Rev. Dr. Edgar Mayer

Studies In Luke – Acts: The Travel Narrative – Lk 9:51-19:10 (5/1)

1. Introduction

Only Luke records an extended travel narrative over ten chapters. The reader learns that Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem but then Luke proceeds to tell little about the actual journey. There is hardly any information on travel stops, lodgings, provisions, and so on. The story teller Luke is rather interested in Jesus' teaching and mission approach on the journey. The beginning of the journey is clearly marked in Lk 9:51: "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Scholars cannot agree on where the journey ends but Lk 19:10 ("For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.") seems to summarize the purpose of Jesus' journey and the following pericope (Lk 19:11-27: "While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once ... ") already foreshadows the events in Jerusalem. Thus, the travel narrative may span from Lk 9:51 to Lk 19:10.

What do we know about where Jesus went? The destination of the journey is clear: Jerusalem. However, we know little about the travel route. Only twice Luke mentions the name of a town, i.e. Jericho (Lk 18:35-43; 19:1-10), once he cites a non-descript village in Samaria (Lk 9:51-56) and once he intimates that Jesus travels somewhere along the border country of Galilee and Samaria (Lk 17:11). Cf. Lk 9:57; 10:1,38; 11:1,37,53; 13:10,22,31-33; 14:1,25; 15:1. Yet we know that the Samaritans rejected Jesus right at the beginning of the journey (Lk 9:51-56: " ... the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem ... "). Therefore Jesus seems to have traveled only in Galilee and Judea, that is only among Jews. Jesus' declared purpose of the journey was to save the children of Abraham (Lk 19:1-10) and not foreigners like the Samaritans (Lk 17:11-19). The mission to the Samaritans was to take place after Jesus' resurrection and ascension (Acts 8).

On his journey Jesus reached out to the people of Galilee and Judea and he seems to have reached all the Jews in the process. Great masses followed the traveling Jesus (Lk 11:14,29; 12:54; 14:25). The people around Jesus were identified as the present generation of Jews (Lk 11:29-32) and Jesus' far-reaching impact led to the following accusation in Jerusalem: "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

The dominant theme of Jesus' mission among the Jews is a simple one. Jesus teaches and evangelizes on the road which leads people either to accept or reject him. Through his journey Jesus forces a response from people. They either accept or reject him. We will explore this dominant theme through some key-passages within the travel narrative and then investigate the typological background of the travel narrative to see whether the typological chain of events which has begun in Lk 9:10b is continued.

2. The Structure Of The Travel Narrative

The structure of the travel narrative helps us to identify the key-passages of this block of material. Numerous scholars have identified a chiastic structure within the travel narrative which would be consistent with Luke's tendency to structure even longer passages in chiastic ways. However, scholars cannot agree on the precise shape of the proposed structure. Nevertheless the basic assumption may be right. The travel narrative may exhibit the following chiasm:

A: 9:51-56 (The rejection of Jesus)
B: 9:57-10:24 (Not seeing and seeing)
a: 9:57-62 (Not seeing)
b: 10:1-24 (Seeing)
C: 10:25-37 (Eternal life)
D: 10:38-42 (Right behaviour)
E: 11:1-13 (Prayer)
F: 11:14-36 (The presence of the kingdom and the future judgment)
G: 11:37-12:12 (Woe – watch – teaching about action)
a: 11:37-54 (Woe)
b: 12:1-3 (Watch)
c: 12:4-12 (Teaching about action)
H: 12:13-48 (About God and possessions)
I: 12:49-13:9 (Division – interpret the times – repent or perish)
a: 12:49-53 (Division)
b: 12:54-59 (Interpret the times)
c: 13:1-9 (Repent or perish)
K: 13:10-21 (Sabbath healings and kingdom parables)
a: 13:10-17 (Sabbath healing)
b: 13:18-21 (Kingdom parable)
L: 13:22-30 (The acceptance and rejection of Jesus)
L': 13:31-35 (The acceptance and rejection of Jesus)
K': 14:1-24 (Sabbath healings and kingdom parables)
a: 14:1-11 (Sabbath healing)
b: 14:12-24 (Kingdom parable)
I': 14:25-35 (Division – interpret the times – repent or perish)
a: 14:25-26 (Division)
b: 14:27-33 (Interpret the times)
c: 14:34-35 (Repent or perish)
H': 15:1-16:31 (About God and possessions)
G': 17:1-19 (Woe – watch – teaching about action)
a: 17:1-2 (Woe)
b: 17:3-4 (Watch)
c: 17:5-19 (Teaching about action)
F': 17:20-37 (The presence of the kingdom and the future judgment)
E': 18:1-14 (Prayer)
D': 18:15-17 (Right behaviour)
C': 18:18-30 (Eternal life)
B: 18:31-43 (Not seeing and seeing)
a: 18:31-34 (Not seeing)
b: 18:35-43 (Seeing)
A': 19:1-10 (The rejection of Jesus)

