The Prophetic Script

bartBy Ched Myers, for the 2nd Sunday of Lent (Luke 13: 31-35

Note: This is part of a series of Ched’s occasional comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016.

More than any other gospel writer, Luke portrays Jesus as using Israel’s prophets for his own interpretive lens. This theme stretches across the whole arc of Luke’s story, from its beginning where the coming promise of redemption comes “through the mouth of God’s holy prophets from of old” (1:70) to the Emmaus road epilogue, which stresses this traditions as a hermeneutic key to the problem of suffering: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them the scriptures” (24:25-7; 44f).

Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah at the outset of his ministry, even as he accepts the fact that “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” (4:17,27). Yet he is perceived by some as “a great prophet risen among us!” (7:16, 26), in the tradition of John the Baptist (9:19). Jesus assures his disciples that opposition puts them in good company, since “that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (6:22f), though he pronounces “Woes” on those who “build the tombs of the prophets… from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah….” (11:47-51). So central is this “prophetic script” to the theology and narrative of Luke that literacy in it is placed before Resurrection as the key to salvation (16:29-31).

It is out of this history and this consciousness that Jesus asserts in this week’s gospel reading that “it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem” (13:33f). The range of emotional tone arising from this prophetic vocation is expressed in this passage, which moves from Jesus’ sharp rebuke of the Herodian authorities who are stalking him to his maternal lament over Jerusalem’s fate (a theme that will reach its conclusion when Jesus weeps over the city on “Palm Sunday” (19:41f).

This week more than fifty of us have been gathered in the Ventura River watershed to look at Luke’s gospel and issues of trauma at the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute. Pray for us as we wrestle with how to apply Luke’s prophetic hermeneutic to issues of injustice, lament, discipleship and healing in our time.

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