To justify himself,
‘Who is my neighbor?’”
ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον
Luke alone went on to a further explanation about the question or meaning of neighbor. He said that this lawyer wanted to justify himself (ὁ δὲ θέλων δικαιῶσαι ἑαυτὸν) and his earlier question. He asked Jesus (εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν) point blank, ‘Who is my neighbor (Καὶ τίς ἐστίν μου πλησίον)?’ This question has haunted Christians for centuries. Were these very Jewish people their neighbors? Were only those who believed exactly like them their neighbors? The answer will be clear as this story unfolds. Who do you think your neighbor is?
“Then they arrived
At the country
Of the Gerasenes,
Which is opposite Galilee.”
Καὶ κατέπλευσαν εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν ἀντιπέρα τῆς Γαλιλαίας.
Luke said that Jesus and his disciples sailed down (Καὶ κατέπλευσαν) to the country of the Gerasenes (εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν), which was opposite Galilee (ἥτις ἐστὶν ἀντιπέρα τῆς Γαλιλαίας). All three synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 8:28, Mark, chapter 5:1, as well as Luke here, have Jesus cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. They went to the country or region of the Gerasenes. Matthew called it Gadarenes, while Luke called it Gerasenes, like Mark. This might be one of two different towns on the east bank of the Jordan in the Decapolis territory, a group of 10 cities. One was called Gadara, about 6 miles away from the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee, near where the Sea of Galilee ran into the Jordan River. Today, it is in the country of Jordan, known as Umm Qais. The other Decapolis town was called Gerasa, a town about 40 miles from the Sea of Galilee, which would be more inconsistent with this story. Nevertheless, this was Gentile territory with only a few Jewish people there. Jesus had traveled over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to its southern tip, to one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis territory. Have you ever traveled to an area where they had different religious beliefs than you?
I did not presume
To come to you.
But only say the word!
Let my servant
διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν· ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ, καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου.
Luke said that the friends of the centurion continued by saying he would not presume to come to Jesus (διὸ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἠξίωσα πρὸς σὲ ἐλθεῖν). Instead, he wanted Jesus to only say the word (ἀλλὰ εἰπὲ λόγῳ), and thus his servant would be healed (καὶ ἰαθήτω ὁ παῖς μου). This saying of the centurion’s friends is exactly the same as the centurion himself in Matthew, chapter 8:8, perhaps indicating a Q source. The Roman centurion’s friends responded to Jesus that the centurion merely wanted Jesus to say the word, and then his servant would be healed. Perhaps, he was aware that Jewish people were not expected to go into the homes of gentiles like himself. Once again, this saying of the centurion and his friends has made its way into the Roman Catholic pre-communion prayer Eucharistic liturgy. Would you rely on the word of Jesus?
“This centurion loves
He built us
ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν.
Luke uniquely said that these Jewish elders continued praising this centurion, who loved the Jewish people, their people (ἀγαπᾷ γὰρ τὸ ἔθνος ἡμῶν). He had built a synagogue for them (καὶ τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτὸς ᾠκοδόμησεν ἡμῖν). There were many instances of Roman soldiers adopting the religious practices of the people where they were staying. However, building a synagogue seems a bit much. It may have led to better community relations. Although he was not Jewish, this centurion had been very favorable to the Jewish people by helping them build a new synagogue. There was no mention of this synagogue in the Matthew story about the centurion. Would you be favorable to a religion not your own?
