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Luke’s Story of Jesus as Counter-Narrative


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Title: Luke’s Story of Jesus as Counter-Narrative

Lukes Story of Jesus as Counter-Narrative
Reading Luke in Communion
  • Luke story of Jesus was written not to describe
    what happened in the past so much as to motivate
    hearers to enact the new age in the present
  • In antiquity are texts are rhetorical, that is,
    they were designed to change the attitudes
    (µeta???a) and actions of those who heard them

Living the Gospel of Luke
  • Reading for transformation the Gospels envision
    a new future in an imperial world after the
    destruction of Jerusalem
  • We read Luke as history and so are preoccupied
    with what really happened, but Luke depicts Jesus
    as a prophet who exemplifies the pattern of life
    for the new age

  • Reading Luke in communion should always lead to
    the question How should we then live?
  • In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is depicted as
    exemplar of a pattern of life that befits the new

The Priority of Practice
  • The focus in Luke is not so much on Jesus
    identity (orthodoxy) as in shaping the identity
    and practice of Jesus followers (orthopraxis)
  • The Gospel of Luke is designed to effect
    transformation by inviting the audience to align
    their convictions and actions with the
    narratives vision of life

Identity and Practice
  • Questions about how we should then live or what
    we should do always raise questions about who we
    are, and vice versa.
  • We know that in the everyday the sense of a self,
    and of a self identity is tied to mundane
    practices in which people locate themselves by
    reference to a routine of action and expectations
    about themselves and others that remain
    relatively stable in particular social settings.

Converging Competing Stories
  • Lukes story of Jesus is interwoven with the
    story of Israel
  • Luke interprets the life, death, resurrection
    of Jesus in terms of Israels Scriptures
  • Luke depiction of the words and deeds of Jesus
    serve as a compass for Israel in a post-70 world
  • Lukes story of Jesus is in competition with
    imperial propaganda

Narrative and Identity
  • Personal identity is expressed and shaped by
  • Narrative identities are not stable entities
  • An act of listening or reading is a possible
    provocation to be and act differently
  • Biblical texts distance and disorient us by
    drawing us into an alternative narrative world
    and invite us to contemplate our sense of
    belonging and reorient our being in the world

Engaging Cultural Systems
  • The tacit frame of reference of New Testament
    texts is an imperial system that kept most people
    beholden and downtrodden
  • Biblical texts envision an alternative way of
    life predicated on counter-cultural and
    life-giving values and practices

Truth as Praxis
  • Christian faith does not offer a set of true or
    false propositions about a non-textual reality,
    but a form of life which has its own language
  • Gospel practices healing, feeding, forgiveness,
    hospitality, witness, discernment, Sabbath,
    grace, gratitude, etc. as practices

Intimations of Empire
  • Luke sets the story of Jesus on the imperial
    stage by naming the power brokers in the first
    chapters Herod, Augustus, Tiberis Caesar,
    Pontius Pilate Annas Caiaphas, and the Devil
  • Lukes story of Jesus reflects and challenges the
    way the imperial world works
  • In the Magnificant and throughout Luke issues of
    power, status and social stratification are

a decree went out from Caesar Augustus (Luke
  • Augustan inscription from Priene (9 BCE)
  • Since the Providence which has ordered all
  • and is deeply interested in our life has set in
  • perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she
  • with virtue divine power that he might benefit
  • mankind, sending him as savior that he might
  • end war and arrange all things, and since he,
  • Caesar surpassing all previous benefactors
  • and since the birthday of the god Augustus was
  • beginning for the world of the gospel that came
  • by reason of him.

