A debate about Resurrection

This coming Sunday is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Cycle C. The gospel addresses questions on Resurrection through a dialogue between Jesus and some Sadducees “those who deny that there is a resurrection.” (Luke 20:27). Since early in the summer (Luke 9:51) we have been following Jesus’ travels as he moves towards Jerusalem. Last Sunday gospel’s encounter with Zacchaeus (19:1-10)  took place in the town of Jericho. This Sunday’s gospel is located in Jerusalem. As before there are verses in Luke that fall between these two Sunday gospels.

Luke 19:11-27 The Parable of the Talents? At first blush upon reading one is tempted to conclude this is the “Parable of the Talents” paralleled in Matthew 25:14-30.  Yet there are distinctive features which make the Lucan telling a different story. Where the Matthean version is about stewardship of what is entrusted to a disciple, the Lucan version contrasts the coming of the kingdom of God with the typical pattern of the establishment of a political kingdom.  Alan Culpepper titles this parable as “The Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Luke’s parable follows upon Jesus’ declaration to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come…” (19:9). Yet this parable begins with (lit.) “a certain well-born man” went off to a “distant country.” In Luke a “certain man” and a “distant country” never amount to anything good. In the end those who disappoint this king are slain (19:27).  Luke’s parable features, not a lesson on responsibility and stewardship, but one on greed and vengeance (Culpepper, Luke, 362). The noble born man seeks power and wealth. In our modern society we deal with an economic mindset of unlimited goods, but the 1st century economic mindset was one of limited goods. When one person is sufficiently ambitious, clever, fortunate, or driven, their acquisition is another’s loss.  While the modern mind is quick to place Jesus in the scene, Herod (the Great or any one of his sons) is the better choice for the first century hearer: noble born and one who traveled abroad to have the title of king bestowed upon him by foreign rulers (cf. Josephus, The Jewish War). Jesus, hardly noble born, seeks no kingdom of this earth but rather the Reign of God upon earth. This parable reminds people that the Kingdom of God has not yet come – and invites our consideration of what kind of king Jesus is and what kind of kingdom it is that we seek.

Luke 19:28 – 21:38 Jesus and Jerusalem.  At the completion of the parable, Jesus reaches Jerusalem. Our gospel reading is after the Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem and before the events of the Passion and Death. An outline of the events of this week (referred to in the tradition as Holy Week) is below. It is adapted from Culpepper’s outline.

    • The “Palm” Sunday events (19:28-40)
    • Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (19:41-44)
    • Jesus cleansing the temple (19:45-46)
    • The beginning of Jesus’ teaching in the Temple (19:47-48)
      • The question of Jesus’ authority (20:1-8)
      • The parable of the wicked tenants (20:9-19)
      • The question about paying taxes (20:20-26)
      • The question about the resurrection (20:27-40) – our reading
      • The question about David’s son (20:41-44)
      • The denunciation of the scribes (20:45-47)
      • The widow’s offering (21:1-4)
      • The Apocalyptic Discourse (21:5-36)
      • The coming wars and persecutions (21:5-19)
      • The destruction of Jerusalem foretold (21:20-24)
      • The coming of the Son of Man foretold (21:25-36)
    • The Conclusion of Jesus’ Teaching in the Temple (21:37-38)

As this outline indicates, summary statements about Jesus teaching in the temple form “bookends” (19:47-48; 21:37-38) to the major section of this outline. These “summaries” indicates:

  1. Jesus taught in the temple
  2.  He taught every day.
  3.  There were two responses to Jesus’ teachings:
    1. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death” (19:47
    2. all the people were hanging on his words” (19:48) and they got up early in the morning to listen to Jesus

In the narrow context, our text is part of a conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities. This conflict is partly indicated by four questionings as indicated in the outline above:

  1. the chief priests, scribes, and elders question Jesus about his authority
  2. they [scribes and chief priests from v. 19] question Jesus about paying taxes
  3. Sadducees (v. 27) and scribes (v. 39) question Jesus about the resurrection
  4. Jesus questions them about the Messiah being David’s Lord

Image Credit: James Tissot: The Pharisees and the Saduccees Come to Tempt Jesus, Brooklyn Museum, Public Domain

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