In Luke 9:51, Luke informed us that Jesus set his face like a flint toward Jerusalem, a major turning point. He winds his way there gradually. In this chapter, Jesus sends out the seventy-two. He pronounces woes on unrepentant towns. The seventy-two return. Jesus rejoices in his Father’s will. He tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He visits Martha and Mary.
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture for discipleship.
The translation is mine. It is not better than the published ones. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Links are provided for further study.
Jesus Commissions the Seventy-Two (Luke 10:1-12)
1 After this, the Lord publicly appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him into every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He began to tell them, “The harvest is great, and the workers few. Therefore, ask the Lord so that he would thrust out workers into his harvest.
3 Go! Watch! I send you as lambs in the middle of wolves. 4 Do not carry a moneybag or a travel bag or sandals. Greet no one along the road. 5 Into whichever house you may enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6 And if there is a person of peace there, your peace will rest upon him. If it is otherwise, your peace shall return upon you. 7 Stay in the same house, eating and drinking whatever things are before you, for a worker is worthy of his wage. Do not go from house to house. 8 And into whichever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what has been laid out for you. 9 And heal those who are the sick there and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you!” 10 Into whichever town you may enter, and they do not welcome you, go out into its street and say, 11 ‘Even the dust from your town clinging to our feet–we wipe off against you. But know this: the kingdom has come near!’ 12 I say to you, ‘In that day it shall be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.’”
Should the number be seventy, relating to the seventy elders of Israel (Num. 11:16-30)? Or are there seventy-two disciples, a multiple of twelve, the number of government? Most scholars settle on seventy-two because seventy is well attested in the OT, so scholars say that the more difficult or less likely reading (seventy-two) is to be preferred. It’s the principle of lectio difficilior (the more difficult reading).
The main point, which should not be missed, is that for Luke, lots of disciples have the calling to “do the stuff” or work miracles and preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. Marshal sees the seventy-two as corresponding to the table of nations in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible in the third-to second BC) in Genesis 10; the LXX (Septuagint) lists seventy-two nations, not seventy (p. 415).
In this sending, Jesus never restricted the mission to Jewish hearers, as he did to the twelve (see Matt. 10:5-6) (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 1). Jesus is preparing for the Gentile mission, but this is later. The seventy-two nations in the LXX version of the Gen. 10 table may confirm this interpretation.
So do the seventy-two include women, who were following Jesus (Luke 8:1-3)? They followed him to Jerusalem, a dangerous place for Jesus and his close followers, and watched him die (Luke 23:49). They proclaimed the resurrection to the men who were cowering or at least skeptical or delaying checking the tomb on the third morning (Luke 24:10). Their following him all the way to his death and resurrection shows their courage, but does their courage translate to mean they were some of the seventy-two missionaries? I say yes, but if they were not, then they were missionary-evangelists to the eleven disciples (and others) hiding in a room in Jerusalem.
“sent”: this verb is apostellō (pronounced ah-poh-stehl-loh), and it is related to the noun apostle, but let’s not overstate things. It means “to send” and is used 132 times in the NT. BDAG says it means (1) “to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away / out” (the disciples are sent out: Matt. 10:5; Mark 3:14; 6:17; Luke 9:2; 10:1; John 4:38; 17:18). (2) “to dispatch a message, send, have something done.” Here it could be translated as “commission.”
Key point: the rabbinic text, the Mishnah, which is a collection of oral traditions finally written down in about 200 AD, but reflects traditions going back before the NT, says, “the one sent by the man is as the man himself” (m.Ber. 5.5 in Bock, vol. 1, p. 542).
Missionaries today who go out by themselves, one by one, take too many risks. They should go out two by two—or more. Safety in numbers, both physical and moral safety.
“he began to tell”: “he began” is not there in Greek, but it is implied by the imperfect tense of the verb. It could also be translated as “he proceeded to tell.” In other words, Jesus is giving them sound and divine counsel for their commissioning. People need a clear statement of what their mission is. Call it an early mission statement, but this is deeper than a modern one. It talks about relationships with the listeners to the message.
“thrust out”: it comes from the verb ekballō (pronounced ehk-bahl-loh), and it means, depending on the context, (1) “drive out, expel, literally throw out more or less forcibly”; (2) “without the connotation of force, send out, release, lead out”; (3) take out, remove, bring out, evacuate, lead on.” Most translations have “send out,” and they are certainly not wrong, but I still like the idea of thrusting out the performer or participant on to the stage, because he is too afraid to go onstage in his own strength. He has to nudged or even pushed. But if you wish to follow the second definition, “send out,” then you are in good company. It is a perfect synonym for apostellō (v. 1). Go for it, but I’ll keep my translation, because I do not believe they are perfect synonyms. I believe when Luke first-century native Greek speakers heard the word ekballō, they would have been startled. It would have hit them hard—the Father really wants us to go on mission! Let’s go!
The modern harvest is also great. And for the bulk of humanity today, keep the message simple. But in the western world, where the web and science and skeptical philosophy dominates, we need to clear away the mental debris with some explanations as to why the kingdom of God should be accepted as a little child would accept it. That is, a little defense of the faith to clear away objections may be needed. Recently an older cousin sat next to me at a eulogy service before it started and asked, “How many religions are there in the world?” I wasn’t catching on that he was being skeptical and implying that Christianity was not so great or unique, without his actually saying so. Things happened fast at the eulogy service, so we were interrupted, and I didn’t look him up and reply, but see this post for the basic differences between Christianity and other religions:
“Lord”: this is high Christology.
Never be afraid to preach Jesus is Lord to the exclusion of other lords and gods. Peter stood before the august Sanhedrin, the highest court and council in Judaism, and said there is no other name under heaven by which people must be saved—Jesus (see Acts 4:12). I for one will never abandon him during his bold statement that could have cost him his life.
“his harvest”: it is his harvest, not a generic one. He will send you to the greatest need. Listen to his voice for where that is. Recall that Paul and his team wanted to go into Asia, but the Spirit would not let them (Acts 16:6). And then Paul and his team wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow them, either (Acts 16:7). We don’t know why the Spirit said no, but Tychicus and Trophimus, part of Paul’s team later, were from Asia (Acts 20:4), so maybe they preached in Asia (greater Turkey) at a later date, or they shared the gospel with other fellow Asians, who spread the word there in the next generation. We don’t know for sure, but it makes sense, based on the logic of history. The gospel got to Asia eventually.
“Watch!” this has often been translated as the older “behold!” I like “behold!” but I updated it. I also like the warning aspect. “Watch!”
It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follow. Professional grammarians say that when “look!” (or “watch”) introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section. Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21). The missionaries are about to be like lambs in the middle of wolves, so the act of persecution and opposition is more important than characters walking into the middle of Luke’s story.
“lambs in the middle of wolves”: this extra-sharp and even startling contrast between gentle animals and large predators speaks of opposition and persecution. Be ready for it.
“greet no one”: This verse speaks of the intense urgency of the mission, because in a short time they would arrive in Jerusalem, and he was destined to die, as he had predicted (Luke 9:21-27; 43-45). Don’t extend your greetings to be chatty and sociable, as if you have time to spare. Urgent! This strong urge refers to Elisha’s command to Gehazi in 2 Kings 4:29). Marshall says that Middle Eastern greetings at that time were long and time-consuming (comment on v. 4).
As for the sandals, Jesus seems to say not to take along a backup pair.
Missionaries today, if they want to take supplies with them, should use wisdom. After all, the seventy-two were speaking to their own country in their own language. I see nothing wrong with preparing for a long-term mission, because v. 4 must be read in its context: on the road to Jerusalem, on the road to his crucifixion (Luke 9:31, 51). Urgency.
This mission trip was a faith journey. When they arrived in a new town, the custom of hospitality demanded the inhabitants of the town welcome strangers, something like this:
One missionary says, “Let’s go into this town.” The other says, “Okay.”
They arrive and go to the well to draw up water. Then someone in the town sees them. “Hey! You’re travelers? New?” “Yes.” “Come into our house.” They enter and say at the very start, “Peace [shalom] be on this house.” If a person of peace (literally “son of peace”) lives there, then their greeting of peace will remain or rest on him. Now what if the household is resistant to the traveling pair, once the head of household learns of their mission? Then the greeting of peace will return on the missionary pair.
Renewalists like this idea of speaking peace and blessing on to people, and then their speech remaining on them. Speaking out is important to Renewalists. There is power in speech (see Prov. 15:4; 18:21).
