The Lucan Passion Narrative

The passion narratives provide the climax for each of the four gospels, catching up themes that weave their way through the evangelists’ entire portrayal of Jesus’ life and bringing them to a dramatic completion. In deft strokes the evangelists tell us of the final hours of Jesus’ life – his last meal with his disciples; his arrest in Gethsemane; his interrogation by the religious leaders; the trial before Pilate; and finally the heart clutching scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial.

Although the Passion narratives of all four Gospels are similar in many ways, there are also significant differences among them.  The Gospel of Luke is dependent upon Mark for the composition of the passion narrative – as Luke is in many aspects of the entire gospel – but Luke has incorporated much of his own special tradition into the narrative. Among the distinctive sections in Luke are:

  1. the tradition of the institution of the Eucharist (Luke 22:15-20);
  2. Jesus’ farewell discourse (Luke 22:21-38);
  3. the mistreatment and interrogation of Jesus (Luke 22:63-71);
  4. Jesus before Herod and his second appearance before Pilate (Luke 23:6-16);
  5. words addressed to the women followers on the way to the crucifixion (Luke 23:27-32);
  6. words to the penitent thief (Luke 23:39-41);
  7. the death of Jesus (Luke 23:46, 47b-49). Luke stresses the innocence of Jesus (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22) who is the victim of the powers of evil (Luke 22:3, 31, 53) and who goes to his death in fulfillment of his Father’s will (Luke 22:42, 46). Throughout the narrative Luke emphasizes the mercy, compassion, and healing power of Jesus (Luke 22:51; 23:43) who does not go to death lonely and deserted, but is accompanied by others who follow him on the way of the cross (Luke 23:26-31, 49).

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