We have four Gospels. Each tells the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in different ways, targeting different audiences, with different purposes.
In this conversation, I asked Benjamin Gladd—associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, and author of the new book The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament—to walk listeners through the book of Luke, looking for the larger biblical themes Luke seems most concerned to impress on his readers. The kingdom of God is a focus of each of the Gospels, but Gladd suggests that Luke is most concerned with how a person gets into the kingdom: through faith in Christ. In addition, Gladd highlights the themes of the nations and Gentiles; Jesus as the obedient son; his journey narrative as a second exodus; the temple; and paradise—suggesting that at the resurrection of Jesus, heaven itself changed.
- The Story Retold: A Biblical Theological Introduction to the New Testament by G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd
- From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God by Benjamin L. Gladd
- Hidden but Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery by G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd
- Luke (2 Volumes) Reformed Expository Commentary by Philip Ryken
- Luke: A 12-Week Study by C. D. Jimmy Agan III
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible.” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach the Bible” is a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible Christian books and tracks. Learn more from crossway.org. Today I am in the office of Dr. Benjamin Gladd, who’s associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson. Dr. Gladd, thank you for being willing to help us teach the Bible.
Benjamin Gladd: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This is such a pleasure for me.
Guthrie: Well, I’m really happy to meet you because we both have a real love for biblical theology. You know tons more about it than I do.
Gladd: I wouldn’t say that.
Guthrie: But it is, it’s really fun to get to be here in your office. And especially, Dr. Gladd’s been telling me about some of the projects that he’s working on and you need to know about these. First of all, just today, he had put on his desk, you know, when you’ve worked on a book and that day it comes out and you first see it, that’s a really good feeling. Isn’t it?
Gladd: It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas.
Guthrie: So a beautiful book called “The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament,” written along with GK, Gregg Beale. And as I look through the book, it reminds me of kind of an old-fashioned encyclopedia, that way a little bit, because there’s fabulous color photos and diagrams that go along with books. And so, how does this connect to the story of the Bible? What about it, in terms of…we might be familiar with the various guides to the New Testament, what is different about it that you would call it a biblical-theological introduction?
Gladd: Right. That’s a good question. It’s unusual on many different levels. One is, I think it’s the only New Testament introduction. I could be wrong here, but I think it’s the only New Testament introduction that its first chapter is a story of the whole Bible. So we have the first chapter, we go from Genesis 1 to 3, to Revelation 21 and 22. How about that?
Guthrie: I’m glad to know that because, in the biblical theology workshops that I’ve been doing, I tell the story of the Bible, and I’ve had a number of people write to me and say, “Where can I find that written down?” So I think what you’re telling me is now that I can tell them that it’s in “The Story Retold.”
Gladd: Right. The whole project is framed on a biblical-theological understanding of how the Bible is put together, story, it’s the story retold. So first chapter is, the first half is, “What’s the story of the Old Testament?” The second half of chapter one is how that same story is now retold through the person of Christ and then on into the church. We have wonderful graphics, custom-made graphics. Those are probably one of the hardest parts that we had to create these eschatology graphics, like not weird ones, but I think biblical ones.
Guthrie: Oh, I can’t wait to look at those.
Gladd: And nobody… I don’t think anybody has attempted to do something like that where we really try to graphically explain how eschatology works and how everything flows through eschatology in the New Testament. Then our second chapter is we have a whole chapter dedicated to the New Testament use of the old. So there are about 350 quotations, Old Testament quotations in the New Testament and probably around 2,000 or so allusions, Old Testament allusions in the New Testament. We talk about what they are and what do you do when you come across one? How do you classify it?
Guthrie: Oh, very helpful.
Gladd: So we actually get into the mechanics of it.
Guthrie: All right. You have another new biblical theology book that I recently got.
Gladd: Oh, yes, so I have this one From Adam and Israel to the Church, a Biblical Theology of the People of God, right?
Guthrie: I started reading it. I haven’t finished. And it’s the first in a new series, though, that you are editing, correct?
Gladd: Yes, right. You have stuff on death and resurrection, new creation, idolatry coming in. So that’s actually a 10 volume set, and we explore 10 dominant themes and how all the themes are woven together.
Guthrie: Well, as someone who grew up not understanding how to read the Bible this way, it’s very exciting to me to discover some of the resources that are already out here. But to see so many more coming, that can deepen my understanding of the Bible in this way. I think that’s really fun.
Dr. Gladd: Yeah, we’ve witnessed, really, in the last 15 years, an absolute resurgence of reading the Bible holistically. I mean, this has always gone on, but not like this, not to this degree.
Guthrie: As you know, I’ve been hosting biblical theology workshops for women around the country, which is why I’m in Jackson, because we’re going to have one of those tonight. And that kind of corresponds with the way I thought we might go about our conversation today. We’re here so that you can help us in teaching the Book of Luke. And so, I’m wondering if you might bring together your understanding of biblical themes with your understanding of the Book of Luke, because you are… I guess there’s another project you’re working on. I don’t know how you’re doing all of these at ones.
Gladd: Neither do I, I don’t know.
Guthrie: But you are working on a handbook for the Gospels for another series, so you have been deep in all of the Gospels, including the Book of Luke. So how about if we bring together this love for biblical theology as well as the Book of Luke? And perhaps one way you could help us in teaching the Book of Luke is to help us see it in light of the major themes, themes that would run from beginning to end of the Bible. But when we see them arise in the midst of the Book of Luke, understanding that particular passage in Luke in light of that theme that’s there, might help us in understanding it and then being able to communicate it clearly and helpfully to those we’re teaching. Are you game for that?
Gladd: I’m always up for that.
