The mustard seed (Lk 17:6-17:6)

“The Lord replied.

‘If you had faith

The size of

A mustard seed,

You could say

To this mulberry tree,

‘Be rooted up!

Be planted

In the sea!’’

It would obey you.’”

 

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐλέγετε ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ Ἐκριζώθητι καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ· καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν.

 

Luke indicated that Jesus, the Lord, replied (εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Κύριος) that if they had faith (Εἰ ἔχετε πίστιν) the size of a mustard seed (ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), they could say (ἐλέγετε) to this mulberry or sycamore tree (ἂν τῇ συκαμίνῳ ταύτῃ), be rooted up (Ἐκριζώθητι) and planted in the sea (καὶ φυτεύθητι ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ).  Luke is the only biblical writer to use the Greek term συκαμίνῳ that means a black mulberry tree or a sycamore tree that had medicinal value.  Then this tree would obey them (καὶ ὑπήκουσεν ἂν ὑμῖν).  There are expanded faith sayings that can also be found in Mark, chapter 9:28-29, and Matthew, chapter 17:19-21, who are much closer to each other.  Matthew indicated that the disciples came to Jesus privately (Τότε προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ).  They wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirits from that boy (κατ’ ἰδίαν εἶπον Διὰ τί ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  Jesus reminded them (ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς) of their little faith (Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν), a term used predominately by Matthew.  Jesus came back with a solemn pronouncement (ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν) that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed (ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως), like here in Luke, they could move mountains from here to there (ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται).  Nothing would be impossible for them (καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν).  If they had faith with prayer and fasting (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ καὶ νηστείᾳ), they would be able to cast the evil spirits out (τοῦτο δὲ τὸ γένος οὐκ ἐκπορεύεται).  Matthew continued to emphasize the lack of faith or the little faith of the disciples of Jesus.  Mark said that the disciples wondered why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit from that boy (Ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἠδυνήθημεν ἐκβαλεῖν αὐτό).  The disciples were concerned that they must have lacked something that made it impossible for them to get rid of this evil spirit that was in that boy.  Mark added the need for prayer.  There was no emphasis on faith as in Matthew, where Jesus talked about faith and the mustard seed.  Mark emphasized prayer, as he indicated that Jesus said that this kind of evil spirit could only be expelled (Τοῦτο τὸ γένος ἐν οὐδενὶ δύναται ἐξελθεῖν) through prayer (εἰ μὴ ἐν προσευχῇ).  Prayer might imply faith, but it is not explicit here in Luke.  Which is more important to you, faith or prayer?

Jesus takes his three trusted apostles to pray (Lk 9:28-9:28)

“Now about eight days

After these sayings,

Jesus took with him

Peter,

John,

And James.

They went up

On a mountain

To pray.”

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ, καὶ παραλαβὼν Πέτρον καὶ Ἰωάνην καὶ Ἰάκωβον ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος προσεύξασθαι.

 

Luke said that about 8 days (ὡσεὶ ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ), after these sayings (Ἐγένετο δὲ μετὰ τοὺς λόγους τούτους), Jesus took with him (καὶ παραλαβὼν) Peter (Πέτρον), John (καὶ Ἰωάνην), and James (καὶ Ἰάκωβον), his 3 favorite apostles.  They went up on a mountain (ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος) to pray (προσεύξασθαι).  Going to a special mountain after these sayings can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Matthew, chapter 17:1, Mark, chapter 9:2, and here in LukeMark and Matthew are exactly the same, almost word for word, but Luke talked about 8 days and going to pray on a mountain.  Mark said that this activity took place 6 days later, probably after the proclamation of Peter about Jesus being the Christ messiah.  Jesus took with him Peter, and the 2 sons of Zebedee, James and John.  There was no mention of Peter’s brother Andrew.  Jesus brought these 3 disciples to an unnamed high mountain, presumably near the Sea of Galilee.  There was no mention of any prayer.  Matthew, like Mark, said that this activity took place 6 days later, not 8 days as in Luke.  Jesus took with him Peter, James, and his brother John.  Jesus brought these 3 disciples to an unnamed high mountain, presumably near the Sea of Galilee, probably Mount Tabor in lower Galilee or Mount Hermon near Caesarea Philippi, much further north.  They were alone by themselves, not with any of the other apostles or disciples.  Going up on a high mountain was an attempt to have a special communication with God, just as Moses had done in the Torah.  Jesus was transfigured or transformed in front of these 3 apostles.  Was this a foretaste of the resurrected Jesus Christ?  Do you expect to see a transfigured Jesus Christ?

Beware children of Abraham! (Lk 3:8-3:9)

“Bear fruits

Worthy of repentance!

Do not begin

To say to yourselves!

‘We have Abraham

As our ancestor!’

I tell you!

