Lk 9:49).

The dynamic development which shows disciples/people having Christological insights before and on the Mount of Transfiguration but ending up as an unbelieving and perverse generation fits into a certain typological background of Lk 9:1-50.

4. The Typological Background Of Lk 9:1-50.

Luke 9:10b-50 may have been shaped to correspond loosely to events narrated in the Old Testament book of Exodus. Before we look for specific evidence, we observe that the thematic development of Christological knowledge in Lk 9 would match the thematic development of the people's knowledge and adherence to God in the book of Exodus. A diagram may illustrate that:

1. The feeding of the 5000 teaches the people about Jesus and they hear the preaching of the kingdom (Lk 9:10b-17)1. The feeding with manna teaches the people about God and they hear God's instructions (Exodus 16).
2. At the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration and on the mountain itself Jesus is revealed and this revelation forms the basis for discipleship teaching (Lk 9:18-36).2. At the foot of Mount Sinai and on the mountain itself God is revealed and this revelation froms the basis for the commandments which the people were to follow (Exodus 19:3-6; 20-24).
3. After the events on the Mount of Transfiguration the people act against what they know about Jesus and his teachings (Lk 9:37-50).3. After the events on Mount Sinai the people act against what they know about God and his commandments (Exodus 32).

[In the book of Exodus God is the main character while in Luke 9 Jesus is the main character. However, that may not negate the observed typology. Both in the book of Exodus and in Luke 9 God and a mosaic figure (Lk 9:35 quotes a phrase Dt 18:15 and therefore identifies Jesus as a prophet like Moses) appear whereby the honour or rejection of one closely relates to the honour or rejection of the other.]

Further evidence strengthens the thesis that events in the book of Exodus form the typological background of Luke 9:10b-50:

  1. Lk 9:10b-17and the feeding of manna in the Old Testament (LXX Exodus 16; cf. Numbers 11; 2 Kings 4:42-44)
  2. Lk 9:18-36 and the events on Mount Sinai (LXX Exodus 19ff)
  3. Luke 9:37-50 and the golden calf (LXX Exodus 32)

[In Lk 9:10b-50 Luke follows the Markan order of material to a great extent but leaves out the numerous pericopes of Mk 6:45-8:26. Various scholars sought to explain this 'great omission'. Maybe Luke excluded the material of Mk 6:45-8:26 because following the Markan order it would have featured after Lk 9:17 thus spoiling the unit's (Lk 9:10b-50) chain of events which reflects events in the book of Exodus.]

5. Conclusion

Lk 9:10b-50 contains a chain of events which reflect the events in the book of Exodus and may be tagged in the following way: "Feeding with Manna" (Lk 9:10b-17); "Mount Sinai" (Lk 9:18-36); "Golden Calf" (Lk 9:37-50).