As we have often talked about together, context is everything when we are seeking to determine what a scripture is actually trying to tell us. We have already touched on two key ideas that have much to say to us about the context of Luke 10. Firstly, the author Luke is an historian and as such the ordered way in which he writes and presents the gospel story means that there is more of a flow to the way he lays out his testimony; different to the primary focus of the other gospel writers. We learn about Luke’s purpose in the first few verses of Chapter One.
‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.’ (Luke 1:1-4)
Secondly and supportive of this idea, we have already reflected that there is some evidence of ‘an orderly account’ of the journey when you look at Luke 9:1-6 next to 10:1-11. First Jesus sends the 12 and then afterwards he appoints 72 to go and do likewise; both commissions as a whole, designed to equip his followers (you and me) more completely.
Let’s have a go at outlining a context for Luke 10 i.e. let’s look at its position in the whole of Luke’s presentation so we can more clearly see where this is all might be heading.
- We’ve already noted Luke’s prologue expressing his desire to set down an orderly account ‘of the things that have been fulfilled among us’ for Theophilus.
- Chapters 1 through 2 focus on the birth and childhood of Jesus and by doing it this way it seems like Luke is creating growing expectations about the coming of Israel’s Messiah and the salvation that He will bring.
- Then, in chapters 3 and 4 Luke reports on the preparation for the ministry of Jesus. In chapter 4:14-30 Jesus declares his mission intent and then obediently pursues his work, foremostly teaching by storytelling or reflecting on every day happenings and performing healing miracles as Father God leads him. This primarily occurs in and around Galilee.
- The next section is where our reference scripture is placed.
- From late in chapter 9 until a similar point in chapter 19, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem.
- Now the narrative becomes about how Jesus will fulfill God’s purpose by being rejected by human beings and so the story seems to take on a fresh sense of urgency as Jesus’ mission moves toward the climax of his suffering, being crucified and ultimately resurrected.
In summary, the earlier part of Luke’s Gospel dealt with establishing the identity of Jesus and the nature of the ‘Messiah’s’ mission, but it might also be worth noting that up until chapter 9, the disciples have been with Jesus, watching Jesus like passive spectators of Jesus’ mission. But now they are invited to step out of the grandstand, off the bench and onto the playing field. They are called to be participators in Jesus’ mission.
A process that began in chapter 9 with the sending of the 12 disciples is now continued with the sending of the 72 in chapter 10. More soon ……
Reflection-Action 1 Take about a half hour to skim read through Luke Chapters 1 to 10. Before you start, ask God to help you read with fresh eyes so that each time you come to something that ignites a spark of something you used to know or once thought was true, God will immediately give you discernment about whether that is still important or not. Read to hear from God and not like you are taking notes for some upcoming exam about the content. When you finish, make notes or journal about the things (if anything) that spring into your heart and mind about what you’ve read. Don’t linger, if you are struggling or straining to flesh out a particular thought, then maybe take that as God not caring too much whether you got that or not for now, just record the quick and clear thoughts.
Reflection-Action 2 Looking at Chapter 9 again in light of today’s input, what do you think is the significance of Luke’s positioning of the passages about the feeding of the five thousand, Peter’s confession, the transfiguration, the healing of the boy with an evil spirit, the argument about who will be the greatest, the Samaritan opposition and the cost of following Jesus?
Reflection-Action 3 Reflect again for a moment on Luke 10:1-2. Do you have some more clarity about what Jesus is declaring now? If so, how can what you have heard from God be fulfilled in the places where you live, work and play?