Backgrounds, Context, and History
As a reminder, the discussion on backgrounds, context, and history is not intended as an interpretation of scripture, doctrine, or the lesson. The goal is to give a small assist to help our podcast listeners while they go through the lesson material.
We will move along in the chapters and sections, and as needed, I will make a few brief comments.
Luke Chapter 12
Warnings and Encouragement
1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
This chapter starts with the words “In the mean time”(KJV) or “Meanwhile.”(NIV).
Those words are connecting words to the last section of chapter 11, at the end chapter 11 Jesus pronounces six woes on the ruling Jews while attending a dinner in the home of a Pharisee.
There is an ongoing confrontation between Jesus and the Ruling Jewish leaders, and we see that illustrated in the final verses of chapter 11.
In Luke chapter twelve, Jesus is giving “Warnings and Encouragement” regarding the confrontation between the Jewish leaders, Himself, and His Disciples.
Jesus tells an innumerable crowd of followers to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. In the time of Jesus, yeast was used as a metaphor for sin, and the metaphor was understood by all present.
Jesus warns the crowd not to be of afraid of someone who merely has the power to end the mortal life.
The Valley of Hinnom
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
The term hell used in the previous verse has an extra layer of meaning in the original Greek/Hebrew.
Literally translated the word “hell” means, “The valley of the sons of Hinnom.” This valley is a ravine running along the southwestern edge of Jerusalem.
This is the place where the wicked kings of Juda sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal Molech.
Later this valley is used to burn trash. We can imagine the smells mixed with the smoke drifting up from this is a well-known place just outside Jerusalem.
Verse 5 is a powerful metaphor and word picture for those assembled to listen to Jesus.
The Foolish Rich Man
13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
This section is the parable of “The Foolish Rich Man” who focuses on building ever larger storehouses instead of focusing on the things of God.
This section begins with a person in the crowd asking Jesus to stand as a Judge between two brothers.
Verse 14 sometimes will strike people as odd because today we think of Jesus as the ultimate Judge.
It could be very easy to confuse Jesus with a local Rabbi and Judge, but Jesus is setting himself apart from the local religious leaders, perhaps to further show that His authority comes from above.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
In verse 20, we read the words “Thou fool” and they are directed at the Rich man.
The Greek terms translated as “Thou fool” is very strong and goes beyond what we may call stupidity. The Greek term indicates a moral and spiritual deficiency along with ignorance.
Further, in this verse, the Greek term translated as “Soul” encompasses both body and spirit. Not only will the man’s body be required that night, but his soul will be held to account for his time in mortality.
Be Ready for Service
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,
In the previous verse, we see an inference regarding “having your loins girded about.” When a person is “dressed for service” they have their loins girded.
This refers to long garments that were drawn up around the waist and tucked in when traveling, working, or going to war.
Interestingly, the Passover meal was to be eaten with “your cloak tucked into your belt.” This suggests being in a state of readiness for the kingdom of God at all times.
A Days Wages
59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.
It is nice to know that a Denarius is equal to a day’s wages and a penny or mite is 1/128th of a Denarius, a very small amount.
Luke Chapter 13
Chapter 13 is not referenced in the “Come Follow Me” lesson, but it is included in the reading assignment. Here are a few items of note regarding the context for the lesson reading:
The Fate of Jerusalem
The fate of Jerusalem and Israel is hinted at in chapter Twelve, however, in chapter 13 the future of Jerusalem and its destruction becomes the central concern. The Jews are the very embodiment of the illustration of the fig tree that bears no fruit.
Contrasted Power of Jesus and the Growth of His Kingdom
16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
In this chapter, a woman is healed from what the Greek text tells us is “having a spirit of weakness” and Luke tells us this caused her to be stooped over. Verse 16 indicates some demonic oppression was at play.
This story tells of the power of Jesus to overcome suffering, tragedy, and demonic forces.
Despite this power, we go on to learn that the Kingdom of God will start out small and grow into something great, as we read the parables of the yeast and the mustard seed.
