Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Luke 19:11ff; 21:31; 22:16ff)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

Having examined the various references to the Kingdom of God (and its coming) in the Gospel of Luke, we must pay attention to how the theme is treated at the close of the Gospel, leading into the book of Acts. There are four passages of interest: (1) the parable in 19:11ff, (2) the statement in 21:31 (at the close of the Eschatological Discourse), (3) the references in the Last Supper scene (22:16ff), and (4) the reference in 23:42. All of these are significant for an understanding of how the Lukan Gospel writer viewed the coming of the Kingdom.

Luke 19:11ff

First, there is the parable in 19:12-27, similar in many respects to the parable in Matt 25:14-30, though the relation between the two, and whether they reflect a common underlying “Q” tradition, remains a matter for debate. The literary context of the two is certainly different. Luke sets this parable (of the Ten Minas) at the end of the Journey narrative (9:51-18:31ff), as Jesus and his disciples draw near to Jerusalem. The Lukan introduction (v. 11) makes clear that, contrary to the expectation of some people, Jesus would not be establishing the Kingdom on earth (as a Messianic Kingdom) when he arrived in Jerusalem. According to the author, Jesus tells this parable

“…because of his being near to Yerushalaim, and their thinking that the kingdom of God was about [me/llei] to show up paraxrh=ma.”

The adverb paraxrh=ma is somewhat difficult to translate. It basically denotes something happening at the time it is needed; however, this was often generalized to mean “at the very moment”, “on the spot”, i.e., immediately, instantly. This certainly is how the word is used here, referring to the idea (held by some, if not many, of Jesus’ followers) that the Kingdom of God would “show up” (vb a)nafai/nw) as soon as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. Clearly, this would not be the case, as the narrative demonstrates, and as the Gospel writer here declares ahead of time.

As we saw from the earlier notes on the Triumphal Entry scene, the Synoptic narrative reinterprets the popular Messianic expectation, expressed (by the crowds) in that episode, regarding Jesus’ identity as the Davidic (royal) Messiah. The Gospel of Luke follows the Synoptic narrative, but goes even further in presenting a different view of Jesus’ Kingship—and thus, of his relation to the coming Kingdom of God.

The Lukan Gospel had already dealt with this popular expectation at several earlier points in the Gospel—most notably, in 17:20-21ff, where Jesus redirects the expectation of how the Kingdom would come, providing important insight as to the true nature of this Kingdom (see the earlier study on this passage). Much the same thing occurs here with the parable in 19:12-27. In the Lukan parable, Jesus is clearly identified with the nobleman who goes off “into a region far away” in order to “receive a kingdom for himself” (v. 12). In the Gospel (and Lukan) context, this refers to the impending death (and resurrection) of Jesus. The basic message, then, is that the Kingdom of God cannot come until after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

There are two other important components to this message, as expressed by the parable: (a) it involves Jesus himself receiving a kingdom, and (b) it also entails Jesus’ subsequent return (i.e., his second coming [parousia] at the end-time). Both of these are relevant to the remaining passages.

Luke 21:31

Toward the close of the Synoptic “Eschatological Discourse” (Mark 13; par Lk 21:5-36), Jesus gives an eschatological illustration based on observation of the fig-tree (Mk 13:28-29). Just as, when the fig-tree puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near, so when one sees the eschatological events (described by Jesus in the Discourse) coming to pass, it is a sign that the end is near—and, with it, the coming of the Son of Man (i.e., Jesus’ return, vv. 26-27). Luke follows the Synoptic/Markan tradition, but uniquely includes a reference to the “kingdom of God”:

“…when you should see these (thing)s coming to be, you may know that the kingdom of God is near!” (21:31)

In this context, the coming of the Kingdom of God is eschatological, being tied to the end-time return of Jesus. This is significant because, elsewhere in the Gospel, Luke seems to indicate that the Kingdom was already present in the person of Jesus during his earthly ministry (e.g., 11:20, cf. the earlier study)—a ministry that would continue through his disciples and the early Christian missionaries. In spite of this important thematic emphasis, Luke still affirms a future eschatological aspect to the coming of the Kingdom.

Luke 22:16ff

In order to understand this eschatological orientation of the Kingdom theme, it is necessary to realize that, for early Christians, the period of end-time events begins with the suffering and death of Jesus. The Messianic Age was not inaugurated with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (see above), but it would be with Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are definite eschatological allusions throughout the Gospel Passion narratives, quite apart from the obvious literary context of the Eschatological Discourse (immediately preceding, as it does, the Synoptic Passion narrative).

The Kingdom-theme is strongly present in the Passion narrative, as was previously discussed (in the Holy Week notes related to the Triumphal entry scene). A vital emphasis in the narrative is on Jesus’ identity as the royal/Davidic Messiah who must first suffer and die. Luke brings out this Kingdom-theme more than the other Synoptic authors. The Gospel writer does this, in part, by the added Kingdom-references in the Last Supper scene.

In the core Synoptic tradition, after Jesus’ consecration of the cup of wine (Mk 14:23-24), in which he identifies the wine as symbolizing his blood (that is, his death), he adds the following statement:

“Amen, I say to you, that no longer, not (at all) shall I drink out of the produce of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (v. 25)

Once again, the Lukan author reproduces the tradition, but with slight modification; he also includes a second reference by Jesus to the Kingdom, parallel to the first:

“…(I have very much) set (my heart) upon eating this Pesah [i.e. Passover] with you, before my suffering; for I say to you, that not (again) shall I eat it until that time when it should be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. (22:15-16)
(regarding the wine):
“…I shall not (again) drink from the produce of the vine from now (on), until the (time) when the kingdom of God should come.” (v. 18)

In Luke’s version, this statement regarding the wine precedes the symbolic consecration of the bread and cup (vv. 19-20 [though 19b-20 are omitted by some Western textual witnesses, cf. my earlier note]). For the purposes of this study, the most important aspect of this expanded Kingdom-reference is the way that the author ties Jesus’ eating/drinking in the Kingdom of God with the eschatological coming of the Kingdom. This brings together the two themes from 19:11ff and 21:31 (discussed above): (i) Jesus’ receiving the Kingdom upon his death and resurrection, and (ii) the future coming of the Kingdom.

Luke further expands this Kingdom-theme within the Last Supper scene by including a short block of sayings/teachings by Jesus (vv. 24-30), comprised of two traditions that are (effectively) located elsewhere in the other Gospels. The second of these (vv. 28-30) resembles Matthew 19:28, and there is disagreement among commentators as to whether these represent two versions of a single (“Q”) tradition. In any case, Jesus here promises his disciples (the Twelve) that, having remained faithful to him throughout the time of distress (“testing”), they will receive a ruling place alongside Jesus himself in the Kingdom: “and I will set through to you, even as my Father set through to me, a kingdom” (v. 29). They will eat alongside Jesus at the Father’s table in the Kingdom (v. 30a), and will sit on thrones, ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel (v. 30b). The importance of this twelve-symbolism for Luke will be discussed in the next study.

The coming of the Kingdom is thus eschatological, but it is also tied to the Kingship of Jesus—viz., the Kingdom which he receives (alongside God the Father) upon his resurrection and exaltation (to heaven).

Luke 23:42

This same emphasis is found in 23:42, a tradition found only in the Gospel of Luke—namely, the dying request of the ‘repentant thief’ on the cross:

“Yeshua, remember me when you should come into [ei)$] your kingdom.”

The implication is that Jesus will receive his kingdom after his death, when he enters it (cp. 24:26). On this idiom of “entering” the Kingdom of God, see the previous study.

It should be pointed out that the text cited above is the reading of MSS Ë75 (the oldest relevant Papyrus), B, L, and the Latin versions. But the reading of the majority of Greek manuscripts (a, A, C2, R, W, Y, 0124, 0135, family 1 & 13 mss, and the later Koine/Byzantine text tradition) has the preposition e)n (“in”), rather than ei)$ (“into”).  The reading with e)n could be taken as a reference to Jesus’ future coming, i.e., “in/with” his kingdom (cf. the context of 21:31, above).  If the majority text is correct, then Jesus’ response to the thief may represent another Lukan ‘redirection’ of a popular Messianic expectation. That is to say, the thief asks Jesus to remember him when he comes to set up his kingdom, but Jesus responds that the thief will be with him in paradise today.

In next week’s study, we shall look at how the Lukan Gospel writer further develops this Kingdom-theme in the early chapters of the book of Acts.

 

 

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Luke 13:24ff; 16:16)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

In examining the literary context of the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer (with its Kingdom-petition, 11:2), it is necessary to look at the specific idiom of entering the Kingdom. We may regard this language (using the verb ei)se/rxomai, “come into”) as traditional, even though its occurrence is relatively rare in the New Testament, and limited almost entirely to sayings by Jesus in the Gospels (Mk 9:47; 10:15, 23-25 pars; Matt 5:20; 7:21; 23:13 par; John 3:5). The concept of entering the kingdom (of God) is clearly related to, and largely synonymous with, that of entering into life (i.e., eternal life)—Mk 9:43, 45 (cp. v. 47); Matt 7:14 (cf. v. 21); Matt 19:17 (vv. 23-24); cf. also John 10:9.

There are four passages in the Gospel of Luke where this idiom occurs in Jesus’ teaching, and all four are located in the Journey period (9:51-18:31)—13:24-30; 16:16f; 18:16-17, and 18:24-25ff. The last two are part of the Synoptic Tradition (Mk 10:14-15, 23-25ff), and appear to be closely connected; in any case, the Synoptic (Markan) narrative has them follow in sequence. They function as teaching on the nature of discipleship, and provide two different lessons on what is required in following Jesus.

The Lukan presentation of this Synoptic material (18:16-17, 24-25ff) differs little from the Markan. The context makes clear that “entering the Kingdom of God” is defined in terms of following Jesus (i.e., being his disciple). This is particularly apparent from the juxtaposition between the question by the ‘ruler’ (Mk 10:17 / par Lk 18:18) and Jesus’ answer (“come, join with me on the path [i.e. follow me]”, Mk 10:21 / par Lk 18:22), along with the subsequent instruction to his disciples (Mk 10:23-25ff / par Lk 18:24-25ff). What Jesus particularly emphasizes is the cost of following him (cf. the sayings in Lk 9:58-62 par, at the beginning of the Journey narrative). This is very much in keeping with the Lukan thematic focus on discipleship (and the mission of the disciples).