Guthrie: Okay. Well, I can think of a few themes that I think of in the Book of Luke, but I don’t want to steal your thunder. So, maybe you could… What do you have? Do you have a top-10 list? Do you have top-five list? What…?
Gladd: Well, let’s talk about the purpose and then everything kind of is going to flow from the purpose. So, Luke is very helpful here. And I think it really helps us understand the other three Gospels, too, because he tells us at the very beginning, he says that other people have composed various accounts. And then he says, “These accounts have traced the fulfillment of the altar.” That’s what he says, “Things that have been fulfilled among us, that other people have written accounts that trace God’s fulfillment in Christ.” Well, that tells us that all four Gospels show us how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. That’s a huge deal. That’s a primary reason why all four are written, is to connect it to the Old Testament. I mean, I’m just reading this thing.
Secondly, he tells us in verse 4, he’s talking to Theophilus, we don’t know who he is. Maybe he’s the guy that sponsored the book, perhaps funded this project. We don’t know who he is. Probably a gentile in that Theophilus either embodies a Gentile audience or a Gentile audience is somehow bound up with him. But he says at verse 4, Luke says, “I wrote this account so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” In other words, Theophilus already knows the basics of this story, but he’s going to write a more expansive, more in-depth understanding or account of what he already knows. In other words, it affirms what he knows. See, that tells us that he’s already a Christian and that tells us that he has placed his faith in Christ and that what we’re going to get here is more evidence so that Theophilus can trust Christ even more, have a more robust view of who Jesus is. Isn’t that neat?
Gladd: Old Testament is fulfilled. And then, he can understand more comprehensively about Christ, have a better picture of who he is and what he’s done for us. One of the things that is so dominant in this book is on the nature of the kingdom. So we have, so the Synoptics, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they always…they talk a lot about the kingdom. Most of what Jesus says is about the kingdom. And you have to ask yourself the question, “Well, why does Jesus talk so much about the kingdom in the various accounts?” Sometimes it appears to be almost repetitious, saying the same thing. Why did the gospel writers record this? And I think it’s because one of the reasons is that they’re doing it from different angles. So, Matthew, the way that I read Matthew is that Matthew talks more about the growth of the kingdom. It’s heaven is invading the earth. It’s invading it. And so the kingdom is just it’s breaking out, it’s expanding, it’s growing. This is why I think you have the term kingdom of heaven very often in the book.
Mark, as you mentioned previously, Mark, I think is all about preparation for the kingdom, the cleansing of creation and the cleansing of people. I think this is why Mark talk…Mark talks more about purity than any other Gospel. Maybe with the exception of John, but he keeps talking about…he’ll say, “Unclean spirits.” Well, other Gospels just say, “Spirits.” He’ll say “Unclean,” in Chapter 5, in Chapter 7, “Unclean,” everything’s unclean. So what happens is that John goes in, makes preparation. But then Jesus comes in and what does he do? He makes something unclean clean. Well, why does he go around making creation clean and people clean? To fill it with God’s presence. So the kingdom is cast in terms of cleansing and preparation so that God’s presence can come down and invade. Isn’t that neat?
Gladd: It’s more about preparation. So, yes, you do have the breaking of the kingdom in Mark, but it’s really cast in terms of cleansing and preparing the environment and people for the advent of the kingdom and for God’s presence. And then now it gets to Luke, really interesting. Luke doesn’t spend as much time developing the nature of the kingdom as Matthew and Mark do. It’s really interesting, because I think his audience probably already has Mark. They already get that. Maybe they have Matthew.
What he is going to focus on is how you get into the kingdom, access, access into the kingdom. Who gets in? Anyone who has faith in Christ, regardless if you’re a Jew or you’re Gentile, doesn’t matter. It’s in Christ. That’s how you have it. That’s how you’re granted access. So this is why the nature of the kingdom it’s not cast in the same way. It’s more he’s more concerned about showing who can get in. Tax collectors can get in. Formerly demon-possessed women can get in. Little small Zacchaeus can get in.
Guthrie: At the very beginning of Luke, it seems like he’s very much focused on the gospel beginning to go out. I’m thinking about… He’s the only one who records this song, “Magnificat.” And Mary, I mean, she seems to me to be a good biblical theologian. Don’t you think?
Gladd: She’s pretty good. She has her moments.
Guthrie: Yes, she does. Because this angel comes and announces and it’s like she puts things together. And one thing she puts together is, this is that promised offspring. I don’t know if she goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15, but she certainly goes back to Genesis 12, because her song ends saying, “Okay, now you are coming through on all your promises to Abraham and his offspring.” I mean, that’s biblical theology. But there’s also that sense of him being a light to the world, to the nations, to the Gentiles. So we hear that from Mary, we hear it again from Simeon when he shows up. So is that part of who gets in?
Gladd: Yes, of course, it is, it really does. So when I go through Luke, I talk about two dimensions of the kingdom. And one is, I call it a vertical. There’s a vertical concern here, and I think it’s found here in 1:52 in the “Magnificat” when she says, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.” I think that’s the key verse in Luke. I think you can read most of Luke through that verse. Why do I say that? Because all the proud, all the wealthy people in the Book, they all get put down. But the poor people, they all get exalted further. I don’t think this is simply in terms of physical, but I think that there is a spiritual, even angelic dimension. This is, I think, why Luke spent so much time talking about angels and demons.
You think Dan Brown would be more interested in Luke, right? And it’s because he’s saying that even Satan himself, who was exalted, has been brought down and all the demons they have now been brought down. And then now who comes up? The son of man ascends. That is the ascension of the son of man at the very end of the Book, because he went low and now he is at the very highest of highs at the Father’s right hand. See that? Satan has been brought down and Christ is now exalted all the way up. So that’s a very… So I call that a vertical concern. By the way, Mary’s song is modeled on Hannah. Yes, of course. Everybody is… It’s amazing.