‘God is able

From these stones

To raise up children

To Abraham.

Even now,

The ax is lying

At the root of the trees.

Every tree

That does not bear

Good fruit

Is cut down

And thrown

Into the fire.’”

 

ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας· καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ· λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ.

ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται· πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.

 

Here is the first of the sayings from the so-called Q source.  Both Matthew, chapter 3:9-10, and Luke here have the exact same wording in their presentations of John’s preaching to the people.  Instead of just the Pharisees and Sadducees, Luke has John address this to all the people coming to be baptized.  This saying emphasized deeds, rather than relying on ancestry.  They were to produce fruit that was worthy of repentance (ποιήσατε οὖν καρποὺς ἀξίους τῆς μετανοίας).  They had to perform good deeds.  They should not presume that because they have had Abraham as their father, as the privileged chosen ones (καὶ μὴ ἄρξησθε λέγειν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς Πατέρα ἔχομεν τὸν Ἀβραάμ), that all would go well for them.  Then John pointedly said to them (λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν) that God had the power (ὅτι δύναται ὁ Θεὸς) to change stones and rocks into the children of Abraham (ἐκ τῶν λίθων τούτων ἐγεῖραι τέκνα τῷ Ἀβραάμ), a Hebrew play on words that was translated into Greek.  The axe was already lying at the foot of the trees, ready to go to work (ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται).  Every tree that was not bearing or producing good fruit would be cut down (πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται).  Then they would be thrown into the fire (καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται).

You did not take care of me (Mt 25:42-25:43)

“I was hungry!

You gave me

Nothing to eat!

I was thirsty!

You gave me

Nothing to drink!

I was a stranger!

You did not

Welcome me!

I was naked!

You did not

Give me clothing!

I was sick!

I was in prison!

You did not

Visit me!’”

 

ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ οὐκ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ οὐκ ἐποτίσατέ με,

ξένος ἤμην καὶ οὐ συνηγάγετέ με, γυμνὸς καὶ οὐ περιεβάλετέ με, ἀσθενὴς καὶ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ οὐκ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με.

 

This last judgment section is unique to Matthew, as he reversed the sayings about the righteous sheep against these goat people.  Here in a first person singular response, Jesus said that he was hungry and they did not give him anything to eat (ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ οὐκ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν).  He was thirsty and they did not give anything to drink (ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ οὐκ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν).  He was a stranger or foreigner and they did not welcome him or take him in (ξένος ἤμην καὶ οὐ συνηγάγετέ με).  He was naked and they did not give him any clothes (γυμνὸς καὶ οὐ περιεβάλετέ με).  He was sick and in prison and they did not visit him (ἀσθενὴς καὶ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ οὐκ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με).  They had failed in the corporal works of mercy, not the legal following of the Mosaic Law.

 

The parables (Mt 13:3-13:3)

“Jesus told them

Many things

In parable sayings.”

 

αὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων.

 

A similar statement can be found in Mark, chapter 4:2.  This is the beginning of the parable section in Matthew.  Jesus told them many things in parables (αὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων).  Parables were one of the many literary forms in the biblical literature.  These parables of Jesus can be found in all the synoptic gospels since they represent about 1/3 of Jesus’ teachings.  These simple and memorable stories conveyed important messages, central to the teachings of Jesus.  Many of Jesus’s parables refer to simple everyday events.  The word “parable” can also refer to a riddle, as it was used in the Old Testament.  The use of parables was a natural teaching method that fit into the tradition of the time of Jesus.  Matthew has 23 parables of which 11 are unique.  There are 2 unique parables in Mark and 18 unique parables in LukeMatthew and Luke share 4 parables, while Matthew, Mark and Luke share 6 parables.  Many of these parables have been subjects of art and literature, especially during the Middle Ages.

The fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah (Mt 12:17-12:17)

“This was to fulfill

What was spoken

Through the prophet Isaiah.”

 

ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἡσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος

 

There is no question that this citation from Second Isaiah, chapter 42-1-4, was unique to Matthew.  He was a strong believer that these sayings of the Old Testament or Hebrew scriptures were fulfilled with Jesus (ἵνα πληρωθῇ) and his healings.  Matthew explicitly mentions that the prophet Isaiah had spoken these words (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἡσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος).

The crowds were astonished (Mt 7:28-7:28)

“When Jesus had finished

These sayings,

The crowds were astonished

At his teaching,”

 

Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ἐξεπλήσσοντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ

 

Matthew has a transition phrase, that also was in Luke, chapter 7:1.  Mark also has something like in chapter 1:21.  Jesus seems to have finished these sayings (Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους) or the sermon on the Mount.  The crowds of people were astonished or amazed (ἐξεπλήσσοντο οἱ ὄχλοι) at his teaching (ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).  Clearly, Jesus made a big impression.