The Gospel Story in a Postmodern World

This past semester I was required to watch a Czechoslovakian short film called “Most” (translated “The Bridge” in English) as part of a class. This film was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2004 for best short film. As a lover of film and photography, I was excited to watch this film and it was simply amazing. The writing is captivating, the cinematography is brilliant (and regardless of whether you watch this film for what I have to say below, just watch it for the brilliance that is displayed), and the music is wonderful.

What made this film more interesting for me is that it was part of a soteriology class (a class on salvation). The professor does a wonderful job at stressing to the students the importance of being culturally relevant. That is, he wants the students to be theologically sound, hear what culture is saying and yearning for,  but also identify ways of connecting with culture and how to share the gospel message through a variety of ways.  What is the message that a person, group, or community is saying. What is that culture or person worshipping? What are the themes or narratives of the story? What is the story and how does one relate to it? Throughout this class, we have listened to songs from mainstream artists to Christian artists to those who were once Christian artists and now are not. Obviously, music and film is a huge factor in society.

In today’s day and age, connecting with the audience through storytelling is vitally important. Typically, being in a postmodern world, connecting with people is all about the story. If we think about how the Gospel message was shared during the Modern era, it is drastically different, not better or worse, just different. Change has brought adaptation. It is a different era. People of today tend to connect through stories. A more recent example is to think back to 20 – 30 years ago and the widespread use of tracts that the church community would use to share the gospel with a non-believer. While those still exist as well as other “older” and different techniques, in dealing with an ever changing world that is always connected and loves their social media, Christians have adapted and tried to venture into different avenues of telling the Gospel story.

The Bridge is a film that really stuck with me. It captivated me and engrossed me into the story. I went in not knowing what it was about or the outcome, but left with an appreciation for what the filmmakers did. The Bridge is an example of talented people sharing the Gospel message through film. It is an example of how we as Christians can show/tell the beauty and majesty of Christ and His work to a generation or population that connects with stories and film.

As a person who adheres, follows, and believes in a literal hermeneutic, there will be many that watch this who say that is not “really” the gospel message. There were many in my class who said or thought the same thing. The reason is the story does not tell the whole story of the gospel. It does not give the viewer insight into the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son and how they put a plan into place for the redemption of the world. It does not show Jesus making a choice. Instead, it shows a split second decision of the father (which is far different from the All-Knowing and wonderful Father).

I say this with caution, watch the film and remember the various parts of the gospel. The cautionary part is to just watch, not through the literal lens of all the film didn’t cover, but through the lens of reflection and contemplation.  Through the lens of a father that made a choice. A choice that was not easy. You may have to put your allegorical hat on. You could also call it a modern parable if you wanted. It is a parable that tells and conveys a message of sacrifice, redemption, and hope.

Some will say, “Well, there is no resurrection.” That is a valid point. There is not a true resurrection of the boy. However, at the end of the film, you are left with a boy that looks very much like the son that died and a father that was sad at how much he lost. Upon seeing the boy, the joy returns with the father raising his arms, essentially seeing the sacrifice was worth it.

The message will focus on the sacrifice and decision of the father. It will show the lengths the father goes to in order to save all those passengers who were doomed and never knew it. There are many today that are walking around searching for answers. There are many who are broken and lost, who have turned to addictions to ease the pain. Many seek to fill the void with things (or “broken cisterns”) that will never leave them satisfied. We have tried to fill this emptiness left by sin with counterfeit gods that only leave us worse off and dissatisfied. Our lives yearn to have that fellowship with our Father that was lost. We long for the Garden.

There is hope though. That fellowship is repaired through Christ. Many have heard or seen the illustration that between God and man there is this canyon or valley that exists because of sin. Christ came, died, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven and will come back. The Cross and Christ essentially bridges the gap between Holy God and sinful man.

The topic of culturally relevant theology is a discussion for another post, but after seeing this amazing film I wanted to share it with you. Many have probably seen it, but think about the title. Think about where this happens. The analogy of the father making a decision by sacrificing his son to save the many has been used in several evangelism models. It is popular enough that you may have even used once before. This brings that analogy to life. The anguish, the hurt, the reluctance, the death, the sorrow, the pain, and the decision all come to life in this beautiful story.