“Jesus came down
On a level place,
With a great crowd
Of his disciples
And a great multitude
From all Judea,
And the coast
καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ, καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος,
Luke said that Jesus came down from the mountain with his new apostles (καὶ καταβὰς μετ’ αὐτῶν). He stood on a level place (ἔστη ἐπὶ τόπου πεδινοῦ), with a great crowd of his disciples (καὶ ὄχλος πολὺς μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ). There was a lot of people (καὶ πλῆθος πολὺ τοῦ λαοῦ) from all Judea (ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς Ἰουδαίας), Jerusalem (καὶ Ἱερουσαλὴμ), and the coast of Tyre and Sidon (καὶ τῆς παραλίου Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος). Clearly, Jesus had become very popular, but there was no mention of anybody from Galilee. Mark, chapter 3:7-8, said that Jesus left with his disciples to go to the Sea of Galilee, where, a great big crowd from Galilee and Judea that followed him. People from everywhere were coming to listen to Jesus. Jesus was no longer a local Galilean hero. Mark said that people came to him in great numbers from Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan and also from the regions around Tyre and Sidon. Obviously, Jerusalem would be interested in Jesus. Idumea was south of Judah and part of the old country of Edom. The other side of the Jordan would have been the old territories of Manasseh, Gad, and Reuben. Tyre and Sidon were the coastal towns of the Phoenicians in the old Asher territory. These would have been mostly Jewish people of Israelite heritage. Matthew, chapter 4:24-25, said that the fame of Jesus had spread all over Syria, so that huge crowds followed Jesus in Galilee. Also, the people from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from the east bank of the Jordan River were all following Jesus.
“Even tax collectors
Came to be baptized.
They asked him.
What shall we do?’”
ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν Διδάσκαλε, τί ποιήσωμεν;
This is another one of the unique sayings of Luke about John and his preaching that is not found elsewhere in the biblical writings. Luke said that even tax collectors came to be baptized (ἦλθον δὲ καὶ τελῶναι βαπτισθῆναι). They asked John (καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν), as their teacher (Διδάσκαλε), what they should do (τί ποιήσωμεν). Tax collectors had a special role in the biblical writings as they were considered like traitors to the Jewish people, since these were Jewish people who collected the Roman tax from the local people. However, they seemed capable of repentance, as here they were seeking baptism from John.
“Now at the festival,
Pilate used to release
For whom they asked.”
Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν ἀπέλυεν αὐτοῖς ἕνα δέσμιον ὃν παρῃτοῦντο.
This is almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 27:15. In John, chapter 18:39, there is something similar about the custom of releasing prisoners, but there is nothing in Luke about this custom. Mark said that at the festival time (Κατὰ δὲ ἑορτὴν), the Roman governor used to release one of the many prisoners to the Jewish people (ἀπέλυεν αὐτοῖς ἕνα δέσμιον), usually not a criminal facing the death penalty. This crowd could request the one that they wanted (παρῃτοῦντο), so that this kept the local folks happy. It is not clear how much this custom took place. Who would you ask for?
“It was two days
Before the Passover,
Of Unleavened Bread.”
Ἦν δὲ τὸ πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας
There is something similar to this in Matthew, chapter 26:2, and in Luke, chapter 22:1, where there was talk of the Passover in 2 days. There were 3 major annual pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem, Pentecost, Booths, and Passover, with Passover the most popular. This Passover feast celebrated the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. Therefore, this festival reminded the Jewish people of their escape from a foreign country. Thus, the Roman leaders had a heightened alert with more troops in Jerusalem. Mark indicated that Jesus said to his disciples that it was 2 days (μετὰ δύο ἡμέρας), before the Passover (Ἦν δὲ τὸ πάσχα), the festival of Unleavened Bread (καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα) that lasted a whole week. Passover and Unleavened bread were one festival, not 2 separate ones.
“Now the woman
Was a gentile,
Of Syrophoenician origin.
She begged him
Out of her daughter.”
ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς, Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει· καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς.
Matthew, chapter 15:22, has something similar. This woman was a gentile Canaanite woman (ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἦν Ἑλληνίς), of Syrophoenician origin (Συροφοινίκισσα τῷ γένει), that is in the area of Syria and Phoenicia. Matthew never mentioned the area she was from. The Canaanites, who worshiped Baal, were still the enemies of the Jewish people. This Canaanite woman kept begging Jesus (καὶ ἠρώτα αὐτὸν) to cast out the demon from her daughter (ἵνα τὸ δαιμόνιον ἐκβάλῃ ἐκ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτῆς), since her daughter was possessed by an evil spirit.