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A. The responsibilities and rewards of discipleship 9:51-10:24
This part of the new section continues to focus attention on Jesus’ disciples (cf. Luke 9:1-50). The problem of their attitude toward other people also continues (cf. Luke 9:46-50). There is further instruction on the cost of discipleship too (Luke 9:57-62; cf. Luke 6:20-49). The heart of this part of the Gospel is Jesus’ preparation of the disciples for their second mission. The contrast between disciples and non-disciples becomes stronger, and the duties and privileges of discipleship emerge clearer.
Whereas the Gospel writers used the term "disciple" (lit. learner) to describe a wide variety of people who sought to learn from Jesus, believers and unbelievers alike, as Jesus moved toward the Cross His discipleship training focused increasingly on His believing disciples.
"After this" shows Luke’s basic chronological progression, but he deviated from it often, as did the other Gospel writers. Luke’s use of "Lord" here stresses His authority, an important emphasis in a section dealing with Jesus’ directions to His followers.
The number of the messengers is a problem. Both 70 (NASB, AV, RSV) and 72 (NIV, NEB, JB) have good textual support. Commentators usually favor one or the other because of why they believe Jesus may have selected 70 or 72 since the textual evidence is so equal. Those who favor 70 usually do so because they believe Jesus was following an Old Testament precedent. There were 70 descendants of Jacob who went to Egypt with him (Exodus 1:1-5). There were also 70 elders in Israel (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16-17; Numbers 11:24-25) and in the Sanhedrin, and people in Jesus’ day viewed the world as having 70 nations in it (Genesis 10). [Note: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "hepta," by K. H. Rengstorf, 2:634-35.] Some scholars believe that one or more of these factors influenced Jesus. Others who favor 72 think that the table of nations in the Septuagint version of Genesis 10 that lists 72 nations influenced Jesus. [Note: E.g., Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 415; and Morris, p. 181.] Another view is that the 72 translators of the Septuagint influenced Him. [Note: S. Jellicoe, "St Luke and the Seventy-two," New Testament Studies 6 (1960):319-21; Tannehill, 1:233.] I prefer 70 mainly because I think it likely that Jesus was prefiguring a mission to the whole world here. However this problem has no significant bearing on the meaning of the rest of the story.
The scope of this mission was broader than the mission of the Twelve. The Seventy were to go to all the towns Jesus planned to visit, apparently not just Jewish towns but also those in the Samaritan and Gentile areas of Palestine. Evidently these disciples were to do what John the Baptist had done through his verbal witness, namely, prepare the people for the coming and preaching of Messiah (cf. Luke 7:27). Their task was not just to arrange accommodations for Jesus, as had been the task of the messengers in the preceding pericope (cf. Luke 9:52). Sending messengers two by two was a common practice (cf. Luke 7:18-19; Mark 6:7; Acts 13:2; Acts 15:27; Acts 15:39-40; Acts 17:14; Acts 19:22). It assured companionship, protection, and the double witness that the Jews required (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15). [Note: J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology, p. 235.]
3. The importance of participation 10:1-16
The theme of discipleship training continues in this section of verses. The 70 disciples that Jesus sent out contrast with the three men Luke just finished presenting (Luke 9:57-62). This was a second mission on which Jesus sent a group of His disciples, the first being the mission of the Twelve (Luke 9:1-6; Luke 9:10). Only Luke referred to it, though there are similarities with other Gospel passages (cf. Matthew 9:37-38; Matthew 10:7-16; Matthew 11:21-23). It is not surprising to find this incident in this Gospel. Luke had an interest in showing the development of God’s mission from a small beginning in Luke. He presented it as growing to a worldwide enterprise in Acts. His emphasis was again the instruction Jesus gave these disciples in preparation for their ministry (cf. Luke 9:1-6).