“person of peace”: literally “son of peace.: “This is a Semitic idiom; those who express in their own life that of another or some quality are called ‘son of’ that one or thing. ‘Sons of peace exude peace, and their character will determine their destiny. Refusing to greet others on the way will cause these followers to stand out; this instruction reveals that the greeting of peace is not simply a conventional greeting but an eschatological wish” (Garland, comments on 10:5-6). Acts 10:36 says: “The message he [God] sent to the sons of Israel announces the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” Liefeld and Pao write that the “son of peace” describes “not only a person’s character but also the destiny he is worthy of. Such a person would be open to the kingdom message” (comment on vv. 5-6).
Let’s explore the peace that God brings.
It speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and well-being. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.
This word in Hebrew is shalom and means well being, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience well being and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits.
With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people.” (Mounce, p. 503).
BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29). In the entire Gospel of Luke, Jesus was ushering in the kingdom of God.
These verses speak of having the courtesy to remain in the first house that invites the traveling pair. And they eat what is before them, even if it is unleavened bread and a simple milk product, like butter, and deficient wine. As they go outside the house to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick, and they see a bigger house, they should not “jump ship” and go for the richer household that would serve the missionaries meat and delicious foods and better wine. Leaving the poor house for the rich one is rude. Also, the words in these two verses speak of the urgency of the mission. They shouldn’t house hop, from one house to the next, picking and choosing where you stay, because they wouldn’t be staying in the town long enough to be picky. Jesus sent them ahead of him, where he was about to go.
“heal”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
As soon as the people were healed, the missionary pair was required to say that the kingdom of God has come near to you (literally “upon you”). The Greek tense indicates that the kingdom, yes, has come near, in part, but it has not come in its fulness until the Second Coming. Even only its partial glory was displayed on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). Healing is just one more indicator that the kingdom of God has drawn near. God is on the move, restoring the flaws in humanity, due to sin, the world and the devil. So the kingdom manifested in healing is here in part, and the kingdom manifested by Jesus’s transfiguration is here more clearly, but the kingdom in its fulness will be manifested visibly and with finality at his second coming.
“those who are sick”: it is the word asthenēs (pronounced ah-stheh-nayss), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” Therefore it means, depending on the context, primarily those who are “weak” or “sick.” The NIV translates it in this way, as it appears throughout the NT: weak (most often), sick, weaker, crippled, powerless, unimpressive, weakness.
“the kingdom of God”: What is the kingdom? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
“Jesus’ point in 10:9 is that the kingdom program has begun to demonstrate the initial phases of fulfillment. In confirmation of this inaugurated picture, 10:17-18 Satan is seen falling from heaven as a result of the mission’s healing ministry … A key characteristic of this phase of the kingdom is its function to ‘rule’—the exercise of God’s saving power upon humans in the face of opposing forces” (Bock, p. 1000).
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
These verses teach the missionaries what to do if the town does not welcome them. Yes, the townsmen break the custom of hospitality, but the consequence of their rudeness goes deeper. The missionaries are supposed to go out into the street—probably the central street going through the middle of the town—and proclaim that the town’s people’s judgment is their own responsibility, by the custom of wiping or shaking off their dust clinging to the disciples’ feet.
Wiping or shaking the dust off of their feet is what Jews did when they left pagan territory, so they could remove the ceremonial uncleanness. But the ceremonial uncleanness is not the point here because the seventy-two disciples were going into Jewish towns and villages, or at least that is the presumption, since they went out ahead of Jesus, as he was going to Jerusalem to die (Luke 9:31, 51). Instead it means “you—not we—take responsibility for your decision!” It signifies that rejecting the kingdom of God is deadly serious. Nehemiah shook the dust out of the fold of his garments when he made the returning Israelites give back the property and children who were sold into slavery, in a promise that apparently required the shaking. “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied! (Neh. 5:13, NIV). Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch when they rejected the kingdom, and then the pair left for Iconium (Acts 13:51). In Macedonia Paul spoke to the Jews about Jesus the Messiah, but they rejected and mocked him. “When they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his clothing and said to them: ‘Your blood be upon your head! I am clear! From now on I shall go to the Gentiles!’ (Acts 18:6, my tentative translation).
Then the missionaries are supposed to make it clear that, despite the town’s rejection of them, the kingdom of God has come near. Nothing will stop the kingdom, even when this or that town rejects the missionaries. No one today has to follow the ancient custom of shaking or wiping off dust from the feet.
“know”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). We already covered this verb in v. 10, but let’s review, since this pericope is about a healing miracle and Jesus’s perception and God’s power flowing out of the anointed man. Renewalists love this pericope. The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times). BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like pure math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. Jesus wants us to know his claim deeply. Take it to heart.
“kingdom of God”: see the comments at v. 9 for more information.
The people of the town where the missionaries went had more light and opportunity than did the people of Sodom. The towns were about to experience the ministry of Jesus, while Sodom never got that chance or that much light. So this verse and the others, next, reveal that God’s judgment is rendered based on the light that people had and how they followed moral law in Sodom’s case or God’s kingdom principles and power as in the current towns when Jesus was alive.
Let’s explore that issue more deeply in the next pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section.
GrowApp for Luke 10:1-12
A.. Why is the kingdom of God unstoppable, even when people reject it?
B.. What do you do when your audience (your friends or family, for example) is callous towards your mission?
Judgments on Unrepentant Towns (Luke 10:13-16)
13 Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida! Because if the miracles that happened among you had happened in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at judgment than for you! 15 And you Capernaum! Will you be exalted to the sky? You will descend to hades!
16 The one listening to you listens to me. And the one rejecting you rejects me. And the one rejecting me rejects the one who sent me.”
A brief cultural note: Sackcloth was a coarse, black fabric worn in order to mourn to repent (e.g. Job 42:6. Sitting on the sackcloth or lying in it was an ancient custom. One could also wear it and put ashes on one’s head (see Est. 4:1-3) (Liefeld and Pao, comments on vv. 13-14).
Chorazin is unattested, but it probably a small village. Bethsaida is a larger town on the north of the Lake of Galilee. Capernaum was his operating base. Tyre and Sidon are two notorious cities in the OT and in his day, and they were pagan centers. They will do better at judgment than the predominantly Jewish cities which were blessed because Jesus ministered to them powerfully. Yes, the more light one has, the more accountability.
“miracles”: it is the plural of the noun dunamis (pronounced doo-nah-mees). It can be translated as “miracle,” but more often as “power” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on my post here:
“repented”: it is the verb metanoeō (pronounced meh-tah-noh-eh-oh), and “to repent” literally means “to change (your) mind.” And it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.
Now let’s look at the doctrine of judgment.
Yes, Jesus is employing firm rhetoric—even harsh rhetoric—but there are theological truths here that explain the strong rhetoric. First, the names of the towns stand in for people. It’s not clear (to me at least) how God through Christ will judge towns and individuals in the town, but he will. But towns seem to take on an ethos or character, probably because neighbors copy each other. It is easy to imagine, however, that a few people may have welcomed or would have welcomed the kingdom of God. If a few adults broke free from the crowd of unbelief, then God will judge them differently, like Lot and his family escaping from Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, God distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked. Abraham asked God, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25, ESV). The answer is yes.
Second, people are judged according to the light they have. Sodom had very little light other than moral law, which they completely ignored to the point of extreme crimes, wreaking damage on people. So their judgment on earth was devastating and final. Now imagine how the judgment will be on these towns named in this pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section! They had a much brighter light than just moral law. They had the kingdom of God and the Messiah in their midst. If the towns could not accept them, then their judgment will be severe. With greater gifts and light come greater responsibility. If people reject God’s gifts and light, then their judgments will be severe.
See my posts on judgment will be the same and what happens to people:
Third, we don’t know how judgment and sentencing will be carried out. Three Bible-based theories are possible for Evangelicals. (1) Will there be eternal, conscious torment even for your grandmother who never got around to repenting and having faith in Jesus? (2) Or will everyone in hell / hades eventually be annihilated, including Satan, or removed from existence, so the spiritual and physical realms are forever pure? (3) Or will God eventually reconcile everyone to himself, after they spend the right length of time in hell / hades?
The issue of the afterlife and hell is more complicated than standard preachers believe. If you believe in eternal conscious torment, then do not call the people who believe in the other two options heretics or unorthodox. There is plenty of Scriptural support for the other two theories.
Please read a three-part series, each of which has plenty of Scriptural support:
Each theory teaches punishment in the afterlife, but the debate is over the duration of punishment. It may be surprising to many traditional Christians, but the latter two theories have plenty of Scriptural support. But whichever theory you decide on, please don’t call the other theories heretical or unorthodox, particularly if you believe in eternal, conscious torment. The theory of eternal, conscious torment did not gain momentum until Augustine’s time in the fifth century. Until then, church leaders easily believed in the other theories of annihilation or restoration.
