Luke 5-6 has a concentrated attack of ‘doing’. In fact, there are two sections of ‘doing’ (5:29-6:11 and 6:23-49). This post deals with the first section, which narrates events. A future post will pick up from 6:23, which is concentrated teaching from Jesus.
(If interested in Greek, doing refers to words related to ποιεω. If you’re not into Greek but are aware of controversy about drugs in sport, think of the red blood cell booster EPO. EPO increases erythropoiesis, literally ‘red-making’ or ‘red-doing’. Doing is the -poiesis part.)
Luke’s use of doing is hard to capture in good English: that is, in any of our Bible translations. So here it is in bad English:
- Levi did a great feast (5:29)
- John’s disciples do prayers (5:33)
- Can’t make guests do a fast (5:34)
- Why are you doing …? (6:2)
- What David did (6:3)
- To do good (6:9)
- To do evil (6:9)
- He did so (6:10)
- What they might do (6:11)
There’s a whole lot of action as disciples and beneficiaries of Jesus respond to him. As the frenzy of activity increases, so too does the shadow of opposition. In particular, the Pharisees turn up everywhere (5:17, 30, 33; 6:2, 7). As their opposition rises, Jesus asked a very important doing question in 6:9 – is it lawful to do good or to do bad?
That’s not a difficult question! And it succeeds in unmasking Jesus’ opponents. They become furious, and plan what they will do to Jesus (Luke 6:11). Luke reports this plan in a quite open-ended manner, compared with both Matthew and Mark. The other two gospel writers name the plan as ‘destruction’ (Mark 3:6, Matthew 12:14). Luke, in keeping with his developed language of doing, gives a subtle but clear indication of the Pharisees’ misdoing.
Luke’s apparent gentleness is dangerous for us as readers. As Luke raises the matter of ‘what will we do with Jesus?’, we realise it’s also the question for today. What will I do? What am I doing? I could follow, or I could become furious. Reading the gospel is always the right start, but it is never the finish.
What will you do with Jesus? Will you do good, or will you do evil?