This Sunday is the Last Sunday in the Church Year. The text for this Sunday is very much near the end of the gospel account [Luke 23:27-43]. And although we are saying ‘Goodbye’ to this gospel account for a little while, the Gospel according to Luke strongly connects with the reader (or listener) who is in the future.
The Gospel according to Matthew—which we will begin to look at next week—tends to look back in time. The Gospel according to Luke tends to look ahead.
One example of this might be to look at some of the ‘unusual things’ that happened at the crucifixion of Jesus. In the Gospel according to Matthew, after the death of Jesus, the text says this: ‘The tombs were also opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many (Matthew 27:52-53, ESV).’ Some people think that this piece of information is important enough for ALL the accounts to have included this. Because this is only mentioned in this gospel account, some people unfortunately doubt that it happened.
The appearance of dead people coming back to life is certainly a miracle, and it certainly was done by Jesus earlier in his ministry, but it happens to those who were saints, holy people, and it is important that they are described as entering the ‘holy city’, Jerusalem. This brief description of a very special event is a brief look at the past, when the holy God decided that Jerusalem would be the place where the holy God and unholy man (who is now called holy) would come together in a holy place, the temple.
One of the most unusual things to happen at the crucifixion of Jesus, this time from the perspective of the Gospel according to Luke, is the conversion of the thief on the cross. In the other accounts that are most similar, the two robbers are described as having been together in their ridiculing of Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). But in the Gospel according to Luke, there is, quite literally, a ‘last-minute’ change in the one. It is pretty amazing; yes, miracles CAN happen.
All the things which we would consider amazing do not need to be recorded in every account. Each account has a particular emphasis. The writer of the Gospel according to Luke sets before the reader or listener a wide variety of people who interact with Jesus. As I wrote earlier in the year, as an ox would turn over the various types of ground when it had the job of ploughing, so also Jesus overturned the lives of these various people as he made his way to his end.
I would like to add the clarification that the ox is a domesticated animal (See The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 3: K-P, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986, page 624). In other words, he easily gets along with people and other animals. This is in contrast to a wild ox. A wild ox would not work well with others; he would be more like a lion, and that type of animal is already a living creature on God’s throne. The ox that is symbolized in this account is powerful, yet gentle. And this is not only seen in the way Jesus dealt with the wide variety of people who came to him, but this is also seen in the book of Acts, with the wide variety of people whom the followers of Jesus met. And this is not unlike the work of the Lord’s Church today.