Jesus’ first instruction to the Seventy was that they pray (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-8). Jesus gave His disciples the same instructions on another occasion (cf. Matthew 9:37-38). The harvest figure is common in Scripture, and it pictures God gathering His elect (cf. Matthew 13:37-43; et al.). In this context it referred to gathering believers in Jesus out from the mass of unbelievers to whom the Seventy would go. When He said that the harvest was plentiful, Jesus meant that there was much work to do to bring the gospel of the kingdom to everyone. His disciple messengers were few in proportion to the large task. Therefore the disciples needed to pray God to send every qualified messenger out into the "field" and that none would fail to participate in this mission. Thus this verse expresses Jesus’ desire for more workers and for full participation by the workers who were available.
The importance of participation continues in Jesus’ imperative command to the Seventy to go (Gr. hypagete, cf. Matthew 28:19). The sheep among wolves figure was evidently a favorite one for Jesus (cf. Matthew 10:16). It pictures the dependent and vulnerable position of His disciples among hostile adversaries. They needed to trust in and pray to God, therefore, as they ministered. Jesus sent them out (Gr. apostello) as apostles, in the general sense of that word: missionaries. Jesus was speaking as the Shepherd of His sheep.
The mission of the Seventy would be relatively brief, so they needed to travel lightly (cf. Luke 9:3; Mark 6:8). The implication of their not carrying a purse was that they should depend on the hospitality and gifts of believers to sustain them, but most importantly on God. In ancient Near Eastern culture people often gave very long greetings that tied them up sometimes for days (cf. Judges 19:4-9; 2 Kings 4:29). Jesus did not mean that His disciples should be unfriendly or unsociable but that they should not allow these greetings to divert them from their mission. They were to pursue their work and not waste their time on lesser things.
The Seventy were to pronounce a benediction on any household that offered them hospitality. "Peace" (Heb. shalom) was a common Jewish blessing that wished the fullness of Yahweh’s blessing on the recipient (cf. John 14:27). As the disciples ministered, it would become clear whether the host really believed their message. If he turned out to be a man of peace, namely, a man marked by the fullness of God’s blessing on his life, the disciple’s benediction would result in God’s further blessing. If the host proved unbelieving, God would not bring the fullness of His blessing on him, but the host would forfeit it (cf. Matthew 10:11-13; Mark 6:10-11).
The Seventy, like the Twelve (cf. Luke 9:4), were normally to remain with their hosts and not move around in one neighborhood trying to improve their situation (cf. Matthew 10:11; Mark 6:10). This would result in their wasting time and possibly insulting their hosts. Going from house to house also implied engaging in a social round of activity and being entertained long after they had done their work. [Note: Morris, p. 182.] As servants of the Lord, they were to eat and drink what their hosts provided. They could expect sustenance and needed to be content with that even though it might not necessarily be what they would prefer. The principle of the worker being worthy of his wages goes back to creation (Genesis 1:28-30). Jesus and the apostles reaffirmed it for the present inter-advent age (cf. Matthew 10:10; 1 Corinthians 9:3-18; 1 Timothy 5:18; 3 John 1:5-8).
Taken broadly the food set before the disciples in whatever town they might visit could possibly include ceremonially unclean food. Jesus was already dispensing with the clean unclean distinction in foods (cf. Luke 11:41; Mark 7:19; Romans 10:4). Peter’s scrupulous observance of the Jewish dietary laws may not have characterized all the disciples (cf. Acts 10:14). The practice of eating "unclean" food continued to disturb the early church (cf. 1 Corinthians 8). Undoubtedly Luke included this reference with his original readers in mind.
The Seventy were to continue the ministry of Jesus (Luke 7:21-22; Luke 9:11; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Mark 6:12) and the Twelve (Luke 9:1-2). This verse gives the positive content of these messengers’ ministry. The mention of healing before preaching suggests that the miracles provided an opportunity for the preaching as well as validating it. Their message was that the Messiah had appeared and, therefore, the messianic kingdom was imminent. If the people had believed in Jesus, the kingdom would have begun shortly. The kingdom was near then spatially and temporally.
The Seventy were to declare publicly two things to the towns (i.e., the people of the towns) that rejected them and their message. They were to pronounce a symbolic rejection for unbelief (cf. Luke 9:5; Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11), and they were to remind the rejecters of the reality of the kingdom offer that they had spurned. This second action was a virtual sentence of judgment.