Guthrie: And her song is totally about that same thing.
Gladd: Yes, it is.
Guthrie: From beginning to end, [crosstalk 00:14:15].
Gladd: It’s almost like the same author is behind both, you would think.
Guthrie: One would think.
Gladd: One would think. One would think. And then the second piece, the second piece, and you’re right, and this is what we call, “Nunc Dimittis,” this is Simeon’s blessing/prophecy. This is in 32. This is allusion to Isaiah 42 and 49, it says that “Jesus, even as a baby, is a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel.” So what we have there is we have nations in view now. Do you see? It’s wide open, wide open, just the way that the Old Testament… It’s not… So I grew up in a dispensational home, and I even went to Bob Jones University for two years, a little known fact.
And there was always…I think what I struggled with is I didn’t know how the nations fit into God’s plan very well as a dispensationalist. I think if you just read the Old Testament, I think you get a pretty good…I think there’s a lot of Gentiles, I mean. And even more than that, some of the Gentiles are more Israel than the Israelites. You even get in Psalm 87, you even have a text that talks about how a Gentile will be called one born of Israel, one born of Zion, actually.
Guthrie: This one was born here, I love that.
Gladd: Right, right. Oh, isn’t that great?
Guthrie: Yes, yes.
Gladd: And you have Isaiah 66 and 65. And so, this is not new. This is not radical that Gentiles would join in Israel. But what is fairly surprising, and this is what the early church is going to wrestle with for a while, they’re going to do so by faith. They’re going to do so by faith. And so, Luke…
Guthrie: It’s not about blood.
Gladd: It’s not about blood.
Guthrie: It’s about belief.
Gladd: But really, it was never really about blood.
Guthrie: That’s our misunderstanding in any case, isn’t it?
Gladd: Right, that our… Yes. So that’s a flaw in how we read the Old Testament. But what Luke and really the other ones, but especially Luke, is going to remind these Gentiles and say, “Hey, it’s not how you relate to the Mosaic administration, it’s how you relate to Jesus of Nazareth.” That is the key element in how you understand your identity.
Guthrie: At the end of Chapter 2, it’s the first time we see Jesus go to the temple. But we see him go when he’s 8 days old.
Guthrie: Makes me think of Malachi, the way Malachi hints that the Lord is gonna come suddenly to His temple. And then we get him there going there at 12 years of age. And then there are other places in Luke, especially when we get later in the story when his ministry brings him into Jerusalem, he’s in the temple. So, how does this story that goes throughout the whole of the Bible about this Temple Tabernacle, this dwelling place of God, how does that maybe add to our understanding of Luke’s presentations of Jesus interacting with the temple?
Gladd: So, the temple is very much on Luke’s mind at the early…at the beginning. Because remember, it opens with Zachariah. He’s a priest and he’s in the temple. That’s the first setting of the book is right there in the temple. And it’s brought up, as you mentioned, at the dedication. And then here, when he’s a boy, when he’s 12, in studying this…I think what’s so striking is when he says, “This is my Father’s house.” And the implication of it, and if he is the son of God, then this is his house, too.
And I think, in other words, at the end of the book, right after the trial for entry, he actually says, “This is my house.” I see a shift. It starts off Father’s house and then he actually owns it and he says, “This is my house.” Again, maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I think because he was obedient, and I think because his ministry was successful, that he now has the right to come and judge the temple. Because he was obedient to his parents, he was obedient to his Father in vanquishing the devil, and throughout his career he’s been obedient, so now he has the right to judge Israel’s temple.
Guthrie: Do we see in the Gospel of Luke him cleansing the temple? And do we hear him in the Gospel of Luke state that…? I guess it’s in Matthew where he says, “Something greater than the temple is here.” But do we hear that statement of, “Tear down the temple and in three days I’ll raise it up again”?
Gladd: No, no, we don’t get that.
Guthrie: That’s John, correct?
Gladd: Right, right. It’s in Luke 19, he is going to quote from two texts here, Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7. He says, “My house will be a house of prayer.” But when he says “my house” there, I mean, in the immediate context, it’s Yahweh’s house. But when Jesus says “my house,” that’s his house. This is his house. And he has been identified as Yahweh throughout. So the whole idea…what I’m trying to say is, temple’s a really big deal in Luke. And it’s a big deal because Jesus is God’s temple. And you can’t have two temples, right? You can’t have two temples, especially if one’s idolatrous and one’s incestuous, if you follow me. But Jesus is the true temple. So he’s taking ownership over it. He’s going to judge the physical temple. He’s like, “I’m better than the temple. All those who trust in me, participate in what I am doing and who I am.”
Guthrie: In Chapter 3 of Luke, we’ve got a genealogy.
Guthrie: Now, we had a genealogy in Matthew, but it was different. Matthew begins that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham. And then it follows a very kingly-oriented genealogy to get to Joseph.
Guthrie: But Luke seems to be doing something different with his genealogy.
Gladd: Yeah. I would say complementary because there is a very strong royal presentation. I mean, David is mentioned, Jesse is mentioned, Judah is mentioned. But it goes beyond that, Abraham, of course, you have Abraham mentioned. But what’s really interesting is it goes into earlier…into Genesis 1-11.
Guthrie: Yeah, he goes all the way back to Abraham.
