the agitator – Luke’s Jesus

I’m starting a series of posts on the depiction of Jesus in Luke. The idea is for a teaching series at Blackhawk in Winter-Spring 2010. The goal is to depict what it is that Jesus cares about, where he goes, what he does, what kinds of people he moves towards, or moves away from, etc. I’ll be using Joel Green’s commentary on Luke as a constant companion.

That being said, let dive into our first passage, where Jesus heals the centurion’s servant in Luke 7:1-10 (see text below)
Jesus finds God at work outside of the religious elite (the temple-pharisees) who capitulate to world systems > people outside the ‘faith’ actually have more ‘faith’ than the religious. After the Nazereth announcement, this is the first movement of Jesus to anyone outside the Jewish world.
o Note the interaction is based on the ethics of Roman patronage [for this see Green, Luke, 284-85]: Benefactors in a community would end up placing people in their debt by donating to community projects. It was a system of obligation.
o The elders try to convince Jesus that the cent. is ‘worthy’ (= honorable) because he was a benefactor for their synagogue. I.e. they are in his debt (note the echoes of 6:20-38: they are doing good for someone who has done them good)
o The elders are trying to use Jesus to fulfill their obligation to their patron > Jesus agrees.
o The irony is that the centurion sends messengers to declare his lack of patronal control over Jesus, i.e. he contradicts the elders assessment of him (“I am not worthy” = honorable).
o “This episode presents these Jewish elders as captive to a world system [patronage obligation] that has been nullified by the dawning of salvation, this centurion as possessing remarkable insight into the character of Jesus’ mission, and Jesus as behaving graciously towards outsiders (an enemy! Cf. 1:71)” [Green, 285]
o The Jewish elders “assume and propogate the insider-outsider categories of honor and obligation prevalent throughout the empire. Their words betray their captivity to a world system whose basis and practices run counter to the mercy of God.
o The second envoy to Jesus (vv. 6-7) seems to represent the centurion’s true motives: he does not lay claim to Jesus’ power through obligation or patronage > he recognizes who Jesus really is, of his power to save, and of his authority (contrast the Pharisees in chs. 5-6).
o Reversal: the gentile centurion (archetype of Israel’s Roman oppressors) has more ‘faith’ then the religious Israelites.

Luke 7:1-10 Luke 7:1 When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

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~ by tmackie on August 14, 2009.

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