I love the Gospel and love the Gospel story. I am not advocating changing the story or conforming it to “trick” someone into believing. As Christians we are to be strong and faithful to the true and accurate faith in Christ. Yes, I know there are many other stories/films/songs that show the gospel either overtly or covertly, but what I love about this film is how the Gospel story is being shown in a way that relates to this postmodern world. It meets those that are broken in hurting and shows how hard it was for the Almighty Father to sacrifice His only Son. As popular songs and movies play, they show the great need for a Savior and how culture looks for a Savior in all the wrong places. This movie meets the people where they are at with a story of brokenness and redemption. It leaves the viewer with gratitude, thanksgiving and hope.

A whole series and book could be produced on what stands out and touches each of us as we watch the film. What may have been impactful to us once, may be different the next time. Meaning, not just with this film but with songs or other films, a certain portion may stand out to us based on our life circumstances at the moment. If we were to listen or watch it again during a different life stage, something else may stand out. Film offers a wonderful way to share the Gospel. This film stirs inside questions and emotions and thanksgivings for what our Father did, and what our Savior did and endured. It shows that no matter how lost or broken or downtrodden a person may be, God can redeem, bring healing, and restoration.

I ask that you would spend the 30 minutes to watch the film. I gain nothing from it and in no way have any ties to it, nor do I get any monetary benefits. I love this film. Just watch. If nothing else moves you, look for the scene where the snow is falling in front of the camera and see the beauty of the snowflakes. See what comes out of pain. Place yourself in the fathers shoes, what decision would you make? What are ways we can relate the gospel to modern culture that we possibly have not done before?

Advertisements

Lessons about Tribal Missions from the book, The Spirit of the Rainforest

Today, we conclude our series on The Spirit of the Rainforest by looking at how one might communicate the gospel message with the Yanomamo or similar tribal cultures. I do not claim to be an evangelist or a missionary. These are merely a few thoughts that came to me as I read the book and seemed to stand out. They are concepts that other missionaries have tried or were shown to work in the book.

Finally, we conclude the entire series by recalling what we learned and what stood out. For anyone thinking about tribal missions, I highly suggest reading Spirit of the Rainforest. It will provide an eye opening look at what missionaries have experienced or are going through. It is a brutally honest book that caused heartfelt pain and emotion in my own life.

As I read this book right after the birth of my daughter, I was struck by the brutal reality of what some people endure and go through. Thinking about the treatment of women, babies, and children, there were many times this book was a tough read. But, the reader is not left with just stories of bad things happening to people. The reader is able to see how the grace, mercy, and light of God can penetrate the darkest of places. There is hope. While it may not be now or any time soon, for the Christian, there is an eternal hope that far outweighs the pain and sorrow of this fallen world.


 

Communicating the Concepts of the Spirit World, Humanity, and Sin to the Yanomamo

The Yanomamo understand that there are some spirits that are “good” and some that are “evil.” They even recognize a hierarchy to the spirit world in describing the great spirit or the spirit that made other spirits. In communicating the concepts of the spirit world, I would establish a common ground that I also believe in the spirit world and that there are definitely “good” and “evil” spirits. These spirits can cause them to do good and know more about peace, love, respect, and doing good; or they can cause them to continue to do evil and live in a cycle of revenge, fear, and guilt. At this point, Ephesians 6:12 is helpful in talking about evil spirits and struggles, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” These evil spirits lie to the Yanomamo and trick them into believing half-truths that cause so much pain and misery. They deceive the Yanomamo and cause them to be afraid of Yai Pada, who is the only spirit that truly loves them, can help them and is not their enemy. Unlike the evil spirits who many times seem ineffective in healing or finding food, Yai Pada cares and provides for their needs. Even these evil spirits recognize that there is nothing they can do against the great spirit.[1] The evil spirits trick them into thinking the Yanomamo rule them, but it is actually the evil spirits that rule the Yanomamo.

The Yanomamo culture is one of revenge and bravado, but even those times when innocent people are killed, many warriors experienced guilt and were troubled with what they had done. They would not tell anyone out of fear of being labeled a coward, but inside they knew that the killing was wrong. This knowledge of wrong points to an awareness of good and evil and shows the depravity of humans as we are all inherently evil. The Yanomamo typically let the men eat first and then whatever was leftover would be for the women and children. Following the ways of Yai Pada, all of the villagers are seen as wanting to take care of and help each other to ensure everyone’s needs are met. Yai Pada is able to change the Yanomamo culture where once children were the last to eat, now they are first. Yai Pada can change the hardest warrior’s heart who has done much killing, hurt, and pain into treating others with love, helping others, and being able to sleep again without the weight of guilt.[2]