Gladd: Shem, Noah, Enoch, Seth, and then finally, son of Adam, son of God. There it is. That’s going to give us our Adam paradigm. Some very good scholars don’t see much of Adam in the Gospels. And I think that’s unfortunate. I mean, I think it’s quite strong. And I think here’s one most explicit places. And what does he do as Adam? He goes right into the wilderness. And he’s going to subdue the serpent, the way that the first Adam should have subdued him. This, we’ve seen this before, haven’t we, Nancy? We’ve seen this. This happened in the garden.
Guthrie: If you were teaching this, then I’m guessing you would put the genealogy together with the beginning of Luke Chapter 4, because Luke probably intends for those to be together.
Gladd: Oh, yes, of course, probably, yeah. The verse of it, yeah, the division doesn’t help us there. Right? That crease at 4:1 and 3:38, that’s…
Guthrie: Because he’s just told us that he’s gone all the way up to Adam, so now we know Jesus is the son of Adam. And then we get to Jesus going out not in a beautiful sunny garden like Adam was, but he’s in this barren wilderness. But the temptation is very much the same. And so, perhaps Luke means for us to feel some tension. Will this be the son who, when he is tempted, will obey? Because we’ve been waiting for him for a really long time.
Gladd: Yeah, I tell people that we’ve seen the story before, but we haven’t seen it turn out the way it’s supposed to go. We’ve never seen success. Maybe we see some partial success at times, but we’ve never seen somebody get it right. Finally, we do. How does he do? Just as does Adam.
Guthrie: The second Adam who obeys.
Gladd: Right, the second Adam who obeys. It’s very interesting when Jesus is in the temple, it says, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient.” I remember because Zion is…Jerusalem is so high up, you have to walk down. All right, so he goes down and it says, “And he was obedient to them.” If you do a search on obedient there, I think this is the only time in Luke’s Gospel where it does not apply to demons and how they obey Jesus. And so I think because Jesus is obedient to his parents and his Father, it gives him the right to subdue the demons so that they can obey him.
Gladd: See that?
Gladd: Really curious there, how he’s cast here, he’s an obedient.
Guthrie: The obedient son.
Gladd: Yes, he’s the obedient son.
Guthrie: In contrast to the first Adam.
Gladd: In contrast, that’s exactly right.
Guthrie: In the middle of Chapter 4, Jesus picks up an Old Testament scroll to explain who he is and what his ministry is all about. This is pretty profound, isn’t it? He’s back in his hometown and he opens up the hand and the scroll of Isaiah and he reads this section, I think it’s Isaiah 61.
Gladd: Isaiah 61, yeah.
Guthrie: And then he stops kind of in the middle of it and immediately says, “This has been fulfilled.”
Gladd: One of the things that really, really helped me to understand the Old Testament and prophecy is what prophecies does Jesus fulfill? And I grew up in an environment that said, “Well, Jesus fulfilled like 5 of them or 10 of them or whatever.” Well, the answer is all of them. The words of 2 Corinthians 1, “All the promises of God are yes in Christ.” All of them. Every single one of them. So Isaiah 61, Isaiah 66, Isaiah 65, the whole…all of them. All of them.
Guthrie: You look like me. And it was because we use that word, prophecies. And we think of those…I think of those being more predictions. But really, he fulfills much more than these predictions.
Gladd: Oh, yeah. We’ve got all sorts of layers here.
Guthrie: He fulfills patterns and people, events.
Gladd: Right, yeah. Yeah. You have to read. You got to read the Old Testament. You’re not just looking for isolated prophecies. It’s like, “Okay, he’s gonna be born in Bethlehem, Okay, got it. Got it. Got it.” Oh, no, no, no. It’s much more than that. And it includes that, but it’s much, much more than that. The whole of it does, the whole of it. It’s found in historical events. It’s found in institutions and it’s found in the law. It’s found in the cult, the priesthood, the temple, the…you know, all of that, the covenant, you know, all of that.
Guthrie: You were saying earlier that Luke had a lot to say about demons and spiritual power. So I’m seeing that, so we were just where he’s in the wilderness and he’s being tempted. But as we continue in Chapter 4, then Jesus goes, there he is in his hometown and they turn against him. And basically, they want to go throw him off of a cliff. And maybe that might make us think about, even way back to Genesis 3:15, this promise of enmity. There’s always going to be conflict and it’s like evil even there is thinking about trying to destroy him. But then he’s gonna go and he’s gonna heal a man with a demon. So, there’s a lot going on there.
Gladd: There’s a lot. I like your Genesis 15 reference, I think it’s very appropriate. Nazareth is a very small town, what? 500 people. It’s very insignificant. They all know him. So his friends, his friends, people that he knows, they drive him…this is amazing, they drive him out of town and they took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built in order to throw him off the cliff. That same word, for drive out, you know what that is? That’s the same word that’s found in exorcisms.
In addition, the brow of the hill, that’s used one other time in Luke, and it’s in the Gerasene Demoniac when the demon-possessed pigs fall off the cliff, the brow there, they fall off. What I’m trying to say is, they’re exorcising Jesus. They see that he is a demon. They’re treating him like a demon. And they’re saying, “Get out of Nazareth.” And then the next thing that Jesus does is that he is gonna do the very same thing. So do you see here the unbelief? The here they are, the very son of God, they’re treating him like an enemy, a diabolical enemy. That’s really sad. It really is. I mean, you can’t miss the irony here. They’re exorcising him.
Guthrie: Absolutely. Luke continues by beginning to introduce us to Jesus’ healing ministry. He cleanses a leper, then it’s the paralytic, a man with a withered hand. How do we understand the healing ministry of Jesus in the context of the whole of the Bible?
Gladd: He’s making all things new. And all things mean spiritual and physical. He’s restoring humanity. He’s restoring the created order. It’s a reversal of the curse, right? So you have a withered hand because that’s the effects of the fall. And so he’s reversing that. He’s the faithful Adam. He’s succeeded and he’s also Yahweh, so he has the power to create and he has the power to restore.
