In my previous post I argued that the author of the Gospel of Luke had changed the view that he found in his source, the Gospel of Mark, so that Jesus death, in Luke, is no longer an atoning sacrifice for sins. I’ve always found this to be extraordinarily interesting. Both the source for Luke’s Gospel, and the hero of his book of Acts – the apostle Paul – portrayed Jesus’ death as an atonement. But Luke does not.
I’ve had several readers ask me: if Jesus’ death was not an atonement for Luke, then why did he die?
It’s a good question, but a complicated one. There are several approaches to take in answering it. Let me present two, which happen to coincide with one another at the end of the day. The first has to do with the narrative plot of Luke’s Gospel, and the second has to do with his theology (as found in both his Gospel and Acts).
First, the plot. It is beyond any doubt that Luke understands that Jesus *had* to die. But why? It’s for a different reason than for Mark. In Mark, we saw that Jesus claimed, before his death, that he had to die as “a ransom for many.” And when he gave cup of wine at the Last Supper, in Mark, he said that it represented his blood which would be “poured out for many.” Strikingly, Luke has neither comment. He took them both out.
And so why does Luke think Jesus had to die? In terms of the plot…
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