The common characteristic of Sodom and these Palestinian cities was failure to repent when given a warning by God (cf. Genesis 19:24-29; Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:20-24; Romans 9:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:7). The fate of the people of Sodom had become proverbial (cf. Isaiah 1:9-10). The Sodomites had the witness of Lot, but these cities had the witness of forerunners and eyewitnesses of the Messiah. The Sodomites could have saved their city by repenting, but these cities could have entered the messianic kingdom. Therefore their guilt was greater than that of the people of Sodom.
The traditional site of Chorazin is at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. [Note: Finegan, The Archaeology . . ., pp. 57-58.] Bethsaida Julius was its near neighbor (cf. Luke 9:10). Thus the contrast Jesus presented was between two villages at the north end of the Sea of Galilee and two towns at the south end of the Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah. This forms something of an inclusio for Israel as well as a geographical merism. Both Chorazin and Bethsaida, used as representatives for many other similar ones, had received much of Jesus’ ministry. Tyre and Sidon, two Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast, had suffered severe judgment for rejecting God and His people (cf. Isaiah 23:1-18; Jeremiah 25:22; Jeremiah 47:4; Ezekiel 26:1 to Ezekiel 28:23; Joel 3:4-8; Amos 1:9-10). The responsiveness of these rebellious Gentile towns in comparison to the unresponsive Jewish towns named would have encouraged readers of Luke’s Gospel who were witnessing to Gentiles. However, Jesus’ point was the dire fate that would come on people who spurned His offer of salvation (cf. Matthew 11:21-22). Sitting in ashes while wearing sackcloth made of goat hair or sitting on sackcloth expressed great sorrow connected with sin in the ancient Near East (cf. 1 Kings 21:27; Job 2:8; Job 42:6; Esther 4:2-3; Isaiah 58:5; Jonah 3:6-8).
Capernaum had been the center of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. While it was more responsive than Nazareth (Luke 4:23), it was still less responsive than it should have been in view of the witness it had received. Jesus’ words of judgment undoubtedly grew out of God’s condemnation of the king of Babylon’s pride (Isaiah 14:13-15; cf. Matthew 11:23). Evidently the people of Capernaum expected God to treat them with special favor because Jesus had done many miracles there (cf. Luke 13:26). Jesus was picturing Hades (i.e., Sheol, the place of departed spirits) as opposite to heaven spatially. Hades was a place associated with humiliation and punishment whereas heaven was the place of joy and blessing. Jesus was contrasting the height of glory and the depth of degradation.
Luke 10:13-15 constitute a condemnation of the rejection of the ministry of the Seventy. These strong statements helped the disciples appreciate the importance of their mission as they went out.
Jesus added further importance to their mission by explaining that acceptance or rejection of the Seventy amounted to acceptance or rejection of Himself and God the Father who had sent Jesus (cf. Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37). Jesus was authorizing these disciples to act for Him (cf. John 20:21).
Prayer walks have become popular in some parts of Christianity in recent years. This is the practice of praying as one walks around a town, usually, asking God to bring salvation to its people. Undoubtedly the Seventy prayed as they conducted their mission trip, but they also preached. Jesus did not tell them just to pray for God to make the people responsive but also to preach the gospel to them. Neither did He tell them simply to go out and do good works. Praying for the lost and preaching to the lost should go hand in hand whenever possible.
This ends Jesus’ briefing of the Seventy for their unique mission. Luke recorded nothing about the mission itself. His concern was Jesus’ instructions and their applicability to his readers in view of their mission (Acts 1:8).
These disciples undoubtedly experienced the same opposition and rejection that Jesus did, but their overwhelming sentiment was joy (Gr. charas). They had experienced supernatural enablement and power because they trusted and obeyed the Lord (cf. Luke 9:1; Matthew 10:8). They quite naturally rejoiced, especially in the spectacular display of God’s power evident in their control of demons. Jesus exorcized demons with a command, but His disciples had to command demons in Jesus’ name, namely, on the basis of His authority.