Charismatic theologian and Presbyterian minister J. Rodman Williams (d. 2008) says fire and darkness are just metaphors, which cannot be taken literally, for separation from God and punishment:
These two terms, “darkness” and “fire,” that point to the final state of the lost might seem to be opposites, because darkness, even black darkness, suggests nothing like fire or the light of a blazing fire. Thus again we must guard against identifying the particular terms with literal reality, such as a place of black darkness or of blazing fire. Rather, darkness and fire are metaphors that express the profound truth, on the one hand, of terrible estrangement and isolation from God, and on the other, the pain and misery of unrelieved punishment. It is significant that Jesus in His portrayals of darkness and fire often adds the statement “There men will weep and gnash their teeth.” This weeping and gnashing … vividly suggests both suffering and despair. So whether the metaphor is darkness or fire, the picture is indeed a grim one, even beyond the ability of any figure of speech to express.
One further word: both darkness and fire refer to the basic situation of the lost after Last Judgment. However, we have already observed that there will be degrees of punishment; hence in some sense the darkness and fire will not be wholly the same. Some punishment will be more tolerable than other punishment: some people will receive a greater condemnation, while some (to change the figure) will be “beaten with few blows” [Luke 12:48]. Thus we should not understand the overall picture of the state of the lost to exclude differences in degree of punishment. Even as for the righteous in the world to come, there will be varying rewards, so for the unrighteous, the punishment will not be the same. (Renewal Theology, vol. 3, 470-71).
For the record, Williams did not believe in annihilationism (or terminalism or conditionalism) or universal reconciliation (or restorationism).
Personally, I believe that the topic of punishment in the afterlife is secondary or nonessential, so I like this saying:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
Give people space to choose one of these nonessential, Bible-supported theories. You can still have fellowship with them.
“Hades”: The term is not as clear in the details as we have been taught. It is mentioned 10 times in the NT: Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. And Matt. 11:23 // Luke 10:15 are parallels, so the number of distinct times is actually nine. And hades is not elaborated on in detail, and not even in Revelation, except for some symbolic usage. Hades will even be thrown in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).
Let’s take a brief look at the term.
In Matt. 11:23 and Luke 10:15, Jesus pronounced judgment on various towns, which will be brought down to hades. No elaboration on what hades is.
In Matt. 16:18, Jesus said the gates of hades will not prevail against the church, again without elaboration on what it is.
Luke 16:23, the term is found in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and hades in this parable expresses the standard Jewish and Greco-Roman view of the afterlife, with only a little description, such as fire and torment. Yet most scholars believe that parables are not a firm foundation on which to build gigantic doctrines about the afterlife. One scholar reasonably concludes that this story about a rich man getting what he deserves is a Jewish religious folktale, which Jesus adopted and adapted for the purpose of telling the earthbound point that one should be kind with money. See my post on the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
In Acts 2:27, 31 the word is found in a quotation from the Old Testament (Ps. 16:8-11), and hades translates the Hebrew word sheol, which can mean “the grave,” “the pit” or “realm of the dead.” So the detailed description of hades is not entirely clear in those two verses.
Rev. 1:18 says Jesus has the keys to death and hades, without explaining what hades is.
In Rev. 6:8, after the fourth seal was open, death rode on a horse, and hades followed him. So the terms are highly symbolic.
In Rev. 20:13-14, death and hades gave up their dead, the people were judged, and thrown into the lake of fire, and even death and hades were thrown into it.
There is a chain of command. People who listen (and obey) the missionaries are not really listening to and obeying them, but Jesus. Missionaries need to get their perspective right. They are working for the Lord. When they have success, it is Jesus’s success. On the other hand, if people reject the missionaries, the people are not really rejecting them, but Jesus and the one who sent him (the Father). Such rejection is serious business. No wonder Sidon and Tyre will experience lighter sentencing than the other towns.
Jesus had a divine sense of mission. The Father sent him. Some skeptics say that John is clear about God sending Jesus, while Luke (and Matthew and Mark) merely hints at it in such clauses as “I have been sent” or “I have come.” Therefore, the four Gospels are irreparably inconsistent and contradictory (they claim). The critics overemphasize the nuances, of course. John tells and shows loudly, and the Synoptic Gospel writers show and tell more subtly, for those who can see. John drops all subtleties, probably since his Gospel is the last one, so he does not need to be secretive to his readers.
Jesus singles out Capernaum, because it was his home base (Matt. 4:13; Mark 2:1), and he had a successful ministry there (Matt. 8:14-17; 9:1-7; Luke 4:23, 31-37; 7:1-10; John 2:12; 6:24-25). If all of the people did not fully repent, then his adopted hometown would undergo severe judgment.
In contrast, I heard two TV preachers, who focus on the Word of Faith and now the Grace Revolution, tell their audience that God is not a judging God. They are wrong. Judgment is coming, and don’t let the Happy Highlight preachers tell you otherwise.
“to you”: this word refers to the seventy-two disciples. He who listens to them listens to Jesus.
GrowApp for Luke 10:13-16
A.. What do you think about God judging people based on the light they had? Does that seem just or unjust? Why?
B.. How have you dealt with rejection for your Christian faith?
The Seventy-Two Return, and Jesus Rejoices (Luke 10:17-24)
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 He said to them, “I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven. 19 Watch! I have given you authority to walk on snakes and scorpions and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing will in no way harm you. 20 But do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names have been written in heaven.”
21 At that very time, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden this from the wise and intelligent and revealed it to children. Yes, Father, because this way is your good will in your presence. 22 Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is, except the Son and to whomever the Son wills to reveal him.” 23 And he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you are seeing, 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you are seeing but have not seen it, and to hear what you are hearing, but have not heard it.”
It is always joyful when people are set free from demonic power. You too have power and authority over demons. In Jesus’s name they are subjected to you too. They do not have to harass you or friends or church goers in Christ. Satan is defeated already. Now walk in Jesus’s victory for you.
“joy”: it is the noun chara (pronounced khah-rah), and it simply means joy. See my word study about the word:
“subjected”: hupotassō (pronounced hoo-poh-tahs-soh) literally means to be “appointed or arranged under.” Demons have to submit to you. Never forget that.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
“saw”: the verb is theōreō (pronounced theh-oh-reh-oh), and it means, depending on the context, “see, look at, observe, perceive, view, catch sight of, notice, experience.” Here I just chose the simplest translation, but you can choose any of the other ones, preferably the first four.
So what does this verse mean? Here are some two optional interpretations: (1) Satan originally fell from heaven when he was defeated and thrown out, alluding to Is. 14:12: “Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of heaven!” (NET). No, it is not a lesson about humility to the seventy-two. Jesus is simply telling how Satan was defeated in the long-ago past. (2) Satan is pictured as defeated by these demon expulsions done by Jesus and his followers, though Satan’s final defeat will happen completely and finally when Jesus returns (or if you believe in a literal thousand-year reign, then afterwards he will be released from his prison and suffer final defeat, in Rev. 20:7-10). Jesus ignited the fall of Satan.
Both interpretations can be true at different times.
Jesus, therefore, can put his followers’ success in a heavenly perspective that is hidden from them. He projects the limited defeat of demons onto the broader screen of the cosmic conflict between God and the forces of evil. What is happening is not simply the expulsion of random demons that they might come across in their travels but the beginning of the complete overthrow of Satan’s rule. The disciples only see the battle picture from the limited perspective of hand-to-hand combat in the trenches. They have charged into the line of demons and routed them in various skirmishes. Jesus sees the whole war map. Satan has been knocked off his throne in “heaven,” representing “the summit of his power,” and is in full retreat. He is still kicking and will unleash woes, but he will assuredly be vanquished. His final defeat will be consummated at the end of time.” (comment on 10:18)
We have authority to trample on snakes and scorpion because we are victorious in Christ. It may reflect Gen. 3:15, which says that Eve will crush the head of the snake (Satan). This phrase does not say pick up and handle snakes and scorpions. So the Appalachian snake-handlers—God loves them!—must stop now because they are misinterpreting Scripture. They are testing God, just as Jesus said not to do, during his temptation, when Satan tried to lure him to jump off the high place at the temple (Luke 4:9-12). God will not allow his hand of protection to be forced by foolishness.
“Watch”: this is an updated translation of “behold!” See v. 3 for more comments.
“I have given”: it is in the perfect tense and so “extends throughout the mission. They have the right to overcome hostile creation as represented by serpents and scorpions, as well as over the enemy’s power, an allusion to Satan (Rev. 12:9) … Acts 28:3-6 will show Paul surviving a snake bite in Malta. The point is not so much that such beings can be handled safely, as much as that such forces and what they represent can be opposed and crushed. The disciples are secure in God’s hands. Nothing can really hurt them” (Bock, pp. 1007-08)
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12).
