Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
Thesis: Genuine discipleship has to include a definitive "break" with the old life.
Introduction: For those who read the Bible with a jaundiced eye, looking for reasons to dismiss its content so that they may retain what they think is control over their own lives, Luke's opening statement in Luke 9:28-36 may well look like something for which they have been looking. At first blush, there does not seem to be anything particularly difficult in his words ... until we compare Matthew 17:1 and Mark 9:2 to what he wrote. Luke's record says that it was "about eight days" after He finished His words on discipleship that Jesus took three of His disciples upon a mountain where He was transformed before them. But both Matthew and Mark say that it was "after six days".
There are five things that make this a bit of a problem. First, there is a universal awareness in humanity that "contradictions" in teaching indicate a lack of "Truth". Second, it was Jesus Who said that the Bible was accurate down to the "jots and tittles" (Matthew 5:18), affirming the universal awareness. Third, the content of Jesus' teaching just prior to this "problem" is enormously "problematic" to anyone who squirms under the weight of "self-denial", "daily cross-bearing", and the "active pursuit" of Jesus, making any excuse for "escape" seem very appealing (such as "a contradiction"). Fourth, the actual terms of Jesus' discipleship teaching eliminate everyone from being a disciple who is looking for a "reason" to reject it (so Luke's words do not really block "discipleship", they only seem to provide some form of self-justification). And, fifth, the real "problem" is the question of "why" Luke would, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, deliberately say "eight" when two others under the same inspiration would say "six".
This morning I am going to see if I can explain what Luke was doing.
January 24, 2010
- I. The Issue is Not an Accuracy Issue.
- A. Language, at its very best, does not provide "jot and tittle accuracy" except on one level: that of the Initiator.
- 1. Language does allow a "speaker"/"writer" to express exact truth and precise accuracy.
- 2. But language does not have the ability to underwrite the re-creation of such exact precision in the mind of the "hearer"/"reader".
- a. The difficulties of exactly precise communication are many and, in the final analysis, insurmountable apart from a shared omniscience.
- b. The biblical doctrine of "understanding" is rooted, not upon language, but upon the active coupling of the use of language by God with His own guidance through the maze of possible meanings.
- B. Language does, however, have sufficient precision to expose contradiction at some levels.
- C. But, the use of the numbers by Matthew, Mark, and Luke does not reach to those levels.
- 1. The "counting of days" has always been problematical because of the ways that such counting have been compromised in the various cultures.
- a. Some cultures counted a "day" from sundown to sundown.
- b. Others counted a "day" in regard to the issues of light and darkness so that a "day" was understood to begin at dawn and end at dusk.
- c. Others counted a "day" from midnight to midnight so that one "day" ended, and another began, in the deep darkness of the shadow of the earth as it turned away from the sun.
- d. In addition, all cultures seem to have enough "slop in the gears" to allow a person to speak of a "day" when all they really mean is a segment of the twenty-four hour period.
- 2. If Matthew and Mark were, in actuality, counting the "days" as full twenty-four-hour periods, they could easily say "after six days" without creating any "error".
- 3. If Luke was, in actuality, counting the "days" as distinct segments of time that included those "days" that had only a partial segment within the count, he also could easily say "some eight days" without creating any "error".
- II. The Issue is a Meaning Issue.
- A. The question is one of what Luke was attempting to do to his reader by telling him that it was "about eight days" after Jesus spoke His words that He gave the Three their experience.
- B. The answer to that question has to deal with certain "facts".
- 1. The first of these "facts" is this: there is no biblical pattern for unspecified prophecies to have "significance" because of the "time" passed between the prophecy and its fulfillment.
- a. Prophecies that have "time" issues within them are "time bound" and the "time" factors are highly significant.
- b. But prophecies that have no specified "time" features in them get no "significance" from timing issues as timing issues.
- 2. The second of these "facts" is this: it is the ingrained impact of the "eighth" day that makes the impact.
- a. In those cultures that observe seven-day weeks, an "eighth" day is, in reality, the "first" day of a new week.
- b. Since it was God Who set up the seven-day week, what He has to say about things that happen on "eighth" days is significant.
- 1) One of the things God did in terms of an "eighth" day was to make it the day of entrance into the covenant of which circumcision was the "sign".
- 2. Another of the things that God did in terms of an "eighth" day was to make it the day of entrance into resurrection life for the King of His Kingdom (marking the time from the "day" in which Jesus was acclaimed to be that King).
- 3. The third of these "facts" is this: Luke's terminology was, "Now it came to pass about eight days after these words...".
- a. He is deliberately tying the "words" to the "eighth" day.
- b. He is, therefore, deliberately tying the "event" of the "eighth" day to all of Jesus' sets of "words".
- 1) The first set of words was Jesus' deliberate question about His "identity".
- 2) The second set of words was Jesus' highly restrictive declarations about who could be His "disciple".
- 3) The third set of words was Jesus' pronouncement that "some" of those hearing the sets of words would live to "see" the legitimacy of faith in His identity and words.
- C. The meaning of Luke's reference to the "eighth" day includes these realities.
- 1. The passage of the week gave the hearers of his words some time to ponder them and respond to them.
- 2. The presentation of His "proof" was on an "eighth" day in harmony with God's focus upon "eight" as Luke presents it.
- a. In Luke 2:21 we find Luke's only other reference in this Gospel to an "eight".
- 1) On this "eighth" day, Jesus was given His "identity" as per the angelic instruction, which focused upon the fact that as Jesus He would inherit the throne of David and be the King of the Eternal Kingdom.
- 2) On this "eighth" day, the "beginning" of the historical outworking of the fulfillment of the promises of God for Eternal Life was initiated.
- b. In Acts 9:33 we find Luke's only other reference in his writings to an "eight".
- 1) This reference is to a man whose condition had lasted for "eight" years.
- 2) The launching of this man into a "new" life was directly tied to the launching of a host of people into the "newness of life".
- c. Thus, Luke's focus upon "eight" was intended by him to be a symbolic reference to one's entrance into a "new" life.
- 3. Our conclusion, then, is this: Jesus' teaching on discipleship is seen by Luke as "words" that, if believed, will launch a person into a kind of life that is remarkably different from that which is lived by those looking for a way to escape them.
- a. Ironically, the word "eight" is put into the text in contrast with Matthew's record so that those looking for a way to ruin themselves will find one in a "supposed" contradiction.
- b. But, for those looking for "life", making the discipleship commitment called for by Jesus will mark an "eighth day" new beginning.