It is worth noting that the mustard seed generally grows into a bush, but in the parable, the seed grows into a tree giving the parable deeper meaning.
Does an Israelite have a free pass?
It was a common belief that all Israelites would be saved, yet we see in the parable of the “Narrow door” and the account of Jesus’ Sorrow for Jerusalem, that Jews were a fig tree that bore no fruit.
Luke Chapter 14
In this chapter, we see elements of healing, conversations, and the parable of “The great supper” all tied together.
Jesus then demonstrates to the large crowd following Him the cost of discipleship.
The Parable of the Great Banquet
People would typically eat with only those of equal social status. This was true in the Greco-Roman world and Jewish society.
We can also recall the Egyptians who would not eat with the Hebrews, even when they knew the Hebrews were Joseph’s family.
Roman history also reveals that invited guests to a banquet were divided by social classes, were separated into different rooms, and were served different food.
Luke Chapter 15
The Gospel of the Outcast
Luke Chapter 15 begins what is called “The Gospel of The Outcast” (Thomas W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus as Recorded in the Gospels, 282). Chapters 15-19 are unique to Luke and showcase Jesus’ concern for the social outcast.
The Prodigal Son
22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
In the parable of the prodigal son, we see that the returning son is given the best robe, a ring, and sandals.
The gifts show full reinstatement into the family. The robe is a symbol of honor and royal authority.
Luke Chapter 16
This chapter has an underlying theme of Jesus’ teachings about material possessions. The parable of the shrewd manager, a few verses about the Pharisees who were covetous, and finally the parable of The rich man and Lazarus.
The Unjust Steward
In the parable of the Shrewd Manager, the Master compliments the manager once the bills are reduced, causing some to suggest the manager was illegally adding interest to the bills and once the interest was removed from the bill, the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely.
At that time an employer was not held responsible for the illegal acts of an employee, so the steward wisely kept himself from punishment under the law.
The rich man and Lazarus
The beggar and the rich man parable should be viewed in the context of Luke stringing together several parables regarding Pharisees who notoriously did not follow the Law of the Prophets, but instead would seek for riches.
It is implied in this parable that One’s attitude toward God must be reflected in his life and actions. If the actions and deeds of a person’s life are not aligned with the heart in this life, it cannot be corrected in the next life, even if one came back from the dead to warn them.
Luke Chapter 17
Sin, Faith, Duty
This chapter begins with several short teachings directed at His Disciples and demonstrates what the real cost discipleship means to anyone that wishes to follow Jesus.
Ten Healed of Leprosy
With the Parable of the ten healed of leprosy, Luke continues his theme of Jesus’ concern and love for the outcast. The argument can be made that the afflicted were Samaritans because Jesus was near Samaria when He encountered the band of lepers.
Only one of the ten is wise enough to speak gratitude to the Master and then learn of how his faith was essential to his healing.
The Coming of the Kingdom of God
Jesus explains in the final section of chapter 17 that the Kingdom of God will not be in one place, but be among the people. Good people and wicked people will live as in the days of Noah until the day of Judgment, and the judgment will be as obvious as vultures circling a carcass.
37 “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
John Chapter 11
The Beginning of The Plot to Crucify Jesus
53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
The account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead will set in motion the events that will lead to his crucifixion.
The Pharisees heard that Lazarus was raised from the dead, and this miracle was done in plain view, with a large number of people who witnessed the event.
They reasoned if they allowed Jesus to continue in his ministry and show miraculous signs, then people would come to believe in Him.
They feared they would lose the Temple and they would lose what self-rule the Roman government then allowed. Because of their fears “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”
Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the Life
John in his gospel tells of seven signs that show Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and the Son of God. In the story of raising Lazarus from the dead, John’s seventh and last sign is anticipated in his telling of these events in the story of raising of Lazarus, showing clearly Jesus has power over death and is anticipating His own resurrection.
In no uncertain terms, Jesus shows he has power over death. The length of time from the passing of Lazarus, the smell coming from his tomb, and the many witnesses to his illness and subsequent death all attest to the end of the life of Lazarus. The scripture in John is eloquent in the telling of the event.
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”