A rather different lesson is taught in Mk 10:14-15 / par Lk 18:16-17. Only the person who receives the Kingdom, in the manner that a little child does, will be able to enter it:

“who ever would not receive [de/chtai] the kingdom of God as a little child, shall (surely) not come into it.” (Lk 18:17)

The idea of receiving (vb de/xomai) the Kingdom implies that the Kingdom is something that comes, or is currently present. Given the context of Jesus’ illustration (vv. 15-16), it is quite clear that the Kingdom is being identified implicitly with the personal presence of Jesus himself. The little children are responding to Jesus, with simple trust and acceptance, and thus are ‘receiving’ him. The true disciple will respond to Jesus in a similar way.

The introduction to the tradition (v. 15 par) presents this dynamic also in a slightly different way—with the image of the children coming (i.e., being brought) to Jesus. This emphasizes the active component of entering (coming into) the Kingdom. These two sides of the equation—the Kingdom coming in the person of Jesus, and of people coming to Jesus (and thus [in]to the Kingdom)—effectively summarize the dynamic of the early Christian mission, only with the disciples (believers) functioning as representatives of Jesus himself.

Luke 13:24-30

This apostolic mission is also prefigured by the Kingdom-parable in 13:24-30, part of a short sequence of parables (vv. 18-21ff). The particular narrative unit in vv. 22-30 is only found in Luke, though parts of it resemble other sayings/teachings of Jesus. The parable itself is prefaced by a narrative introduction (v. 22), followed by a question posed to Jesus (v. 23): “(is it that) only a few are being saved?”. Jesus’ initial response resembles the saying in Matt 7:13-14:

“You must struggle [vb a)gwni/zomai] to come in [ei)selqei=n] through the narrow gate, (in) that (there are) many, I say to you, (who) will seek to come in, and will not have the strength [i.e. be able] (to do so).” (v. 24)

The “narrow gate” represents the entrance to the Kingdom, which also connotes finding salvation (v. 23). In the early Christian (and Lukan) context, these concepts are defined in terms of responding to the Gospel and trusting in Jesus. The parable that follows implies that the window for responding will only be open for a limited time; at some point, it will be shut—i.e., the gate/door will be shut. There are some even who claim to be Jesus’ followers, and may have appeared to be his disciples, but who never actually entered the “narrow door” to the Kingdom—that is, never truly trusted in Jesus, nor were willing to take on the cost of following him. This part of the parable (vv. 25-28) also has parallels in the Matthean ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (7:21-23), and in the later parable of 25:10-12.

The universal, worldwide aspect of the early Christian mission—so vital a theme to the narrative of Luke-Acts as a whole—is alluded to in verse 29. People from different regions and nations, extending from the east to the west, all will come into the Kingdom of God, residing and feasting there at the King’s table.

Luke 16:16

The final Kingdom reference to be examined, and certainly the most difficult, is the saying by Jesus in Luke 16:16—a “Q” tradition which has a corresponding Matthean version (11:12-13). The two versions clearly derive from a single underlying tradition, but they differ in several important respects. Most notably, each version contains the verb bia/zw (“[use] force”), but the way it is used would seem to differ considerably. In Matthew, the emphasis is on the violence and persecution which the Kingdom of God experiences—beginning with John the Baptist and continuing through the early Christian missionaries (cf. the context of chapter 10). Here is how the Matthean version reads:

“from the days of Yohanan the Dunker until now, the kingdom of God is treated with force [bia/zetai], and forceful [biastai/] (men) seize it. For all the Foretellers and the Law foretold until Yohanan…” (vv. 12-13)

The Lukan version (16:16) has the same middle/passive verb form (bia/zetai). In Matthew, it is clearly passive (“is forced, treated with force”), with the Kingdom of God as the subject. In Luke, by contrast, the Kingdom of God is the prepositional object (viz., that into which people enter), and the singular/collective adjective pa=$ (“every[one]”) is the subject—viz., every one who enters the Kingdom. In this regard, it makes most sense to read the verb in the middle voice (though a passive reading is still possible):

“The Law and the Foretellers (were) until Yohanan; from then (on), (the) good message (of) the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and every(one) forces (himself) [bia/zetai] into it.” (v. 16)

The phrase “the good message…is proclaimed” translates the verb eu)aggeli/zw, which Luke prefers to the construction khru/ssw (“proclaim”) + the noun eu)agge/lion (“good message”). The way the Lukan version is framed, the focus is on the period of the proclamation of the Gospel (after John the Baptist), and refers to people making their way into the Kingdom—which, in the Lukan context, can only mean trusting in Jesus and becoming his disciple. In this regard, the middle voice of bia/zw (“[use] force”) is best understood in relation to 13:24 (see above, par Matt 7:13-14), and the idea that the disciple must struggle to enter through the “narrow gate” of the Kingdom.

It is, however, possible to read the Lukan version with bia/zetai as a passive form, though a literal rendering of this (“everyone is forced into it”) could be very misleading. The meaning has been explained as “every one is pressed [i.e. urged to come] into it”, viz., by the proclamation of the Gospel. However, a better expository rendering of the passive verb might be: “everyone experiences force/pressure (as they come) into it”. This would be in line with the statement by Paul in Acts 14:22:

“it is necessary for us to come into [ei)selqei=n] the kingdom of God through (experience)s of distress”

Thematically, this statement reflects the Lukan emphasis on discipleship (and the mission of disciples), in at least three respects: (i) the focus on trusting in Jesus, and remaining faithful to him (v. 22a); (ii) the cost of being a disciple, which involves self-sacrifice, hardship, and suffering; and (iii) the real possibility of experiencing violence and persecution, particularly in connection with the Christian mission. The noun translated (in the plural) as “(experience)s of distress” is qli/yi$, which was commonly used by early Christians as an eschatological term, viz., for the end-time period of distress (cf. Daniel 12:1 LXX; Mark 13:19, 24 par, etc). As we have seen, there is a strong eschatological component to the Lukan presentation of the Kingdom-theme.

 

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Luke 17:20-21)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

In the previous studies, we have been looking at the Kingdom-petition of the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer, within the literary context of the Gospel of Luke (and Luke-Acts) as a whole. As I have noted, the Gospel writer has used Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem (cf. Mark 10 par) as the setting for a wide range of teaching by Jesus. In the framework of the Lukan narrative, the Journey becomes a period during which Jesus gives extensive instruction to his disciples, preparing them for what is to come. The Kingdom of God, as a subject, features prominently at a number of points in this narrative. In teaching his disciples about the Kingdom, Jesus’ instruction anticipates the early Christian mission, the template for which is provided by the author in the mission of the seventy(-two) disciples (10:1-12ff), occurring at the beginning of the Journey narrative.

Throughout these studies, we have noted the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom-concept in Jesus’ teaching (and in the Gospel Tradition). In this regard, the saying by Jesus in 17:20-21 is particularly significant, as it introduces a block of eschatological teaching (vv. 22-37), located (within the Journey narrative) near the end of the journey, as Jesus and his disciples draw near to Jerusalem. The tradition in vv. 20-21 deals squarely with the Kingdom, and the idea of its coming. Thus, it would seem to be of considerable importance for an understanding of the coming of the Kingdom, and should elucidate, in particular, the Lukan view of the subject.

However, the saying is best by a number of interpretive difficulties, especially with regard to the precise meaning of the Greek wording in v. 21.

Luke 17:20-21

To begin with, it should be noted that, as Luke sets the tradition, Jesus’ Kingdom-saying is addressed, not to his disciples, but to a question posed by certain Pharisees. Throughout the Gospel Tradition, the Pharisees feature as regular opponents of Jesus, who engage in disputes, often with a hostile or adversarial tone. Thus, verse 20b-21 (and the eschatological teaching that follows) is framed in the manner of many conflict/controversy episodes that occur elsewhere in the Gospels.

“When does the kingdom of God come?”

It is in response to this question from the Pharisees, asking when the kingdom of God would come (v. 20a), that Jesus responds. His response begins:

ou)k e&rxetai h( basilei/a tou= qeou= meta\ parathrh/sew$
“The kingdom of God does not come with close watching [lit. watching alongside]” (v. 20b)

The verb parathre/w means “watch along(side)”, in the sense of watching closely, observing carefully. The noun parath/rhsi$, which occurs only here in the New Testament (and LXX), denotes the act of watching along closely. The whole assumption underlying the Pharisees’ question is that there may be certain visible indicators, or signs, that the Kingdom of God has come, or is in the process of coming, about to come, etc. Thus, by watching for them closely, attentive people should be able to detect when the Kingdom arrives.

Jesus, however, declares that the Kingdom does not come in such an observable way. The phrasing used in v. 20b is interesting: does it mean “the kingdom does not come as the result of close watching” or “the kingdom does not come so as to be perceived through close watching”? The latter sense is probably to be preferred, as the point seems to be that the Kingdom cannot be perceived visibly (by means of the senses); however, I think the verb also indicates the effort of watching closely which does not help one see (much less bring about) the Kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3).

It is interesting that Jesus’ declaration in v. 20b, in the primary sense that the Kingdom of God cannot be perceived visually (with the senses), seems to contradict earlier statements regarding the Kingdom (9:27; 10:9, 11; 11:20).

Jesus continues, expanding upon his main point:

ou)de\ e)rou=sin: i)dou\ w!de h& e)kei=
“and they shall not say ‘See here!’ or ‘[See] there!'” (v. 21a).

The same language (“See here, see there”) also occurs at v. 23 (with similar sayings in Mark 13:21; Matthew 24:23). In Matthew and Mark, the reference is specifically to people saying “Here/there is the Messiah!”, whereas in Luke both references are unspecified: the first refers to the kingdom of God, the second presumably is to the Son of Man (or the “day” of the Son of Man). In all instances, we are dealing with people claiming that the Messiah (or the Kingdom of God / Son of Man) is to be found in a specific location or with a specific person. Regarding those who make such claims, Jesus warns “do not go from (where you are) and do not pursue (after them)” (Luke 17:23).

In verse 20b-21a, Jesus gives us idea what the Kingdom is not; in the concluding phrase (v. 21b), he finally touches upon what the Kingdom is (e)stin):

ga\r h( basilei/a tou= qeou= e)nto\$ u(mw=n e)stin
“for the kingdom of God is e)nto/$ you (pl.)”

This seems to be a clear predicative statement, and yet it contains a fundamental interpretive difficulty, a longstanding subject of debate among commentators—namely, how to understand the rather rare particle e)nto/$, which I have temporarily left untranslated above.

The word e)nto/$ is an adverb, used as a preposition, and related to e)n (“in”). It would normally be translated “within, inside”. Where this word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 23:26) or in the LXX (Psalm 39:4[3]; 103:1; 109:22; Isa 16:11), it is used rather concretely—the OT passages all refer to the heart or organs within/inside a person. It can also be used in a more general sense (spatially or temporally), “within the limits of” or “within reach of”. However, in nearly every instance a singular object is involved. Its use with a plural object (“you” [pl.], u(mw=n), referring to a group of people, is both rare and peculiar.

