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Luke 10 – friends and enemies of the kingdom

by on June 13, 2012

I’ll be preaching through Luke 10 soon, I’ve started thinking it over. Seems to me it has a chiastic (or concentric) structure.  Haven’t found this in the commentaries. Here’s how it looks to me (you can click on it to make it bigger):

If that’s right, then the heart of the chapter is the teaching of Jesus about the importance of hearing him and seeing God’s kingdom. Many refuse to hear, which is to refuse God. Many cannot see the kingdom right under their noses, even when the 70 disciples come in the power of the kingdom, heralding it and healing. In fact no one can see it unless it’s revealed to them by Jesus. And he chooses the ones his father chooses: the simple and little, over against the wise and powerful. Some will welcome the 70 and their message of the kingdom. Many, by rejecting the 70, will show that God has rejected them. In this way the gospel mission reveals God’s judgement.

Two stories that follow illustrate the point. In the Good Samaritan story the weak outsider (the Samaritan) is revealed as a son of the kingdom, while the ‘wise ones’ of the Jewish establishment are exposed as not. Then with Mary and Martha we see Martha distracted by anything and everything, missing the one thing needful, while Mary listens to Jesus. Jesus’ model disciple is a woman! A clear example of God revealing his kingdom to the powerless. Martha on the other hand might have welcomed Jesus, but she has not yet welcomed the kingdom of God.

You can see I’m trying to let the centre of the structure (seeing the kingdom) control my reading of the whole chapter.

What do you think?

From → General

  1. Hey Jono,
    Looks good. A question though, (from one who struggles with finding structure in the synoptics!); suggesting a chiastic structure requires setting a section off on its own to some extent right? How do you make that sort of call? The subject matter doesn’t really make that super clear, and there’s no grammatical hints that I can tell (‘after this’ and ‘on one occasion’ seem to be used all over the place without suggesting strict changes in content.). A genuine question from someone preaching through Luke!

    • Hi Dan, I like your question. Never trust the chapter divisions!

      Actually meta tauta (‘after these things’) is quite rare in Luke. It’s only used twice in this way at the start of a scene. Both times I would argue it indicates some sort of break. At 5:27 Luke has finished with the healing scenes, and turns to consider the pharisees etc response to the Messiah.

      Here in Luke 10:1, there are signs of a break too. We’ve had Jesus wrestling with the twelve right through ch.9, which is all about their missionary adventure. Now Jesus does something new: authorises and sends 70 men on a new and expanded mission. The whole of chapter 10, I would argue, is devoted to this new mission: first jesus teaches about it, then Luke gives us two stories which relate to and illustrate that teaching.

      Then at 11:1 we get a change of scene, and a new lot of teaching from Jesus on a different (though related!) topic (prayer for the kingdom mission). That teaching gets its own illustration by the stories that follow in ch.11.

      That’s how I see it, anyhow. But it’s tricky in Luke because he runs topical themes across scene breaks and section breaks. So there are different structures going on at the same time. Eg at 9:51, which everyone thinks starts the a new section on the large scale. But locally, it’s got a cluster of clashes between Jesus and his disciples on both sides of it. They belong together and should be read together!

  2. Hey Jono,
    Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. Holidays and the like… Thanks for the reply, and also for touching on 9:51. I’ve asked myself on a few occasions ‘I wonder how Jono supports breaking it at 9:20/21 rather than 51?’

    Sounds well justified (both occasions), but like you say, it’s tricky because of the way he runs themes over each other and over several scenes. He’s too clever!

    I think I’ll change my preaching program…

    • Yes I don’t think there’s a right or wrong structural breakup for Luke. (actually maybe there are some wrong ones!) But it just depends on what structure you’re going for: geographical, thematic, etc.

      From 9:21 things are dominated by the journey to Jerusalem, even though it hasn’t started. ‘Who’s coming with me?’, discussing the journey with Moses and Elijah, trying to get the plan into the disciples’ thick heads etc.

      Then in 9:51 he sets off.

      For my money, all that stuff belongs together under the heading ‘Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem’. But then I don’t see the geography of the journey, or even the experience of travelling, as the main thing. It’s the goal of it that matters. And that is announced from 9:21ff.

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