So do we have the same power and authority that the seventy-two have in this passage, or are they a special case? Restrictive interpreters say they are special cases with unique callings, while freer interpreters say we too, as disciples of Jesus, can have the same authority. As noted, I come down on the freer interpretation.
Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2. Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
“power”: it is the noun dunamis (pronounced doo-nah-meese or doo-nah-miss), and see vv. 13-15 for more comments.
For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on:
“walk”: it could be translated as “tread” or “trample,” but I like the idea of being relaxed and authoritative about it. Walk on Satan with power and authority in Jesus’s name. Don’t spend time stomping on him. Just walk on him and past him.
“snakes and scorpions”: here they can mean demons. Or the phrase could mean that creation is wild and dangerous, but it cannot harm you. Don’t pick up snakes and scorpions, literally! That is tempting God and forcing his hand (Luke 4:9-12). He won’t be forced when we do stupid stuff.
“enemy”: Here it means Satan.
“in no way”: the negation in Greek is intense (tripled up), so Satan and his hordes can’t harm you, certainly not spiritually, for those who know their authority and power over them and the believers’ identity in Christ.
“harm”: it is the verb adikeō (pronounced dee-keh-oh), and the dik– stem is the basis of other words like “judgment” or “righteousness” or “rightness.” The a– prefix negates it, so it means, depending on the context, “do wrong, be in the wrong, do wrong to someone, treat someone unjustly, injure, harm, damage, spoil, loss.” Satan and his hordes can do none of those things to those who are in Christ and know and use their authority and power in Christ and submit to God through Christ (Jas. 4:7). And if Satan takes a strong shot at you, then you still have victory, because God will redeem and restore the damage and loss. So he won’t harm you in the final analysis, at the end of the day.
Bock cites references to God’s protection over wilderness snakes and scorpions in Deut. 8:15; over the lion and cobra (Ps. 91:13; Num. 21:6-9; 1 Kings 12:11, 14; Isa. 11:8; Rom. 16:20). Recall that Gen. 3:15 says the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent. “The picture is crushing these creatures and the hostility they represent. The disciples are reasserting humanity’s vice-regent role in creation. When it comes to evil, the disciples can overcome anything that opposes them, for Christ’s authority overcomes the enemies’ power” (Bock, p. 1008).
“But Jesus is using these [trampling serpents and scorpions] as metaphors for God’s divine protection (Deut. 8:15) and for crushing evil; “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). Jesus is not giving clearance to handle snakes (Mark 10:18) to prove one’s invulnerability. The point is that a ‘powerful and resourceful enemy,’ including the forces of nature, will not be able to stop the success of the Christian mission” (Garland, comment on 10:19).
He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. (Deut. 8:15, NIV)
“Do not rejoice”: this is a limited negative, meaning that Jesus is not saying never–at any time–should a disciple rejoice when someone is delivered. He is simply saying that one thing is preferred or more important than the other thing. Rejoicing that your name is written in the book of life is more important than deliverance. That is, Jesus turns the perspectives of the seventy-two towards the main thing: who they are in Christ, their union with him. Everything else flows out of this union, all authority and power to tread or trample on demons and healing the sick.
When they have that perspective, then they can rejoice in the good results of their ministry.
Neh. 8:10: “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
“rejoiced”: it is the verb agalliaō (pronounced ah-gah-lee-ah-oh), and the sound of the noun and verb even seems joyful. It can mean “to exult and rejoice exceedingly” in some contexts and forms of the verb.
“Holy Spirit”: he is the third person of the Trinity, and the Spirit came upon Jesus when he was baptized (Luke 3:21-22). This is what “anointed” means. The Spirit comes on you powerfully. Here it is the wonderful image of the Spirit and Jesus celebrating the unexpected way of God.
“Father”: he is the first person of the Trinity, and so in this one verse we see the communion of the three persons, and it is a wonderful “family photo.”
What was unexpected about God’s way?
Here are some of my posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit (systematic theology and practical theology):
“praise”: it is the interesting verb exomologeō (pronounced ex-oh-mo-lo-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard as in “get”), and homolog– means “to speak [log-] in agreement or same [hom-],” and the ek– or ex– prefix means here “to speak out.” It means, depending on the context, in the active voice: “promise, consent”; middle voice: “confess, admit, acknowledge, praise.” Here it is in the middle voice, so it means either of the latter two terms. One translation suggests “I acknowledge.” Speak out your praise.
The next part of the prayer and praise is the Great Reversal, foretold in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary says that the powerful and people of high status are brought low, while the humble and those of low status are raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the Upside-Down Kingdom. If you start low in the world’s society, you will rise, when the kingdom of God reaches you. If you start high in the world’s society, you may fall, when the kingdom reaches you. Here the nonintellectual types or children perceive—just a glimpse—of what the Father’s kingdom is about, while the wise and intelligent about the things of the visible realm do not perceive the kingdom and the Father. That’s what is unexpected. It’s a reversal.
“wisdom”: Let’s define it broadly and biblically. BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it translates the noun sophia (pronounced soh-fee-ah and used 51 times) as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly—wisdom.”
So biblical wisdom is very practical. It is not like the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, which was very abstract. But let’s not make too much of the differences. In the classical Greek lexicon, sophia can also mean: “skill in handcraft and art … knowledge of, acquaintance with a thing … sound judgment, intelligence, practical wisdom.” In a bad sense it can mean “cunning, shrewdness, craft” (Liddell and Scott).
The adjective is sophos (pronounced soh-fohss and used 20 times) and according to BDAG it means (1) “pertaining to knowing how to do something in a skillful manner, clever, skillful, experienced”; (2) “pertaining to understanding that results in wise attitudes and conduct, wise.”
“intelligent”: it is the adjective sunetos (pronounced soo-neh-toss and appears only 4 times in the entire NT). It means “intelligent, wise, with good sense” (Mark 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 13:7; 1 Cor. 1:19). We need a lot more people in the NT church who have those mental attributes.
Verses 21-22 remind me of the last chapter in Luke, when Cleopas and his friend met the resurrected Jesus: “Then he entered and stayed with them. 30 And then it happened. As he was reclining at table with them, he took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24:29-31).
This is a powerful statement by Jesus. It shows he knew who sent him. (Imagine you or I making that statement for the first time!). All things have been handed over to him. All things means everything, but it takes time for his power and authority to be revealed and take over everything. It is better than the D-Day landing. Victory was not assured when they landed, but we can be assured that Christ has defeated the devil. But it takes time for the victory to be fully manifest in our lives and on earth.
Outsiders don’t know who the Father is, but the seventy-two just caught a glimpse of who he is because the Son revealed the Father to them, while they were getting to know the Son by spending time with him.
“knows”: see vv. 10-11 for more comments. In this verse, the best translation is the first definition or perhaps the third.
“wills”: it is the verb boulomai (pronounced boo-loh-my), and it means, depending on the context, “wish, be willing, want, desire.” You got to be hungry and actively seeking God, and then you can get to know the Father more intimately. Salvation takes no work from you, because Jesus did all work in your place, but knowing him more deeply does take time and effort.
Let’s look at the unique relationship the Son has with the Father in systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Quick teaching about the Trinity in systematic theology: The Father in his role as the Father is superior to the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son in his incarnation and role in the redemptive plan
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equal.
The Father reveals the Son, and the Son reveals the Father. The little children are the humble disciples who are predisposed to welcome these wonderful truths. God does not harden the individual heart which is hungry. He does not hide them from the seekers.
Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:18-25:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:18-25, NIV)
Any wisdom we have comes from the Spirit–or should come from him.
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun that it means (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“blessed”: The more common adjective, which appears here in v. 23, is makarios (pronounced mah-kah-ree-oss) and is used 50 times. It has an extensive meaning: “happy” or “fortunate” or “privileged” (Mounce, pp. 67-71).
Let’s look more deeply at “blessed.”
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (and Aramaic), and the main word for blessing is the verb barak, used 327 times throughout the Hebrew Bible: Genesis 76 times, Deuteronomy 40 times, and Psalms 76 times. Each time it is people-related. The noun is beraka, used 71 times, and “denotes the pronouncement of good things on the recipient or the collection of good things” (Mounce, p. 70).
The New Testament was written in Greek, and the verb is eulogeō (pronounced yew-loh-geh-oh, and the “g” is hard), which is used 41 times and means to “bless, thank, or praise.” The adjective eulogētos (pronounced yew-loh-gay-toss, and the “g” is hard), which is used 8 times, means “blessed, praised.” The noun is eulogia (pronounced yew-lo-gee-ah, the “g” is hard, and we get our word eulogy from it), and is used 16 times. It means to “speak well.” It is mostly translated as “praise.” The log– stem is rich in Greek, and it can include speaking a word.