It is worth summarizing several lines of interpretation, which have been suggested by commentators over the years:

1. Mystical-spiritual: This involves a literal translation, i.e., the kingdom of God is within the heart/soul of believers, on the spiritual (or psychological) level. This certainly would make a suitable contrast to a visible/sensual coming of the kingdom. However, it is difficult to find many other passages in the Synoptic Gospels (Luke, in particular), where Jesus refers to the kingdom of God in this manner; but it may still be consonant with Jesus’ teaching (see references in John [3:3, 5; 18:36], and note the variant reading in the Lord’s Prayer [Luke 11:2], mentioned previously in these notes, which connects the coming of the kingdom with the coming of the Spirit). A number of early translators (Old Latin, Vulgate, Peshitta) seem to have understood the verse this way, as did Church Fathers such as Origen and Gregory of Nyssa (but no doubt influenced by their own orthodox ‘gnostic’ approach). The real difficulty with this interpretation is grammatical—the plural personal object (u(mw=n).

2. Communal-collective: In light of the plural pronoun, one might better understand e)nto/$ as “among, within the limits/confines of”. Normally, this would be expressed more simply with the preposition e)n, which, when  the object involves a group of people, often means “among”, or the expression e)n me/sw| (“in the midst of”); thus, the use of e)nto/$ to express this would be a bit strange. But if “among” is the correct sense, there are still several possibilities, one of which is that the kingdom refers to believers in the midst of the people at large.

3. Hidden kingdom: The meaning could still be “among” or “in the midst of”, but with an emphasis on the invisible presence of the Kingdom—i.e., that God is working (in the person of Jesus, or by the Holy Spirit) in the midst of the people, but without it being readily apparent to the senses.

4. Kingdom “at hand”: This interpretation understands e)nto/$ as “within reach, close”. This would fit the early Gospel message that the kingdom of God “has come near” (h&ggiken) (Mark 1:15 par., and esp. Luke 21:31). Or, perhaps it should be understood in a temporal sense: the kingdom of God will soon/suddenly appear.

All of these interpretations have merit, but I think that (3) probably comes closest to what Luke (and Jesus himself) originally intended. The Kingdom of God is present in the person of Jesus—and the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) that works through him (11:20; par Matt 12:28). This spiritual manifestation of the Kingdom continues, through the inspired work of the disciples, acting in extension of Jesus’ own ministry, and in the early Christian mission (narrated throughout the book of Acts). We shall explore this (Lukan) understanding of the Kingdom further in upcoming studies.

There are several other parallel versions of this saying, which may (or may not) be derived from Luke 17:21:

    • (Coptic) Gospel of Thomas §3: Jesus said, “If those who lead you say, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” (translation Thomas O. Lambdin)
    • Gospel of Thomas §113 (Coptic): His disciples said to Him, “When will the Kingdom come?” <Jesus said,> “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is.’ Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.” (Lambdin)
    • Gospel of Thomas (Greek):  Jesus said, “If those who attract you say, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is under the earth,’ then the fish of the sea will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. [Those who] become acquainted with [themselves] will find it; [and when you] become acquainted with yourselves, [you will understand that] it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.”
      (Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 654.9-16, translation Grenfell-Hunt)

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Lk 12:31-32; 13:18ff))

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

In the previous studies, we began examining the Kingdom-petition, in the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer, in its literary context. The Lord’s Prayer itself is part of a block of teaching by Jesus on the subject of prayer (11:1-13), set in the early stages of the period of the Journey to Jerusalem. During this long Journey account, as the Lukan author presents it (9:51-18:31), Jesus gives extensive instruction to his disciples, preparing them for what will come in Jerusalem.

In the literary context of Luke-Acts, this teaching also anticipates the early Christian mission, and implicitly prepares the disciples for the coming mission-work. The Lukan account of the mission of the seventy(-two) disciples, in 10:1-12ff, serves as a type-pattern for the early Christian mission (narrated in the book of Acts), and effectively frames the Journey narrative. The Kingdom-references in 9:60, 62 are part of this framing emphasis on discipleship, focusing on what is involved in being a disciple of Jesus.

If the disciples’ mission is centered upon proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God (9:2, 11, 60; 10:9, 11), then it is natural that Jesus would teach them about the Kingdom. And, indeed, there are several blocks of teaching in the Lukan Journey narrative in which the idea of the Kingdom plays a prominent role. The prayer-section (in 11:1-13) is one such block of teaching, largely due to the prominence of the Kingdom-petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Another section is 12:13-34, which deals primarily with the theme of how one should respond to earthly needs and goods. This section may be divided into several tradition-units, which could represent sayings/teachings by Jesus given on different occasions:

    • Vv. 13-15—An encounter-episode, warning against pleoneci/a, i.e., the desire to always have/hold more (things).
    • Vv. 16-21—The parable of the ‘Rich Fool’, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the things of God, rather than on earthly goods and riches (v. 21).
    • Vv. 22-31f—The folly in being preoccupied with, and worrying about, earthly needs and goods.
    • Vv. 33-34—Illustrative instruction, contrasting earthly and heavenly treasure.

The Kingdom-reference in verse 31 has something of a climactic position in this block of teaching, effectively summarizing the message of Jesus’ teaching, and serving as the principal exhortation and example for his disciples to follow. Verses 22-31 are part of the “Q” material, shared by the Gospel of Matthew, where it is included as part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (6:25-33). The Kingdom-saying (v. 33) similarly concludes this “Q” unit in Matthew. The Lukan version of this saying, more than the Matthean, provides an integral (and syntactical) contrast with the previous statement, in which Jesus describes how most people (“all the nations of the world”) think and act:

“For these (thing)s (are what) all the nations of the world seek after, but your Father has (already) seen that you have need of these (thing)s.” (v. 30)

The demonstrative plural pronoun tau=ta (“these [thing]s”) frames the sentence, giving it a double-emphasis. The pronoun refers to what Jesus has been discussing in vv. 22-29, how his disciples should not be worried or preoccupied about meeting the needs of daily life—food, clothing, etc—things which also embody the earthly goods that most people are eager to accumulate. The disciples are not to seek after such things, even insofar as they represent genuine earthly needs, since God (their Father) already knows (“has seen”) what they need, and they may trust that He will provide it for them. The climactic saying in verse 31 builds upon this teaching:

“(But) more than (this), you must seek His kingdom, and (then) these (thing)s will be set toward you.”

Again, the demonstrative pronoun tau=ta (“these [thing]s”) refers to the earthly/material goods necessary for daily life. These things will be “set toward” (vb prosti/qhmi) the disciples, if they seek God’s Kingdom. Some manuscripts read “the kingdom of God [th\n basilei/an tou= qeou=]” rather than “His kingdom [th\n basilei/an au)tou=]”, but the latter is more likely to be original in Luke’s version; it also effectively connects with the reference to God as the disciples’ Father in v. 30His kingdom, i.e., your Father’s kingdom. The conjunction plh/n is both emphatic and contrastive, meaning something like “(but) more than (this)…”, emphasizing the need for the disciples actively and intentionally to seek God’s Kingdom.

Jesus here does not indicate what God’s Kingdom is (i.e., what it consists of or involves), only what it is not. It is not made up of material goods or earthly things, nor is it centered upon acquiring such things, even when they may be necessary for sustaining and protecting life.

Following verse 31, the Lukan author includes an additional Kingdom-saying that is not part of the “Q” block (at least as it is found in Matthew):

“(So) do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father thinks (it) good to give to you the Kingdom!” (v. 32)

In addition to being given the necessities of daily life, if Jesus’ disciples seek the Father’s Kingdom, He will give them the Kingdom as well! This idea is related to the traditional motif of the righteous (or believers) inheriting the Kingdom (Matt 25:34; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal 5:21). There may also be present here the connotation of Jesus’ disciples being entrusted with the Kingdom, which could relate, not simply to future/eternal blessing for believers, but also to the Christian mission itself—viz., establishing and extending the Kingdom on earth through the proclamation of the Gospel. The Kingdom, in this regard, has been given to believers, who thus play a pivotal role in its coming.

If 12:31f emphasizes what the Kingdom is not, the parables in 13:18-19 and 20-21 give us some idea about what the Kingdom is. These two parables are also part of the “Q” tradition, being found also in Matthew (13:31-33). The Matthean Gospel sets them in the same literary context (chap. 13) as the Synoptic/Markan Kingdom-parables (Mk 4:1-34); Luke also includes some of this Markan material (8:4-15). In the case of the mustard-seed parable, it would seem that it was preserved in both the Synoptic/Markan (Mk 4:30-32) and “Q” lines of tradition. The same parable is also found in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (§20).

The emphasis in both of these Kingdom-parables is on the growth and spread of the Kingdom. There is a slow, but natural process to this growth, and ultimately the spread is extensive and pervasive. In the first parable (vv. 18-19), “a man” sows a tiny mustard-seed into his garden. Based upon the parallel of the Sower-parable in Mark 4:3-9ff (par Lk 8:4-8ff), the “seed” may be interpreted as the word of God, understood in terms of the Gospel, while “the man” who sows it is the person proclaiming the Gospel—whether Jesus or (by extension) his disciples. Based on the literary context of 10:1-12ff, the Lukan author surely would have had the mission of the disciples (i.e., the early Christian mission) in mind. Over time, and as a result of its natural growth, the seed grows into a great tree with many inhabitants, much like the spread of early Christianity throughout the Greco-Roman world.

The second parable (of the leaven, vv. 20-21) makes a similar point, emphasizing how the proclamation of the Gospel does its work even when “mixed together” with other ingredients (flour, etc). In this sense, the growth and spread of the Kingdom occurs in a quiet, ‘hidden’ sort of way, which often cannot be perceived until the leavening/fermenting has taken place. Here, the effect of the Kingdom (and the early Christian mission) on society is being illustrated, something which the Lukan author also narrates, as part of his account, in the book of Acts. For another version of the leaven parable, cf. the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (§96).

The missionary figure in the first parable was “a man”, while in the second parable it was “a woman”. I do not think that this distinction is entirely coincidental. It seems likely that the Lukan author would have intended, in a subtle but significant way, to emphasize the role of female disciples of Jesus, and their work in the early Christian mission. Apart from the notice in 8:1-3 (note the context of the Kingdom-parable in 8:4-9ff), the author gives emblematic prominence to the figure of Mary (1:38ff; 2:19, 51; Acts 1:14), and clearly highlights, however quietly, in the Acts narratives the significant role women play (1:14; 2:17; 9:36ff; 16:13-15; 18:18, 26; 21:9).

