Luke 12-13

Luke sparrowsChapter 12

Luke bounces all over the place with bits and pieces from previous gospels. It starts with a reference to the yeast and Pharisees (Mark 8 and Matt 16); then quickly moves on to the ‘do not be afraid’ speech from Matt 10. I don’t much care for the advice in v 4 to “Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell” – didn’t we hear enough of that ‘fear god’ crap in the OT? Jesus isn’t sounding any gentler than old Yahweh.

In v 10 Luke inserts the reference to blasphemy being an unforgivable sin that he omitted in the last chapter. The next bit, about the Holy Ghost teaching you what to say if you’re put on trial (v 11-12) is new material. I wonder how that actually works. At least there’s some good advice in v 12 “Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

rich-foolThe parable of the rich fool is new. And it makes some sense, but the conclusion is all wrong. It is sensible to store up for a rainy day – remember the story of the grasshopper and the ant? But balance is the key. Jesus makes a good point that you shouldn’t spend your whole life saving for a day that may never arrive – none of us knows when we will die. But ironically, he is asking us to spend our whole lives preparing for an afterlife that will likely never arrive. So v 20 is the point of the story – you may die this very night, and then who will get everything you worked for? V 21 is unnecessary, and so is the supernatural element.

The next section (up to v 32) is a reprise of the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ speech from Matt 6, but Luke adds the ‘sell your possessions’ section. Giving your stuff away now will store up treasure for you in heaven. Really? Again, balance is important. It’s great to share, but look after yourself, too. Some of the advice in this chapter can lead people to neglect the one life they have in favor of false promises of a future afterlife.

Next (v 35) Luke refers vaguely to the parable of the 10 virgins from Matt 25 (see, I said he jumps around), but then he elaborates on it by adding the bit about the burglar and the story of the faithful servant/steward/manager (depending which translation you read, and I suspect these are all euphemisms for slave, anyway). It yields the axiom “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”, but it’s a bit brutal. The punishment for a servant who fails to deliver is to be cut in pieces and banished with the unfaithful. Wow.

And the last section of the chapter is taken mostly from Matt 10, but it starts with an introduction about setting the world on fire (I guess that’s the origin of that idiom) and then steals the phrase ‘baptism of suffering’ from Mark 10:38 before heading back to Matt 10 for the ‘do you think I have come to bring peace’ speech. Luke dampens down the violent image of the sword, though, and substitutes ‘division’. Yes, he certainly has divided people; I think we can mark that prophesy as being fulfilled. From there he moves to a rant about people not being able to read the signs of the times any better than the weather, and then wraps up with the court case analogy from Matt 5.

Chapter 13

Much of the material in this chapter is new. It starts by Jesus reading the news, and trying to deal with the problem of evil, aka ‘why bad things happen to good people’. It’s because they haven’t repented of their sins. (Now I know where fundies get this belief from.) Don’t bother to ask what kind of god would let these things happen; instead focus on your own presumed guilt. (And BTW, there’s no clear archaeological remains of the Tower of Siloam.)

parable fig treeNext is the parable of the barren fig tree. When I read this I looked for the punchline; it seems incomplete. But there is no punchline, so I looked at my apologist site for an explanation. It’s really simple – we are the fig trees. God is looking for ‘fruit’ ie results – worship, repentance; the usual. If he doesn’t get it, he will give us another chance. If we still fail to produce, we will be cut down like the poor fig tree: final judgement – wham! Sounds like the kind of bible story the Good News Club would teach to little children. And I win – it is taught to children; I found a lesson about it on a bible school resource site.

In the next story, Jesus is in hot water for healing on the Sabbath again; this time it’s a crippled woman. He rightly calls the leaders hypocrites, but there’s nothing else noteworthy about this tale unless you need another reminder that all illness is caused by Satan/evil spirits/demons.

Moving along, we get the parables of the mustard seed (Mark 4 and Matt 13) and the yeast (Matt 13) which were already covered in the other gospels. Then Jesus talks about the narrow doornarrow doorway to heaven, and while most of this is new, part of it is reminiscent of Matt 7:21-23. It’s also one of the harshest pronouncements I’ve heard Jesus make yet; he sounds like his dear old dad. (So much for ‘knock and the door shall be opened’ or ‘forgive 70 times 7’.)

The chapter concludes with Jesus thumbing his nose at Herod and then lamenting Jerusalem; the latter is lifted straight from Matt 23, almost word for word. So which prophets is he talking about who were killed in Jerusalem? Isaiah, Haggai, and Zechariah are the only ones I found on a list Wikipedia extracted from a book called Lives of the Prophets. That is certainly not the majority so it’s hard to know to whom Jesus was referring.

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