This killing, raping, and cycle of revenge is all part of the lies these evil spirits have told them. It leads to a discussion on sin and how the original humans did not obey the great spirit Yai Pada. In the beginning, Yai Pada created a perfect world that was very good.  He created humans in His own image and likeness. There was peace and rest as these first humans enjoyed fellowship with Yai Pada. But an evil spirit deceived these humans causing them to disobey Yai Pada because they were prideful and wanted to be just like Him. Every child born to these humans were born with this curse of disobedience and pride called sin. This sin nature is what causes all humans to do bad and be separated from God. Every time the Yanomamo hear about Yai Pada, the evil spirits get extremely uncomfortable inside the Yanomamo and do not want them to listen to these stories. These evil spirits know they sinned and are trying to get the Yanomamo to also follow their sinful ways, instead of the good and loving ways of Yai Pada that lead to eternal life.

It is important to communicate to the Yanomamo how Yai Pada changes lives. There are many Yanomamo that are miserable, angry, and restless; but, Yai Pada offers a way out. With Yai Pada there is no longer a reason to be scared because He will give peace, protection, and remove fear. In much the same way that Yai Pada protected Jungleman and said Jungleman belongs to Him, Yai Pada does the same for all Yanomamo. Once the Yanomamo believes, they enter a relationship with Yai Pada as their eternal Father and are adopted into His family. In fact, Yai Pada offers a way to every Yanomamo to get rid of that guilt, fear, and shame. As Shoefoot describes, Yai Pada became a Yanomamo himself. He came as a baby, grew up, and showed a completely different way to live. Even though he knew he would be killed, he did it anyway. His death was a death for all Yanomamo’s.[3] “Because he was Yai Pada, he was able to come back from the dead. That is how he cut the trail to where he lives.”[4] He was never unfriendly to the Yanomamo, but is the enemy of the evil spirits from Omawa. The evil spirit Omawa deceived them into this life of fear, killing, and pain to keep them from a life of peace, happiness, and love. Yai Pada is the friend of Yanomamo that put their desires and trust in him. Yai Pada offers the greatest sense of safety and protection, more than the Yanomamo has ever known.

The Yanomamo understand the practice of putting the bow and arrows on a tree after they are done with unokai. The tree takes the killing tools and makes their hands clean so the Yanomamo’s can touch themselves again.[5] That is what Yai Pada’s death did. It changed the Yanomamo’s from being his enemies to making them his friends so they can follow his trail. Just as Yai Pada took the sins of the Yanomamo and forgave them, so too can a Yanomamo now be saved from the fire pit and forgive others because of Yai Pada’s gift.

Conclusion

Spirit of the Rainforest provides readers with real life examples and stories of spiritual warfare that is oftentimes overlooked or not thought about in American culture. Honey provides a great reminder for all of believers that our mission field is all around us; it shows how Christ’s love and power can make a difference not only in a person, but in a village and an entire community. The change in Shoefoot led to a change in a village and eventually the surrounding area. A simple but profound change of rebuking the old ways for following Christ with all our hearts can make us stand apart to live for God’s glory and be examples of Christ. Spirit of the Rainforest challenges Christians to be examples and obedient to God no matter where we are at.


[1] Ibid, 119.

[2] Ibid, 230.

[3] Ibid, 159.

[4] Ibid, 160.

[5] Ibid.

Spirit of the Rainforest: A Summary

Continuing the series on “The Spirit of the Rainforest” that was introduced in the previous post, this post will give a brief summary about the book. Hopefully this summary will provide a foundation for what will be discussed in future posts as the Yanomamo culture is compared and contrasted to our own culture. Following that will be a post on an outsiders look on how to share the gospel with a community like this

This post will take us through the book from the opening raid, the barbaric results, and the consequential fear to new way of peace, love, and forgiveness that is introduced. As one village becomes an example and a light for others, Spirit of the Rainforestprovides a case study for tribal missions in a very difficult environment.


Summary of Spirit of the Rainforest

Told from the perspective of a shaman named Jungleman, Spirit of the Rainforest provides the reader with a glimpse into the life of a shaman, their dependence on the spirits of the jungle, and the role of a shaman in the village. Jungleman grew from a boy scared of these spirit encounters to one of the most powerful Yanomamo shamans. Eventually, he began to teach other shamans how to use the spirits for various purposes including healing, cursing, and sexual fantasies. Jungleman’s account of the Yanomamo tribe provides readers unprecedented access to a vastly different culture as he describes the Yanomamo customs that includes their reasons for fighting, wars, treatment of women and children, the effect of the nabas (term for foreigners), and the role of spirits.