Following these two parables, the author presents another short block of teaching by Jesus (vv. 22-30), framed as a distinct narrative episode during the Journey, and governed by the “narrow door” teaching in vv. 24ff. It contains two Kingdom-references (vv. 28-29), which clearly allude, within the Lukan context, to the early Christian mission throughout the Greco-Roman world. People will come from east and west, north and south, enter the Kingdom of God, joining in the feast held at God’s table (v. 29).

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Lk 11:2, cont.)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou
(Luke 11:2)

In the previous study, we began exploring the literary context of the Lukan version of the Lord’s Prayer (and its Kingdom-petition). An important aspect of the Lukan handling of the Kingdom-theme is the way that the Gospel writer shifts the emphasis from Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom to the proclamation by the disciples. As we saw, the two mission-episodes (9:1-6; 10:1-12ff) play a central role in the framework of the Lukan narrative. The first of these episodes, which is part of the Synoptic tradition (Mk 6:7-13 par), comes toward the end of the Galilean period, while the second (the mission of the seventy[-two]), which is unique to Luke, occurs at the beginning of the Journey to Jerusalem.

The mission of the seventy(-two) disciples, sent out by Jesus as a continuation of his own mission, serves to frame the entire Journey narrative. The journey to Jerusalem has an important place in the Synoptic narrative; however, its role is transitional, serving primarily to join the Galilean and Jerusalem sections of the narrative. In Mark, the journey is essentially limited to chapter 10. However, by contrast, in Luke’s Gospel, the Journey covers more than nine full chapters (9:51-18:31), thus forming a major division of the narrative in its own right. For the Lukan author, the Journey becomes the setting for a wide range of traditional material—sayings, teachings, and parables of Jesus—some of which occur in an entirely different location in the Synoptic/Markan narrative (or in Matthew). The arrangement of the material is primarily literary, rather than historical and chronological.

Given the emphasis on the disciples’ proclamation of the Kingdom, it is only natural that Jesus would take time to teach his disciples about the Kingdom. And, indeed, there are a number of Kingdom-teachings that can be found throughout the Journey narrative, as Jesus prepares his disciples for what will take place in Jerusalem. This teaching, in light of the framing episode of the disciples’ mission (10:1-12ff), also anticipates the early Christian mission narrated in the book of Acts. As we shall see, the Lukan author interprets the coming of the Kingdom largely in terms of the proclamation of the Gospel.

The Lord’s Prayer (11:2-4) represents the first Kingdom-teaching of the Journey narrative, following closely as it does after the mission episode (10:1-20). It is part of a block of teaching (11:1-13) by Jesus regarding prayer. I have discussed this section previously in the Monday Notes on Prayer feature, and will not repeat that exegesis here. The Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer is also part of a section on prayer (6:5-15), but in a very different location and narrative context.

It is worth considering the components of the Lukan block, isolating the elements and individual traditions according to the following outline:

    • Narrative Introduction, with a request by the disciples (v. 1)
    • The Lord’s Prayer (vv. 2-4)
    • A Parable illustrating the need for boldness in prayer (vv. 5-8)
    • Two additional sayings on prayer [Q material] (vv. 9-13):

The two sayings in vv. 9-13 follow the same order in Matthew (7:7-11), indicating that they were joined together at an early point in the tradition, perhaps having been originally spoken together (at the same time) by Jesus himself. The differences between the Matthean and Lukan versions of these sayings are relatively minor, except for the Lukan reference to the Holy Spirit (v. 13), the significance of which will be addressed below.

As for the Lord’s Prayer itself, the Lukan version (vv. 2-4) is noticeably shorter than the Matthean version (6:9-13), as also the version in the Didache (8:2), which is likely dependent on Matthew. The Lukan version has five petitions (governed by verbal imperatives), while the Matthew/Didache version has seven. Luke’s version also has a shorter invocation—simply “Father!” (vocative Pa/ter). As the phrase o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$ (“[who is] in the heavens”) is distinctive to the Gospel of Matthew, it is assumed by many commentators that the phrase here in the Prayer is a Matthean addition, and that Luke has the more original form.

The genitive pronoun h(mw=n (“our”) is far more likely to be original, since addressing God as “our Father” appears to have been common among Jews at the time—a usage that was continued by early Christians. It is found in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters, but as a fixed formula that would scarcely have been original to Paul (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 2 Thess 1:1-2; 2:16; Philem 3; also Eph 1:2). Even so, if the modifying pronoun was originally part of the invocation in the Prayer, it is not at all clear why Luke would have omitted it (especially considering the wording present in verse 13).

The reference to God as Father has an added significance within the Lukan context of the Prayer. Indeed, the theme of God as Father is central to second “Q” saying (vv. 11-13 par), which here concludes the block of Jesus’ teaching on Prayer. The illustration involves a human father’s relationship to his child, and how a loving father will give “good gifts” to his child when the child asks for them. Jesus’ application of this illustration involves the rhetorical qal wahomer (“light and heavy”) principle—viz., what applies in a lesser case should apply all the more in a greater case. What is true (in a positive sense) of a human father will certainly be true in the case of God as our Father. The Matthean version of the saying (7:11), which is no doubt closer to the original, brings out the parallel:

“If, then, you, being evil, have seen [i.e. known] (enough) to give good gifts to your offspring [i.e. children], how much more will the Father in the heavens give good (thing)s to the (one)s asking Him!”

The “good (thing)s” (a)gaqa/) would correspond to the third petition in the Lukan Lord’s Prayer (v. 3), and to the last three petitions (vv. 3-4) generally. Interestingly, Luke has apparently modified Jesus’ saying, so that it provides, instead, a climactic reference to the Holy Spirit:

“…how much more will the Father out of heaven give the holy Spirit to the (one)s asking Him!” (v. 13)

Otherwise, Luke’s version of the saying is close to the Matthean; the latter may have adapted “out of heaven” ([o(] e)c ou)ranou=) to the more distinctively Matthean “in the heavens” (o( e)n toi=$ ou)ranoi=$). It is not entirely clear whether the phrase e)c ou)ranou= (“out of heaven”), as Luke presents it in context, refers to the location from which God responds, or whether it means specifically that God will send the Spirit “from heaven”. The latter interpretation would anticipate the sending of the Spirit in Luke-Acts (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2:2ff).

This reference to the Spirit has profound implications for the Lukan understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Kingdom-petition in particular. In light of the way that the motif of God as Father frames the pericope, it is likely that the climactic reference to the Spirit functions in a similar manner. If there is a parallel, it is to be found in the first two petitions of the Prayer:

    • “May your name be made holy”
      a(giasqh/tw to\ o)noma/ sou
    • “May your Kingdom come”
      e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

The formal pattern of these two petitions indicates how close in thought and conception they are: i.e., the coming of His Kingdom is parallel to the making holy of His name. In Old Testament and Israelite religious tradition, the name of God represents God Himself—His manifest presence, character, power, and authority. A particular application of the name—for example, as it is called upon the people of Israel, or the Temple in Jerusalem—implies that the person (or thing) over whom God’s name is called belongs to Him. There is thus a conceptual relationship between God’s name and His kingdom—His name represents His dominion, all that belongs to Him, and which is under His authority.

There is a similar parallel between God’s name being made holy (vb a(gia/zw) and His kingdom coming (vb e&rxomai). The establishment of God’s kingdom (on earth) means that His dominion will be made complete and will be treated (by human beings on earth) with the honor and sanctity that it deserves.

The leading motif of “making holy” (in the first petition) guides the thought of the entire Prayer. Consider how the five petitions may be structured and outlined:

    • Petitions 1 and 2, regarding God and His Kingdom
      • Petition 3, regarding the earthly needs of human beings
    • Petitions 4 and 5, regarding the deliverance of human beings from the dominion of sin and evil

From an eschatological standpoint, the coming of God’s Kingdom marks the end of the wicked/evil kingdom(s) which dominate the current Age. The deliverance of human beings (spec. the righteous) is a natural consequence of the coming of God’s Kingdom upon earth at the end-time.

While Luke certainly preserves the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom theme, he expands the interpretation of it, particularly in light of the early Christian mission (see the discussion above). Here, the idea of the coming of the Kingdom blends with the theme of the coming of the Spirit. Given the climactic position of the Spirit-reference in verse 13, and the intentional Lukan adaptation of the underlying tradition, there can be little real doubt that the Gospel writer is implicitly interpreting the Kingdom petition in light of the coming of the Spirit.

We will be discussing this interpretive development in greater detail as we proceed; however, it is worth noting here a provocative variant reading of the Kingdom-petition in verse 2. In at least one minuscule manuscript (700), instead of e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou (“May your kingdom come”), the text reads:

e)lqe/tw to\ pneu=ma sou to\ a%gion e)f’ h(ma=$ kai\ kaqarisa/tw h(ma=$
“May your holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us”

The reading in manuscript 162 is similar; and a comparable reading is known to have been extant in Greek manuscripts in the 4th-5th centuries, as attested from quotations by Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus Confessor. Even earlier, Tertullian conceivably could be alluding to a Spirit-petition present in texts of Lk 11:2 (cf. Against Marcion IV.26), though this is not certain. It has been explained as a gloss, perhaps deriving from liturgical tradition, that inadvertently crept into the text. Cf. UBS/Metzger, p. 130f, who cites a similar prayer-petition from the Greek Acts of Thomas §27.

Whatever the origin of this variant reading, I would maintain that, at least in terms of the implicit identification of God’s Kingdom with the Holy Spirit, it corresponds with the Lukan interpretation. To be more precise, from a Lukan theological standpoint, there are two main components of the Kingdom as it begins to be established through the early Christian mission: (1) the proclamation of the Gospel, and (2) the coming of the Spirit. This understanding of the Kingdom is established at the beginning of the book of Acts (1:3-5, 6-8), and then is expounded throughout the remaining narrative.

References above marked “UBS/Metzer” are to Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition, a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament [4th revised edition] (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft / United Bible Societies, 1994).

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Luke 11:2)

“May your Kingdom come!”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

In these studies on the Kingdom-petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we have been exploring the place of this Kingdom-theme within the Synoptic Tradition. In particular, our recent studies (during Holy Week) examined this theme in light of the Triumphal Entry scene (Mark 11:1-10 par)—which marks the beginning of the Jerusalem period of Jesus’ ministry, in the Synoptic narrative—and the identification of Jesus as the Davidic/royal Messiah. In these chapters (Mk 11-13 par) covering the Jerusalem period, culminating with the Passion narrative (chaps. 14-15 par), the Kingdom-theme is developed in a number of important ways, as we saw. The results of that analysis will be utilized in the studies that follow, helping to guide and inform our approach, and to aid the resultant exegesis.

