Saturday, August 16, 2014

Today & Tomorrow: The Greek of Luke 13:32

If you are frequent reader of this blog, you will realize that I like to read and write about enigmatic texts of the Bible, those that you don't hear about in sermons or even by reading commentaries (though I am sure some commentaries by nature as a commentary would have something to say about it). The text I am referring to is Jesus' saying in Luke 13:32-33. The Greek is especially illuminating. "I am performing, tomorrow and on the third I shall be perfected". First, it is quite clear that Jesus is speaking metaphorically, using a kind of chronology or time-line to convey some enigmatic details about his life and ministry. Second, the word, "day" after the third is missing in the Greek, so Jesus is literally saying on the third (implied on the 3rd day) he will be perfected. The previous verse talks about his work of healing illness and diseases of all kinds and bringing relief to many. Jesus is completing today his ministry of healing and by tomorrow he will continue this work though perhaps in a different form and phase. third I shall be perfected indicates Jesus' life reaching its maximum potential and having reached it gained perfection, the crown of his life-ministry. Jesus says in John's Gospel that his food is to do the will of God and complete/finish it (John 4) and on the cross as he was dying, Jesus exalted in the fact that, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).

Third, this text does suggest a three-fold or three phases of Jesus' life and ministry. Once today (first phase) is completed, tomorrow's phase begins, a new phase of ministry. Fourth, Jesus' life has a goal with his ministry leading to a climax or achieving its divine purpose. On the third, after his public ministry of healing is completed he will fulfill the climax of his coming - dying on the cross to save humanity.

Fifth, this Lukan text of 13:32-33 may indicate that Jesus knew that his ministry would last only 3 years or just over two years as the three Johannine Passovers suggest. A day represents a year (cf. Ezek 4) and in the third year of Jesus' ministry, he is perfected by dying on the cross. What a way to go. Often we think we want to achieve glory or fame or wealth at the end of our lives but for Jesus it is all the way down, beginning with his descent from heaven to earth, his incarnation and birth and his humility living as a poor artisan (carpenter), not owning anything (his Capernaum's homebase could be owned by one of his disciples) as Jesus' last words entrusted his mother to the care (and home) of John the beloved disciple, perhaps an indication that either Jesus' own brothers (cf. John 7) were unable or unwilling to take care of their mother, Mary or that Jesus knowing John well preferred that his mother was cared for by a close disciple.

No where in the four Gospels there is any clear evidence that Jesus owned much, even the donkey that took him down the slopes of Mount Olives belonged to an unknown disciple. He was stripped practically naked, dispossessed of everything, even his dignity when he hanged on the cross, bearing the whole weight of humanity's sins on his shoulders, in his body, readied to be sacrificed as a sin-offering for the transgressions of the world.

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