Guthrie: And while he heals people, we would have to recognize, he doesn’t heal everyone. He doesn’t go everywhere. Right?
Gladd: And just because he heals somebody doesn’t mean that they’re spiritually healed.
Guthrie: Exactly. And it doesn’t mean they’re never going to die.
Gladd: That’s exactly right.
Guthrie: All right. So, we’re getting tasting glimpses of this greater eschatological healing that is going to come. But I think maybe us seeing the healing ministry in context of, like you’re saying, that he is renewing all things, I think if we see it in there, I think it helps us deal with miracle stories in Luke and the other Gospels rightly. Because so often we hear those get turned and they…you know, the teacher might examine the details for a clue, for a formula for how you get God to act on your behalf to get the kind of healing you want. And somehow I think seeing it as this taste or glimpse of this greater healing to come, that helps us not misuse these miracle messages, don’t you think?
Gladd: That’s exactly right. These are symbolic. When Jesus healed somebody, that’s a…I think it took place in space and time, but I think there’s a symbolic value and that is he is restoring. He is… In the words of John, he came to give abundant life. So when Jesus is healing somebody, that’s a life-giving experience. The opposite of that would be to judge, and condemn, and to suck a person’s life out of them. Right? But that’s not what characterizes him. He is characterized by a life-giving Yahweh and second Adam. That’s one of the best, I think, ways you can really sort of describe who Jesus is.
Guthrie: When we get to Luke 9, there’s a pretty significant turning point. Up to this point, he’s been healing people, doing all of this ministry around Galilee, and then in Luke Chapter 9 is this very significant statement in verse 51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up,” that’s an interesting term, “He set his face to go to Jerusalem,” and we might just easily run over that if we were just, you know, reading all of this, but something…yes, it is a travel itinerary, he is turning to now go to the heart of things away from Galilee, but it’s more than that. This “turning his face to go to Jerusalem,” as we’re gonna see, it’s really turning his face to…head toward what he knows is coming in Jerusalem, which is the cross.
Gladd: So what we have then, especially in this journey, we have Yahweh in the flesh redeeming his people out of captivity. They have been enslaved to these demons. They have been enslaved in their sin. They have been enslaved in their wealth. So he is going to go in as Yahweh in a second exodus, and he is going to bring them out. This right here is an exodus. This is the story of a second exodus. I mean, the whole thing, but especially right in here. That’s why I think the journey is so long because I think we’re watching Yahweh bring his people out of exile once more.
Guthrie: One thing he seems to talk about a lot here on his way to Jerusalem is riches.
Gladd: Definitely, definitely.
Guthrie: And rich people. We’ve got the dishonest manager, we’ve got the rich man and Lazarus, which is an interesting little passage here. You’ve got the Pharisee and the tax collector. And we would have to assume a tax collector, right, has the money. You’ve got the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and he tells him he’s got to sell everything, and he goes away sad. And all of that then comes to a conclusion, right before we turn the corner again in this book, away from his journey to Jerusalem, with the story of someone who is very rich.
And if we’ve been reading Luke so far and the Gospels, we’re thinking, “Rich people aren’t going to get in. This isn’t going to turn out well for him.” But at the same way, he’s also a tax collector. And actually to this point, tax collectors have been looked…they’ve done pretty good, they are actually like the hero of the story instead of the Pharisee in that one before. And we know Jesus has been eating with tax collectors and sinners. We know actually, a tax collector, Matthew, is one of his disciples. And so we come to the end of this big section of his journey to Jerusalem with this story of Zacchaeus. So give me your thoughts on why does Luke seem to focus so much on this idea of riches and rich people?
Gladd: Yeah, well, remember what I said at the beginning when it was in the “Magnificat” what Mary was saying about the proud will be made low, and the low will be raised up. I think it falls very much in that theme. Right? Because the wealthy, they have power. They are up there. They exert massive authority. What happens? They are made low, but the poor are raised up. They have riches. And so I think this is one reason why they just… It’s just keeping tax collecting as so important, so there are two different types of taxes and most of the tax-collecting that we see, like when we have terms like the tax collectors, they’re very wealthy. They have gone to the Roman Empire and they have bought in full, at the beginning, the right to tax people. So they’ve paid, they’ve actually paid those taxes in advance.
And then they turn right around and they hit people up on the road in these tax booths and they will then charge…they’ll have a surcharge on top, they tax goods, all sorts of things. And they were not, I mean, I don’t like paying my taxes. It’s not a pleasure, as it were. So, in Luke, Luke will actually pair them, he pairs them with sinners. He always says in the same breath, tax collectors and sinners. Same breath. And what do you get? Jesus coming to dwell with tax collectors and sinners. That theme works really well in a social gospel context actually. Yes, yes, that sounds good. But here’s the piece that’s easily missed is that but they have to turn from their sin. You can’t… The tax collectors and sinners are not fine unless they turn from their sin and embrace Jesus as their savior.
Guthrie: Which is what we see Zacchaeus do.
Gladd: Which is what we see, exactly.
Guthrie: There’s grand repentance.
Gladd: You see what I’m saying? In other words, so there’s a component of…there’s a biblical social gospel, whatever you want to frame that, where it’s you’ve got to have repentance, you’ve got to have an allegiance, you’ve got to follow Jesus for the rest of your life and embrace him. And it was the outsiders… It’s very often portrayed as, “Oh, it’s good to be an outsider. You’re the best. Because read Luke, you have preference.” Not necessarily. If you repent of your sin and you follow Jesus for the rest of your life, then you get it.