Their eyes are blessed—and eyes stand in for their minds and perception—because Jesus is in their midst. He is the Messiah. They see him face to face. Many verses speak of people or angels looking for or looking into the life of the Messiah (John 8:56; Acts 2:30-32; Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:10-12).
GrowApp for Luke 10:17-24
A.. What do you think of your name being written in heaven?
B.. How do you come to know the Father more intimately?
Greatest Commandments and Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
25 And look! An expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what do I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He told him, “What has been written in the law? How do you read it?” 27 In reply, he said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with your whole strength’ and with your whole mind, [Deut. 6:5] and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” [Lev. 19:18] 28 He told him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you shall live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus took up his reply and said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was surrounded and attacked by highway robbers who stripped him and rained down blows on him and left, leaving him half dead. 31 By coincidence a priest came down that road and saw him and passed by on the opposite side. 32 Likewise also a Levite happened upon that place and went and saw him and passed by the opposite side. 33 But a Samaritan was traveling, came upon him, saw him, and felt compassion. 34 And approaching him, he bandaged his wounds and poured olive oil and wine on them and put him on his own mount and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day, while he was leaving, he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend, on my return I’ll repay you.’ 36 Which one of these three men do you think was a neighbor to the man attacked by highway robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who had compassion on him.” Jesus told him, “Go, and you do the same!”
This is the one of the most beloved parables in all of the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (though it appears only in Luke’s Gospel). I approach it with fear and trembling because I may not have the fireworks of insight that readers expect. So instead I’ll interpret it in its simplest form, as I believe that’s what Jesus would ask of his original audience. Do you see yourself in the parable?
“An expert of the law”: See this post and scroll down to the term in alphabetical order:
Experts in the law were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV). Overdoing righteousness damages one’s relationship with God and others.
If pressed logically, the lawyer’s [legal expert’s] question about how to “inherit” eternal life is pointless. One does not do anything to inherit something; one either is or is not an heir. But the question exposes a self-centered concern about ensuring one’s own salvation. Jesus’ parable focusses on someone who is concerned with saving the life of another. The question also reflects a misconception about eternal life. It views it as something that happens after death as a reward for a life of good deeds. According to Jesus, eternal life is a relationship with God (see especially John 6:47, 54, 68; 10:27-28; 17:3) that begins in this life. (Garland, p. 447)
“test”: Now the legal expert wants to see what Jesus is made of, and the expert is about to find out. No doubt he wanted to intimidate Jesus, so the expert could win the cultural battle of shame and honor. The expert would get the honor in public with other experts standing around, while Jesus would slink away. But Jesus was not flustered or startled. He held his peace. For many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he is about to reply to the test and pass it. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them.
We are about to watch the literal genius and literal anointing of Jesus on full display. It is stunning (to me at least) that he could come up with such a piercing and clarifying and rich parable immediately after this challenge. At the end of the discussion the legal expert will be hushed, and Jesus will emerge victorious in public.
“inherit”: The Father passes on everlasting life, so we inherit it, but only in part. We can live a life of peace and victory over Satan, the world and our sin nature, but we will inherit it fully when we die or when Jesus returns.
“eternal life”: the two words in Greek can be translated as “life of the new age” or “life of the age to come” or “life in the next life” or “eschatological life” (eschatology is a fancy word for last or final things). But God offers people who love and know him eternal life in the here and now, so it means both life now and life in the age to come. The kingdom breaking into the world system through the life and ministry of Jesus brings life right now.
Further, the adjective “everlasting” this is the translation of aiōnios (pronounced eye-oh-nee-oss and used 71 times). BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the NT, says that it means (1) “pertaining to a long period of time, long ago”; (2) pertaining to a period of time without beginning or end, eternal of God”; (3) pertaining to a period of unending duration, without end.”
Now let’s look at the noun life more closely. It is very versatile.
It is the noun zoē (pronounced zoh-ay, and girls are named after it, e.g. Zoey). BDAG says that it has two senses, depending on the context: a physical life (e.g. life and breath) and a transcendent life. By physical life the editors mean the period from birth to death, human activity, a way or manner of living, a period of usefulness, earning a living. By transcendent life the lexicographers mean these four elements: first, God himself is life and offers us everlasting life. Second, Christ is life, who received life from God, and now we can receive life from Christ. Third, it is new life of holiness and righteousness and grace. God’s life filling us through Christ changes our behavior. Fourth, zoē means life in the age to come, or eschatological life. So our new life now will continue into the next age, which God fully and finally ushers in when Christ returns. We will never experience mere existence or death, but we will be fully and eternally alive in God.
In this verse, Bock writes: “‘Eternal life’ … is a technical expression for the eschatological blessing of the righteous as opposed to the rejection of the unrighteous (the allusion to eternal life probably goes back to the image of resurrection in Dan. 12:2)” (p. 1023).
Jesus answered the question with another question. But the question was relevant to the legal expert’s question.
Jesus based his entire ministry on Scripture, but he was about to fulfill most of Scripture, at his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. He will fulfill all of it when he returns.
“the law”: In this verse, it means the law of Moses. Now was the moment for the expert in the law to shine.
This verse could be called the law of love.
And the expert in the law did shine. He answered as far as the Law would allow. He could have quoted verses that talked about law keeping (Deut. 6:6-8). He could have recited all or any one of the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-21). But he talked about the love relationship with God and with his neighbors. That’s what gives us eternal life—loving God—not law keeping. Jesus was in the process of revealing who the Father was and fulfilling all of the Torah (first five books of the Bible, particularly the legal aspects), so that the way to God is less complicated and more streamlined than the way that the Torah prescribes.
Two rabbis who gave summations of the law. Hillel (40 BC to AD 10) said, “Do not do to your neighbor what is hateful to you; this is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.” Akiba (c. AD 50-135) said: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself … This is the encompassing principle of the law.” And recall Jesus’s summation of the law: “Therefore, everything that you want people to do to you, in the same way you also do to them. For this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). A famous passage in the Mishnah says: “The world rests on three things: the Torah, sacrificial worship, and expressions of love.” Paul writes: “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8, ESV).
“you shall love”: the future tense in these contexts is equivalent to a command: “Love!” It is difficult to sustain love if we define it as a gooey feeling, so it must go deeper.
This verse talks about our love for God, but let’s first look at his love for us. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“love”: it is the verb agapaō (pronounced ah-gah-pah-oh). BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love”; (2) “to have high esteem for or satisfaction with something, take pleasure in; (3) “to practice / express love, prove one’s love.” In most instances this kind love in Scripture is not gooey feelings, though it can be a heart-felt virtue and emotion, as we see in the first definition. Rather, mostly love is expressed by action.
Further, both the noun agapē (pronounced ah-gah-pay) and the verb mean a total commitment. For example, God is totally committed to his church and to the salvation of humankind. Surprisingly, however, total commitment can be seen in an unusual verse. Men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), which just means they are totally committed to the dark path of life. Are we willing to be totally committed to God and to live in his light? Can we match an unbeliever’s commitment to bad things with our commitment to good things?
Agapē and agapaō are demonstrative. This love is not static or still. It moves and acts. We receive it, and then we show it with kind acts and good deeds. It is not an abstraction or a concept. It is real.
It is transferrable. God can pour and lavish it on us. And now we can transfer it to our fellow believers and people caught in the world.
The expert in the law adds the phrase “with your whole mind,” and Jesus approved. It is perfectly all right to love God with our whole minds. Life in Christ is not only emotional and feelings based. So many big-name preachers don’t emphasize the intelligent side of the kingdom of God, so the people are inadequately trained to handle the challenges from intelligent skeptics. This is especially true of high school and college students. Therefore many of them needlessly fall away from the faith. Training of the mind can fix the problem. So it is possible to love the Lord God with our whole minds.
There is some discussion about the inner being of humankind. Are they two parts (body and soul / spirit, which are just synonyms), or are they three parts (body, soul, and spirit, and the latter two are not synonyms)? As far as I can tell, the vast majority of Renewalists believe in three parts, but it is not as easy a question to solve, as they may think.
In any case, if our love for the Lord does not translate to loving people, then our love for God is merely academic. 1 John 4:7-9 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:7-9, ESV). So now the New Covenant Scriptures offers a fuller picture of God’s love. He is love, and when we are born of God, we will love one another. The greatest expression of God’s love is that he sent his Son into the world.
Further, as noted, 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us” (ESV). Rom. 5:5 says that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. The NT says therefore that any love we have for him begins first with him. Love flows from him to us and back to him. The NT fills out the picture more than the Torah does.
“whole”: it could be translated as “entire” or “all.”
“mind”: The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent) is the third-to-second-century translation of the OT from Hebrew into Greek. And it does not have the word for “mind” in Deut. 6:5. Jesus inserted it, though the Hebrew word for “heart” can also be interpreted as “mind” or the seat of thinking.
