Jon: The Gospel of Luke opened with the birth of Jesus.1
Tim: Then Luke showed us how Jesus was Israel’s Messiah announcing the good news of God’s Kingdom to the poor and how he was God’s true prophet to Israel.2
Jon: In this next section, Jesus sets out with his disciples on a long road trip to Jerusalem, where they’ll join thousands of Israelites to celebrate the ancient feast of Passover.
Tim: Now, Luke wants this road trip from the mountain to Jerusalem to remind you of ancient Israel’s long road trip. With Moses, they went from Mount Sinai to the promised land, and then later, King David established Jerusalem as their capital. And so here Luke is portraying Jesus as a new Moses who’s renewing Israel’s covenant with God, and as a new David. He’s gathering the people together to live under his rule.
Jon: As Jesus leaves, he sends out a wave of his followers ahead of him to prepare each new place for his visit.3
Tim: Then Jesus would arrive, announcing the good news of God’s Kingdom, and he would call people to follow him and join this new thing God was doing in Israel.
Jesus’ Upside-Down Kingdom [01:02-01:45]
Jon: There are many of his teachings and parables in this section, specifically about how following Jesus will force you to totally rethink your money, how you resolve conflict, and how you treat the poor.
Tim: In every town, Jesus would create communities of people who were learning to live in a totally new way, so that greed would be transformed into generosity and anger into forgiveness. And in these Jesus communities, all outsiders are welcomed.
Jon: Yeah! Good news for the poor! That’s one of Luke’s main themes.
Tim: Yeah. You’ll find it all over this section. The marginalized people that he heals, the shamed sex workers he reaches out to, the tax collectors he includes, this is Jesus’ Kingdom crew.
Jon: And Israel’s religious leaders watch and start to criticize him. If he really is God’s prophet, why is he welcoming sinners and eating with them?4
Jesus and the Religious Leaders [01:46-03:49]
Tim: Yeah. This section reads like the battle of the banquets. So Jesus throws these dinner parties as a symbol of how God’s Kingdom is here for the sick and the poor, people who could never pay him back.
Jon: Jesus also attends banquets with Israel’s religious leaders.
Tim: Yeah, and he lays into them for becoming an arrogant, exclusive social club.
Jon: But they don’t get it, and so he tells them a famous parable that goes like this:5
Tim: There was a father who had two sons.
Jon: The older son is trustworthy and honors his father.
Tim: And the younger son? He’s a mess. He rebels and cashes in his inheritance to travel far away and blow it all on partying and being stupid.
Jon: And then there’s a famine in the land and he runs out of money, so he has to scrape by by taking care of somebody’s pigs. And he’s so hungry he wants to eat the pig slop, at which point it occurs to him: “If I’m going to be a farmhand, I might as well go home and work for my dad. At least I won’t be eating pig food.” So he treks back home, rehearsing his apology.
Tim: Now, the father is certain that his son did not survive the famine. But then one day, he sees someone walking down the road. It’s his son! He’s not dead! And so the father runs to him and embraces his son, kissing him all over.
Jon: The son starts his speech. “Dad, I don’t deserve to be your son. Maybe I could come and work for you.”
Tim: But before he can finish, the father calls his servants to get the nicest robe, new sandals, a fancy ring for his son. They’re to prepare the best food for a banquet. It is time to celebrate!
Jon: Now later that day, the older brother arrives from a long day working in the field to discover his long lost loser of a brother has come home. And they’re celebrating?!
Tim: And he gets angry. And think about it. He’s been faithful to his father all of these years. He never got a party like this. And then this disgrace of a family member comes home, and they’re going to celebrate him? It’s disgusting! He refuses to join the banquet.
Jon: So the father finds the older brother outside and he says:
Tim: Son, you are already in our family. Everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate your brother because he was lost and now he’s found! He was dead but now he is alive.
Entry Requirement to the Kingdom [03:50-04:27]
Jon: Jesus wants the religious leaders to see the outsiders the way God sees them, as sons and daughters that are being reclaimed from death.
Tim: Jesus’ Kingdom community was wide open to anybody. The only entry requirement is to humble yourself and recognize your need for God’s mercy. And so the religious leaders’ rejection of Jesus and his crew is actually a rejection of the God of Israel.
Jon: The leaders don’t like all this, and so as Jesus’ road trip comes to an end, the conflict is at a boiling point.
Tim: Yeah. He’s going to ride towards Jerusalem for Passover as they plot to take his life. And that’s what the next section of Luke is all about.