The book begins by describing a conflict between two villages, Honey and Mouth that epitomizes the Yanomamo struggle between the old culture (Mouth) with the new culture (Honey) that is being introduced by some of the nabas. The old culture includes revenge, fighting, guilt and fear, is contrasted with this new way of life that is peace, love and respect. Honey has thrown away the old Yanomamo customs and spirits and has started following the great spirit Yai Pada’s new ways. Honey flourishes under the new ways and soon becomes the envy of the other villages that are experiencing difficulties.

The Yanomamo culture of vengeance and loyalty is introduced early on through the raid on Potato Village. This one story sums up the Yanomamo tradition. The extent of the raid can vary from two opposing warriors clubbing each other to more serious raids where every male is killed and the women are assaulted, raped, and carried off to become wives of the raiding village. Children in the raided village are often killed, or occasionally captured to become slaves. Many village raids were spurred on by the killing of a relative that was a result of a revenge killing; this became an endless cycle of raids and fighting that sparked more revenge. The assaults on the women and children were to stop future generations from exacting revenge on that tribe. Often this tradition would fail as different tribes retaliate for those relatives showing familial loyalty by raiding the attacking village.

The Yanomamo’s discovered that the great spirit they thought was evil and would kill their children was actually a good spirit named Yai Pada. Jungleman’s apprentice Shoefoot, threw away his spirits to follow Yai Pada, and soon Shoefoot and his village Honey, begin changing. Honey becomes the envy of the Yanomamo’s as they flourish under this new culture of peace, love, and respect. Every shaman that visits this village is met with the same response from their spirits pleading not to be thrown away. As the story concludes, many Yanomamo villages tired of dying and spiritual ineffectiveness, rebuke the old ways to follow Yai Pada.

The Holy Spirit in the Gospels: Worshipping in the Spirit

What does it look like to worship in the Spirit? How does one worship in the Spirit? How does one worship God? Is there something that I must do? 

As we look at what Jesus taught on the Spirit, what the Gospel writers included, we are left with what do we do with this information? We are reminded that when Jesus went away, He sent the Holy Spirit. Believers are indwelt by the Spirit. The Spirit is seen as the Comforter or Advocate. The teachings and advantages of the Spirit and what He does is numerous. The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are some of the incalculable riches of God’s mercy and grace. As we finish this section of what Jesus taught on the Spirit in the Gospels, we conclude this section by looking at what it means to worship the Father, living for His glory, all in the power of the Spirit. This section is to think about what it looks like to depend on the Spirit. What a beautiful thing it is to live dependently on the Holy Spirit. 


Worshipping in the Spirit

In order to worship the Father, the teachings of Christ in the Gospels not only show the deity of the Spirit, but that the Spirit is worthy of worship because He is just like the Father and Son. At numerous times throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches remarkable concepts about the Spirit, including His deity, His Personhood, and His procession. It is important to remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is a Person and the third member of the Trinity as Jesus teaches throughout the Gospels. Jesus in fact referred to the Spirit as “He” and not “it” thereby insinuating the Spirit was some type of force. The Holy Spirit has a mind (Rom 8:27), a will (1 Cor 12:11), and emotional feelings (Gal 5:22–23).[1] The Spirit is also linked with the Father and the Son in various events of Jesus’s ministry. All three persons of the Trinity were present at Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16–17). Jesus said his casting out of demons was related to the Father and the Spirit (Matt 12:28). In the two blasphemy passages (Matt 12:32; Luke 12:10), the deity of the Holy Spirit is once again taught by Jesus. The conjunction of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son in these events is an indication that He is personal, just as they are.[2] It is also important to notice that in John 14-17, the Spirit is sent by both the Father (John 14:16, 26) and by the Son (John 16:7). This section of John “records the central truth relative to the Person and work of the Spirit in this age.”[3]

The new Advocate was to be to men more than the bodily presence of Christ had been. It was better that Christ should go away and that the Spirit should come.[4] The Spirit would come on believers in a new way, namely: to baptize, seal and indwell them.[5] Apart from the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot live the Christian life as God would have us live it. He is the “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17; 15:26) and the “Comforter” (parakletos). As “Comforter,” a term only used by John (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), meaning to come “alongside to assist,” shows that the Spirit works in and through the believer.[6] The presence of the Spirit in this world is actually an indictment against the world, for the world rejected Jesus Christ.[7] The Spirit replaced Jesus’ physical presence and mediated God to believers providing a much more intimate relationship than before.[8] The Holy Spirit reveals the Savior in the Word and in this way glorifies Jesus (John 16:13-14).[9] The Spirit teaches, encourages and reminds the believer of the words of Jesus so that they may obey and have peace in times of trial (John 14:25-27; 16:13). John 4:23-24 not only asserts the full divinity of the Spirit (“God is Spirit”), but shows that the human spirit is able to have meaningful communication with God as spirit.


