From Galilee towards Jerusalem

This coming Sunday the readings return to “Ordinary Time” and reading from the Gospel of Luke. We begin with the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time. In case you were wondering, the last time we celebrated a Sunday in Ordinary Time was February 27, 2022. It was the 8th Sunday and the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The gospel that Sunday was from Luke 6; our gospel this coming Sunday is from Luke 9. Both are with a section of Luke labeled as “The Ministry in Galilee” (4:14–9:50). It is a lot to cover so I will post an outline following this posting.

Luke 9:51 reports that Jesus is now heading from Galilee to Jerusalem. This simple statement begins a long section (9:51-17:27) that highlight’s Jesus’ exodus (9:31). Jesus is on the way, on the journey to the cross and resurrection. At the same time, Luke departs from the Markan sequence of events, introducing a large collection of parables, sayings, meal scenes, controversies, and more.  The travel section is made up of materials that share a lot in common with Matthew as well as materials unique to Luke.

There are aspects of the section that are peculiar, e.g., Luke strongly introduces a travel motif but then makes very few references to Jesus’ actual traveling. Within the narrative Luke gives such vague references to Jesus’ progress toward Jerusalem: “a village of the Samaritans” (9:52), “a certain village” (10:38), “one town and village after another” (13:22), “the region between Samaria and Galilee” (17:11), “Jericho” (18:35; 19:1), “near Jerusalem” (19:11)? The real difficulty, in addition to the general sparsity of such references, is 17:11, which still locates Jesus—after eight chapters of travel—“between Samaria and Galilee.”

Scholars have also worked to propose a cohesive structure to the travel narrative. There is no consensus in this arena. But there are some key themes which appear: following, the Kingdom, and discipleship.

With the departure for Jerusalem, Luke makes it clear that “following” Jesus is related to joining him in the journey and in the proclamation of the kingdom of God. The following is not only regarding the journey, but also evangelical. After our gospel scene, Jesus will send the seventy-two for the purpose of preparing the way for Jesus and engaging in a style of ministry that signifies the advent of the kingdom of God. What was previously shared by Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration (9:28-36) is now available to the large group of followers. It is the same idea that laces the encounter with the scholar of the Law in 10:25 – the one who will share life in the kingdom are those who hear Jesus’ message and change their lives.

Throughout this narrative section Luke introduces language that points to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God (9:60, 62; 10:9, 11) – using words such as “peace” (10:5, 6), “names … written in heaven” (10:20), revelation (10:21–24), “eternal life” (10:25, 28)—but the conditions for sharing in this salvation remain constant. As Jesus puts it to the legal scholar, “Go and do likewise” (10:37).

In the midst of this “kingdom” language is the noticeable theme of “welcoming” Jesus and his message. On this matter Luke presents good and bad examples. The folk of a Samaritan village do not receive him, nor do some Galilean villages. This is counterbalanced in an interesting way by the hospitality and care shown by a Samaritan traveler (10:33–36). Jesus prepares his missionaries for both eventualities. Finally, though welcomed into a home by Martha, the form of receptiveness he commends is that of her sister, Mary. Clearly, what Jesus seeks is not (only) conventional hospitality but a welcome that embraces fully the message of peace.

Also present in surprising degrees is the way in which Luke is redefining “Israel” to be less geographical boundaries or lineage, but rather the portrayal of discipleship as embodying membership in the Kingdom. It is more than the Samaritan being the hero of the parable, or Jesus’ visit to Samaritan territory, it is also the sending of the seventy-two, a number representing a concern with the peoples of the world – especially seen in the privilege given to the Gentile cities Tyre and Sidon, at the expense of their Galilean counterparts, at the coming of the kingdom of God.

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