Jesus and the Restoration of Israel
  • Luke tells the story of Jesus as a story of God
    fulfilling promises of salvation for Israel and
    the nations
  • Covenant with Abraham (154-55, 72-75)
  • Covenant with David (132-33)
  • Isaiahs vision of the nations (225-35)
  • Salvation is defined in terms of the
    consolation/restoration of Israel and
    deliverance from its enemies to usher in the time
    of peace

Luke 167-78
  • Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and
    spoke this prophecy "Blessed be the Lord God of
    Israel, for God has looked favorably on his
    people and redeemed them. God has raised up a
    mighty savior for us in the house of his servant
    David, that we would be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us

Lukes Story of Jesus as a Story of Salvation
  • Salvation in OED The saving of the soul
    deliverance from sin and its consequences and
    admission to eternal life, brought about by
  • Luke uses terms for salvation more than any NT
    text (soteria, soter sozo)
  • How do we understand salvation?

Salvation in Biblical Judaism
  • The Hebrew Bible and much post-biblical tradition
    employ the Hebrew root ysh and the Greek verb and
    noun sozo/soteria as well as a number of other
    terms and metaphors, to denote a range of divine
    activity that includes rescue from ones enemies,
    healing from illness, and deliverance from death,
    in addition to forgiveness of sin and release
    from its consequences. Much of that is defined as
    salvation does not involve God saving anyone
    from anything. Rather, God is bestowing on the
    covenant people the blessings they have been
    promised, without any sense that they have
    hitherto been deprived of these things
    (Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period)

Salvation in Luke
  • The Gospel of Luke begs the question of what
    salvation looks like on the ground as a present
    reality (109, 23-241720)
  • The salvation word group also had currency in
    Greco-Roman society. The emperor was referred to
    as soter and imperial propaganda often depicted
    him and the empire as rescuing people from the
    same things Gods people are rescued from in the
    Bible, including sin.
  • Salvation encompasses all nations/people and is
    construed as the restoration of society

Salvation in Luke as Restoration of Society
  • For Lukes audience of Jews and Gentiles being
    saved from our enemies refers to deliverance
    from the dehumanizing effects of imperial society
  • Luke graphically depicts how imperial society
    works and sets against it the mercy of God as it
    is embodied by Jesus

Performing the Gospel
  • The Gospel of Luke is a counter-narrative that
    re-present the story of Jesus as a way of life
    his followers then and now are to emulate
  • Jesus proclaims and enacts the kingdom of God as
    a vision of what it means to be human in a world
    in which people are oppressed and dehumanized.

Formation of Identity and Practice
  • Luke serves to reshape the identity and practices
    of those who follow Jesus
  • Identity is covenantal and communal
  • Priority of practice over beliefevery action is
    the bearer and expression of more or less
    theory-laden beliefs and concepts every piece of
    theorizing and every expression of belief is a
    political and moral action (MacIntyre, After

DiscussionRedefining Salvation
  • As a counter-narrative of salvation Luke
    challenges the promises and patterns of imperial
    society that demean and deform peoples lives
  • Any serious engagement with and appropriation of
    Luke must reckon with contemporary cultural
    promises and patterns
  • What are our cultural myths of salvation?

Pattern of Resistance Release in Luke 3-4
  • The Gospels were written to change the way people
    think and act
  • The Gospel of Luke invites hearers to contemplate
    who they are and how they should then live in the
    light of the teaching, ministry, death
    resurrection of Jesus
  • Jesus baptism, testing inaugural sermon
    provide a pattern for living in the power of the

Johns Baptism
  • Johns baptism of repentance (33) the imperial
    system isnt working time for change!
  • bear fruits worthy of repentance
    transformation through practice
  • he will baptize with the Holy Spirit promise of
    leader who empowers others

Jesus Baptism
  • Jesus followers submit to John baptism just as
    he did
  • Just as Jesus is called Son of the Most High,
    those who love your enemies, do good, and lend,
    expecting nothing in return are called children
    of the Most High
  • Jesus baptism invokes our own baptismal covenant

Testing in the Wilderness
  • In 31-3 Luke introduces the brokers of the
    imperial system and in 43-11 the devil is
    depicted as the self-styled broker of the worlds
  • Like Israel, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the
    wilderness where is covenant fidelity is tested
  • The devil challenges Jesus to live according to
    the values and practices of world that is not in
    tune with Gods purposes