Now, however, we will be taking a new course, as we examine the Kingdom-petition in the context of each Gospel’s version of the Lord’s Prayer—both the Matthean (6:9-13) and the Lukan (11:2-4). In each Gospel, the Prayer occurs at a different location and context within narrative. Some traditional-conservative commentators might be inclined to take the view that Jesus gave roughly the same Prayer (and prayer-instruction) on different occasions; however, most commentators would hold that the two versions of the Prayer represent alternate versions of the same tradition. This means, certainly, the same historical tradition; yet, it can also indicate the same literary source—that is, the so-called “Q” material, shared by Matthew and Luke, and which is customarily thought of as comprising a single written document.

Whatever its source, the Lukan version of Prayer, being noticeably simpler and shorter, is often regarded as being closer to the original—that is, both the original “Q” tradition, and to the Prayer as it was originally spoken and taught (presumably in Aramaic) by Jesus himself. For this reason, among others, we begin with the Lukan version of the Prayer, and its Kingdom-petition (11:2).

Before looking at the immediate context of the Prayer, it is worth considering the structure and scope of the Lukan narrative, in relation to the core Synoptic narrative, and how this affects Luke’s treatment of the Kingdom-theme.

As I have discussed, the Synoptic narrative is rather clearly divided into two parts: (1) the period of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and (2) his time in Jerusalem. In Mark, this two-part division is reflected in the Gospel’s basic structure: (1) the Galilean period (chapters 1-9), and (2) the Jerusalem period (chapters 10-16). Peter’s confession (of Jesus as the Messiah, 8:29-30) and the Transfiguration scene (9:2-8) mark the climax of the Galilean period. In this first period, Jesus is presented primarily as a Messianic Prophet, according to the pattern of Elijah and Moses (cf. the Transfiguration scene), and also the Isaian herald (of 42:1ff and 61:1ff, etc). By contrast, in the second part of the Gospel (the Jerusalem period), the focus is on Jesus as the Messianic King (from the line of David). This is introduced at 10:47-48, upon Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem, and then comes fully into view with the Triumphal Entry scene, after which it dominates the remainder of the narrative.

The Gospel of Luke follows this Synoptic/Markan framework; however, the Lukan narrative has greatly altered its structure. In Mark, the period from the Transfiguration to the Triumphal Entry, covers less than two chapters (9:9-10:52), with the journey to Jerusalem itself essentially comprising chapter 10. This narrative is framed and governed by the three Passion-predictions of Jesus (8:31; 9:31; 10:33f), which rather evenly divide the material.

In Luke, by contrast, the journey to Jerusalem covers more than nine full chapters (9:51-18:31), being expanded by the inclusion of a considerable amount of material—sayings, teachings, and parables of Jesus. Some of this material is unique to Luke’s Gospel, while other portions derive from the Synoptic/Markan tradition or from the “Q” material shared with Matthew. A number of traditions occur at earlier points in the narrative (i.e., set in the Galilean period) in Mark and Matthew. The Lukan author has set all of this material during Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem—thus portraying the journey as time of intensive teaching, when Jesus gave instruction and training to his followers.

The Lord’s Prayer, in chapter 11, occurs at a relatively early point in the Journey narrative, apparently not long after the journey to Jerusalem commenced (9:51ff). There are several important Kingdom-references in this material, prior to the Prayer petition in 11:2. It will be worth examining these briefly.

Luke 9:27

To begin with, the Galilean period concludes with a key Kingdom-declaration, in 9:27, as Jesus tells his disciples:

“there are some of you, standing at this very (place), who will not taste death until they should see the kingdom of God!”

In this, Luke is following the Synoptic/Markan tradition (Mk 9:1; par Matt 16:28), though the author seems to be downplaying the eschatological aspect of the tradition in his version of the saying; compare the Markan version:

“there are some of th(ose) standing here, who will not taste death until they should see the kingdom of God having come in power!” (9:1)

Matthew’s version makes the reference more clearly refer to the resurrection (and/or future return) of Jesus:

“there are some of th(ose) standing here, who will not taste death until they should see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom!” (16:28)

The Lukan version, in context, seems to relate this promise of seeing the kingdom of God (on this idiom, cp. John 3:3), with the disciples who witness the Transfiguration scene (which immediately follows in the narrative, vv. 28-36). The parallel with the wording in v. 32 is particularly telling:

    • “…until they should see the kingdom of God” (v. 27)
    • “…and they saw his glory” (v. 32)

The appearance of the kingdom of God is thus implicitly connected with the appearance of Jesus in his Messianic glory. As noted above, in the Galilean period of the narrative (which climaxes with the Transfiguration) the focus is on Jesus as the Messianic Prophet (cf. verse 35, and the figures of Moses/Elijah). Jesus’ role as Prophet is essentially fulfilled with this scene and the attendant glory that is revealed about him. As for Jesus’ role as Messianic King, his glory will not be revealed until after his death and resurrection.

This point is instructive for what I regard as the dual-nature of the Kingdom in the Lukan Gospel (incl. the book of Acts). On the one hand, the Kingdom is manifested in the person of Jesus, during the time of his ministry on earth; yet, on the other hand, the Kingdom is to be realized fully only after the resurrection—and when the exalted Christ returns to earth at the time of the Judgment. This will be discussed further as we proceed in our study.

As we turn to the Journey period in the Lukan narrative (beginning at 9:51ff), there are several episodes, or blocks of material, which introduce (again) and develop the Kingdom-theme.

Luke 9:60, 62

Following the initial episode (9:52-56) of the Journey narrative, the Gospel writer includes a cluster of three sayings by Jesus, all dealing with the theme of discipleship, and of the costs involved with following Jesus. The first two sayings (vv. 57-60) are part of the “Q” tradition, being found also in Matthew (8:19-22), but at a very different (earlier) point in the narrative. The third saying (vv. 61-62) occurs only in Luke. In each instance, the saying by Jesus comes in response to a would-be disciple; the person’s interest in following Jesus is tested by the idea of the hardship and sacrifice that discipleship requires.

The prospective disciple in the second saying requests that, before following Jesus, he first be allowed to bury his deceased father (v. 59). Jesus’ response to him is famous for its apparent harshness:

“Leave the dead to bury their own dead! But you, going forth, must give throughout the message (of) the kingdom of God.” (v. 60)

Similarly, the would-be disciple in the third saying wishes first to bid farewell to his home and family, before leaving to follow Jesus (v. 61). This seemingly reasonable request also meets with a sharp response from Jesus:

“No one casting (his) hand upon the plough, and (still) looking to the (thing)s behind, is (very) well-set for the kingdom of God!” (v. 62)

The point in both sayings is that social and family obligations must take second place to the priority of following Jesus. In the first of these two sayings, following Jesus involves proclaiming the Kingdom; in the second, it implies belonging to the Kingdom. The two ideas are certainly related, in the sense that being “well-suited” for the Kingdom (so as to belong to it) means one is also equipped to serve the Kingdom—viz., by proclaiming its coming to people everywhere.

Luke 10:9-11

This theme is developed in the next episode of the Journey narrative (10:1-12ff)—the Mission of the seventy(-two) disciples. This episode, which occurs only in Luke, is similar to the Synoptic tradition in Mark 6:7-13 par, which is part of the Galilean Period narrative, and so occurs, toward the end of that narrative, in Luke’s Gospel (9:1-6). In that earlier episode, it is the Twelve—Jesus’ inner circle of close disciples—who are sent out, as an extension of his own mission (Mark 3:13ff par). And, indeed, like Jesus himself, the missionary disciples are instructed to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, both through their preaching and through the performance of healing/exorcism miracles (Mk 3:14b, 15). On the performance of such miracles as a sign that the Kingdom has come, see the recent study on Lk 11:20 par.

The Lukan version of the Mission episode emphasizes the proclamation of the Kingdom (9:1), corresponding to Jesus’ own proclamation (4:43; 8:1). The inclusion of the second Mission episode, involving a larger group of disciples, is important to the Lukan narrative for a number of reasons. First, it further establishes and develops the Kingdom-theme in the Journey narrative; second, it emphasizes Jesus’ activity in teaching his disciples; third, it draws greater attention to the idea of the disciples’ mission as an extension (and continuation) of Jesus’ own; and, finally, it foreshadows the role of the early believers in the book of Acts, in their activity of proclaiming the Gospel and performing (healing) miracles.

As to the third point, the wording in 10:9 and 11 is significant. In verse 9, Jesus instructs the disciples that, as they perform healing miracles, they should announce that “the kingdom of God has come near [h&ggiken] upon you”. This use of the verb e)ggi/zw matches that of the declaration by Jesus at the beginning of his mission, according to the Synoptic tradition (cf. the earlier note on Mark 1:15). Luke only alludes, indirectly, to that tradition (in 4:43 and 8:1), without using the verb e)ggi/zw, which he introduces here. As the declaration characterizes Jesus’ own mission, so it also does for the disciples’ apostolic mission—as indicated by the repetition in verse 11: “…know that the kingdom of God has come near!”

The Lukan narrative increasingly understands the coming of the Kingdom of God in terms of the proclamation of the Gospel. This becomes a dominant theme in the book of Acts, but it begins to take shape already here, with the two Mission episodes, at the end of the Galilean period and the beginning of the Journey period. In Jesus’ own ministry, the noun eu)agge/lion (“good message”) is used to characterize his announcement of the coming of God’s Kingdom (Mk 1:15 par); however, increasingly for early Christians, the word (and the related verb eu)aggeli/zw) referred to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ—viz., the message of who he was and what he did (and what God did through him). Note how Luke frames the first Mission episode, bringing out this interpretive emphasis:

    • the disciples are sent to “proclaim [vb khru/ssw] the kingdom of God” (9:2)
    • the disciples are sent to “proclaim the good message [vb eu)aggeli/zw]” (v. 6)

There is thus a clear parallel between the Kingdom of God and the Gospel, even though Luke uses the verb eu)aggeli/zw rather than khru/ssw + eu)agge/lion. For some reason, not yet completely explained, the Lukan author seems to avoid the noun eu)agge/lion, preferring instead the verb eu)aggeli/zw.

With this background in view, we shall turn next week to the Lukan Lord’s Prayer itself, examining the context of the Prayer, and the place of the Kingdom-petition within it.