 

[1] W. W. Wiersbe, “John,” in The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), 359.

[2] Erickson, Christian Theology, 785-86.

[3] Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 5, 151-155.

[4] Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 6, 151.

[5] Constable, “Notes on John.”

[6] Wiersbe, “John,” 352.

[7] Ibid, 353.

[8] Blum, “John”, 323.

[9] Wiersbe, “John,” 362.

What Jesus Taught on Living in the Spirit

Continuing the series on the ministry of the Spirit during the life of Jesus and the teachings of Jesus about the Spirit, this post will focus on what Jesus taught about living in the Spirit. Having concluded the portion on the ministry of the Spirit, we introduced this section last time by looking at what the Gospel writers included in their books on this important subject. Throughout the Gospels, we see a number of references that Jesus makes to the Spirit and His coming. He presents a number of teachings on the Spirit, but the main one is how a person is to live in the Spirit. Through that dependence on the Spirit, we are able to worship, minister, and follow God in the Spirit. By living, we are to depend on the Spirit. In a culture where our independence is celebrated, Christianity stands apart. It calls for one to live a life of dependence on God. In fact, we boast in how much we need Jesus. 

In our own lives, think today of how is independence showing up. What are ways that you can depend on the Spirit. Ask God for wisdom to show you those areas.


 

Christ’s statement in Luke 11:13 to His disciples “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him,” shows not only had the disciples not asked for the Spirit, but characterizes a forward step in the progressive relationship of the Spirit with men during the Gospel period.[1] The disciples were now granted this privilege of asking for the Spirit. Jesus prayed to the Father that “the Spirit Who was then with them might be in them and abide. He then breathed on them and they received the indwelling Spirit; yet they were commanded not to depart out of Jerusalem. No service could be undertaken and no ministry performed until the Spirit had come upon them for power.”[2] In the confrontation between the Pharisees and Jesus in Matthew 12:25-32, Jesus condemned the Pharisees and warns them that “anyone who speaks (blasphemes) against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (v. 32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10) gives evidence of what He had just done was done by the power of the Holy Spirit.[3] This blasphemy refers to people who become enemies of God (Isa 63:10). The awful sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, has no forgiveness. Failing to recognize the Spirit at work in Jesus’ ministry is to therefore considered to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.[4]

Jesus Himself is the bearer of the Spirit.[5] Being baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19; Luke 24:48-49) identifies the believer with God and clothes them with power from God to preach and teach to all nations. Jesus had told the disciples that the Holy Spirit “will be in you” (John 14:17) and adds in John 16:12-15 a great and momentous truth that the indwelling “Spirit of truth” will guide them and lead them into a “measureless ministry” that will glorify Jesus.[6] The Spirit bears “witness” of Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:14) and reveals God’s will and truth to the Christian. As God breathed life into Adam (Gen 2:7), so Jesus “breathed” on the disciples, imparting the Spirit upon them (John 20-22-23). This indicated that they were being prepared and empowered (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4) for the new movement they will lead.[7] Jesus also taught that the disciples (and believers) should not worry about what to say, specifically when on trial, because the Spirit would give them the words to say “for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Matt 10:20; Mark 13:11).

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, He that is Spiritual, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1918), 11.

[2] Ibid, 12.

[3] Erickson, Christian Theology, 793-795.

[4] C. Zoccali, “Spiritual Gifts.”

[5] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 301.

[6] Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 6, 223.

[7] E. A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 343.

Conclusion to the Significance of Women in Luke

This post will finish up the series of “The Significance of Women in Luke.” This conclusion will remind us how Luke shows a model of faith, discipleship, and trust. Luke’s pairing style gave a great way of showing different responses that showed a poor or incorrect response contrasted with a correct or faithful response. The gospel of Luke reminds us that Christ came for all and salvation is available for all, yet many deny this gift.

A bibliography is provided at the end for a list of all resources that were used in this writing for any further research that a reader may want.