Power and Self-Interest
  • Life is more than bread Jesus resists using
    power to feed himself and instead feeds others
  • To you I give all this authority and their
    glory Jesus resists using divine power for self
  • He will give his angels charge over you Jesus
    resists using power to save himself and instead
    empowers others (2335)

The Purpose of Spirit Power
  • Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit he
    is strengthened by resisting the devil/world
  • Nazareth sermon on Isaiah 61 discloses the
    purpose of Spirit power to proclaim good news to
    the poor, release to the captives to let the
    oppressed go free, to proclaim the acceptable
    year of the Lord 418-19

Ministry of Release
  • Luke 416-30 is Jesus mission statement and
    describes his mission as one of releasing
    people who are oppressed
  • One of the most frequently used word groups in
    Luke are words that mean set free and release

Resistance Release from the Imperial System
  • Throughout Luke Jesus is empowered by the Spirit
    to disturb the equilibrium of the imperial system
    and release people who are held captive by it
  • Middle class people are frequently reminded of
    their complicity in a system that oppresses
    others, but they are also themselves oppressed by
  • It is time for middle class people to have honest
    conversations about how they are impoverished
    and held captive by the system
  • What would it look and feel like us to engage in
    Jesus ministry of resistance and release in our
    own contexts?

Reading for TransformationLuke 51-11
  • How do you account for Peters transformation in
    this text?
  • What happens to Peter that would cause him to
    leave everything and follow Jesus?
  • How does following Jesus benefit him or improve
    the quality of his life?

How the World Works the Galilean Fishing Economy
  • Looking at the story of Simon Peters call in
    the context of the Galilean fishing economy sheds
    some light on the encounter between him and Jesus
    and suggests a more practical explanation of the
    fact that they left everything and followed
    him. The parables and metaphors, anecdotes and
    social network of Jesus are heavily influenced by
    the Sea of Galilee and its fish, fishing,
    fishermen, and fishing villages. Fishers were
    part of a state-regulated elite-profiting
    enterprise. The Galilean fishing economy was an
    embedded economy (not a market economy)
    characteristic of aristocratic empires in which
    most surplus went to brokers and ruling elite.

Sin and Shame in Luke
  • In Luke Jesus has a reputation for associate
    primarily with sinners and tax collectors, i.e.
    people who have no honor in Judaism and in
    society (529-32 731-50 151-2 197).
  • Sinner is a label attributed by someone or some
    group that determines a persons status vis-à-vis
    God and the covenant community. Sin and
    Sinner are always a matter of interpretation
    and cultural conditioning, and labeling one a
    Sinner is a matter of power and control.

Contemplating Divine Beneficence
  • What are the systems we are embedded in and how
    do they define and shape our lives?
  • What is not life-giving about our way of life
    and what changes might we make that would allow
    us to live more in harmony with the Spirit?
  • What would it mean for us to put out into the
    deep? What are our fears and anxieties?
  • What would abundance look like for us?
  • What would we need to let go of or relinquish to
    embrace new life?

Honor Patronage as the Foundation of Imperial
  • Honor was the desideratum of antiquity and was
    embedded in a system of reciprocal relationships
    of mutual benefit between unequals known as
  • The patron obtained honor by means of the gift
    (charis), which came with a variety of strings
  • Patron-client relationships in which one
    individual is dominant and the other subordinate
    and dependent predominated in Greco-Roman

Social Impact of Patronage
  • The dominance of the elite also required the
    ritualized performance of others submission on a
    day-to-day basis.
  • The inculcation of negative shame, the social
    inverse of honor, was one result of the repeated
    experience of social inferiority among the large
  • The social elevation of the elite came at the
    expense of the non-elite, who were socialized
    into roles that took on the zero-sum burdens of
    various grades of poverty, shame, impurity. The
    resultant physical weakness of the poor was
    often read as evidence of their sinfulness
    before God and human patrons alike.