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Mark 14:25; 15:2)

We have seen how the king/kingdom theme in the Synoptic narrative (Mark 11-13 par), following the Triumphal Entry scene, was developed in a number of important ways. A conflict paradigm provides the narrative means by which an understanding of the kingship (and Messianic identity) of Jesus shifts: from the Davidic/royal Messiah to God’s own Divine/Heavenly Messenger—the Son of Man (from Daniel 7:13f) and the very Son of God. Instead of fulfilling the nationalistic expectations of the crowds for their Messiah, by fighting and subduing the nations (as in Psalm 118), Jesus finds himself in an internal conflict—as the king (Jesus) faces hostility and rebellious opposition from his own people.

In the Passion narrative that follows (Mark 14-15 par), the contrastive juxtaposition, of two different understandings of Jesus’ kingship, becomes even more pronounced. Two contrasting themes become prominent in the narrative:

    • The heavenly kingdom that Jesus will inherit (as king), following his death, and (by contrast):
    • The earthly kingdom, with its nationalistic political implications, connected with the title “king of the Jews”

These themes are expressed at two key points in the narrative, represented (in Mark) by 14:25 and 15:2ff.

Mark 14:25 par

In the Last Supper (Passover) scene, 14:12-25, the episode closes with the following statement by Jesus:

“Amen, I relate to you that I shall not again drink of the produce of the vine, until that day when I shall drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (v. 25)

The implication is that Jesus will not drink again with his disciples until after his death and resurrection. In spite of the concrete imagery of drinking (wine), there is every reason to think that the reference here is to a heavenly setting. The Matthean version (26:27) brings out this aspect a bit more clearly:

“…until that day when I shall drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.”

The kingdom which Jesus receives, as the Messiah, is in heaven, with God the Father. The Lukan Gospel presents this sense of the kingdom—and of the kingship of Jesus—even more prominently. This begins even prior to the Passion narrative, with the saying in 17:20-21 and the notice at the beginning of the parables of the Minas (19:11). The Lukan version of the Triumphal Entry scene has to be understood in the context of these references. The kingdom which Jesus will rule (as Messiah) will not be established on earth in a socio-political (and nationalist) manner, contrary to the expectation of the crowds who acclaimed Jesus (as king) upon his entry into the city.

In Luke’s Gospel, the coming of the kingdom of God is ultimately an eschatological event (21:31)—the kingdom will be established only after Jesus has been raised from the death and exalted (to God’s right hand) in heaven. This reflects the core Christology of the early believers, and it is expressed most precisely in Luke-Acts. The idea of Jesus departing to receive his kingdom/kingship is expressed in the parable of the Minas (19:12), just prior to the Triumphal Entry scene. It then defines Jesus’ kingship throughout the remainder of the narrative.

Let us first note the Lukan handling of the tradition in Mark 14:25 par (see above). To begin with, the basic idea expressed in the Synoptic saying (Lk 22:18) is included as well at the beginning of the Last Supper (Passover) episode (v. 15-16)—thus framing the entire episode under the same interpretive motif. Consider how this is formulated:

    • “For I relate to you, that I shall not eat it [i.e. the Passover] (again) until (the time) when it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (v. 16)
    • “For I relate to you, that, from now (on), I shall not drink from the produce of the vine, until (the time) when the kingdom of God should come.” (v. 18)

The Passover ritual finds its ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom of God. Jesus will feast again with his disciples only when the Kingdom comes. This reflects a traditional eschatological theme of the heavenly banquet which the righteous will attend, as an eternal reward—dining (in a figurative sense) with God in His Kingdom, at the King’s table. This motif was introduced earlier in the Gospel (cf. 13:29; 14:15). On its background in Old Testament and Jewish tradition, cf. Isa 25:6-8; 55:1-2; 65:13-14; 1 Enoch 62:14; 2 Baruch 29:4; Pirqe Aboth 3:20; it is also utilized in the book of Revelation (3:20; 19:19). Cf. Fitzmyer, p. 1026.

The kingdom-banquet theme is further developed within the Last Supper scene, by the Lukan inclusion of the material in vv. 24-30 (cp. Mk 10:42-45 par; Matt 19:28). In verses 28-30, Jesus promises to his disciples—those who remain faithful to him through the time of distress—that they will receive a kingship of their own, ruling alongside Jesus himself, under his royal authority:

“I will set through to you, just as my Father set through to me, a kingdom, (so) that you might eat and drink upon my table, in my kingdom, and you will sit upon thrones, judging the twelve offshoots [i.e. tribes] of Yisrael.” (vv. 29-30)

Jesus will receive a kingdom from God the Father, ruling as King alongside God Himself; similarly, Jesus will establish for his close disciples (the Twelve) ruling seats within his kingdom. Again, the Lukan narrative emphasizes that Jesus will receive this eternal/heavenly kingdom only after his death; this point is made at a climactic moment in the Passion narrative (23:42; on the textual issue in this verse, see my earlier discussion), and is reiterated toward the close of the Gospel, in the Resurrection narrative (24:26). This last reference shows clearly how the Gospel writer understood the true nature of Jesus’ Messianic kingship:

“Was it not necessary (for) the Anointed (One) to suffer these (thing)s, and (then) to come into his honor/splendor [do/ca]?”

Jesus receives his kingship, and his kingdom is established, only after his death and resurrection.

Mark 15:2ff

If the tradition in Mark 14:25 par represents one side of the kingdom theme in the Passion narrative, the other is represented by the Roman interrogation of Jesus in 15:2 par:

“And Pilatus inquired of him, ‘Are you the king of the Yehudeans?'”

The only response Jesus gives to this direct question is “You say (so) [su\ le/gei$]”. The Synoptic tradition is unified at this point, and there is essentially no difference in the parallel versions (Matt 27:11; Lk 23:3). Jesus gives no further answer to Pilate, contrary to the presentation in the Gospel of John (18:33-19:11). However, the Johannine version of this scene shares with the Synoptic the important thematic contrast, between an earthly (national/political) kingdom and the heavenly Kingdom of God. Jesus’ kingdom is heavenly, and thus, for this reason, he refuses to admit to being “king of the Jews” in the nationalistic sense that Pilate understood the title.

This contrast is developed as the narrative proceeds. We may point out the following details, which are generally common to the Gospel Tradition, and which show, most discordantly, how the earthly and heavenly models for kingship are incompatible:

    • The crowds reject Jesus as their king, and call for his death as ‘king of the Jews’ (vv. 8-15); this, of course, represents a reversal of the popular reaction in the Triumphal Entry scene.
    • The mocking treatment of Jesus by the soldiers (vv. 16-19), in which they dress him up and taunt him as ‘king of the Jews’.
    • The inscription placed above Jesus’ head (on the cross), effectively giving the charge for which he was being crucified—viz., that he was, or claimed to be, “king of the Jews”, a political rival to Roman authority (v. 26).
    • Jesus is further taunted by the religious leaders, while he is on the cross, as ‘king of the Jews’ (v. 32).

The conflict theme, developed throughout chapters 11-14, between the people and their king (Jesus), comes to a climax in the interrogation and crucifixion scenes (of chap. 15). The people, for the most part, were unable to understand and accept Jesus in the true sense of his kingship, but could only see him as king in an earthly (nationalistic-political) sense. Their understanding of his Messianic identity was thus quite limited and distorted; the same may be said for how they understood the nature of the Kingdom of God, and what they thought its coming entailed. Even after the resurrection, Jesus’ own disciples still held an imperfect (and limited) conception of the Kingdom, as their question in Acts 1:6 clearly indicates.

In upcoming studies within this series, we will explore further the Kingdom-theme within Luke-Acts, as we consider the Kingdom-petition of the Lord’s Prayer within the context of the Lukan Gospel (and the book of Acts) as a whole. The same will be done for the petition in the context of the Matthean Gospel.

“May your Kingdom come”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

References marked “Fitzmyer” are to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV), Anchor Bible [AB], vol. 28A (1985).

 

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Mark 12:13-44)

In the previous note, we examined how the king/kingdom theme from the Triumphal Entry scene is developed within the Synoptic narrative (using Mark 11-12f) as the primary point of reference. The entire sense of Jesus’ Messianic identity, as expressed by the crowds quotation of Psalm 118:26a, is reinterpreted, in a number of subtle but quite dramatic ways. We saw this development at work in the episodes of 11:11-12:12; now we will turn our attention to the next block of material, 12:13-44.

This portion of the Synoptic (Markan) narrative is comprised of four principal episodes, each of which involves a discussion between Jesus and some of the religious leaders (and experts on the Scriptures)—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes—who were present in Jerusalem. In each instance, at issue is a question of interpretation. The narrative block concludes with a further episode that illustrates the essential conflict between Jesus (as God’s Messenger) and the religious leaders. We may outline this block as follows:

    • Question regarding paying the census-tax [kh=nso$] to Rome—12:13-17
    • Question regarding the resurrection [rel. to a point of Scriptural interpretation, Deut 25:5]—12:18-27
    • Question regarding which commandment (in the Torah/Scripture) is greatest—12:28-34
    • Question regarding Psalm 110:1 and the “Son of David” —12:35-37 (see below)
    • Warning against oppression by the religious leaders (with an illustrative example of its effects)—12:38-44

While all of these episodes develop the theme, established in 11:11-12:13, of the internal conflict between the king (Jesus) and his people, it is the first and last (fourth) which relate most directly to the idea of Jesus’ kingship. Kingship is, of course, implicit in the question regarding whether it is proper for Israelites/Jews to pay the poll-tax (kh=nso$) to their Roman overlords (v. 14). This question touches upon the very sort of nationalism expressed by the crowds in the Triumphal Entry scene.

The Gospel Tradition records that the question was intended as a trap for Jesus (v. 13). Does Jesus accept giving allegiance (through the tax payment) to the Roman king (i.e., the emperor, Caesar), or does he advocate a revolutionary refusal to pay the tax, with its implications of Israelite/Jewish independence and self-rule (involving their own king)? Without committing to one ‘side’ or the other, Jesus effectively redirects their question. Caesar may rule kingdoms on earth, but ultimately God is the Great King; and, while it may be important (and/or necessary) to give to Caesar what ‘belongs’ to him, it is far more important (and necessary) to give to God (as King) all that belongs to Him (v. 17). Jesus’ answer to his opponents actually serves as an implicit message regarding the Kingdom of God.

Mark 12:35-37  (par Matt 22:41-46 / Luke 20:41-44)

The final question/answer episode of this section also relates to Jesus’ identity as the Messianic King, by focusing on the nature of the Davidic Messiah (“Son of David”), by way of an interpretation of a particular Scripture passage.  Jesus himself raises a question regarding the relationship between the “Anointed (One)” and the “Son of David”, based on an exposition of Psalm 110:1.

