In Part 14, we saw that Mark portrays Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith. In Part 15, we saw that Q portrays Jesus as a devout follower of the Jewish faith. Does L, the special source used by Luke, portray Jesus as an adherent of Judaism? as a devout follower of the Jewish faith? While the evidence is not as extensive as it is in the case of Mark and Q, the evidence is fairly clear that Jesus is portrayed by L as a devout follower of the Jewish faith.
Jesus and the Jewish Scriptures
Jesus refers to Old Testament stories about the prophets Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17:1-16 and 2 Kings 5:1-14), indicating familiarity with the Jewish scriptures. Jesus calls Elisha a “prophet” and says that Elijah was “sent to…a widow” indicating his belief that Elijah was also a prophet. So, Jesus accepted the stories in Jewish scriptures about these men as true, and Jesus accepted the Jewish view of these men as being messengers from God.
Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It involves a man who is travelling “from Jerusalem to Jericho”. Characters include “a priest” (presumably a Jewish priest from the temple in Jerusalem) and “a Levite” and “a Samaritan”. A man who was beaten up, robbed, and left for dead is not helped by the priest or the Levite, but is helped by the Samaritan. Jesus asks “Which of these three was ta neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” In this Jewish context, Jesus is making a reference to the Old Testament command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
Jesus also taught that we should be generous and kind towards the poor, disabled, and the blind, which is in keeping not only with the “Love your neighbor” command in Leviticus, but is also a theme in other O.T. passages (caring for the poor, orphans, widows, and resident aliens): Exodus 22:21-27, 23:10-12; Leviticus 19:9-11, 23:21-23; Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 15:10-12, 24:11-16, 27:17-19.
Jesus told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Jesus portrays Abraham as a saint, in keeping with the Jewish faith. Jesus teaches that there will be rewards and punishments in the afterlife, and that to avoid punishments in the afterlife one ought to “listen to Moses and the prophets” (verse 31).
In this story Jesus heals ten lepers, and then tells them “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Presumably he is referring to Jewish priests, and his order reflects a law found in the Jewish scriptures (Leviticus 13:2-8 & 14:2-3). Jesus is pleased by one of the healed lepers who later returned and thanked Jesus, because that leper gave “praise to God”. In other words, that leper showed gratefulness for the miraculous healing brought about by God. Giving praise to God is clearly an important part of the Jewish faith, and is part of the ten commandments of Moses (see Exodus 10:1-6, 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:1-21, 10:19-21).
Jesus as a Teacher of Jewish Beliefs, Values & Practices
In this story Jesus is accompanied by “his disciples and a large crowd”. Jesus performs a healing miracle, a resurrection of a dead man. There is no indication in this passage about what sort of teacher Jesus was, but the fact that he performs a miraculous healing suggests that he was some sort of religious teacher.
In this passage Jesus is clearly portrayed as a teacher within the Jewish faith tradition. Jesus is invited to have a meal at the house of a Pharisee. A Pharisee would be unlikely to invite a Gentile or a non-practicing Jew or a promoter of another religion (polytheism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism) to eat with him in his home. Pharisees were devout followers of the Jewish religion. This Pharisee is concerned about the question of whether Jesus was a prophet (verse 39), and he calls Jesus “Teacher”(verse 40). Clearly, in the context of wondering whether Jesus was a prophet, a messenger from God, the term “Teacher” implies a teacher of religious beliefs and practices, not a teacher of mathematics or a teacher of rhetoric, etc.
“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.”
(verse 10). If Jesus was teaching in synagogues on the sabbath, then this strongly implies that Jesus was a teacher within the Jewish faith tradition. Obviously, he would not be allowed to teach in a synagogue on the sabbath day if he promoted atheism or polytheism or Hinduism or some other alternative to the Jewish religion.