The chiasm draws special attention to the beginning Lk 9:51-56, the end Lk 19:1-10 and the centre of the chiasm Lk 13:22-35. However, even if a chiasm were not recognized, the beginning and end of the travel narrative always merit special investigation. Furthermore, Lk 13:31-35 clearly problematizes the purpose of Jesus' journey and therefore is generally regarded as a key-passage for the interpretation of the Lukan travel narrative. We will now have a closer look at these pericopes.

3. Lk 9:51-56; 19:1-10 And 13:31-35

3.1 Lk 9:51-56 And Lk 19:1-10

Lk 9:51-56 intimates that the journey to Jerusalem is necessary because Jesus' ascension is close (v51). Thus, the disciples who just revealed their miscomprehension of Jesus (Lk 9:37-50) need to recognize his importance once again before his departure. They do that at the end of the journey when only Luke records that the disciples welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with the words: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Lk 19:38). [In Matthew 21:9 and Mark 11:9 not the disciples but the crowd utters these words.] Furthermore, Lk 19:37 suggests that it was indeed Jesus' journey that moved the disciples to accept him: " ... began to praise God ... for all the mighty works that they had seen." Meanwhile the pharisees stand in opposition to the positive response of the disciples: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples" (Lk 19:39).

In Lk 9:51-56 at the beginning of his journey Jesus is rejected by the Samaritans. This clarifies that Jesus' journey does not take place through Samaritan country but is essentially a mission to the Jews in Galilee and Judea. When the Samaritans refuse hospitality to Jesus, the disciples right then and there want to call down fire from heaven onto the Samaritans but Jesus rebukes them. The time of traveling is not the time of eternal judgment. The good news will come to the Samaritans later (Acts 8).

In Lk 19:1-10 at the end of the journey the tax collector Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus while the crowd takes offense at Jesus' table-fellowship with a sinner. Then Jesus summarizes the purpose of his traveling in the following way: "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:9-10). Through his journey some welcome Jesus and are saved; others reject Jesus and face judgment.

3.2 Lk 13:31-35

3.2.1 The Structure And Logic Of Lk 13:31-35

An investigation of Lk 13:31-35 will confirm that Jesus' journey to Jerusalem causes people to respond in either positive or negative ways. Lk 13:31-35 can be structured in the following way:


The Acceptance And Rejection Of Jesus In Jerusalem (Lk 13:31-35)


I. Jesus will be rejected in Jerusalem (Lk 13:31-33)

A. The evil intention of Herod (the fox).
Herod wants to kill Jesus (Lk 13:31).
B''. The evil intention of Herod is thwarted.
Jesus continues to drive out demons and to heal (Lk 13:32).
A'. The evil intention of Herod unexpectedly comes to fruition.
Jesus will die as a prophet in Jerusalem (Lk 13:33).


II. Jesus will be welcomed in Jerusalem (Lk 13:34-35)

B. The good intention of Jesus (the hen)
Jesus wants to gather the children of Jerusalem (Lk 13:34ab).
A''. The good intention of Jesus is thwarted.
Jerusalem rejects Jesus (Lk 13:34c-35a).
B'. The good intention of Jesus unexpectedly comes to fruition.
Jesus will be welcomed in Jerusalem (Lk 13:35bc).