It may be difficult for members of Renewal Christianity to receive, but we can love the Lord with our minds, and not just our hearts. I belong to the Renewal Movements, and I know this anti-intellectualism from observing things first hand. The mind and thinking are downplayed too often, and people go astray easily, as they take flights of fancy through their revelations and words from the Lord. Don’t neglect your love for God through your mind or thinking.
Yes, be sure your mind is renewed (Rom. 12:2), but live a balanced life, body (strength), soul / mind, and spirit.
“neighbor”: this means more than a person who lives nearby; here it means a community or fellowship (Morris, comment on v. 27).
Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Self-love is natural and assumed. Jesus is telling us that we should learn to love our neighbors as we naturally love ourselves. Love does not necessarily mean we have affection for our neighbors. But we do kind things for them and treat them as if they are made in the image of God (and they are).
This verse comes to mind:
And just as you want people to treat you, treat them likewise. (Luke 6:31; cf. Matt. 7:12)
It is the Golden Rule. That verse explains how we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Jesus praises him. I hope no parent out there is above complimenting his children for giving a right answer. I hope the same for a teacher. When a questioner correctly replies to your challenge, say so.
“do this and you will live”: = practice what you preach (Garland, note on 10:28).
You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Lev. 18:4-5, NIV)
“The lawyer wanted a rule or a set of rules that he could keep and so merit eternal life. Jesus is telling him that eternal life is not a matter of keeping rules at all. To live in love is to live the life of the kingdom of God” (Morris, comments on v. 28). Then Morris quotes another scholar who says that if our soul and spirit are well, the whole person is well. “Our attitude to God determines the rest. If we really love him, we love our neighbor too (1 John 4:20).”
Now the legal expert takes things a step farther. He wishes to defend or justify himself by asking Jesus to define a term that appears to be so broad that it defies definition. Or maybe the legal expert had an excessively narrow definition; he believed that his neighbor was a devout expert like himself. Perhaps for him a neighbor belonged to his same elite club. Whichever the case, Jesus is about to redefine the definition considerably in an unexpected way.
“justify”: this is the verb dikaioō, (pronounced dee-ky-o-oh), and BDAG is considered the authoritative Greek lexicon, and it offers these definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to take up a legal cause, show justice, do justice, take up a cause”; (2) to render a favorable verdict, vindicate or treat as just, justify (3) “to cause someone to be released from personal or institutional claims that are no longer to be considered pertinent or valid, make free / pure”; “to demonstrate to be morally right, prove to be right, e.g. God is proved to be right (e.g. Rom. 3:4; 1 Tim. 3:16). In some contexts, it can mean to practice righteousness (Rom. 6:7; 1 Cor. 4:4; Luke 18:14). The verb is used when God justifies the sinner when he repents and puts his faith in Christ. That direction goes from God (subject) to man (object). Here, however, the verb is a man defending or vindicating or justifying himself before other humans.
Jesus is about to tell a parable. What is that?
Literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable.
Now begins the parable proper.
Do you see yourself in the parable? Or are you above it? (Hint: you are not above it.)
Jesus took up his own reply, since the verb is hupolambanō (pronounced hoo-poh-lahm-bah-noh). Most translations take the easy route and have “replied” or “responded,” but it is used often in the Greek translation of the book of Job, when his three comforters “took up” their replies to Job. I like the image of Jesus taking up his own reply to the challenger. But you can go with the safer “replied” or “responded.”
“went down from Jerusalem”: Going from Jerusalem, you go down, because the city is on the high ground, particularly going eastward towards Jericho. (Please google a Bible map.) Along that road, “road robbers” or highway robbers skulked and lay in wait. The road to Jericho was known for it.
“surrounded and attacked”: the verb is peripiptō (pronounced peh-ree-peep-toh or peh-rih-pip-toh), and it means, depending on the context, “fall in with, encounter” or “fall into the hands of, strike,” “become involved with.” The prefix peri– means “around,” which in this case means “surround,” and the main part piptō means “fall.” Thus the unnamed man fell into the hands of the robbers who surrounded him—as I see things.
“stripped him”: he must have had an expensive set of clothes on, for the robbers to take them.
“rained down blows”: it can be translated as the more benign “put or place blows.” Or it can mean “inflict” or “bring upon, add,” or “set upon, attack.” The latter definition is the best one, but I like “rain down” because “put” or “place” is too gentle.
“half dead”” this severe and (seemingly) small element is important for the rest of the story. Touching a corpse was a big deal in Jewish culture.
Now we come to the main points. Three men are about to see him. The same verb for “seeing” is used of the three men. They did not glance at him but saw him. What will each one do?
First, a priest came down the same route or road. “Came down” indicates that he too just left Jerusalem, without Luke having to name the city; the priest was probably fulfilling his priestly duties. Recall that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was a priest from the hill country of Judea who went to Jerusalem to carry out his duties (Luke 1:8-9). This priest was likely doing the same thing, and he just completed his duties.
Even though the priest saw the man, he wasn’t sure whether the beaten man was dead. He was not allowed to touch a corpse, or else he would be unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11-12). So he walked by on the other side. Purity laws trumped basic human compassion.
Lev. 19:16b gave permission to the priest to help the man, but “later Judaism exhibited efforts to get around the text (b. Sanh. 57a)” (Bock, p. 1030).
“It is remarkable and probably significant that no inside information regarding the incentive(s) of the priest and Levite is provided. The stark reality is simply that they do nothing for this wounded man” (Green, p. 430).
My take: These two men are hyper-religious, and their badness takes on a religious dimension. They are a priest and a Levite. It’s an indirect critique of the impersonal religious system.
But the motive of the priest to neglect the needy man is not offered. Let’s take it as a story element.
Here is the second man. A Levite came along to that same place. The verse doesn’t say that he “came down” the road from Jerusalem, so he may have walked from another direction. Levites were the assistants to the priests, and priests had a little more status because they could go directly closer into the Lord’s presence, and the high priest could go into the Most Holy Place (a.k.a. Holy of Holies).
In any case, he too was unsure whether the robbed man was dead, so the Levite did not want to make himself impure for seven days. He too passed by on the other side of the road. Purity laws trumped compassion.
|Offer sacrifices||Perform music accompanying sacrifices|
|Disqualified by impurity and blemish||Disqualified by impurity but not blemish|
|Serve God directly||Serve the priests|
|Guard the Court of the Priests||Guard the non-priestly courts|
|Superintend maintenance of temple complex||Maintain the temple complex|
|Not marry a widow or divorcee||May marry a widow or divorcee|
|May only mourn close relative||May mourn anyone|
|Garland, comment on 10:32, who gets it from Harrington, Holiness, Rabbinic Judaism, and the Graeco-Roman World.|
The original people listening to this wonderful parable would have expected the third man to be one of the “people,” that is, an Israelite because post-exilic texts in Judaism often have the trilogy of priests – Levites – people (Liefeld and Pao, comments on vv. 31-32).
But here comes a shock.
Here is the third man. And now a despised Samaritan traveled along the same road, and the verse does not say he was “coming down” from Jerusalem, so he must have taken a different route. It is known from other passages that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other (John 4:9). In fact, some extra-devout Jews walked around the entire region instead of passing through it. But what was so despicable about the Samaritans? They were remnants of Israelites who were not deported when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. They were also foreign colonists who were imported from Babylonia and Media by the Assyrians into Israel (in the north), so the newcomers would be loyal to Assyria. So these two groups intermingled and became unorthodox in their beliefs and mixed in their ethnicity, by the standard of “pure Jews.” Many Jews of Galilee and especially Judea and Jerusalem avoided the region of Samaria and Samaritans.
See my post about Jewish groups and scroll down until you find the term in alphabetical order:
So his being a Samaritan is an unexpected element to the story. The priest and Levite did not show compassion, but the despised Samaritan did.
“felt compassion”: The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splankh-nee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.”
Let’s explore the concept more thoroughly.
BDAG further says the noun splanchnon (pronounced splankh-non) is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” So the verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. It could be translated as “He felt compassion in the depths of his heart.”
As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.
Instead of passing by on the opposite side, the Samaritan approached the half-dead man. He immediately bandaged his wounds, so the Samaritan must have been carrying some equipment with him. One can imagine that if he was a traveler, he brought a lot of supplies for a long trip. Wise move. He had olive oil and wine, which he mixed together. Alcohol sanitized the wounds, and oil soothed them. Then he placed him on his domestic animal. The Greek is generic, not specifically a mule or donkey, but most translations reasonably have “donkey.”
“inn”: it is the noun pandocheion (pronounced pan-doh-khay-on), which literally means “all-welcome,” and only Luke uses it and only in this verse. It is a wonderful word choice for an image or metaphor for how God welcomes all.