Conclusion

Luke shows how Jesus has done much to dignify and elevate women. “The news of His [Jesus] birth was shared with a Jewish maiden, His death was witnessed by grieving women, and the good news of His resurrection was announced first to a woman who had been demon-possessed.”[1] The women who followed Christ provide a model of true discipleship as they heard Jesus’ call, followed Him during His ministry and suffering, and gave faithful witness to His resurrection.[2] Luke is not merely about the discipleship of the women, but more importantly it appreciates their abilities and resources to focus on Christ to receive and act upon the Word of God in truth.[3] The theme of the women of Luke’s Gospel is the grand theme of the whole of the Scriptures: that after the “barrenness” of Israel and the world, a seed born of a woman would conquer sin and death, be resurrected from the barren womb of the grave, and provide grace, mercy, and life to all who believe in Him.[4] The Magnificat celebrates the reversal of existing social structures. The story of Mary and Martha reflects an opening for women into a rabbinic group that was against the custom of the day. The women during the crucifixion show what faithfulness looks like in the midst of suffering. Because of Luke, we can learn from Mary and Martha that while serving is good, it is best to be at Jesus’ feet hearing God’s word. Luke’s style of contrast between the male and female offer many examples of what true faith looks like through the suffering and oppression of the women. Luke reverses the social norms and elevates women to a level of dignity through the life of Jesus that was unseen of during those times.


[1] Warren Wiersbe, “Luke,” in The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), 274.

[2] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,” 59

[3] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 202.

[4] Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.”


Bibliography

Benson, Mary. “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.” Testimony Magazine. 2007. Accessed March 14, 2015. http://www.testimony-magazine.org/back/aug2007/benson1.pdf

Butler, T. C. Luke, vol. 3. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

D’Angelo, Mary Rose. “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View.” Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990): 441-61, Accessed March 14, 2015.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267051.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Green, Joel B. The Theology of the Gospel of Luke. New York: Cambridge Press, 1995.

Guthrie, D. New Testament Introduction. 4th ed. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996.

Henry, Matthew. “Luke.” In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994.

Johnson, Luke. “The Gospel of Luke.” Sacra Pagina, vol. 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Kopas, Jane. “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel.” Theology Today 43 (1986): 192-202.

Maly, Eugene H. “Women and the Gospel of Luke.” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 10 (1980): 99-104.

Ryan, Rosalie. “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke.” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 15 (1985): 56-59.

Sproul, R. C. A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke. Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1999.

Stein, R. H. Luke. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Wiersbe, Warren. “Luke.” In The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996.

Witherington III, Ben. Women in the Earliest Churches. New York: Cambridge Press, 1991.

The Significance of Women in Luke: The Cross and Resurrection

The Women of the Crucifixion and Resurrection

As the Gospel draws near to the final events in Jesus’ life on earth, Luke sets the stage for true spirituality and discipleship. The first encounter comes when Peter is questioned by a servant woman who recognizes him as a follower of Jesus (22:55-58). She had nothing to lose and was not a disciple of Christ, yet it is her truthfulness compared to Peter’s denials that foreshadows the fateful final hours. It was not Peter or the other disciples who responded in truth, but it is the women who appear in the remainder of the Gospel who show true faith.[1]

The next encounter is with the women who lament Jesus’ suffering (23:28-31). Christ tells them that their mourning should be over the failure of the people to recognize the gift of God. These women weep for themselves and their children as keepers of the vision, but in this moment they must face the truth in the darkness of the crucifixion.[2]

Instead of Luke focusing on the women standing under the cross as depicted elsewhere, Luke notes that they followed behind the body to see where Jesus was laid (23:55-56). Their role as the first to receive the news of the resurrection (24:9-11) is more significant. Unlike the other three Gospels, Luke does not record that it was a woman who first saw the resurrected Christ.[3] However, the women are the first to receive the message of the resurrection, and to act as disciples to spread the good news to the others, even though the apostles did not believe them.[4] Of particular note, when the angels speak to the women, the angel tells the women to “remember” what Jesus told them. Most of Jesus’ sayings about death and suffering were in private to His disciples (9:22, 43-45; 17:25; 18:31-34), therefore indicating the women were also being instructed by Jesus.[5]

Since Luke involves many women in the birth and surrounding events of Christ, it is appropriate that women were at His death, and the first to see His resurrection from the womb of the grave.[6] The faithfulness of the women who followed Jesus was rewarded with joy on the resurrection morning. Luke makes special mention of the women that followed (23:40) and remained faithfully standing by during the crucifixion and did not leave, unlike the multitudes that left and the disciples that abandoned Jesus.[7]


[1] Ibid, 201.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,” 59.

[6] Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.”

[7] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,”58.