4. The joy of participation 10:17-20
Luke stressed the joy that the Seventy experienced because they participated in God’s program (cf. Philippians 1:3-5). As we have noted before, Luke often referred to the joy that Jesus brought to people (cf. Luke 1:14; Luke 1:46; Luke 24:52; et al.). In view of Jesus’ preparatory instructions (Luke 10:1-16) we might have expected the Seventy to feel miserable and glad the experience was over. However that is not normally the result of serving Jesus regardless of the hardships involved. As in the preceding pericope, Luke focused on Jesus’ words to the messengers.
Jesus described the humiliation of Satan’s demons as though it was a repetition of Satan’s actual fall from heaven that happened before Creation. Isaiah’s description of the king of Babylon’s fall was similar (Isaiah 14:12). Many Bible students believe that Isaiah was describing the fall of Satan, but the context argues for a human king. Jesus may have been alluding to this passage. However, He appears to have been describing a current fall or humiliation symbolized by the subjection of the demons to His authority. This is more probable than that He described a vision that He had. Satan will experience similar humiliations in the future during the Tribulation (Revelation 12:7-10; Revelation 12:13), at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 20:2), and at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:10). Jesus’ victory over Satan gave Him, as well as His disciples, cause for rejoicing.
"To the casual observer all that had happened was that a few mendicant preachers had spoken in a few small towns and healed a few sick folk. But in the gospel triumph Satan had suffered a notable defeat." [Note: Morris, p. 185.]
The power that Jesus had given the Seventy to escape injury symbolized their ability to overcome Satan and His demons spiritually (cf. Revelation 12:13-17). Thus the connection with the previous verse is clear. Jesus probably referred to snakes and scorpions because they represented these spiritual foes (cf. Genesis 3:15). In other words, we should probably take His words figuratively rather than literally. This was evidently a special protection that Jesus gave His disciples during this mission. Jesus may have given it again to His disciples following His resurrection (cf. Mark 16:18). This verse is in the debated long ending of Mark’s Gospel. However, that protection apparently lasted only a short time (cf. Acts 28:1-6). Jesus’ disciples since then have experienced injury, so it was evidently a limited provision in view of the unique ministry of Jesus’ original disciples and apostles. Even during the apostolic age many disciples did not escape injury or death (Acts 7:60; Acts 12:2; 2 Timothy 4:20).
As great as victory over injury and especially demons was, a greater cause for rejoicing was the Seventy’s assurance that God would reward them. God makes note of those who commit themselves to participating in His mission. Jesus’ comparison helps all disciples keep His blessings in their proper perspective.
There appear to be several records that God keeps in heaven. There is the book of the living, namely, those who are presently alive on the earth (Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalms 69:28; Isaiah 4:3). There is also a book containing the names of the lost and their deeds (Revelation 20:12). There is a book with the names of the elect in it (Daniel 12:1; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27). A fourth book evidently contains the names of faithful followers of the Lord (Malachi 3:16; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5). In view of the context it was apparently to this last record that Jesus referred here. Obviously God needs no literal ledgers to keep records in since He knows all. This is a figurative way of saying that He remembers.
This whole pericope deals with the joy that disciples who participate in God’s mission for them experience. The greatest and most fundamental reason for rejoicing for any disciple is his or her personal salvation. Yet there is additional joy for disciples who take part in God’s program and advance His will in the world. It involves seeing a preview of the final victory over the forces of evil (cf. Matthew 16:18). This joy more than compensates for the deprivations and rejection that discipleship entails. Non-participating disciples know nothing of this joy.
The Holy Spirit’s role in Jesus’ ministry was another special interest of Luke’s. The record of Jesus’ similar prayer in Matthew 11:25-26 lacks the references to joy and the Holy Spirit. The phrase "rejoiced . . . in the Holy Spirit" (NASB) probably means that the Holy Spirit was the source of Jesus’ joy (cf. Acts 13:52). He gave it to Jesus. This notation strengthens the force of what Jesus proceeded to say. All three members of the Trinity appear in this verse. The Son empowered by the Spirit addressed His Father. This, too, points to a very significant statement to follow.