Luke's structure of Lk 13:31-35 involves two stanza which develop the same dynamic movement in three lines. The initial intention of the respective dramatic persons, i.e. Herod and Jesus, is first rejected but ultimately finds surprising fulfilment. In the first stanza Herod wants to kill Jesus but it is not he that will kill Jesus. Jesus will be killed as a prophet by his own people in Jerusalem. In the second stanza Jesus wants to bring love to Jerusalem but it is not Jerusalem (the entire nation of Israel) that will receive it. To the very end Jerusalem remains blind to the salvation that Jesus brings (Lk 19:41-44). However, the disciples of Jesus will welcome him in Jerusalem with the words that Jesus requested from Jerusalem (Lk 13:35 – Lk 19:38). (Notice also the distinction between the daughters of Jerusalem who hear judgment pronounced on them and the Galilean women who experience salvation in Lk 23:26-24:11).

More can be said about the structure of Lk 13:31-35. The two stanzas both feature a chiasm of the ABA' type. V31 parallels v33 through the idea of killing Jesus while v34ab parallels v35cd through the mentioning of Jesus' repeated efforts to show love to Jerusalem. It is of further interest that the theme of the first chiasm's centre forms the theme of the second chiasm's outside bracket. In v32 Jesus shows love through driving out demons and healing people. This theme is taken up in v34ab and v35c where Jesus' wish to show love is expressed. Likewise the theme of the second chiasm's centre forms the theme of the first chiasm's outside bracket. In all segments Jesus is rejected, i.e. v31, v33 and v34c-35a.

The relationship of one stanza's centre with the other stanza's outside bracket closely interlocks the two stanzas and closely interlocks the themes of Jesus' salvific work and his rejection by people. The most important line of the whole structure is the end of the second stanza (v35bc) which climaxes in Jesus being welcomed in Jerusalem. Usually the most important part of a chiastic structure is its centre. However, the closing line of the outside bracket carries the most weight since it is the thematic conclusion of Jesus' saving ministry that has been taken up earlier and given the privileged position at the centre of the first stanza's chiasm.

The text describes two opposing movements. On the one side Jesus saves and is welcomed. On the other side he saves and is rejected and by rejecting him people impose judgment on themselves. The text not only describes these movements but reasons that Jesus' traveling is intrinsically linked to these movements of accepting and rejecting him. Jesus' journey brings about the ultimate rejection of killing him (v33) and the miracle of people welcoming him at Jerusalem after a very long time (v35).

V33 spells out unmistakably that Jesus has to travel to be killed at Jerusalem: " ... I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem." Jesus' traveling to Jerusalem is more than a journey to a final destination but through the journey and his behaviour on the journey the fate at Jerusalem is brought about. This can be deduced from the parallels between v32 and v33. Both verses have references that amount to mentioning a three day period for Jesus' traveling. V32: "today", "tomorrow", "the third day"; v33: "today", "tomorrow", "the one following". In v32 Jesus travels to heal people. In v33 he travels to be rejected.

Importantly, in v32 the healing of people on the first two days relates to the healing on the third day. On the third day Jesus finishes (teleioumai) his course that he has begun on the first day. Consequently, the actions on the first two days were necessary for Jesus to finish his work on the third day. Considering the parallels between v32 and v33 the same rationale can be assumed for v33. The events on the first two days were necessary to bring about the climactic killing on the third day. Jesus has to travel to be killed.

The relationship between Lk 13:31 and the wider context of the Gospel of Luke confirms the exegesis so far. Lk 13:31 reads: "At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him: 'Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." The Pharisees initially mean well with Jesus and warn him about imminent danger but at the end of the journey they take offense at the positive welcome which Jesus has worked through his mission: "Teacher, rebuke your disciples" (Lk 19:39; cf. 19:41-44). On the other hand Herod initially wants to kill Jesus but at the end of the journey the traveling Jesus has worked a positive response. Now Herod is curious to meet him: "When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him" (Lk 23:8). The journeying Jesus makes people change their attitudes towards him.

The relationship between Lk 13:34-35 and Lk 19:37-38 likewise confirms the exegesis so far. In Lk 13:34-35 Jesus announces: " ... Behold your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Then the traveling Jesus elicits precisely this greeting from his disciples at the end of the journey in Jerusalem: "As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying: 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest" (Lk 19:37-38). Through his mission journey Jesus provokes either positive or negative responses from people. They either accept or reject him.


Luke–Acts