Who Were Jesus’ Accusers?

29 Jun

from Google Images

For about two and one half years Jesus had been publicly presenting himself as the Jews’ Messiah. While he never said in so many words, “I am the long awaited Messiah!” He did read a Messianic passage of Scripture in Nazareth, and immediately afterward say: “This day, is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:21). He was rejected in Nazareth, but he operated afterward out of Capernaum and performed many miracles there, but the authorities in Galilee challenged his doctrine and even plotted how they might get rid of him (Luke 6:11; cf. Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6). So, in Luke 9:51 Jesus set his face like a flint to ascend to Jerusalem and present himself as the Messiah there.

In Luke 11:14 Jesus cast out a demon, healing a man who was mute, so that he was suddenly able to speak. Witnessing the exorcism was a crowd of people, that kept getting larger as Jesus’ interchange developed with some of the folks in the crowd who had challenged him (Luke 11:29). The large number of people indicates that Jesus cast out the demon in the presence of many pilgrims, who had come to worship at Jerusalem during one of the great annual festivals. This particular season, as we shall see when we study chapter 12, was the Passover. The crowd witnessed the miracle and were amazed at what Jesus had just done.

As far as Luke’s readers are concerned, we have a problem understanding who Jesus’ critics are, because Luke doesn’t differentiate who in the crowd opposed Jesus (cf. Luke 11:15-16). They, too, seem to have been amazed with what Jesus had done, but being in awe of one’s opponent doesn’t necessarily indicate one is drawn to him or won over to his argument. On an earlier occasion, a similar event developed in Galilee. There, it was the Pharisees (Matthew 12:24) and the scribes (Mark 3:22) who had slandered Jesus and sought a sign from him. Nevertheless, Luke doesn’t say who the critics were in Jerusalem, but it could have been Pharisees and / or scribes who taunted him.

On the other hand, Luke’s silence at this time could indicate that Jesus’ enemies were the Sadducees. Since Luke was writing an apologetic to the high priest, Theophilus, who was a Sadducee, it wouldn’t behoove Luke’s purpose to insult his addressee (Luke 1:3). It is my argument in Luke 1:3 (see my study “Who Is Theophilus“) that the purpose of Luke’s writing his Gospel narrative was primarily to warn Theophilus of the nation’s early judgment by the Lord, if the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem continued to sponsor the persecution of Hellenistic Jewish believers in Jesus, who had begun to reside in Judea. Luke, himself, may have been one of those who were threatened. In any event, it wouldn’t help Luke’s cause to insult Theophilus at this point, by showing it was they who had slandered Jesus.

No matter who Jesus accusers may have been, it doesn’t seem correct to say some of the ordinary Jewish people rose up to criticize Jesus, because both the chief priests and the Pharisees had a low opinion of the people’s general ability to understand the Scriptures (John 7:49; cf. 9:34). Moreover, if, indeed, it were the ordinary people, it might have helped Luke’s cause to say the Jewish authorities weren’t to blame at this point, because, in every other place in his and even the other Gospel narratives, it was the Jewish authorities who were the ones who openly opposed Jesus.

The damning matter of Luke’s argument is that he places the context of their criticism in contrast with Jesus saying our heavenly Father is so willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Jesus’ critics were claiming that he wasn’t operating under the power of the Holy Spirit, but in league with the Devil.


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Posted by on June 29, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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