These stories are becoming very repetitive. Here we are back to the one about breaking the Sabbath by picking grain (Mark 2 and Matt 12). It’s similar in all 3 gospels, except that in Luke it starts off weird in the KJV with “And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first…” Huh? Next, Jesus heals on the Sabbath; Luke’s telling of the story is virtually identical to Mark’s (ch 3); Matthew’s is a little different. In v 12 we have Luke’s version of the names of the 12 apostles, and I’ve already discussed the discrepancies in that, so we’ll move along.
Call the rest of the chapter ‘the quotable sayings of Jesus’; it’s mostly good stuff. There’s something strange about the first section (v 20) – it’s like a Coles Notes version of the Beatitudes. What the heck happened? Mark didn’t include that speech. Did Luke hear about it from Matthew and then couldn’t remember it all? (For the whole thing, refer back to Matt 5.)
Prophesy in v 24-26 is new and it’s the exception to the ‘nice stuff’ in this chapter. It seems like a kind of nasty schadenfreude to me. In v 27, Jesus repeats the ‘turn the other cheek’ speech (Matthew 5:38-48) but he embellishes and polishes it up a bit, combining it with the Golden Rule (from Matt 7:12).
Next is the ‘judge not, lest ye be judged’ speech (Matt 7), again polished up and with the addition of new advice about giving, forgiving, and not condemning. Then there’s a reference to the blind leading the blind, which is bizarre because it comes from a completely different chapter and speech of Matthew’s (15:14). Next is the part about not being a hypocrite – identical to Matthew; but look what Luke omits at the end of the speech – the bit about casting pearls before swine. No doubt that was deliberate – it’s not nice, and doesn’t fit with all the other warm fuzzy words in this section.
Likewise, the next bit is about the tree and its fruit, but without the part about the ‘vicious wolves’ from Matthew. Luke makes it sound more positive that way, but it’s still awful, and not much of an improvement over the attitudes of the OT – there are good people and bad people, and once you’re labeled as ‘bad’ you’re stuck with that moniker. No room for nuance or circumstance, and not much sympathy from someone who just advised, a few verses previously, against condemning others. And finally, we round off the chapter with the bit about building on solid rock – reworded but essentially the same as what Matthew said.
Here’s the story about the slave (servant) of the Roman soldier (from Matthew 8), and just as I expected, Luke ramps it up a bit more and sanitizes it. No wonder so many of the stories I remember from Sunday school are from Luke. First, Jesus lays the man’s plight on a little thicker (v 4-5). He then continues similar to Matthew’s version, but at the end, he predictably takes out the ‘nasty’ bit about hell (Matt 8:11-12).
The next story, about raising the widow’s son from the dead, is unique to Luke; one of 3 times in the gospels that Jesus raises the dead to life (we’ve already read about Jairus’ daughter, and the third will be later in John). Altogether it’s not very impressive, when you consider the number of people who suffer and die regularly, that Jesus only managed to save three of them. It sounds more like showmanship than omnipotence.
The story about John the Baptist parallels Matthew’s version until v 28 (which says, BTW, that John is the greatest person who ever lived. Really? Not Jesus?) Then it veers off, declaring that the Pharisees refused baptism – a claim that Matthew disagrees with (Matt 3:7-11). V 31-35 return to Matthew’s narrative. But Luke cleans that up, too, by leaving out the little rant (Matt 3:12-15).
Jesus’ anointing (v 36) is included in all 4 gospels – with the details different in each. (We already encountered it in Mark 14 and Matt 26; the last will be in John 12). Wikipedia summarizes the contradictions so well that I’m just going to quote them:
- All four have a setting in a house for a meal, a woman, and expensive perfume poured on Jesus, to which someone objects.
- Location: All except Luke identify Bethany
- Host or house: Matthew and Mark say “in the home of Simon the Leper”; John does not offer a definitive host or house; Luke says the house of a Pharisee named Simon.
- Description of woman: John identifies Mary of Bethany, Luke “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life”, which has usually been taken to mean a prostitute. Matthew and Mark just say “a woman”.
- Where poured: over the head according to Mark and Matthew, or feet according to John and Luke. Wiping with hair mentioned for both accounts giving feet.
- Jesus’ comments: Matthew, Mark and John are very similar, recording slightly different wordings of “The poor you will always have with you” and “She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial”. These are not in Luke, who instead records comments on hospitality and forgiveness of sins that are not in the other accounts.