The Significance of Women in Luke: Mary, Martha and Luke 10-11

Continuing the discussion of the significance of women in the gospel of Luke, this post will focus on the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Luke continues to discuss and show true discipleship by providing a snapshot of the events that took place with these two sisters and the raising of Lazarus. While many sermons have come out of this section, our focus here is just to take a brief look at how Luke portrays this story and what he emphasizes. We conclude this section by bringing discipleship back up and what true discipleship is based on.


 

Mary and Martha

The story of Mary and Martha (10:38-42) is rooted in attentiveness to Jesus and the ability listen. While it is uncertain if they had husbands or children, they appear as faithful, godly women.[1] While Luke omits all of John’s details about Mary and Martha and the raising of Lazarus, he instead focuses on the teaching of getting one’s priorities straight by highlighting the unique story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha was absorbed with serving. The message of listening ties back to words that Jesus spoke earlier in regards to His family, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:19-21). While Mark’s Gospel (Mark 3:31-35) does not include the hearing reference that is found in Luke, the point Jesus makes is that a true relationship to Him is grounded in hearing His Word and doing it.[2] Luke’s special interest in disciples and women is found in this story as Mary is praised for hearing Jesus’ words.[3] This story further demonstrates Jesus’ acceptance of the education of women and becoming a part of His ministry, which is sharply contrasted with the common rabbinic practice.[4]

Luke follows up this theme of listening and doing God’s will in describing the story of the woman who cried out blessing the womb that bore Jesus (11:27-28). Jesus responds that true blessing is found in those that hear the word of God and do it. His correction shows that discipleship and blessing is not found in a physical relationship, but one grounded in faith.[5]


[1] Benson, “The Women of Luke’s Gospel.”

[2] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 197

[3] Rosalie, “The Women from Galilee and Discipleship in Luke,” 56.

[4] Stein, Luke, 241.

[5] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 198.

The Significance of Women in Luke: A Radical Reversal

Following the introductory post about why Luke seemed to have a greater number of stories about women than the other Gospel writers, today we look at the reasons why Luke may have been more open to speaking about women. Because Luke focuses on Jesus bringing salvation to more than just the Jews, as well as his prior education, we can start putting the pieces together with how his inspired narrative is formed. Today, we will see how Jesus changed society and the impact that had.

A Radical Reversal

Luke’s purpose was to show how God had turned society upside down when Jesus entered the world and displayed great love.[1] “Luke, both as an educated Gentile and as a physician, would naturally have a more open mind and heart to the socially deprived peoples of his day.”[2] Thus, it is not surprising that women are prominent in his Gospel. Throughout his narrative, the theme of reversal is seen with the positive attention given to women and the inclusion of the Samaritans and Gentiles.[3]

Luke’s portrayal of Mary, Jesus’ mother, is emblematic of how God reverses the misfortunes of the human condition. Mary’s Magnificat (1:46-50) exemplifies Luke’s new way of interpreting society that occurred through the entering of Christ into this world. The Magnificat, which resembles Hannah’s hymn (1 Sam 2:1-10), celebrates the reversal of human values and this form of justice to which the Sermon on Mount speaks.[4] In Mary’s song of praise, she echo’s Elizabeth’s prophecy showing that she and Elizabeth (1:41) are both filled with the Holy Spirit.[5] The Magnificat (1:46-56) displays a hymn of human solidarity both with others who have cried for deliverance and with the compassionate God.[6] Luke 23:5 displays how Jesus treated the minorities differently. He welcomed and admitted these peoples, particularly women, into his group which was unheard of in rabbinic circles.[7] This is further displayed in the story of Mary and Martha (10:38-42) where Jesus accepts Mary into His “rabbinical circle” as she listens to His words.

The cure of the crippled woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17), which can be paired with the Sabbath cure of the man with dropsy (14:1-6), reflects multiple significant reversal concepts. Jesus not only cures on the Sabbath, but He cures a woman on the Sabbath all to the dismay of an official; this is a double conflict that is only found in Luke. Then, Jesus refers to her as a daughter of Abraham, thus indicating participation in the religious life of Israel that was unimaginable.[8]

These stories then seem to show that while Jesus and in this case Luke do not outright condemn the social structures, they did go beyond those walls so that women could enjoy His ministry.[9] Since Jesus was radically changing society and relationships in society, Luke’s writing style must be examined along with these passages on women.

[1] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 99.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke Johnson, “The Gospel of Luke,” in Sacra Pagina, vol 3 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), 22.

[4] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 102.

[5] Matthew Henry, “Luke,” in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1825.

[6] Jane Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” Theology Today 43 (1986): 193.

[7] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 102.