Jesus praised God for something the Father had done. He addressed God intimately as His Father (Gr. pater, the equivalent of the Aramaic abba, cf. Luke 11:2). The title "Lord of heaven and earth" was a common one for Jews to use. It came from Genesis 14:19; Genesis 14:22, and it draws attention to God’s sovereignty. This allusion was appropriate in view of what Jesus thanked God for. Jesus probably meant that He praised God that although He had hidden the gospel of the kingdom from the humanly wise, He had, nevertheless, revealed it to the humble (cf. Luke 1:48-55; Luke 8:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). The last sentence evidently means, "Yes, O Father, I praise you because this was your will (and I agree with it)." The wise and understanding people that Jesus had in mind were probably the Jewish religious leaders, and the babes were His disciples. Jesus rejoiced in the privilege these disciples had had of understanding God’s ways as they participated in His mission.
5. The joy of comprehension 10:21-24
This incident followed the preceding one immediately (Luke 10:21). The subject of joy continues, and the section on the responsibilities and rewards of discipleship reaches its climax here. Jesus expressed His joy to the Father in prayer for revealing to the disciples what they had learned, particularly Jesus’ victory over Satan. This understanding constituted a unique privilege that Jesus pointed out to them.
The two parts of this section occur elsewhere in Jesus’ ministry (Luke 10:21-22 in Matthew 11:25-27, and Luke 10:23-24 in Matthew 13:16-17). This suggests that Jesus said these things on more than one occasion.
This verse appears to be a statement to the disciples rather than a continuation of Jesus’ prayer, but Luke 10:23 specifically identifies the beginning of His words to the disciples. Therefore we should probably understand Luke 10:22 as part of His prayer. Apparently Jesus spoke these words for the disciples’ benefit as much as for His Father’s.
The "all things" in view probably include divine revelation and divine power, considering the context. The second and third clauses indicate that the Father and the Son know each other completely. Consequently only the Son can reveal the Father. There are only two incidents that the synoptic evangelists recorded in which Jesus referred to Himself as "the Son" (Matthew 11:27, the parallel passage to this one, and Mark 13:32), but John recorded many such incidents. Jesus concluded by saying that the Son bestows knowledge of the Father according to the Son’s will. By saying these things, Jesus was claiming to have an exclusive relationship with God and to be the sole mediator of the knowledge of God to humankind (cf. Luke 4:32; 1 Timothy 2:5).
Now Jesus addressed the Seventy directly and congratulated them on participating in this revelation. The blessings that humble disciples experience contrast with the judgment that proud people who disregard the knowledge and power that Jesus revealed will experience (cf. 13-15; Luke 1:52-55; Luke 6:20-26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Those who saw what these disciples saw were blessed or fortunate. What they saw was the signs that the Messiah had arrived and His kingdom was at hand (Luke 10:17).
The prophets typically looked forward to the fulfillment of the things that they predicted (1 Peter 1:10-12). Kings probably represent the most important people of their day. Even they, with all their advantages, could not see and hear what Jesus’ humble disciples could. What they saw was the signs of the advent of Messiah, and what they heard was the good news that the kingdom was at hand.
Jesus’ teaching in this pericope glorified the privilege of being a disciple of His. Too often the responsibilities of discipleship make following Jesus appear very threatening and unattractive, but the rewards of discipleship far outweigh its costs (cf. Romans 8:18). In view of this revelation, disciples of Jesus should feel encouraged to participate wholeheartedly and fully in God’s mission for them. For us that means participation in the execution of the Great Commission (Luke 24:44-49).
B. The relationships of disciples 10:25-11:13
The three incidents that compose this section all concern various aspects of the life of disciples. Luke continued to focus Jesus’ teaching on discipleship by his selection of material. All three incidents are unique to Luke’s Gospel, though again there is evidence that Jesus taught similar lessons and made similar statements at other times that the other evangelists recorded in other contexts.