Guthrie: We know that all the gospels tell us about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Guthrie: So Luke’s going to have his own angle or purpose as we get into that story. What’s Luke really wanting us to see about Jesus through the way he tells that story?
Gladd: One of the unique pieces of Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus is labeled seducer and a deceiver. That’s not prominent in Matthew and Mark. It’s not prominent. He’s not… That’s implied. But here, he’s actually called in 23:2, “We found this man subverting our nation, he’s a seducer.” And then in verse 23:5, “But they insisted he stirs up all the people.” And then now in 23:14, “You brought me this man when he was inciting the people.” So that’s a component that’s unique to Luke. I think it’s implied in the others but it’s unique, in other words, there’s a deceptive piece here that they charge Jesus with something. That’s something to think about.
And the other one is, of course, how Luke is going to pair, it says in verse 44, Chapter 23, “It was about noon, darkness came over the land, the sun stopped shining and that curtain of the temple was torn in two.” So do you see here what takes place in the heavens is tied to the curtain? So in Mark, that’s actually split up. Luke is the only one to put the two and two together. And this is where guys like Greg Beale who say that, “No, the temple itself is a miniature cosmos. That’s why it’s blended here.” And so what happens in it, Christ death is that the cosmos is really breaking apart. The old age, the age is dominated by sin and the devil, that’s breaking apart. Instead, what do we get? The new creation that’s coming in now through Jesus’ ministry. And really, in his resurrection. That’s a line.
Then the other piece would, of course, be the reference to paradise. Remember that? That’s one of the… We get that in verse 42, Jesus on the cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus answered him, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Very unusual, because why does he use the word paradise and not heaven? Because it says kingdom. The…
Guthrie: The thief on the cross.
Gladd: The thief on the cross. The criminal…
Guthrie: Sees he’s a king, amazingly.
Gladd: Yes, so… Yeah, right. So he says, “Remember me when you enter into the kingdom.” But then Jesus says, “Oh, but I’m gonna see you in paradise.” Not that those are different, but that word there for paradise is, most of the time, it refers to Eden. Most, if you look it up in literature Jewish and Christian literature, it refers to Eden. And what Jesus is trying to say is, remember, Eden is modeled after Heaven. So really the idea is that Jesus is going to the place of the new creation. He’s creating a new. There really was a cosmic shockwave in heaven when Jesus died and rose again. He made, when he says that he’s making all things new, he’s making all things new both in heaven and on earth, it radiated, you know, really throughout the cosmos. And I think that’s [inaudible 00:44:31] paradise.
Guthrie: Okay, well, let me ask you a question. If you’re teaching this, then how would you differentiate? I mean, I guess when I look at that passage, I think Jesus is revealing something about the intermediate state that perhaps hasn’t been as clearly stated before, that Paul will describe as being away from the body at home with the Lord. But mostly, we think of the new creation and this paradise being the new creation when Christ returns and he establishes the new heavens and the new earth. So, when you’re talking about him saying, “Okay, we’re going to be in paradise,” I’m just wondering how, as a teacher, would you…
Gladd: How does that look?
Guthrie: Yeah. Would you…? Just in seeking to bring clarity to people, because I guess, I think, this is one of the big gaps for so many modern Christians.
Gladd: I think I see what you’re saying.
Guthrie: For most of my life, I understood the Christian life to be, you know, I make a commitment to Christ during my life and I try to live for him and then I go to heaven when I die.
Guthrie: And if we don’t understand the whole story of the Bible, understanding that Christ is the first resurrected human being, the only bodily resurrected person who is still human in heaven, but the day is going to come when he’s going to come and he’s gonna call our bodies out of the ground, and he’s gonna bring resurrection, not just to our bodies, but to all of creation for us to live forever on this resurrected, renewed earth. I mean, that’s what began to really then shake up my understanding of my own trajectory.
And I think that’s very significant for us to understand that we are away from the body. The body is going to go in the ground. But our soul, our spirit is with Christ. But a future day of resurrection is coming when we come with him. So, anyway, I guess I see that Luke as an opportunity to make that distinction between being with Christ as we await the great resurrection. But it sounded to me like you were using it as we’re already there in the new creation, so.
Gladd: So think of it like this, and I still need the mature…I still have some maturing theologically to do here, but when Jesus rose again, heaven changed.
Guthrie: That’s the dawn of the new creation for sure, right?
Gladd: And heaven itself changed. And you even get glimmers of this in Revelation in terms of how God can now judge evil and judge wickedness, which is hugely important in Revelation. But heaven itself, there’s a part of it that has actually changed, it’s in a new phase.
Guthrie: New era.
Gladd: Which is why it’s called paradise. Not that it wasn’t paradise before, but there is now a sense in which it’s now moved into a new phase. There’s a shift that has taken place. And you can actually see this in one of the clearest thing that when…in light of the resurrection, Jesus has a new creational body. He didn’t have that before. He is sitting on the Father’s throne. And he is now ruling as a new creational person. That’s profound.
Guthrie: Still human.
Guthrie: Yeah, a resurrected human.
Gladd: A resurrected human. So do you see how that’s shaped? And then you… So that’s a new side of heaven. Now, where I think this is talking to, when that takes place God is now more intimate with deceased saints. I don’t know how this works theologically, but I do think that when Jesus rose again from the dead, sat at the Father’s right hand, he now represents saints in a more robust way. This is why Hebrews is so important here, because the way that God relates to His people now with the ascended son sitting on the throne, God is now closer to his people. There’s a level of intimacy there.
Guthrie: He doesn’t just say, “You will be in paradise.”
Gladd: Yeah, you…
Guthrie: “You will be with me.”
