In Luke 9.51-19.41 the author recounts Jesus’ teaching as He approached Jerusalem for the last time.  Luke provided further evidence that the spiritual leadership of Israel could not understand the signs of the times and the reality of Jesus’ kingdom.  Among other things, their commitment to the Sabbath stood in the way.  Of all the controversies surrounding Jesus’ ministry, perhaps none surpassed the discontinuity between Jesus and the religious leaders of Israel regarding the Sabbath.  According to Jesus, godliness was no longer manifest by what Israelites refrained from doing on the seventh day, but by what His followers were to practice each day: humility before all, and commitment to Him.  Jesus lamented the arrogant decision of Jerusalem, and instructed His disciples in the humility and devotion that would characterize all who would enjoy the eschatological banquet:

  1. In light of the fact that eternal damnation is worse than any suffering caused by contemporary disasters, all should repent (13.1-9).  Although Pilate’s act of mixing the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices was outrageous, and the falling tower in Siloam was tragic, neither would compare with eternal punishment in hell.  Jesus thus implored those in His hearing: “Unless you repent, you will all perish as well!” (v. 5b).  The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree raised the urgency of His command; Israel’s days were numbered
  2. While Israel seemed set against Jesus’ teaching, His kingdom would nonetheless grow and have a pervasive influence (13.10-21).  On one Sabbath occasion Jesus was teaching at a synogague when He noticed a crippled woman.  Luke notes that her disease was the result of “a spirit” (v. 11) that had dominated her physical posture for over 18 years.  The way the text reads, Jesus reacted almost spontaneously, saying “Woman, you are free of your disability” (v. 12), and laid His hands on her—with the result that “instantly she was restored and began to glorify God” (v. 13).  But the leader of the synogague was angry at the undeserved good fortune that had come upon the woman—because it was granted on the Sabbath.  He was so mad that he proclaimed: “There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day” (v. 14)!  Jesus was furious; He said, “Hypocrites!  Doesn’t each one of you untie his ox or donkey from the feeding trough on the Sabbath and lead it to water?  Satan has bound this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for 18 years—shouldn’t she be untied from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” (vv. 15-16).  Luke commented that while Jesus’ opponents were humiliated, “the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things He was doing” (v. 17).  Jesus noticed a teachable moment in the jubilant crowd and told them that—just as a pinch of yeast spreads through a large batch of dough over time—the kingdom of God would slowly spread to the degree that every part of society would be infected by what they had witnessed (vv. 18-21//Matt 13.31-32//Mark 4.30-32)
  3. Those who participate in His kingdom should practice righteousness despite their seemingly small influence (13.22-30).  One in the crowd asked Jesus concerning the small number being saved, and Jesus answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able” (v. 24).  These were the ones who practiced unrighteousness (v. 27); they would watch from the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth as the patriarchs and the prophets gathered with the workers of righteousness in Jesus’ day for the great banquet of God
  4. Jerusalem would be the place of Jesus’ suffering (13.31-35//Matt 23.37-39).  Compared with the cutting history of Jerusalem, even Herod Antipas was no threat; Jesus said, “It is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem!” (v. 33).  Despite the city’s stance against Him, Jesus yet longed for Zion to repent and be at peace.  Her unwillingness remained, and Jesus promised that Jerusalem would experience only a brief period of jubilee, when she cried out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (v. 35b; cf. Ps 118.26)
  5. Humility should characterize those who participate in God’s eschatological banquet (14.1-24).  Luke reported that on a Sabbath day Jesus was invited to eat at the home of a Pharisee.  Since the author noted that on this occasion the leading Pharisees were watching Him closely (v. 1), it is not a stretch to surmise that they may have arranged the situation such that “In front of Him (Jesus) was a man whose body was swollen with fluid” (v. 2); would Jesus again heal on the Sabbath?  Whatever the case, Jesus employed the situation to teach about the new way of the kingdom, asking the Pharisees “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?…Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (v. 3, 5).  While the Pharisees had no answer, Jesus did—He healed the man and sent him away (v. 4).  Telling is Jesus’ line of instruction after this Sabbath controversy.  He noticed that at the Pharisee’s banquet the guests scurried to get the best places for themselves; in Jesus’ mind, all in His hearing needed to learn of Kingdom humility—which manifested itself in taking up the lower place at table (vv. 7-11), and restricting one’s guest list to the kind of people who could not return the favor (vv. 12-14).  When one of the guests at the banquet retorted, “The one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God is blessed!” (v. 15), Jesus told a parable that explained just who these blessed folk would be.  Contrary to what may have been the popular opinion of those in attendance at the Pharisee’s Sabbath banquet, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom meal would be reserved for those who prioritized it over all common interests—including even one’s possessions and family (vv. 15-24//Matt 22.1-14)
  6. Jesus demanded that those desiring to follow Him must place all other allegiances behind them (14.25-35).  “If anyone comes to Me,” Jesus said, “and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers, and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (vv. 26-27).  Accordingly, the one building a tower makes sure he has the resources before he begins the project, and the king going to war wants assurance that he has the troop strength to prevail.  Commitment to Jesus must be all thoughtful and all-consuming, lest it be like flavorless, worthless salt (vv. 34-35//Matt 5.13//Mark 9.49-50)

These chapters of Luke provide a window through which one can observe both the continuity and discontinuity of Jesus’ teaching with the Old Testament—especially as it was interpreted by the leadership of the day.  Here it becomes increasingly clear that Jesus’ coming and ministry is the fulcrum of the storyline of Scripture, the focal point of the history of Israel and the future glory of all those who trust in Him:

  1. Jesus taught that the Sabbath had a different function in the kingdom of God than what was generally accepted by the leadership of Judaism.  God jealously instituted the Sabbath to test Israel’s reliance upon Him; as they rested from their work and were yet satisfied, all other nations would be led to inquire of Israel’s God—and want Him to be theirs  (cf. Exodus 16; Num 15.32-36; Deut 4.1-8; 5.12-15).  Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees however was not that they had too high a view of the Sabbath, but their understanding was insufficient.  Earlier in Luke’s account, Jesus had permitted His disciples to pick grain and eat on the Sabbath, declaring Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath” (6.5).  As the Messiah’s reign dawned, the Sabbath was expanded from a weekly observance of specific prohibitions to a daily, moment-by-moment posture of obedience and mercy.  When the author of Hebrews said, “A Sabbath rest remains, therefore, for God’s people” (4.9), he was arguing that the Sabbath rest is characterized by faith: reliance upon God’s promises and an absolute commitment to obey His demands—unlike the fickle wilderness generation that refused to believe God’s promises, and cowered before the giants of the land (cf. Numbers 13-14; Ps 95.7-11; Heb 4.1-8).  For the author of Hebrews then, the Sabbath of the Messianic kingdom is worth every exertion: “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest” (4.11)!  
  2. Jesus’ promise of salvation was experienced by the faithful of the Old Testament (13.22-30).  In making His point that works of righteousness are consistent with the way of salvation, Jesus said that the unrighteous would be in the place of despair when they saw “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (v. 28).  This salvation had such a broad scope that Jesus said, “They will come from east and west, from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God” (v. 29).  Jesus’ teaching was echoed in the vision of the apostle John, where he witnessed Israel and the Gentiles enjoying together the eternal state (cf. Rev 19.6-10; 21.9-14)

*For a complete list of references, please see