Lawyers (scribes) were experts in the Mosaic Law. The Greek word translated "test" (ekpeirazon) does not necessarily imply hostility (cf. Luke 4:12). The man simply could have been wanting Jesus’ opinion. He addressed Jesus as a teacher or rabbi. This title tells us nothing about his motivation, only that He viewed Jesus as less than a prophet, the Messiah, or God. He assumed that people had to do something to obtain eternal life (cf. Luke 18:18). The term "inherit" had a particular significance for Jewish readers distinguishing a special way of receiving eternal life (cf. Matthew 5:5; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:34). However, Gentiles readers for whom Luke wrote would have regarded it as synonymous with obtaining eternal life (cf. Mark 10:17). Eternal life is the equivalent of spiritual salvation and included entrance into the messianic kingdom.
The lawyer’s question and Jesus’ answer 10:25-29
The incident that Mark recorded in Mark 12:28-34 is quite similar to this one, but the differences in the accounts point to two separate situations. In view of the question at stake it is easy to see how people might have asked it of Jesus many different times. Furthermore this particular question was of great concern to the scribes, who studied the law professionally. The fact that the Holy Spirit recorded the same lesson twice in Scripture is a testimony to His greatness as a teacher since great teachers deliberately repeat themselves.
". . . in the first century A.D. in Palestine the only way of publishing great thoughts was to go on repeating them in talk or sermons." [Note: T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, p. 260.]
1. The relation of disciples to their neighbors 10:25-37
The question that a lawyer put to Jesus provided the opportunity for this lesson. Jesus answered it but then followed up His answer with a parable that was the climax of His teaching on the subject. The parable amplified the second great commandment (Luke 10:27). The teaching that followed the parable (Luke 10:38 to Luke 11:13), while not addressed to the lawyer, expounded the first great commandment (Luke 10:27). The present section also reminds the reader of Jesus’ allegiance to the Old Testament Scriptures, which He viewed as authoritative. Thus it balances Jesus’ former words about Him revealing the Father (Luke 10:22) with the importance of Scripture in that process.
Rather than answering the lawyer’s question outright Jesus directed him to the authority they both accepted, the Old Testament. Moreover by asking this counter-question Jesus put Himself in the position of evaluating the lawyer’s answer rather than having the lawyer evaluate His answer.
This lawyer gave virtually the same answer that Jesus Himself gave to the same question on another occasion (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31). Jesus affirmed that the lawyer had answered correctly (Gr. orthos, from which we get the word "orthodox"). However, He proceeded to assure the lawyer that he needed wholehearted compliance with the law to gain eternal like, which is impossible. Jesus quoted the law to drive this point home (Leviticus 18:5).
The lawyer realized that the only way he could possibly fulfill the law’s demand was to limit its demand. He should have acknowledged his inability to keep these commands and asked Jesus what He should do. Instead he tried to "justify" himself (i.e., to declare himself righteous) by limiting (redefining) the demand of the law and then showing that he had fulfilled that limited demand.
His question set up a distinction between neighbors and non-neighbors. The word "neighbor" (Gr. plesion) means one who is near (cf. Acts 7:27). The Hebrew word that it translates, rea, means a person with whom one has something to do. The Jews interpreted the word in a limited sense to mean a fellow Jew or someone in the same religious community. They specifically excluded Samaritans and foreigners from this category. [Note: See John Bowman, "The Parable of the Good Samaritan," Expository Times 59 (1947-48):151-53, 248-49.]
The man in view may have been a real person and the incident Jesus described could have really happened. Yet the fact that Jesus told this story as He did, similar to other parables, has led most students of the passage to conclude that He invented it to teach a lesson.
Jesus left the man’s race and occupation unspecified, though His hearers would have assumed that he was a Jew. The 17-mile desert road that descended about 3,300 feet from Jerusalem to Jericho was treacherous, winding, and a favorite haunt of robbers. [Note: Liefeld, "Luke," p. 943; Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 447.] Clothing was a valuable commodity in Jesus’ society, and this fact probably explains why the bandits took the man’s clothes. Perhaps the man resisted his attackers, which would have been a common reaction, and suffered a near fatal beating.