The precise meaning and intent of Jesus’ argument continues to be debated by commentators. Only traces survive of the historical setting—it appears to be part of a scholarly discussion between Jesus and certain authorities on Scripture (Scribes/Pharisees), a context that is best preserved in Matthew’s account (Matt 22:41-43ff) which records at least part of an exchange. In Mark (12:35-37) and Luke (20:41-44), this is framed as a pair of (rhetorical) questions by Jesus:

    • Question 1: How do they count/consider the Anointed (One) to be the son of David? (v. 35)
    • Question 2: (But) David calls him “Lord” and how is he (then) his son? (v. 37)

The second question is based on the common-place idea that the son would call his father “Lord” (“Master, Sir”), not the other way around. The first question assumes that the “Anointed (One)” —here the future Anointed King/Ruler—would be a descendant of David, which is attested in Jewish writings of the period, as well as in the New Testament (cf. Parts 6, 7 and 8 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). The identification is derived from Scriptures such as 2 Sam 7:11-16; Psalm 132:10-12, etc. It is in this context that Jesus cites another Scripture—Psalm 110:1 (Mk 12:36 par), and the way he uses it would indicate that it was commonly understood in a Messianic sense; however, there does not appear to be any other surviving evidence for such an interpretation in Judaism at the time of Jesus (see the supplemental note in the aforementioned series).

It is significant that, even though the crowds who acclaimed him at his entry into Jerusalem may have considered him to be a Messianic king in the nationalistic political sense, what Jesus actually does, when he arrives in Jerusalem, is to teach—including providing an authoritative interpretation of Scripture. The authority of the Scriptures (here, the Psalms) is realized for believers, in the teaching of Jesus, through his interpretation. The meaning of the text itself can be debated (which is the very point of the scholarly discussion in this episode), and so an authoritative interpretation is required.

In the original context of the Psalm, the Lord (YHWH) speaks to “my Lord” (the Israelite king). Most scholars would hold that the setting (as in Psalm 2) involves the enthronement or inauguration of the (new) king, a time at which nobles and vassals might choose to rebel or to gain power and independence for themselves (Ps 2:1-3; 110:1). God gives to the king assurance of His protection and support, including victory over all enemies, i.e. the surrounding nations (Ps 2:4-11; 110:2-3, 5-7). Much like Psalm 2, this Psalm refers to the king in exalted, ‘divine’ language, very much in keeping with ancient (Near Eastern) ideas of kingship. I would divide the Psalm as follows:

    • Declaration (utterance/oracle) of YHWH— “Sit at my right-hand…” (verse 1)
      • Promise by YHWH of (divine) power/victory over the king’s enemies (verses 2-3)
    • Declaration (oath) of YHWH— “You are a priest…” (verse 4)
      • Promise of the king’s power/victory over the peoples, in terms of YHWH’s judgment against the nations (verses 5-6)
    • Concluding declaration of YHWH’s establishment of the king’s rule (verse 7)

It should be noted that much of the vocabulary and syntax of this Psalm remains obscure, with verses 4 and 7 being especially difficult to interpret. Apart from its use in the New Testament, there is little evidence for a similar Messianic interpretation of Psalm 110 at the time of Jesus.

In one text from Qumran (11QMelch [11Q13]), Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) appears as a Divine/Heavenly figure who functions as Judge against the wicked (Belial), but this scenario (col ii, lines 9-13) is derived from Psalm 82:1-2 rather than 110:1. His appearance (as Judge and Deliverer) is also connected with the Anointed One of Daniel 9:25 and the Messenger of Isa 52:7 who brings the good news of salvation (col ii, lines 15-25). A similar paradigm may underlie the “Elect/Righteous One” and “Son of Man” figure in the Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71), which many scholars hold to be roughly contemporary with Jesus and the early New Testament writings.

In any case, Jesus cites Psalm 110:1 as though a Messianic interpretation were understood, but he shifts the meaning of “Anointed One” (o( xristo/$, Christ/Messiah) away from the royal Davidic figure-type and toward a different reference point—a Divine/Heavenly figure, closer, perhaps, to the “Son of Man” of 1 Enoch and Jesus’ own sayings (cf. Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62 pars; Luke 12:8, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8, and pars in Matthew; also John 1:51; 3:13; 5:27; 6:62). Certainly, it was understood this way in early Christian tradition, associated specifically with the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God in Acts 2:34-36 (cf. also Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; 1 Pet 3:22, etc).

As we shall see, the kingship theme does, indeed, split apart as the Synoptic Tradition continues through the Passion narrative. Jesus is put to death on political grounds, as though he claimed to be the very sort of revolutionary “king of the Jews” the crowds had acclaimed. Yet, in the process of the narrative, Jesus makes no claims of being such a royal figure; instead, at the climactic moment (14:62), he identifies himself with the exalted/heavenly “Son of Man” figure from Daniel 7:13-14.

The Matthean Version

Matthew (chaps. 22-23), again, generally follows the Markan narrative, but expands it with two major additions, each of which enhances both the emphasis on Jesus’ kingship and the sense of conflict between the king and his people:

    • The Kingdom-parable in 22:1-11, following upon the Vineyard parable of 21:33-44; again, God is the great Lord/King, and Jesus the King’s son (and heir)
    • The Woes against the religious leaders, in 23:1-36, which expands upon the Synoptic/Markan conclusion (12:38-44; par Lk 20:45-21:4)

The Matthean narrative further concludes with Jesus’ lament for the coming fate of Jerusalem (vv. 37-39), punctuated by a quotation (of his own) from Psalm 118:26. This corresponds to Luke 19:41-44, immediately following the Triumphal Entry, and also, more closely, 13:34-35 (from an earlier point in the narrative). Matthew’s placement of the lament both emphasizes the use of Psalm 118:26, and also provides a more vivid and dramatic transition to the Eschatological Discourse (chap. 24f).

As for the Eschatological Discourse (Mark 13 par), it develops further the conflict and judgment themes from chapters 11-12 par, beginning with Jesus’ prophecy regarding the Temple’s destruction (vv. 1-2). It also furthers the shift, from Jesus’ identity as the Davidic Messiah, to that of the heavenly Son of Man (v. 26f, from Dan 7:13-14, cf. the discussion above). Matthew’s version of the Discourse, however, keeps Jesus’ identity as this Son of Man rooted in a Kingship-framework, through the additional parables in chapter 25:

    • Vv. 1-13—The parable of the Virgins waiting for the Bridegroom, presented as a Kingdom-parable (v. 1)
    • Vv. 14-30—The parable of the Talents; cp. the Lukan parable of the Minas (19:11-27) with its strong Kingdom-emphasis
    • Vv. 31-46—The parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which actually features the exalted/heavenly Son of Man sitting on his throne (as king, v. 31); the end-time Judgment is clearly being illustrated.

“May your Kingdom come”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Mark 11:11-12:13)

This note is supplemental to the recent discussion on the ‘Triumphal Entry’ scene in the Gospels, as it explores how the Synoptic narrative (and the underlying Gospel Tradition) develops the king/kingdom theme that is introduced with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. As I have previously discussed, in the first half of the Synoptic narrative (Jesus’ ministry in Galilee), he is portrayed as fulfilling the role of Messianic Prophet—whether the type patterned after Moses, Elijah, or the anointed Herald of Isa 61:1ff. However, in the second half of the narrative (the period in Jerusalem), the focus shifts to his identity as the Messianic King (from the line of David). This shift is presaged by the reference in Mk 10:47-48 par to Jesus as the “Son of David”, and then comes to the fore in the Triumphal Entry scene (as discussed in the prior two-part note [1, 2]).

The crowd who came out to acclaim Jesus seems to have been fired by nationalistic Messianic expectations, which inform their use of Psalm 118:26a and the w(sanna/ (Aramaic hôša±-n¹°) exclamation [v. 25], and also their use of the branches (esp. the use of palm-branches in the Johannine version [12:13]). According to the background of Psalm 118, the “one coming in the name of YHWH” was the king, returning to Jerusalem following victory in battle. Even though the Psalm (and esp. verse 26) came to be applied to the ordinary devout Israelite or Jew, coming to Jerusalem for the great pilgrimage festivals, the royal background was certainly not lost on those using it to greet Jesus as king.

The narrative episodes that follow—in Mark 11-12f, using the Markan Gospel as a guide to the Synoptic narrative—represent an implicit response by Jesus to this popular understanding of his Messianic identity. The response begins, it would seem, with the Temple episode that immediately follows Jesus’ entry. The framework of the overall Gospel narrative (informed as it is by the underlying Tradition), suggests that Jesus’ appearance in the Temple represents the climactic moment, fulfilling the promise of Jesus as the “one coming” (o( e)rxo/meno$, cf. the parallels to Mark 1:7f). A strong argument is made for interpreting this expression, in context, as containing an allusion to Malachi 3:1ff—and, thus, to Jesus as the Messenger of YHWH. For more on this point, see my earlier note in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”.

Through His Divine representative, God Himself will appear, bringing the (end-time) Judgment upon humankind. There are certain indications that, in early Christian belief, and within the developed Gospel tradition, Jesus’ identification as “the one coming in the name of the Lord” means more than that of the traditional Anointed King or Prophet. This is perhaps best seen by comparing Luke 13:34-35 (citing Psalm 118:26) with Luke 19:41-44 (a similar lament for Jerusalem, following his entry into the city, vv. 36-40). Here the appearance of God Himself to His people is identified as taking place in the person of Jesus (v. 44).

The Temple-action by Jesus has been explained as a “cleansing” of the Temple, and this is accurate enough, to a point. Certainly, the idea of purification is present in the Malachi 3:1ff oracle (vv. 2-4), and so it would be fitting that the one “coming in the name of YHWH” would purify the Temple. But Jesus also, by his action, indicates that he is establishing a new role and orientation for the Temple—as a place for prayer (Mark 11:17 par), rather than sacrificial offerings. Another nuance of meaning, particularly with regard to the violence of Jesus’ action, is that it foreshadows the Temple’s destruction, as part of the end-time period of distress that attends the coming Judgment (Mark 13:1-2ff par).

