Resurrection: context

resurrection-of-christ-icon27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything.

Context. Last week’s gospel, the encounter with Zacchaeus, was the last personal encounter prior to Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem.  Since early in the summer Jesus has been traveling to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51) and now has finally arrived. Yet there is much that the Ordinary Time sequence passes over between the 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:
  4. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death” (19:47)
  5. 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

Sources

  • Alan Culpepper, Luke in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. IX (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995) pp. 387-90
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