Luke 632-36 But love your enemies, and do
good, expecting nothing in return and your
reward will be great, and you will be children of
the Most High for God is kind to the ungrateful
and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father
is merciful.
Challenging the Way the World Works Luke 627-36
  • Jesus challenges foundational model of
    reciprocity and power in Greco-Roman society that
    keep people beholden and submissive
  • Jesus ministry of release (Lk 4) needs to be
    understood in terms of the patronage system that
    keeps people in a continual state of debt and

Divine Generosity
  • In Luke the new age is experienced as Gods
    lavish self-expression, and Jesus is proof of
    that generosity
  • Imitatio Dei From Lukes perspective those who
    enjoy the benefits conferred by the Divine parent
    of Jesus are obligated to reflect the character
    of the Supreme Benefactor

Divine Generosity as the Basis of the New Age
  • In the Nazareth sermon, sermon on the plain (Lk
    6) and throughout Luke Jesus challenges the way
    imperial society works and outlines the new
    values, commitments and practices of a new age
    that reflects Gods character and purposes
  • Jesus releases people from their captivity to the
  • The Divine generosity he models is the basis for
    new patterns of relationships

Reading Luke in Communion
  • What does the text disclose about the way the
    world works?
  • How does Jesus challenge the system?
  • What response or practice does the text call for?
  • How is Divine Generosity experienced and embodied?

The Lords Prayer (Lk 112-4)He said to them,
"When you pray, say Father, hallowed be your
name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our
daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we
ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do
not bring us to the time of trial."
The Practice of Divine Generosity
  • Even as followers are encouraged to trust Gods
    goodness and generosity for daily needs they are
    expected to practice that same generosity by
    releasing everyone indebted to them
  • In Luke almsgiving is another type of exchange
    predicated on Divine generosity that the basis of
    his vision of a new society
  • In Luke the practice of hospitality modeled by
    Jesus is how the new age is actualized

Politics begins not when you organize to defend
an individual or particular or local interest,
but when you organize to further the general
interest within which your particular interest
may be represented politics does not happen
when you act on behalf of your own damaged good,
but when you act, without awareness, for the good
of all this is to take the risk of the
universal interest (Gillian Rose)
Christian ethics is relentlessly political,
because it cannot be adequately expressed in
terms of atomized rights invested in individuals
or groups, but looks beyond to the kind of
community in which free interaction for the sake
of each other is made possible (Rowan Williams)
Children of the Market or Wisdom?
To what then will I compare the people of this
generation, and what are they like? They are like
children sitting in the marketplace and calling
to one another, We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance we wailed, and you did
not weep. For John the Baptist has come eating
no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, He
has a demon the Son of Man has come eating and
drinking, and you say, Look, a glutton and a
drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and
sinners! Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by
all her children. (Luke 731-35)
The Market System
The All-Seeing Eye of Providence God has
favored our undertaking
New Order of the Ages
Market as Totalizing System that Determines Value
  • The sacred order which structures individual
    action is primarily represented in the economic
    realm. Capitalism in not only a system of
    production exchange but also of value creation.
    In this sacred order the individual is sacred,
    and the monetarized economy is the indicator of
    social worth (Boli, The Economic Absorption of
    the Sacred).

How the World Works
  • The market system is a societywide coordination
    of human activities not by central command but by
    mutual interactions in the form of transactions.
    Like the state, the market system is a method of
    controlling and coordinating peoples behavior.
    That market participants see themselves as making
    free and voluntary choices does not deny that
    they are controlled by purchase and sales
    (Lindblom, The Market System)
  • The meaning of life is full participation in the
    exchange economy, as both producer of value and
    consumer of goods. The purpose of life is full
    development of the individual, both through value
    production and voluntary consumption (Boli, The
    Economic Absorption of the Sacred)