The parable of the good Samaritan 10:30-37
Jesus told this parable to correct the lawyer’s false understanding of who his neighbor was and to clarify his duty to his neighbor.
Jesus described the priest as happening to take the journey that brought him into contact with the unfortunate victim. This fact in no way excused the priest’s failure to show love, but it may suggest that from the priest’s viewpoint his discovery was accidental. Jesus simply recorded the priest’s unloving act without complicating the story with his motivation. For whatever reason, and the reason is unimportant, the priest failed to act in love even though common courtesy demanded that he stop and render aid. However a priest, of all people, should have shown compassion. He served in a "helping occupation," and he had frequent contact with the Scriptures and their demands. Moreover this priest had recently been in Jerusalem, the center of worship and spiritual influence.
The Levite repeated the priest’s act. He was a less likely person to offer help since his duty, assuming he fulfilled it, involved just assisting the priests in the mundane affairs involved in worship. By omitting his motives Jesus again focused attention on the man’s unloving act.
The Samaritan was the least likely of the three travelers to offer help, yet he did so (cf. Luke 9:52). By placing "Samaritan" in the emphatic first position in the Greek sentence Jesus stressed the contrast between him and the other two travelers. The compassion that he felt overcame his racial prejudice against Jews. Jesus explained his attitude but not his other motives that were again irrelevant. The Samaritan’s compassion contrasts with the callousness of the priest and the Levite toward one of their own "neighbors." Oil soothed the victim’s wounds, and wine disinfected them. [Note: Jeremias, The Parables . . ., p. 204.] The Samaritan’s love was obvious in his willingness to inconvenience himself and to make generous and costly sacrifices for the other man’s good (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:8-15). The genuineness of his love is clear from his provision of further care the next day (Luke 10:35). It cost about one twelfth of a denarius to live for a day, so the Samaritan’s gift exceeded the man’s need many times. [Note: Idem, Jerusalem in . . ., p. 122.]
Jesus then applied the teaching of the parable to the lawyer by asking him which of the three passersby behaved as a neighbor. He reversed the lawyer’s original question (Luke 10:29) and focused attention where it should have been, on the subject showing love rather than the object receiving it. The priest and the Levite had avoided contamination and ritual uncleanness, while the Samaritan had contracted it. Yet the two Jews had not showed compassion, whereas the true neighbor had.
The answer to Jesus’ question was simple and obvious. The lawyer seems to have understood the point of the parable because he did not describe the true neighbor as the Samaritan but as the man who showed mercy. On the other hand he may have avoided the use of the word "Samaritan" out of disdain. Showing mercy was the key issue, not the nationality of the neighbor. Racial and religious considerations were irrelevant.
Jesus ended the encounter by commanding the lawyer to begin to follow the Samaritan’s example. This is what he needed to do if he wanted to earn eternal life (cf. Luke 10:25). If he treated everyone with whom he had any dealings with compassion and mercy, he would be loving his neighbor in the sense that God commanded (Luke 10:27; Leviticus 19:18). Thus Jesus showed that the real test of love is action, not just profession (cf. James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17-18). He also faced the lawyer with a humanly impossible obligation. Hopefully the man finally realized that and turned to Jesus for His justification (Luke 10:29).
This parable obviously teaches that people should help other people who are in need when they encounter them, even though they may not have anything in common but their humanity. It is also a powerful polemic against prejudice and for compassion. Jesus Himself was the great example of the attitudes and actions that He advocated in this parable. The parallels between Jesus and the Samaritan are striking. However, it seems clear that Jesus did not give this parable to draw attention to Himself but to teach His disciples and the lawyer what it means to love one’s neighbor. They also learned that, properly understood, God’s demands are impossible to keep perfectly, so one must cast himself on God’s mercy if he hopes to obtain eternal life.
"The Parable implies not a mere enlargement of the Jewish ideas, but a complete change of them. It is truly a Gospel-Parable, for the whole old relationship of mere duty is changed into one of love. Thus, matters are placed on an entirely different basis from that of Judaism. The question now is not ’Who is my neighbour?’ but ’Whose neighbour am I?’" [Note: Edersheim, 2:239.]
