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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Luke's Story.

1.

Luke's presentation of the redemptive work of God accomplished through Jesus is controlled by his understanding of its gracious outreach and wide embrace. Jesus' work is one of redemption, of release, of the overthrow of all that holds people in the clutches of powers that restrict the fullness of life that God wills for them ( 4:18–21; 1:68–79; 6:20–3; 8:26–39; 13:10–17 ). His God is above all merciful ( 6:36 ), reaching out to people in an acceptance that is creative ( 7:36–50; 19:1–10 ). The initiative of grace itself creates a response which can, though it is not guaranteed, issue in repentance ( 15:1–32 ) and a newness of life that is born out of the disclosure that God's outreach makes possible ( 8:42–8; 17:11–19; 23:39–43 ). The Jesus of Luke's gospel is presented as having a special concern for those who are on the fringes of society and of religious respectability. Jesus is said to have made a habit of eating and drinking with tax-collectors and sinners ( 5:29–32; 7:34; 15:1–2; 19:1–10 ). Women have an important role. They accompany Jesus and his disciples on the way and provide for them out of their means ( 8:1–3 ). They are representative disciples ( 10:38–42 ). They are present at the cross, watch at the burial, and are the first believers in the resurrection, for, in contrast to the unbelief of the men, they accept the witness of the two angelic messengers at the tomb ( 24:1–12 ). Luke's is the only one of the Synoptic Gospels to mention Samaritans and to present them in a favourable light ( 10:25–37; 17:11–19 ). The poor are blessed and, though Luke uses the term as a designation for the disciples as a whole, the sociologically poor are the special objects of God's redemption ( 1:46–55; 4:18–19; 6:20–1 ). Their situation demands God's concern and is seen as making them potentially responsive to his outreach. Conversely, riches are for Luke a burden for they encourage an attitude of self-sufficiency, self-satisfaction, and manipulation of others ( 16:1–8, 19–31 ). Mammon is tainted ( 12:13–34; 16:9–15 ), its possession is a hindrance to a response to God's call. On the other hand, the rich man, though he resists Jesus' command to follow, is not simply dismissed ( 18:18–27 ). The tax-collectors must use their money in the service of others; it is not said that they have to become paupers ( 5:27–32 ). Discipleship, however, is not easy. Disciples are to take up their cross daily, to be alert, to be open to the demands of the hour, and to use their gifts in the service of their Lord ( 9:23–7; 12:35–59; 16:1–9; 17:20–18:8; 19:11–27 ).

2.

Luke's understanding of God's redemption as bringing a reversal of fortunes means that the rich, the religiously secure, the proud, and the exclusive will face judgement ( 1:46–55; 6:24–6; 18:9–14 ). All these groups are essentially satisfied with where they are, and so remain closed to the opportunities and challenges that Christ brings. They are not open to his radical message of the grace and outreach of God. This is especially true of the leaders of the Jewish people whose rejection of Jesus was for Luke the ultimate tragedy ( 20:41–4 ). He can present Jesus as harsh towards the Pharisees ( 11:37–54 ) and in his parables Jesus is highly critical of them and of the religious system of which they are a part ( 10:25–37; 15:1–32; 18:9–14 ). Yet he remains in dialogue with them and explains their perversity and that of the Jewish nation at large ( 4:16–30; 14:15–24 ). His crucifixion is brought about by the religious/political leaders of Jerusalem with little support from them. Yet the rejection of Jesus by the Jews forwards the purposes of God and results in a wider mission ( 24:46–9 ). Caught up in God's plans for the world, it can even be seen to have a positive function. In spite of the critical situation, the Jewish nation is not finally rejected by God, and Gentiles have not taken over the place of the Jews in his covenantal people ( 4:16–30; 13:34–5; 21:14; 23:34; 24:47 ). The promises of the infancy narratives will not be brought to nothing, for the inclusion of the Gentiles will ultimately rebound to the ‘glory of Israel’ ( 2:32, 38 ).

3.

For Jesus stands as the climax of God's redemptive work in Israel. He is the culmination of her servants of God, one with them and the fulfilment of their hopes. Luke pictures him in terms of the OT categories, as eschatological prophet, Messiah, at one with Moses, Elijah, the Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, and John. Like them, he is Spirit-endowed ( 1:26–38 ) though, being more than them, is wholly possessed by the Spirit. Jesus is the agent of God, the climax of the old order of servants but, by reason of his complete obedience, exalted by way of death to be at God's right hand and to exercise that Lordship to which the psalmist pointed ( 20:39–44; Acts 2:32–6 ). The kingdom of God is now a reality in heaven, and the community on earth lives out of its power ( 11:1–13 ) and in the hope of its future revelation ( 21:29–30 ). Luke does not expect that revelation to be long delayed. (For a development of these themes, see Franklin 1975 .)

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