Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jesus' Exodus in Luke-Acts

This post is an exercise in thinking out loud about my current research on connections between Moses and Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Over the last several months I have focused specifically on Moses-Jesus connections in Luke's transfiguration account (Luke 9:28-36). A larger theological question in the background is Luke's understanding of salvation and its relation to the death and resurrection of Jesus. (Earlier posts on the same general issue may be found here and here.)

As I mentioned earlier, Luke explains that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about his "exodus" which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). I suggested that Jesus' exodus refers primarily to Jesus' "exit" from his earthly life at his death, resurrection and ascension, but that it most likely also recalls the Israelites' departure from Egypt.

Based on this verse, it looks like Luke thinks Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension brings a redemption--a deliverance--that parallels the Israelites' earlier departure from Egypt. In support, we can point to Acts 7:25 where Stephen, retelling the story of the exodus in a way that makes Moses look a lot like Jesus, explains how God was giving the Israelites "salvation" through the hand of Moses. And, again, at the last supper, Jesus interprets his death as a "new covenant in my blood," which sounds a lot like Passover and the exodus from Egypt. I think this interpretation is on the right track, but it is not the whole story, and, unfortunately, it doesn't explain everything (or I'm still missing the key).

The main problem with this understanding of Jesus' exodus--and one that has been bugging me for several years (thanks, John Nolland!)--is the fact that Luke 9:31 says Moses and Elijah are discussing "his exodus." They don't refer to the exodus that Jesus will lead or to the deliverance he will bring, they refer to his exodus--and in context, I am convinced that his exodus refers primarily to his departure from earth that begins with his death.

The form that Jesus' "exodus" takes is the shape of a cross. As John Nolland correctly observes, "The link between Jesus' exodus and that of others is specified in vv 23-27." There Jesus summons his followers to "lose their life" (9:24), "deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (9:23). In case this summons seems optional, the voice from the cloud declares, "hear him" in language that recalls the covenant at Sinai.

In my experience, Christians are used to taking these verses metaphorically, but within the context of Luke's story, it is a summons to follow Jesus literally on his way to literally die in Jerusalem. Those who would share in Jesus' exodus, must share in his death. Literally. This is why Luke has Paul declare in Acts 14:22, "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."

Perhaps, then, the problem is not insurmountable after all, once one gets over the misleading assumption that Christ's death and their discipleship are two different things.

I'm still puzzling over Jesus' offer of salvation already in his Gospel before his death. Maybe I'll get around to this question in another post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The use of Greek word, "exodos" in the wording of Luke 9:31 in such close proximity to the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration is certainly thought-provoking.

The word "exodos" occurs only thrice in the Greek New Testament.

I suggest expanding the present study to include uses of the word "exodos" in the LXX version of the Old Testament. A Messianic passage in the LXX where "exodoi" is used with reference to the Messiah, for example, is Micah 5:2.

After a quick concordance search, I have come to the conclusion that evidence for use of the word "exodos" in the LXX and the Greek NT suggests applications wider than simply the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

Nonetheless, as the Epistle to the Hebrews plainly teaches, Christ was regarded by the early church as the fulfilment of patterns and shadows laid down by Old Testament events such as the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.

John Wigg Email: jcjjw1928@tasmail.com