Gladd: Yes, so you see there’s… Whereas before the incarnation, I’m not quite sure he would say it like that. I do think that Old Testament saints were in heaven, but there’s a new level of intimacy. So what all that means is, when we die now and we go to be with the Lord, we are now very intimate with Him in a profound way that even Old Testament saints didn’t enjoy. Now they’re united with us, but you see what I’m saying?
Guthrie: Yeah. And I think that helps us correct another tendency among modern believers, you know, the first one being that I think people don’t tend to think about, like a lot of people would talk about somebody who’s died. Now, you know, they are healed and whole. They talk about, I mean, in bodily terms, rather the body is in the ground, it’s separated for a while. All right, so that’s one thing.
But I think the other thing is many modern Christians tend to talk about heaven, the primary joy of heaven being seeing those we love who have gone before us. And I think the Scriptures present it to us. But like Hebrews 12 or 13, they’re talking about this assembly, you know, of those who are now made perfect. So, I think the Bible encourages us in that regard. But it is interesting how much the focus of so many things, is that the joy of heaven is being with Christ. I mean, Christ himself does it here. And I think Paul makes that clear, it’s at home with the Lord. I think sometimes we take Jesus out of being the centerpiece of the joy of heaven.
Gladd: And it’s not… And you’re right. And it’s also couched in terms of an ethereal arrangement, whereas it’s just there’s no body, of course, we don’t have our bodies when we go to heaven, but that’s a weird thing.
Guthrie: It’s hard for us to imagine.
Gladd: It’s hard for us to imagine because we’re so attached, we’re so into the physicality, you know. I mean, the future in the eternal state, we’re in a new creation, on a new earth, in physical bodies and Christ is in our midst and it’s very, very, very physical. What happened, Nancy, is that evangelicals spent…it was really ever since the ’40s and ’50s, we spent all of our energy on the millennial state. Pre-mil, on-mil, post-mil, pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, for decades, evangelicals talked about that. Nobody ever talked about the eternal state. Our theology of the eternal state is exceedingly malnourished, exceedingly… Because we spent all of our energy debating something that was going to happen prior, and so when we start to talk about these things, it’s we’re… Do you see how we lack the vocab? And it’s fuzzy and vague, because…
Guthrie: I wrote a book to address that.
Gladd: Well, good for you. It’s not vague for you then.
Guthrie: It’s not as vague. I mean, it’s a book I wrote called “Even Better Than Eden.”
Gladd: Right. Yeah.
Guthrie: And my focus was taking these themes and demonstrating how the new creation, it’s not just a return to Eden…
Gladd: It’s beyond.
Guthrie: …it’s beyond that. And that we don’t want to be people who are going beyond what the Bible says to try to fit an understanding of the future, to try to impose on the Bible things that doesn’t tell us. But I think we can use the things that God has written into his book, especially these biblical themes, and that those help to, I think, put flesh on the bones of some of our understandings of what the future is going to be. And you’ve been using this word intimacy, that’s…
Gladd: Because it gets at temple, covenant, stuff like that.
Guthrie: That theme helps us get at intimacy. And then…and so does the theme of marriage, it helps us get at the theme of intimacy and this happy marriage forever. Security, this theme of offspring. It gets at the security. I mean, the new creation is gonna be far more secure than the original Eden.
Gladd: No bad stuff getting in.
Guthrie: Sabbath helps us get at this sense of job well done. Rest. I don’t know what work is going to look like in the new heavens, in the new world.
Gladd: Oh, but I do think we’ll work, I think we’ll work.
Guthrie: Yeah, but there’s gonna be a sense of rest to it too, right?
Guthrie: It’s not going to be the futility of work as before.
Gladd: Right. Well, I think… But we’ve never worked with creation. We’ve always worked against creation. And we’ve always worked against ourselves. We’ve never worked with creation. We’ve never been able to work together with ourselves fully. There’s always been some hostility there. So I think that all will get worked out.
Guthrie: Well, we’ve got to land this thing, but we can’t land without talking about Luke 24 because I think what Luke 24…
Gladd: Yeah, of course.
Guthrie: I think this chapter of the Bible, I can really say, changed the course of my life.
Gladd: Oh, wow.
Guthrie: I really mean that. I mean, you know, probably 12 or 15 years ago when I really grasped what was happening here after the resurrection and Jesus is on the road to Emmaus with these two followers, and, you know, they’re so disappointed. They’ve just been in Jerusalem where they saw the person. They say, “We thought he was the one, he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” They’re so disappointed. They don’t recognize that it was Jesus who was walking with them.
And a couple of the things that Jesus says here, I mean, it changed the course of my life when he says in verse 25, “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” So he’s saying, basically, if you’d been reading your Bibles, you would have understood that the Christ, when he came, you were only looking for the glorious part, but if you’d really been reading, you would’ve understand he was going to suffer before he would be glorified.
And then these words in verse 27, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” I mean, this is the sermon you and I wish we could have listened in on. Right? But as I began to… I just had the question, what might he have said? What might he have said when he worked his way through Genesis, and Exodus, and Leviticus?
Gladd: But I think this is one of reasons why we have the four Gospels, and especially Luke, because I think that we get those pieces. Like, I think if, I mean, just think about it. Luke and the other three Gospels have attached the Old Testament to the person of Christ. And I think in some sense, Luke is telling the audience, Luke is telling his audience, he’s like, “Oh, by the way, what Jesus is telling them, I’ve actually been telling you that,” to read…you see, in other words, because he’s been working the Old Testament into his narrative and he’s been exploring the person of Christ in light of the Old Testament. And this is the ribbon. This is what…this is the bow. This is the bow on the present so that the authors can then go back and say, “Indeed.”