“innkeeper”: it is the noun pandocheus (pronounced pahn-doh-kheh-us), and it literally means “he who welcomes all.” Only Luke uses the word, and only in this verse. Once again, this word choice is wonderful because it reveals God’s heart. He is the “all welcomer” or “he welcomes all.”
The Samaritan cared for him for the entire night. He went beyond the call of duty and demonstrated his feelings of compassion. During your wounded state, God will care for you throughout the night. He will be there with you in the dark moments of your body or soul.
“two denarii”: one denarius was worth a day’s wage for a farm laborer (Matt. 20:2-13), but even this valuation can be misleading, because farm labor was seasonal, during the harvests. So one denarius was precious. This was a very generous offer from the despised Samaritan, who was probably a traveling merchant (but we don’t know for sure). And he was so trusting and generous that he would take the word of the innkeeper when he itemized the bill after he had cared for the half-dead man.
Here is the punch line. Which of the three men was the neighbor to the man who was robbed? Jesus repeats the devastating element to the story—the man was beaten and attacked by robbers. He was emphatic. “The Jewish ‘expert’ would have thought of the Jewish victim as a good person and the Samaritan as an evil one; to a Jew there was no such person as a ‘good’ Samaritan. Jesus could have told the story with a Samaritan victim and a Jewish helper, but the role reversal drives the story home by shaking the hearer loose from his preconceptions” (Liefeld and Pao, comments on v. 36). I add: the extra-devout legalistic Jew may not believe in a “good” Samaritan, but ordinary people learn to get alone. However, the trilogy of terms priest—Levite—Samaritan would have shocked all listeners.
The expert in the law, who had originally intended to test Jesus, replied correctly. “He who had compassion.” In Greek, the legal expert said, “did compassion.” But notice that he did not say, “The Samaritan.”
“Go and you do likewise!” Or “Go and do likewise—yourself!” “Do” is the same verb in the expert’s reply: “Did compassion.” “You do likewise.” Love and compassion must act and be demonstrated.
So rather than slinking away from a test given by the legal expert, Jesus won—yes, won—the verbal sparring match. The expert lost the tussle.
GrowApp for Luke 10:25-37
A.. Supposedly, parables have one main point at the end. Maybe that’s true, but there are many subpoints worth exploring. Who are you in the parable? Explore this challenge.
B.. How has God taken care of you when you were wounded? Whom did he send in your life?
C.. Samaritans were despised by extra-pure Jews. Have you been despised like the Samaritans? How have you moved forward anyway and done the ministry or helped people along your path of life?
D.. Or maybe you have done your share of despising undesirable people. How did you overcome this sin?
Jesus Visits Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)
38 And while they were going along, he entered a particular village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and began listening to his message. 40 Martha was distracted by all the serving. She stood over him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to serve? So tell her to help me!” 41 The Lord replied and told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled by many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Obviously, Mary has chosen the right part, which shall not be taken from her.”
This is the story of two sisters, one dominant, the other compliant.
This is a beloved pericope, which makes it into all the women’s conferences ever held! Or maybe it has been skipped over! But it should be studied more carefully.
I learned some surprising and clarifying truths after I looked at the pericope in Greek. It is not about service per se, but anxiety and distraction and domination.
No one should read my commentary in this section in bad faith. In no way am I carelessly putting Martha down out of meanness. We have all had our bad days (Martha) and good days (Mary) in our walk with the Lord, regardless of gender. I see myself in both of them, depending on my connection to the Father on any given day.
Luke 17:11 still shows that Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee, in the north. So it is probable that Martha and Mary and their brother Lazarus had a house up north, which explains why Jesus knew them. He was from the north, as well. However, Martha, Mary and Lazarus also had a house down in the village of Bethany, two miles away from Jerusalem (John 11:1, 18). This indicates the three siblings were wealthy. In any case, Jesus was in their house in the north, here in this pericope.
Let’s talk about John’s account of the raising of Lazarus down in Bethany, whom Jesus loved. We can learn some parallel truths about Martha and Mary. Martha was the dominant personality and Mary the gentler one.
First, John says Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Why was Martha named here? Not clear, but when Martha heard that Jesus was outside their village, she went out to meet him, while Mary stayed in the house (11:20). Second, Martha proclaimed her faith in Jesus as the Christ, Son of God who comes into the world (11:26-27). Mary also saw him and fell at his feet (note how Mary sat at Jesus’s feet in Luke 10:39) and his power to heal fatal illnesses (11:32). Third, when Jesus got to the tomb and asked the stone to be rolled away, Martha again takes the initiative and informs Jesus that no one should roll away the stone, because Lazarus had been dead four days, and he would smell (11:39). (Note how Martha told Jesus what to do in Luke 10:40). In reply, Jesus told her to believe, and she would see the glory of God. Fourth, then six days before Passover, Jesus reentered Bethany (John 12:1). And Mary was no wallflower. After the earlier miracle resurrection of her brother, she anointed Jesus’s feet in preparation for his death and burial (John 12:1-3).
The bottom line and application of John’s story to Luke’s: In John’s account Martha is clearly the one who takes the initiative and is outdoorsy and somewhat bossy, while Mary is comes across as gentler and more spiritual than her sister. This matches perfectly with Luke’s version of the two sisters.
So why did Luke omit the story about the raising of Lazarus when the story was massive? He may not have even heard about it from his sources. Or more likely he had heard about it, but he wanted to focus on this intimate household scene, because he had a soft spot in his heart for women, and a massive resurrection scene would distract from the intimacy within the household. Luke omits many details, as seen in v. 39.
The same question can be asked about all of the four Gospels. Why does one Gospel include this story, while another Gospel omits it? Luke has two raisings from the dead (7:11-15; 8:41-42, 49-56), but John has neither one. It all depends on the purpose of the author, and John’s Gospel has only seven (or so) specific signs he wishes to reveal to his readers:
1.. Changing water into wine (2:1-11)
2.. Healing an official’s son (4:43-54)
3.. Healing a disabled man at the Bethesda pool (5:1-25)
4.. Feeding the 5000 (6:1-14)
5.. Waling on water (6:16-21)
6.. Healing the man born blind (9:1-12)
7.. Raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44)
Epilogue: miraculous catch of fish (21:1-14)
(Source: NIV Study Bible, p. 1764)
Since John was so selective in his Gospel, he acknowledged that if all the things Jesus did were recorded, all the books in the world could not contain them.
Bottom line, however: we simply don’t know why Luke omits the story about Lazarus. But I trust God that each Gospel has a lesson to teach all of us.
The verse starts off saying that they were traveling along. Apparently all of the disciples, beyond just the twelve, but including some or all of the seventy-two and the group of women, were in the vicinity. They must have scattered to buy food and get their water from a local well. Or it could be that some of the disciples were seated in Martha’s and Mary’s house, so this prompted Martha to busy herself with serving. This provoked anxiety in her. After all, Jesus began to teach, and his audience was probably more than one person, Mary. Whatever the case, Martha and Mary were about to learn valuable lessons.
Luke omits some of the customs of hospitality like washing the dusty feet of travelers. Rather, he goes right to Jesus teaching his message, and Mary sitting at his feet. This sitting at his feet was countercultural. It was rare for women to do this in conservative Jewish culture.
We should see Jesus sitting on a chair or some other furniture, not on the floor. I don’t see him as standing.
Bock cites a passage in the Mishnah (see v. 1, for what this is): “Let your house be a meetinghouse for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink their words with thirst” (M. ‘Abot 1.4). Then he continues: “That a woman has this position is somewhat unusual, paralleling the Samaritan’s surprising response in the previous account” (p. 1040).
In Acts 22:3, Paul said that he “studied under” (NIV) or literally “sat at the feet” of Gamaliel. So Mary is acting like a disciples-student. This is countercultural.
By the way, Luke in Greek calls her Mariam (Miriam), which is more Hebraic than Maria. Now that we know that factoid, which conclusion do we draw? Hebrew roots are imperative to understand the Christian faith? Should we sacrifice animals or keep kosher food laws or the Sabbath? That’s a far leap, just from the name Miriam! The NT omits and streamlines many Jewish customs and laws because they can get complicated and distract from the pure gospel message. The clearest example is the Lord’s Supper. We remember his sacrificial and redeeming death by taking the cup of wine and bread. We don’t have to take the Seder dinner. I sat at one long ago, and the host and hostess did a good job explaining all the elements, but I did not see the Seder as necessary, so I never ate another one afterwards. I prefer not to get distracted, but just focus on the bread and wine and what they represent (his body and blood), just as Jesus did and told us to do. (And the Seder came later than Jesus’s time, anyway.)
