Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Luke & Jesus' Kingdom Banquets (part 2)

One may wonder why this is so.  However, any wondering is blunted when one considers the joint-authorship of both Luke and Acts, with Acts forming the second half of what is effectively a single discourse.  As Acts is a record of the earliest activities of the apostles of Jesus, and because table fellowship was an important and unfortunately contentious issue in some of the earliest church communities (witness the confrontation between Peter and Paul in Antioch over the subject of table fellowship, as recorded in Paul’s letter to the Galatian church), it is understandable to find Luke more inclined to share more table stories, and to create a narratival construct that will make the record of meals and Jesus’ participation and teaching at these meals, a more prominent feature of his biographical and theological presentation of Jesus.  

If taken within the context of meals---a context which has been arranged by Jesus’ reference to the eating and drinking in which both He and John are said to engage, then one can hear Jesus speaking of Himself within the long-standing wisdom tradition within Israel that is associated with the Messiah.  Though it is the Gospel of John that makes a more prevalent use of the highly-developed wisdom tradition, there is no reason to preclude Luke from making use of it as well, as he makes his report on Jesus’ words and deeds.  If the messiah-associated wisdom tradition is in play here, then it is conceivable that there are messianic banquet considerations to be taken from the words of Jesus. 

Is this a bit of a stretch to hear Jesus making messiah and messianic banquet references in this short little statement?  Probably not, especially in light of His making mention of eating and drinking, and then Luke’s transition to Jesus’ presence at the dinner at the house of a Pharisee.  The use of “wisdom” as a clearly self-referential statement at this point in the narrative, when both Jesus’ hearers and Luke’s readers have been thrust into a meal-related mindset, clearly ushers us into a messianic context.  With thoughts of both messiah and meal at play, along with talk of vindication (an incredibly important concept for Israel especially in relation to messiah), it would not be difficult to find Jesus’ hearers associating words such as “all her children,” when used in this context, entertaining thoughts of the great messianic banquet. 

What is provided here is a glimpse into Jesus’ mindset as it relates to this banquet in Matthew, when He is heard to say “I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 8:11-12).  Clearly, if one ever finds himself thinking that any of the Gospel authors are offering up anything less than complex theological constructs in narrative and biographical form based upon the fact of a resurrected Christ that demanded their full allegiance, then a tremendous disservice has been done to them.  

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