Monday, April 27, 2009

Verse things first

Up late finishing an exegesis of Luke 13:1-9 for my Synoptic Gospels class. The assignment required me to refrain from consulting any sources outside the Bible itself. A sample appears below for those who enjoy such things. I certainly enjoy the experience of learning how to do exegesis.

Unfortunately, having to catch up with schoolwork after my Poland tour means I have less time to devote to job-hunting—which is bad, because, as I wrote earlier, I need summer work to keep me going until grad school resumes in the fall. If you know of anyone who might need an experienced editor and writer, please write to me. If not, I am grateful for your prayers. Many thanks!

 13:1There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

Those present who tell Jesus of Pilate's cruelty are part of the "so many thousands of the multitude" who have gathered to hear him (12:1). The manner of death Pilate inflicted, turning Galileans' sacrifices into human sacrifices, would have been unthinkably horrible to the Jews, showing immeasurable contempt for their nation and their God. Because the temple priests, through their sacrifices, made atonement for the guilt of the people, the prefect's forcing them to include human blood in their sacrifices effectively laid the victims' blood upon their hands and those of the entire nation.

Luke's audience, having an idea of how his gospel would end, would have been struck by the intimation of the death of another Galilean whose fate would be decided by Pilate. From the moment the baby Jesus, being circumcised, received His Holy Name (2:21), He began the sacrifice of His own blood that would frame His earthly mission. Through Pilate, the responsibility for Jesus' bloody death would be laid upon all the people ("Jesus he delivered up to their will"—23:25). The bloodguilt for Jesus would become, in effect, mingled with the guilt represented by the Jews' own sacrifices—through the priests first (who urged Pilate to condemn Jesus—23:5), and, through them, the entire People of God (which shouted "Crucify, crucify him"—23:21).

It is significant in this regard that Luke emphasizes two occurrences of Jesus' bloodshed that are missing from the other gospels: circumcision and His sweating drops of blood during His agony (22:43-44). As a physician, Luke was well acquainted with the effects of physical pain and suffering, having witnessed patients endure the loss of blood. How awestruck he must have been to learn the myriad ways in which Jesus poured Himself out in love for each human being.

During His passion, Jesus' identity as a Galilean will spark the interest of Pilate ("he asked whether the man was a Galilean"—23:6). That the prefect reacts to this information by sending the Saviour to his enemy Herod (23:7-12), who was not known for leniency (cf. 13:31-32) implies that, in the wake of the crimes of the Galileans he punished, Pilate continues to bear special resentment toward people of that region. Seen in that light, a link truly exists between the deaths of the Galileans and that of Jesus, as Pilate's condemnation of the Saviour is in some sense a continuation of his punishment of His countrymen.

At the same time, Luke's audience would have been aware of the essential differences between Pilate's punishment of the Galileans and his condemnation of Jesus. The Galileans were not without sin; Jesus is. Even one of the robbers crucified at His side recognizes this, in a passage unique to Luke (23:41). Moreover, as Luke stresses throughout his gospel, Jesus' suffering, unlike that of His fellow Galileans, is by choice; it flows from His consciously willing to obey the will of His Heavenly Father (22:42).