Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calling His Disciples (part 10)

In this area, Luke’s record is similar while also being different.  Like Matthew, Luke does not editorialize here, as does Mark, and so does not offer up the reasoning behind the calling and appointment of the twelve, which Mark says was “so that they could be with Him and He could send them to preach” (Mark 3:14b).  He takes Matthew’s route of relying upon the Abrahamic covenant context and communicating that similarity by reporting that “Jesus called the twelve together” (9:1a).  As was said for Matthew, this is equivalent to Mark’s “being with Him,” while also communicating the appropriate Abraham-related ideas. 

Luke’s “sending” of the disciples also differs from that of Matthew, in that there is no national, ethnic, or geographic restriction to Israel in their exemplification of divine blessing when “He gave them power over all demons and to cure diseases” (9:1b).  That said, it is worthwhile to take the time to notice that Matthew’s and Luke’s record operate on a dual level.  At one level, as they report the instructions of Jesus, they are also provide information as to what it was that these disciples were going to go out and do.  There is no reason to believe that they did not go out and follow these instructions, and indeed Luke, ever the historian in his own way, moves from Jesus’ instructions to mentioning that “Then they departed and went throughout the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere” (9:6). 

Shortly thereafter, again playing the historian, Luke reports that “When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done” (9:10).  Luke even expands upon this in relation to the time that Jesus, at the beginning of the tenth chapter, appoints and sends out a much larger group of His disciples with nearly identical instructions as that which was given to the twelve (either seventy or seventy-two disciples, depending on the early manuscripts in use---seventy is more likely to be the correct number as it would fit with Israel’s historical narrative and Moses’ appointment of seventy elders, though the translation in use for this study uses seventy-two), informing his audience that “the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” (10:17)  Though the analogy is not precise, if the Abrahamic covenant is foundational, then the twelve can be looked upon in a way as Abraham, while the seventy-two can be looked upon as Israel.  At the second level, the instructions to the disciples are something of an elaboration on the words that had been spoken to Abraham by the Creator God.  When Matthew and Luke are heard recounting Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, can one not also hear “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing”? (Genesis 12:2) 

Luke rounds out Jesus’ instructions very quickly.  For Luke’s purposes in this setting, Jesus is done speaking at the fifth verse of his ninth chapter, concluding His remarks with the “shaking of dust.”  Matthew, on the other hand, extends this time of instruction all the way to the close of that which would eventually come to be recognized as the tenth chapter of his Gospel.  In fact, the eleventh chapter of Matthew opens by informing the reader that “When Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their towns” (11:1).  Though the fact that the disciples acted on Jesus’ instructions is implied by Matthew’s presentation, Luke seizes upon the opportunity to make it explicit.  Though Matthew certainly implies that the disciples fulfilled the Abrahamic call to exemplify divine blessing, Luke wants to be sure that his audience knows that this is indeed what took place.     

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