Furthermore, Jesus heals a crippled woman on that sabbath day, and is criticized by “the leader of the synagogue” for violation of the sabbath day of rest. Jesus argues that healing a woman who was “a daughter of Abraham” who had been crippled “for eighteen long years” was a legitimate exception to the divine command not to work on the sabbath day. Note that Jesus does not say “Hey, I’m not a devout Jew, so I don’t care about observing the sabbath”. In arguing that this is a reasonable or legitimate exception to the rule, Jesus is implicitly accepting the rule or commandment not to work on the sabbath (see Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Jesus again argues for healing as a legitimate exception to the prohibition of work on the sabbath:
And Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” (verse 3)
Clearly, Jesus is not rejecting the Jewish rule against working on the sabbath, since he wants to discuss whether healing on the sabbath is “lawful”, meaning whether healing on the sabbath would be in keeping with the ten commandments and other laws of Moses.
Jesus on Repentance, Forgiveness of Sins, and Divine Judgement
A major theme in L is repentance and forgiveness of sins, in order to avoid divine judgement and punishment. This was the core message of John the Baptist according to the canonical gospels, and it appears to be a core message of Jesus in L.
In three passages, Jesus approves of or encourages people to repent of their sins to avoid divine judgement.
And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he [Jesus] was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with ointment. …he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house: you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgeiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to who little is forgiven loves little.”
Jesus comments on a couple of recent events. Pilate had killed some Galileans. And eighteen people were killed in Jerusalem when a tower fell on them. Apparently, popular sentiment viewed both incidents as being a divine punishment for sins of the victims. But Jesus says that these people were not any more sinful than other Galileans or other residents of Jerusalem: “…Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” (verse 3 & 5).
Jesus befriends Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was rich, and Zacchaeus responds enthusiastically: “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” (verse 8). Jesus responds to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man cam to seek out and to save the lost.” (verse 9). Jesus appears to be following in the footsteps of John the Baptist, teaching and encouraging sinful and non-devout Jews to repent, and to start living in accordance with the ten commandments and to worship Jehovah, the God of Israel.
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Sheep (see Jesus’ comments to Zacchaeus in L 19: 8-9).
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Coin.
Jesus tells the parable of the Lost Son (Prodigal Son). The son in the story clearly represents a sinner who repents and returns back to love and obey Jehovah.
Jesus tells the parable of the Lazarus and the Rich Man. The rich man is being tormented in the afterlife, and he pleads with Abraham: “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house–for I have five brothers–that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” (verses 27 & 28). Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets: they should listen to them.” The rich man replies, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” (verses 29 & 30). Here we see Jesus teaching that one must repent of sin in order to avoid divine punishment in the afterlife.
Jesus tells the story of the Self-Righteous Pharisee and the Repentant Tax Collector. When the Pharisee prays at the temple, he thanks God that he is devout and religious. When the tax collector prays, he says “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (verse 13). Jesus comments that “…this man [the repentant tax collector] went down to his home justified rather than the other [the Pharisee].” (verse 14).
Jesus and Prayer
Jesus teaches that we should be persistent in prayer.
Jesus teaches that we should pray for divine forgiveness.
Jesus teaches that we should be persistent in praying for justice. Presumably, he had in mind the Jewish hope that God would save the Jewish people from oppression and domination by the Romans, although he might also have had in mind the elite Jewish priests of Jerusalem, who were collaborators with the Roman authorities.
I conclude that there is ample evidence that L portrays Jesus as a devout Jew, as an adherent of the religion of Judaism. Jesus was, according to L, familiar with the O.T. and believed Moses, Elijah, and Elisha were messengers from God, and that Abraham was a saint. Jesus believed that we should obey God, specifically that we should obey the commandments and laws of Jehovah, and that most people, perhaps all people, are sinful and need to repent, change their minds and their lives to conform to the commandments and laws of Jehovah, in order to avoid terrible divine punishments in the afterlife. Jesus believed that we should pray to God and worship God. All of this reflects the idea that Jesus was a devout follower of the Jewish faith.