The Gospels, part 9: The Gospel of Luke (2)
Ascension, grace, and eleven unique parables
In the previous post, we saw that Luke-Acts, taken as one grand work in two parts, has at its center the Ascension of Jesus. That supreme moment is what the two halves hinge on, and the event is told twice – once in the concluding chapter of the Gospel and again in the first few verses of Acts. Unlike the other Gospels, then, Luke’s interpretive key comes at its end, since its chiastic structure embraces both volumes (one can explore this further by clicking here and also here). Everything in the Gospel leads up to the Ascension, which we noted is emblematic of Christ’s cosmic lordship, and everything in Acts flows from the power of the Spirit that he as Lord bestows on his apostles (hence, Acts ends on a note of accomplishment – with Paul, the message of Christ has reached Rome, the heart of the world, and from there it will extend to earth’s ends – rather than with the martyrdom of Paul, as one might have expected, even though Acts was written years after his death). Luke’s message is not centered on the cross, as important as the crucifixion is in the narrative, but on Christ’s resurrection and consequent heavenly “enthronement.” Through the Ascension (as we noted in the last post), the promise that the House of David would reign everlastingly is fulfilled. One has only to read the inaugural proclamation of Peter, announced to representatives of the nations on the day of Pentecost, to see clearly where the heart of Luke’s good news lies (Acts 2:14-36). Since Luke presents his message as the “glad tidings” of the Anointed One’s ultimate sovereignty, he puts great emphasis on the “prevenient” grace and mercy that are the hallmark of this sovereignty (“Glory to God in the highest places and peace on earth among men of good will”; Lk. 2:14). God’s unmerited favor comes first, and – once realized – human beings are put in a position of responding to it.
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