[8] Kopas, “Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel,” 199.

[9] Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” 104.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WOMEN IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, pt 1

Moving from the studies of the Trinity now to focusing mainly on the Gospels, we start off this new series by looking at the Gospel of Luke.

Even though the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) report many of the same events and episodes in Jesus’ life, one would expect many similarities as well. However, each writer focuses on their own distinct emphasis and points of interests. Luke’s major characteristic themes include:

  1. universality, recognition of Gentiles as well as Jews in God’s plan (19:10);
  2. emphasis on prayer, especially Jesus’ praying before important occasions (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 10:21; 11:1; 22:39-46; 23:34, 46);
  3. prominent place given to women (chs. 1, 2; 7:11-13, 36-50; 8:1-3; 10:38-42; 21:1-4; 23:27-31, 49; 23:55–24:11);
  4. special interest in poverty and wealth (1:52-53; 4:16-22; 6:20, 24-25; 12:13-21; 14:12-13; 19:19-31) [some of the rich were included among Jesus’ followers, but he seemed closest to the poor];
  5. concern for individuals, especially “sinners” (good Samaritan, 10:29-37; prodigal son, 15:11-32; thankful leper, 17:11-19; penitent tax collector, 18:9-14; Zacchaeus, 19:1-10; penitent thief, 23:39-43) [Jesus was a friend to those deep in sin];
  6. stress on the family circle (Jesus’ activity included men, women and children, with the setting frequently in the home);
  7. repeated use of the title “Son of Man” (e.g., 19:10);
  8. emphasis on joy (e.g., 1:14) and the Holy Spirit (e.g., 4:1).

From these themes, we see that it is important for Luke to discuss the significance of minorities and the forgotten of that period. From his background in the Greek culture, he had more exposure to the changing cultural attitudes of the day.

So what this post and the next few posts will focus on is how Luke gives women a prominent place in the inspired Gospel and possible reasons why. Luke includes many details in his writing that the other gospels do not, and some of those bring women into the mix. With this gospel, Luke is able to show the Jesus did not just come for a few, but for all. Instead of just taking the claim that Luke gave women a special role, let us look at the book of Luke and go through it carefully, examining every mention of a woman and how that fits in the overall theme of the book, which is Jesus (The Son of Man to use Luke’s words) brings salvation to all.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WOMEN IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

The Gospel of Luke has often been regarded as sympathetic to women, as it provides more passages about women than any other Gospel, including 23 unique stories. Without the inspired writings of Luke, we would not know about the miraculous conception of Elizabeth, the prophetess Anna, Mary’s Magnificat, the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears and costly oil, and of the women who accompanied Jesus in his travels and supported his ministry. The inspired writings of Luke describe the prominence of women in Christ’s ministry as he consistently portrays them as true examples of faith in spite of a culture that minimized women. Luke’s Gospel most importantly describes the significant roles women play from the very beginning of Jesus’ life and ministry.[1] The Gospel reveals Christ’s perfect love and tender compassion towards all women especially towards the suffering. The significance of women in the Gospel of Luke is demonstrated by the writer showcasing women’s faith and service and how Jesus reversed the societal norms by proclaiming a gospel of equality and inclusion. This paper will examine why Luke concentrates on women more than the other gospel writers, his possible motivation, his “pairing” writing style, and will examine individual passages.

Women and the Gospel of Luke

The author of Luke does increase the number of stories about the women in the Gospel, and that increase seems to be a deliberate choice.[2] It is significant that Luke pays so much attention to women in a culture dominated with focus on men. Luke mentions thirteen women not spoken of elsewhere in the Gospels, including two who formed the subject of parables. Luke, as a Gentile, would know much of the degradation of women and would be concerned to emphasize all he had heard of the attitude of the Lord towards them.[3] Luke’s Gospel begins and ends with the focus on women and their part in the story.[4] Luke focuses on women from the very beginning of Jesus’ life by pointing to Mary, not Joseph, who praised God with the birth announcement (Luke 1:46-55). Both Elizabeth (1:41-45) and Anna (2:36-38) also praised and blessed the Lord. There are many women in the Gospel, and there seems to be tendency for Luke to defend and praise women.

[1] Eugene H. Maly, “Women and the Gospel of Luke,” Biblical Theology Bulletin: A Journal of Bible and Theology 10 (1980): 99.

[2] Mary Rose D’Angelo, “Women in Luke-Acts: A Redactional View,” Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990): 443, accessed March 14, 2015, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267051.

[3] D. Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 4th ed. (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 103-4.

[4] T. C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 132.