In other words, I’m not quite sure this is new information here. That’s what I’m trying to get at. I don’t think this is new information. I think this is, maybe just more in-depth of what they’ve already talked about, but we have four Gospels that do this. I’m sure there are some nuances, it’d be nice to catch some nuances. I think this is profound. This is really a stamp. Because remember, at the beginning of the book, Luke says, “I’m going to tell you how the Old Testament fits with the person of Christ.” And at the end, that’s exactly how the end of the book ends. So you see a nice little enthusio [SP], though, there. So you read everything in between, in light of that, and then there you go.
The fundamental problem, and this is really hard, I actually have two books on this, and this is still something that I still wrestle with, it’s the way in which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Sometimes it’s direct, sometimes it’s he’s born in Bethlehem. He’s born in Bethlehem. It’s great. That’s one-to-one, right? Like I said it, Jesus fulfilled it. It’s one-to-one. Other times it’s more difficult. Other times, Jesus will… We have text that talk about Israel that are placed on Jesus. And we have to sort of…we have to make an alignment there and we have to really start to see. And then we also have texts…and then we also have this piece, where it’s like, “Well, where does the Old Testament anticipate the Messiah being divine?” You know, maybe Isaiah 9, even Micah, there in Micah 5, his goings forth will be from long ago. I mean, there are a couple interesting pieces, but it’s not developed. There are these…
So what happens is that you get now with Jesus’s arrival in his ministry, in his death and resurrection, we can go back and reread. And we see things that are really there. We just… They didn’t catch our eye the first time around. No, it’s there, it’s just that we didn’t quite make those connections. See, that’s it right there. It’s not that Jesus is radically reinterpreting the Old Testament. I don’t think he is. I think he’s going back. And I think he’s showing these two disciples saying, “I don’t know, you guys, you didn’t make this connection here. You didn’t see this.”
Guthrie: You didn’t understand it but it was there for you to see.
Gladd: Yes. And it really is there. I’m not making it up.
Guthrie: We’re not imposing something.
Gladd: I’m not imposing. I’m not stretching. It’s just neglected, underdeveloped.
Guthrie: The very next section, it says that he’s with the disciples and it says, verse 45, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” I mean, I think that’s really big. I think that’s where they were then enabled to begin making these connections. And, you know, Luke is going to continue this story in his book of Acts. And you get to Acts 2 and 3, you’ve got Peter preaching. And when I read those, I think, “Okay, Peter was in there.” Those 40 days, he listened. His mind was opened to understand the Scripture because he’s preaching from the Old Testament and he’s showing how this was really always about the Christ who was going to come. And I think, before this day that’s described, he couldn’t have done that. But the Lord has opened his mind to understand the Scriptures.
Gladd: Yeah, I mean, there’s… So we have sort of two things operating that even an unbeliever should be able to read the Old Testament and then look at Christ and say, “Yes.” And then we also have something on top of that, where it’s a more nuanced, a better grasp of that. That is divine enablement. I mean, I think this is where John is so clear here, where basically Jesus says, “You’re going to understand my signs if the Father enables you.” He’s got to call you. If He doesn’t call you, you’re not gonna understand what I’m doing. And it’s blended with the Old Testament, it’s incorporated in the Old Testament. So all I have to say is the only way you can truly, truly grasp the Old Testament and how it relates to Christ is if you believe in him and you follow him, then full understanding is possible. So…
Guthrie: Begins to open up.
Gladd: It begins to open up. We need to be regenerated to catch some of this stuff and to, you know…
Guthrie: Maybe we can close this way, Dr. Gladd, I’m thinking about some of the people who may be listening to us having this conversation. And they’re thinking to themselves that “This way of understanding the Scriptures is new to me too.” But you hear it and it makes your heart leap because you realize, “Okay, the Bible has this one author and it’s presenting this person of Christ.” And seeing the Bible this way, reading it this way, helps you to see and understand the person and work of Christ in a way that is so compelling and is so deeply true and beautiful. But you think, “Okay, all these other ways of reading the Bible have been so deeply ingrained in me. How am I going to go about developing the kind of instincts that you need to a lesser degree have been developing so that we see these things in the Scriptures?” I mean, this is the kind of question I get asked a lot. How do you encourage them to get started and to persevere in that?
Gladd: I do get that quite a bit. I get more questions more in Sunday school settings where I get them, and I always say the same thing, get a Bible with cross-references. And whenever you come across a quotation, look it up. Look it up. There are 55 quotations in the book of Matthew. Look every single one of them up. Look them up. Ask questions. You know, why is Hosea 11 used in Matthew 2:15, very difficult text. But look these up. Take the time. You’ve got to wrestle through this.
If you don’t… There’s no quick, “We’ll just read these 15 pages over here.” No, that’s not going to cut it. You’re gonna have to wrestle with these on your own. You’ll have more questions than answers. I guarantee it. But if you keep doing that, keep reading, you know, some good books, I think you can get most of it. I mean, this is one of the reasons why we wrote this book, introductory book, because we do these very things. And this is why you do yours and we have all these great scholars that do these things that try to aid. But I really think it comes down to you’re just going to look it up. Look at the quotations. Look them up. Read it. Write down issues that you have and see if you can maybe ask somebody.
Guthrie: Listen to people who do it well, has been another thing I tell people, right? Well, Dr. Gladd, thank you so much for being willing to help us teach the Bible.
Gladd: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Guthrie: You’ve been listening to “Help Me Teach the Bible” with Nancy Guthrie, a production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible Christian books and tracks, including a 12-week “Knowing the Bible” study guide, something you could use for people in a small group going through the Book of Luke to work on some questions on the text. They’re also the publishers of the “Preaching the Word” commentary on Luke by R. Kent Hughes. Learn more about Crossway’s gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.