Luke’s reference to travel keeps the travel theme in view. We continue to see Jesus moving toward Jerusalem and the fulfillment of His mission. It also explains the reason for Martha and Mary’s hospitality. Luke did not mention that this incident happened in Bethany (cf. John 11:1; John 12:1). He probably omitted this detail to keep his readers from becoming too preoccupied with Jesus’ exact movements, which Luke viewed as relatively unimportant.
Luke presented Martha as the primary hostess. Her name derives from the Aramaic mar meaning "mistress," which is appropriate since she was the mistress of her house. Her eagerness to receive Jesus contrasts with the Samaritans who had not welcomed Him (Luke 9:53).
2. The relation of disciples to Jesus 10:38-42
This is another incident involving women who became disciples of Jesus (cf. Luke 8:1-3; et al.). Like the parable of the Good Samaritan it shows Jesus overcoming prejudice. As the former parable illustrated the meaning of the second commandment, this one elucidates the first commandment. Jesus had claimed to be the revealer of God to humankind (Luke 10:22). Now the disciples learned again the importance of listening to Him (cf. Luke 8:1-21; et al.).
"He [Luke] may have placed it immediately after the preceding parable as a safeguard against any of his readers coming under the misapprehension that salvation is by works. He makes the point that waiting quietly on the Lord is more important than bustling busy-ness." [Note: Morris, p. 191.]
Mary (or Miriam, cf. Luke 1:27; et al.) took the traditional place of a disciple seating herself at Jesus’ feet to listen and learn (cf. Acts 22:3). Normally rabbis did not permit women to do this in Jesus’ day. [Note: Liefeld, "Luke," p. 944.] The title "Lord" further stresses the authority of Jesus to which Mary symbolically submitted by sitting at His feet.
Martha’s duties as a hostess drew her attention away from Jesus whom she evidently wanted to sit near and listen to also (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:35). [Note: H. K. Luce, The Gospel according to S. Luke, p. 208.] She expressed concern that Jesus did not discourage Mary from sitting at His feet. She wanted Him to encourage Mary to help her with her hostess duties.
Jesus showed concern for Martha’s anxiety (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35), but He did not do what she asked. The many things that bothered Martha were her excessive preparations for the meal. She had allowed her duties as hostess to become too burdensome. Apparently she wished to honor Jesus with an elaborate meal, but a simpler one that would have allowed her some time to listen to her guest would have been better. The few things in view were the things involved in simple entertaining. The one indispensable thing was listening to Jesus’ teachings, which reflects an attitude of dependence. Jesus was telling Martha that the one thing that Mary had chosen was more important than the many things Martha had chosen to do. The implication was that Martha should listen more and labor less. The good part that Mary would not lose was the blessing that comes to those who pay attention to the teachings of Jesus with an attitude of dependence on Him.
"Few things are as damaging to the Christian life as trying to work for Christ without taking time to commune with Christ. . . .
"If serving Christ makes us difficult to live with, then something is terribly wrong with our service!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:213.]
This then was a lesson in priorities for Martha and all Jesus’ disciples. Jesus’ point was not that a contemplative life is better than an active life or that scholarship is preferable to domesticity. Giving humble attention to Jesus’ words is of primary importance. This is the better way to serve Him. This passage should be a warning to disciples who tend to be too active in Christian service and neglect the Word of God. It should also remind us that busyness, even with legitimate pursuits, can hinder our relationship with Christ. Disciples must make time to listen to and learn from Jesus. Everything that He says is important.
"This passage is also a key discipleship text-not in the comparison between Martha and Mary’s tasks, but in how Martha has wrongly judged Mary’s inaction and worries too much about what others are doing [cf. John 21:21]. The text has two distinct emphases: Martha’s consumption with assessing others as she performs what she is called to do, and Mary’s wisdom in seeking some time at the feet of Jesus. Both qualities, one negative and the other positive, are at the heart of discipleship." [Note: Bock, Luke, p. 305.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany