Thursday, April 1, 2010

Luke's Christology.

Yet another excerpt from the book.

In Luke’s Gospel,[1] the emphasis falls on the Jesus' prophetic ministry as the Servant of Isaiah and YHWH returning to Zion. Luke's Christology is best summarized by the acclamation of the people in their response to Jesus' work: "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people" (Lk 7:16). By recording statements like this and others, Luke makes explicit the fact that he understands Jesus to be a fulfillment of the coming of the coming of the Servant, who, as we saw, Isaiah also identified with return of YHWH.
The Gospel is replete with evidence for this reading. When in chapter 2 Gabriel announces Jesus birth to Mary, she asks how this will be in light of the fact that she is a virgin. The angel response is that "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (1:35, Emphasis added). Arthur Just has demonstrated that this language of "overshadowing" that the LXX version of Exodus 40 uses to describe the descent of the kavod into the Tabernacle.[2] In that she is the new dwelling place of the kavod come in the flesh, Elizabeth can very easily call her "mother of my Lord" (1:42). Simeon makes the final identification in his song. Upon seeing the infant Jesus in the Temple he sings: "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (2:30-2, Emphasis added). This on the one hand represents an allusion to the Servant of the 49:6 who is a "light to the nations," and also to the kavod, who is described as the glory of Israel in 1 Samuel 4:22.[3] Lastly, in reading Isaiah 61 in the Nazareth synagogue, Jesus identifies himself with the anointed Servant of that text, who announces the day of Jubilee and vengeance (4:16-20).
The coming of God in the flesh is, it is emphasized, a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to redeem Israel and the entire human race (1:55, 71-3). As the "light to the nations" Jesus unites Jews and Gentiles by his lineage, which Luke traces back to Adam, rather than merely to Abraham as Matthew does (3:23-37). Even in his death, Jesus unites Jews and Gentiles. Herod and Pilate who had previous been enemies are made friends by later handing him over for trial by the former (23:12). Later in Acts, Jesus' disciples will incorporate the Gentiles into the people of God and thereby fulfill the promises of God to Abraham (Gen 12) and the prophecy of Isaiah that all nations will worship the true God (Isa 45, 49).
This emphasis on Christ's prophetic office as the Servant of Isaiah does not preclude his occupancy of the offices of king and priest. Jesus is David's son (Lk 3:31) and therefore the true fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (1:32-33) as Gabriel tells Mary. He is also the Melchizekiah priest-king of Psalm 110 (20:40-5). He is also the Son of Man of Daniel (Lk 6:5, 9:26-27, 9:58, 11:29-32, 18:31-34). N.T. Wright has noted,[4] much of Luke's use of language and narrative imagery is suggests that he is intentionally echoing the LXX version of the 1 and 2 Samuel. Much like in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is also commissioned at his baptism (3:22) in language reminiscent of Psalm 2. Wright has also noted that Jesus wanders through out the Gospel as he awaits the kingdom promised to his mother at the beginning of the Gospel (1:32-3).[5] In these wandering, Jesus’ main opponent is the Devil, whom we are told takes direct possession of Judas as a means to facilitate Jesus’ death (22:3). Later in Acts, just as David is persecuted by Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, Jesus' body the Church is persecuted by a Saul of the tribe of Benjamin (Acts 9:5-6, Phil 3:4-6) as it awaits the reception of the kingdom.
As in Mark and Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as an exorcist and healer. This does not detract from Luke's description of Jesus as a new David, but rather shows how he views Jesus as fulfilling his role in this regard. Jesus is a new David who enters into conflict with the Devil and therefore pursues the Father's apocalyptic war for creation (Lk 11:20). The Devil, as the source of all evil, is also the source of all disease either directly or indirectly. He is also obviously the source of demonic possession. We may connect the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus engages in by his own word (5:21). Though Satan is certainly the enemy of God, he is also an accuser of humanity in the heavenly court as shown by Job 1:6-8, 2:1-7, Zechariah 3:1-10, and later by Revelation 12:10. In this sense, the Devil maintains his power through his ability to accuse (a connection made even more strongly by the last passage in Revelation 12:10). We may observe then, that Jesus as the true fulfillment in kingly mediation in Luke is one who overcomes the Devil by his prophetic Word of forgiveness and his sacrificial death for sin. Luke, it would appear, also envisions the Church throughout Acts as continuing this mission of Jesus to the ends of the earth by persisting in his activities of preaching, teaching, celebrating the sacraments and engaging in healings and exorcisms. In this sense, the Church as the true humanity is conformed to Christ and his offices.
It has often been argued (strange though it may seem) that Luke utterly lacks an atonement theology. Both Hans Conzelman[6] and James D. G. Dunn[7] have claimed that Luke has no understanding of Jesus’ death as being redeeming. Roy Harrisville,[8] while acknowledging both Dunn and Conzelman’s objections, counters their claim by citing Gerhard Fredrich, who points to Luke’s report of the words of institution (Lk 22:19-20), and also Philip’s reading of the Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 53) with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). Most explicitly, Acts 20:28, Paul states: "Be shepherds of the Church of God, which he bought with his own blood" or one might also translate it "God has purchased the Church with blood of his own" ("τοῦ θεοῦἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου"). More subtly, Jesus' fulfillment of priestly mediation is suggested by the fact that Luke chooses to begin and end his Gospel in the Temple (1:8, 24:52). This implies that the entire story of Jesus that has been bounded by the Temple has fulfilled the function of the Temple. This interpretation makes a great deal of sense in light of the data that we have earlier examined that suggests that Luke views Jesus as the returning kavod, as well as a sacrifice for sins. We are further told that when Jesus begins his ministry he is "about thirty years" (3:23). This is the same age (according to Number 4:3) that priests began service in the Tabernacle/Temple.[9] In this, Luke characterizes Jesus' ministry as one that fulfills and replaces the Temple service. It is the gracious presence of God with Israel and the renewal of creation through forgiveness by way of bloody sacrifice. Nothing could be more explicitly a fulfillment of priestly mediation.

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