Slow down, Hebrew Roots Movement!
But my convictions may not be yours. You go with what you think is best for you.
“message”: it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Here it could be translated as “his teaching” or “his word.”
Since the Greek noun is so important, let’s explore it more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.
The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
As I have said many times throughout this commentary, though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.
Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
Now we come to the verses where I learned some surprising and clarifying truths. Once again, I implore the readers not to read my comments in bad faith. I don’t mean to frivolously put down of Martha. I see myself in her on some days and in Mary on other ones. People behave like this regardless of their gender.
“distracted”: it is the verb perispaō (pronounced peh-ree-spah-oh). It is used only here in the NT. It combines the prefix peri– (around) and the main verb spaō (draw, pull, hoist away, pluck off or out, wrench, sprain, carry away, draw aside, convulsed, in Liddell and Scott). BDAG says perispaō means “(1) to be pulled away from a reference point, to be pulled / dragged away”; (2) “to have one’s attention directed from one thing to another, be or become distracted or overburdened.”
So what was happening to Martha was that she was bouncing all over the place, being pulled in this direction and then in another. Jesus was the reference point, but her anxiety dragged her away from him. She lost her anchor.
“all the serving”: literally “much service.” It is the noun diakonia (pronounced dee-ah-koh-noss). We get our word deacon from it, but that office comes later. Here it means service in practical, household preparations. The issue here is not her making preparation, but the distraction and anxiety that motivated her. She lost her peace and sight of her anchor, her reference point. She could have listened to him while she prepared.
“stood over him”: it is the verb ephistēmi (pronounced eh-fee-stay-mee), and it literally means to “stand over.” The word picture here is that Martha suddenly stood over Jesus and demanded that he tell Mary to help her. She probably stood in between Jesus and Mary, while stirring something in a bowl. Martha was losing self-control! She was becoming bossy—too bossy. Service and preparations are one thing, but distractions and anxiety and the absence of calm and being dragged down and around (peri-) by all of them is quite another. She needed to get a grip over her mind.
“don’t you care”: now she scolds Jesus for not caring or being concerned. Her sister has left her alone to do all the work! Don’t you care? What about me? Yes, once again, service and preparations are all right—they need to be done sooner or later—but dominating the scene as she is doing is misguided.
“left”: it is the verb kataleipō (pronounced kah-tah-lay-poh), and it means, depending on the context, “leave (behind),” “abandon, give up,” “neglect.” Martha felt abandoned and neglected, but she had no right to cause a commotion or bring down confusion on the teaching scene.
“So tell her to help me!” Literally, “Therefore, tell her so that she would help me!” Bossy again.
“to serve”: it is the verb form diakoneō (pronounced dee-ah-koh-neh-oh). Once again, there is everything right about serving, but Martha lost her cool.
Luke records that Jesus used the same speaking formula that he did against his opponents or outsiders or the insiders who challenge him or the insiders who weren’t getting it. “He replied and said.” I usually translate it as “In reply, he said.” Jesus definitely felt challenged. She was trying to drag him and her sister down in her whirlpool of anxiety and distraction. But Jesus would have none of it. Here comes the push back.
“Martha, Martha”: A double repetition of a name often indicates a warning or exhortation or a call to stand at attention. Something important is about to be announced. Jesus is firm here, not to say stern. Other double allocutions and responses: “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” (Gen. 22:11); “Jacob, Jacob!” “Here I am! (Gen. 46:2); “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am!” (Ex. 3:4); “Samuel, Samuel!” “Speak, for you servant listens” (1 Sam. 3:10).
In the NT: here and Simon, Simon! (Luke 22:31).
Martha is not allowed to be so domineering. She has failed to recognize the best part or portion. It is time for teaching.
“worried”: it is the verb merminaō (pronounced mare-mee-nah-oh), and it means in this context: “to be apprehensive, have anxiety, be anxious, be (unduly) concerned” (BDAG). In other contexts, it can mean “to attend to, care for, be concerned about” (BDAG again). Here it clearly means the first definition.
“troubled”: it is the verb thorubazō (pronounced tho-ruh-bah-zoh), which means simply “troubled” or “distracted” (BDAG). Liddell and Scott, another lexicon, but of the large Greek world outside of the NT, says it comes from the verb thorubeō (pronounced tho-ruh-beh-oh), and BDAG says this latter verb means (1) “throw into disorder”; (2) “to cause emotional disturbance, disturb, agitate.” Both words are related to the adjective thorubos (pronounced tho-ruh-boss), and BDAG says it means (1) “a raising of voices that contributes to lack of understanding, noise, clamor”; (2) “state of confusion, confusion, unrest”; (3) “state or condition of varying degrees of commotion, turmoil, excitement, uproar.”
Let’s not exaggerate Martha’s emotional state! She wasn’t exhibiting all those definitions at one time! But she was causing confusion and a commotion. She was out of order.
One more time: it is not wrong to serve and make preparations, but Martha’s service got out of hand.
So Jesus sized up the situation and called her out. Martha! Martha!
“Obviously”: this translation come from the tiny Greek word gar, which usually means “for” or “because,” but here it means a clear inference drawn from what went before, particularly from a clear affirmation or exclamation (BDAG). In simple English, Jesus just explained that Martha was out of order and there is only one needed or necessary thing, and now the conclusion is obvious, as follows,
Mary chose the “good portion” or “made the right choice.” It was right and good that Mary would sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his message. Her choice will not be taken from her.
Translation to Martha: “Martha, Martha! Back off! You are throwing my teaching into confusion and causing a commotion. Service is a good thing, and you and Mary can both offer the custom of hospitality a little later. But right now be seated and listen to my teaching, like Mary is doing. It is time to learn. Choose wisely now. Her perceptive and right choice will not be taken from her.”
|Sits at Jesus’ feet||Welcomes Jesus; serves|
|Listens to Jesus’ words||Distracted: full of cares and troubled|
|One thing||Many things|
|The needful thing (commended)||Implied: unnecessary things (rebuked)|
|Quietly listens – discipleship role||Working in kitchen = women’s work and fussing|
|Garland, comment on 10:41; source: Loveday Alexander in Women in Biblical Tradition|
GrowApp for Luke 10:38-42
A.. There is nothing wrong with service, but Martha was suffering from panic and confusion and creating a commotion during a teaching time. Study Is. 26:3. How do you keep your mind in perfect peace?
B.. Have you ever gotten your priorities out of order? How did you get back on track?
Summary and Conclusion
Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Luke shows Jesus ministering up north still, as he slowly winds his way down to Jerusalem, where Jesus’s “departure” (death) was to take place. Recall that he discussed his departure with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). In Luke 9:51 he was firmly resolved to go to Jerusalem. Then Luke 13:22 says that he journeyed through towns and villages, on his way to Jerusalem, so he is taking the “ministry route.” He is in no hurry because he must minister to people. Therefore, we should see this chapter in the context of his missions goal. This chapter reveals five main episodes in the context of his journey.
First, long before he arrived in Jerusalem, he sent out the seventy-two, two by two, into every town and place where he was about to go. They prepared the way for his kingdom teaching.
Second, Jesus taught us that cities that did not receive his teaching would do worse at final judgment than Sodom, which met its doom long before the Old Covenant. We learn from this passage that God will judge people by the light they had. The scales of justice are balanced by his mercy.
Third, when the seventy-two returned and reported that even demons are subjected to them, Jesus rejoiced but told them to turn their eyes towards their relationship with the Father. Their names are written in the book of life. No, this does not teach that his disciples cannot be happy that people were delivered from demons, but eternal destiny and new life on earth is what lasts.
Fourth, Jesus told the very famous Parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and Levite—two members of the religious class—did not show mercy to a beaten man left half dead. But a despised Samaritan did pity him. So we have an example of the Great Reversal forecast in Luke 1:51-53 where Mary says the poor and hungry will be exalted and the powerful and rich will be brought low. And Luke 2:34 says Jesus is appointed for the rising and falling of many. In the parable the prestigious do not receive praise, but the unpopular man does. This was unexpected. But that’s what reversals do—shock the reader to think about God’s kingdom.
Finally, Martha and Mary chose two different paths, when Jesus visited his friends’ house, probably their home up north. Martha went overboard in her service, causing a big commotion. She may have even stood between Jesus and her sister Mary, who had sat at Jesus’s feet and began listening to his teaching. There is nothing wrong with preparing food and the like for guests, by the custom of hospitality, but Martha did not use discernment. Jesus’s was in the middle of teaching, and she interrupted him. She got pushback. We learn from this pericope (pronounced peh-RIH-coh-pea) or section that anxiety and confusion is never right even in rightful acts of service. We must sit before our Lord at the right time, so we can replenish our souls before we perform our good works in serving him.
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