All three of these aspects are significant for the Synoptic narrative in Mark 11-12 par, for they demonstrate a very different sense of Jesus’ Messiahship than would have been expected by the people who greeted him upon his entry to the city. Let us outline these three aspects, to see how they relate to the narrative:

    • Reinterpretation of “the one coming in the name of the Lord” in reference to Mal 3:1ff, and Jesus’ identity as the Divine Messenger who represents YHWH, and whose appearance ushers in the Judgment.
    • The Temple, transformed by Jesus’ presence, now becomes a place devoted primarily to prayer—and, by extension, preaching and teaching—rather than cultic ritual and sacrifice.
    • The foreshadowing of the Temple’s destruction, as part of the coming Judgment, is connected with the people’s opposition to Jesus. This sense of internal conflict underlies the entire Jerusalem-division of the narrative. The crowd that initially praised him (as king) eventually would shout for his death.

While these three thematic emphases are woven throughout the narrative, it is also possible to align them with three different sections of material:

    1. The Temple action and the sense of conflict that came about in its aftermath—Mark 11:11-12:12 par
    2. Jesus’ teaching (in the Temple precincts)—Mark 12:13-44 par
    3. The prophecy of the Temple’s destruction, which frames the Eschatological Discourse—Mark 13 par

The first section may be further divided as follows:

    • Introduction: Jesus’ arrival at the Temple (11:11)
    • The cursing of the Fig-tree (11:12-14)
    • The ‘cleansing’ of the Temple (11:15-19)
    • The lesson of the Fig-tree (11:20-25)
    • Question regarding Jesus’ authority (11:27-33)
    • The Vineyard-parable—conflict between the master and tenant-workers (12:1-11)
    • Conclusion (12:12)

Matthew (21:12-46) largely follows the Markan narrative, though an additional vineyard-parable is included (vv. 28-32), and there are also several details which serve to keep more clearly in view Jesus’ identity as Messianic king—vv. 15-16 (“Son of David”), and references to the “kingdom of God” (vv. 31, 43), which includes a heightening of the narrative framework for the Vineyard-tenants parable (vv. 32, 43). Luke’s version (19:45-20:18) of this Synoptic material is simpler and shorter, omitting the entire fig-tree episode, and with a much abbreviated Temple-cleansing scene, and a shorter Vineyard-tenants parable as well. The most notable addition is the expansion (19:47-48) of the summary notice in Mk 11:18, which emphasizes Jesus’ activity of teaching in the Temple precincts.

The Fig-tree episode, in the Markan narrative, frames the Temple-cleansing scene. In this regard, it captures two of the key themes outlined above: (1) the Temple-action as symbolic of the coming Judgment (i.e., the cursing/withering of the tree), and (2) the new role of the Temple as a place for prayer (i.e., the teaching on prayer in 11:24-25). The question of Jesus’ authority to perform such actions then comes to the fore, in vv. 27-33, with the implicit message that his authority comes from God in heaven.

If the motif of authority (e)cousi/a) relates to Jesus’ identity as king, then it is just as much present, however implicitly, in the Vineyard-parable that follows (12:1-11). This parable climaxes with a quotation from the same Psalm (118) which the crowd cited at his entry into the city. The master/owner of the vineyard is symbolic, in the parable, of God as Sovereign. The servants whom he sends to the tenants can be said to symbolize the different prophets whom God has sent to the people. The son is sent as a similar messenger, but as one who, as the owner’s son, is a more direct and close representative of the owner himself. The son, of course, symbolizes Jesus, as God’s last (and greatest) Messenger (see the discussion on Mal 3:1ff, above), a Divine representative of God Himself, who also happens to be God’s own Son.

Both the Matthean and Lukan versions of this parable suggest, somewhat more clearly than the Markan, an illustration of Jesus’ kingship. Matthew brings this out by the way the parable is framed (21:32, 43), including a specific reference to the “kingdom of God”. In the case of the Lukan narrative, the parable reinforces the earlier the parable of the Minas (19:11-27), which immediately precedes the Triumphal Entry scene, and which has (in its Lukan form) a strong kingdom-emphasis. Both of these parables indicate opposition and hostility by the people toward their king (Jesus).

As noted above, the context of Psalm 118 originally involved the return of the king to Jerusalem, following victory in battle over his (and Israel’s) enemies. These enemies, however, belonged to the surrounding nations (vv. 10ff), and the ‘cornerstone’ illustration of verse 22f must be understood in this context. Israel (and its king) was rejected by the rulers of the surrounding nations, and yet, through YHWH’s strength and protection, the kingdom was exalted and brought to a position of power and dominance (over the nations). Whether this thematic emphasis reflects an actual historical event, or an idealized situation, it does not change the theological outlook of the Psalmist.

The Gospel context for the application of this verse is quite different. The king (Jesus) does not combat the nations, even though this would have represented the sort of nationalistic Messianic expectation which many the crowd (shouting verse 26a) were doubtless hoping to see fulfilled. Instead, the opposition to the king comes from his own people. It is his own people who reject him, refusing to recognize him as their king. This, obviously, is a key theme that is developed throughout the remainder of the Gospel narrative.

“May your Kingdom come”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

 

Notes on Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come (Mk 11:9-10, cont.)

This note continues the previous discussion on the ‘Triumphal Entry’ scene in the Gospels. We saw how the Tradition here has certain fixed elements, around which the Gospel writers enhanced the material, bringing out certain distinctive features or points of emphasis. The quotation from Psalm 118:26 (first line), in the crowd’s acclamation at Jesus’ entry, is a fixed tradition, found in all four Gospels. The w(sanna/ exclamation (Aram. an` uv^oh [hôša±-n¹°], Heb. an` hu*yv!oh), stemming from v. 25 of the same Psalm, is another relatively fixed element.

Psalm 118 was part of the Hallel collection (113-118) of hymns which were sung on the occasion of the great pilgrimage Festivals (such as Passover and Sukkot). In particular, verse 26, with its festal setting (cf. the procession indicated in vv. 19-23ff, and the celebratory ornamentation in v. 27), was used as a greeting for pilgrims arriving for the festival. However, the Psalm itself evinces a strong royal background and setting, involving the arrival of the king to the city, returning, it would seem, from battle (in which he was victorious)—as indicated by the context of vv. 14-21; cf. also the militaristic language and imagery in vv. 6-13. See my earlier article on verse 26 (in the series “The Old Testament in the Gospel Tradition”).

It may well be that this royal background, with its nationalistic implications (i.e., the Israelite/Judean kingdom’s victory over its enemies, and the surrounding nations [vv. 10-11]), was not at all lost on the crowd who greeted Jesus so enthusiastically. Indeed, there are other historical details within this tradition which suggest a highly-charged political atmosphere. The branches (stoiba/$ plur. [kla/doi in Matt 21:8], brought by the people, are evocative of the festival of Sukkot, as well as a natural echo of Ps 118:27. However, they also suggest the nationalistic fervor of the crowds, fueled, it would seem, by the thought that their Messianic expectations might be on the verge of being fulfilled.

Particularly in the Johannine version, where the crowd actively goes out to meet Jesus (12:13), carrying/waving palm branches (bai+/a, from the foi=nic [palm] tree), this aspect of the scene is almost certainly being emphasized. As Brown (p. 461) notes, this use of palm-fronds is reminiscent of symbolic gestures associated with the Maccabean revolt (cf. 1 Macc 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7). The palm tree (and branches) also appear on coins from the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-135 A.D.), and palm-fronds are mentioned as a symbol of (royal) power over the (unified) nation of Israel in Testament of Naphtali 5:4. Brown also mentions the political implications of the specific use of the expression ei)$ u(pa/nthsin, in the context of the “joyful reception of Hellenistic sovereigns into a city” (p. 462, citing an example from Josephus War 7.100). With this in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that Luke omitted any mention of the branches, in accordance with his apparent tendency to downplay the political implications of Jesus’ identity as the (Davidic) Messiah; cf. Fitzmyer, pp. 1243ff on this point. This Lukan understanding of the coming of the Kingdom (as expressed in 17:20-21; 19:11ff, etc) will be discussed as we proceed further in our study.

How did Jesus himself, at the historical level of the scene, regard his Messianic identity, particularly in relation to the popular expectation (of the crowds)? If we take the preparatory episode (in the Synoptic account, Mark 11:1-6 par) at face value, then Jesus may have purposefully sought to draw attention to the prophecy in Zech 9:9ff. While only verse 9 of this prophecy is cited (in Matthew [21:4-5] and John [12:15]), the entire section of the poem (9:9-13), taken as a whole (and particularly in the full context of chapters 9-14), has a strong national-political—and militaristic—emphasis.

The Johannine treatment of this part of the Gospel tradition is distinctive. In John’s account, Jesus apparently obtains the donkey in response to the nationalistically-charged crowd’s approach. While this could be seen as an affirmation, by Jesus, of their Messianic expectations, the Gospel writer’s handling of the Scripture prophecy seems to redirect the interpretation. The first line of the quotation apparently blends together Zech 9:9 with Zeph 3:14/16; in so doing, the prophecy counterbalances the nationalistic emphasis of Zech 9:9-13 with the more universal outlook of Zeph 3:14-20—emphasizing the end-time restoration of Israel, the gathering in of all God’s people (especially the weak and outcast). Cf. the discussion by Brown, p. 462f; he notes how this orientation of Jesus’ Kingship aligns with the Johannine theology, as expressed, for example, in 11:52.

The comment of the Pharisees on the scene, in 12:19 (“See, the [whole] world goes forth after him!”), carries a theological irony similar to that of Caiaphas’ prophecy, echoing the Johannine language of, e.g., 12:32— “…I will draw all (people) toward me”. From the standpoint of the Johannine theology, any thought of Jesus’ Kingship is subordinated to his mission, which he, as the Son sent to earth by the Father, is obligated to complete. The completion of this mission occurs with the death (19:30), and the ‘lifting up’, of Jesus; his exaltation (as King) begins with his death.

All of the Gospel writers, in shaping their narratives, engaged in some measure of re-interpretation of Messianic expectations, as applied to the person of Jesus, and as fulfilled by him. Some of this interpretation is intrinsic to the historical tradition itself—see, for example, how Jesus deals with certain Messianic expectations, in relation to Psalm 110:1 (i.e., the Messiah as the “son of David”), in Mark 12:35-37 par. This is just one of several passages, in the Jerusalem Period section of the Synoptic narrative, dealing with the theme of kingship, the kingdom of God, and of Jesus’ identity as the (Davidic) Messiah. In commemoration of Holy Week, I will be examining these passages, as a way of supplementing our study on the coming of the Kingdom of God—viz., the petition from the Lord’s Prayer that is the focus of this series:

“May your Kingdom come”
e)lqe/tw h( basilei/a sou

References above marked “Fitzmyer” are to Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV), Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 28A (1985).
Those marked “Brown” are to Raymond E. Brown, S.S., The Gospel According to John (I-XII), Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 29 (1966).