The Persistence of Patronage
  • Patron-client relations, with one person
    dependent and behoven to another, are one of the
    most diffuse in the modern world. In most modern
    forms, in contrast to patronage in antiquity, the
    client rarely has rights or powers, agreements
    are most often personal and informal. Powerful
    patrons are mostly middle-aged or elderly men, to
    whom other men and women are often locked in
    hopeless dependency. Patron-client relations
    may inspire a devotion which knows neither
    limits, nor scruples nor remorse. They are not,
    though, the stuff of which citizenship is made.
    The dominant social values they foster are those
    of submissiveness and gratitude, not of equality
    and mutual respect (Paul Ginsborg, The Politics
    of Everyday Life)

The Challenge of Grace
  • The moment the gift is infected with the
    slightest hint of calculation, the moment it
    takes account of knowledge or recognition, it
    falls within the ambit of an economy it
    exchanges, in short it gives counterfeit money,
    since it gives in exchange for payment. To want
    to be noticed means wanting recognition and
    payment in terms of calculable salary, in terms
    of thanks or recompense (Derrida, The Gift of

Loving without Reciprocity
  • reciprocity governs all commerce, even the
    carnal sort. When, then, does the lover appear?
    Precisely when, during the encounter, I suspend
    reciprocity, and no longer economize, engaging
    myself without any guarantee of assurance. The
    lover appears when one of the actors in the
    exchange no longer poses prior conditions, and
    loves without requiring to be loved, and thus, in
    the figure of the gift, abolishes economy
    (Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon)

Luke 736-50 Woman Pharisee
  • A certain creditor had two debtors one owed
    five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When
    they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now
    which of them will love him more?

From Self to Communal Solidarity
  • Then he said to them all, If any want to become
    my followers, let them deny themselves and take
    up their cross daily and follow me. For those who
    want to save their life will lose it, and those
    who lose their life for my sake will save it.
    What does it profit them if they gain the whole
    world, but lose or forfeit themselves? (Luke
  • Profit and forfeit stem from the world of
    commerce. Radical self-denial leads to an
    emphasis on the practice of
  • generosity in the context of community.

Relinquishing Attachments
  • As they were going along the road, someone said
    to him, I will follow you wherever you go. And
    Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds
    of the air have nests but the Son of Man has
    nowhere to lay his head. To another he said,
    Follow me. But he said, Lord, first let me go
    and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Let
    the dead bury their own dead but as for you, go
    and proclaim the kingdom of God. Another said,
    I will follow you, Lord but let me first say
    farewell to those at my home. Jesus said to him,
    No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks
    back is fit for the kingdom of God.(Luke 957-61)

Luke 1137-44 The Practice of Generosity
  • But give for alms those things which are within
    and behold, everything is clean for you. (see

Luke 1213-21 The Rich Fool
  • Take heed and beware of all covetousness for a
    persons life does not consist in the abundance
    of possessions. So is the one who lays up
    treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Luke 1415-24 The Great Banquet
  • And the master said to the servant, Go out to
    the highways and hedges, and compel people to
    come in, that my house may be filled.

Luke 161-13 The Dishonest Steward
  • The master commended the dishonest steward for
    his shrewdness for the sons of this age are more
    shrewd in dealing with their own generation than
    the sons of light.

Luke 1619-31 Rich Man Lazarus
  • But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in
    your lifetime received your good things, and
    Lazarus in like manner evil things but now he is
    comforted here, and you are in anguish.

Luke 1818-30 The Rich Ruler
  • Jesus said to him, One thing you still lack.
    Sell all that you have and distribute to the
    poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and
    come follow me.

Luke 191-10 Zachaeus
  • Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the
    poor and if I have defrauded any one of
    anything, I restore it fourfold.

Jesus in Jerusalem
  • Triumphal Entry - ruler in parable (1911-27)
    vs. the king who comes in the name of the Lord
  • Parable of the Vineyard (209-18)
  • On paying taxes to Caesar (2020-26)
  • The destruction of Jerusalem (2120-38)

A Different Kind of Leader
  • A dispute also arose among them as to which one
    of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But
    he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord
    it over them and those in authority over them
    are called benefactors. But not so with you
    rather the greatest among you must become like
    the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.
    For who is greater, the one who is at the table
    or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the
    table? But I am among you as one who serves.
    (Luke 2224-27)