The bull of St Luke


Luke and Mark

I have listed out the comparison of Luke with Mark, that is, by following Mark's sequence. It may help to clarify the details by doing the opposite and compare Mark with Luke's sequence.

Jesus returns to Galilee Mk 1,14-15 Lk 4,14-15
Call of disciples Mk 1,16-20 Lk 5,1-11
Capernaum synagogue Mk 1,21-28 Lk 4,31-37
Peter's Mother in Law Mk 1,29-31 Lk 4,38-39
Summary Mk 1,32-39 Lk 4,40-44
Healing of a leper Mk 1,40-45 Lk 5,12-16
Five healings Mk 2,1-3,6 Lk 5,17-6,11
Summary Mk 3,7-12
Naming the Twelve Mk 3,13-19 Lk 6,12-16
Sermon at Nazareth Mk 6,1-6 Lk 4,16-30

In summary, we see in the table how Luke follows Mark quite closely for much of this opening part of the ministry up to 6,16, Mk 3,19. This is especially true from Mk 1,40 through to Mk 3,6.
Luke does however postpone the call of the disciples (5,1-11) until after Mk 1,39.
Instead he brings forward the sermon at Nazareth immediately after the return to Galilee, greatly expanding Mark's version, Mk 6,1-6.

The omission is the summary in Mk 3,7-12. This mentions the great crowds coming from all over the place. Luke keeps Jesus' ministry with the Jews. He has a second volume to describe the mission of the early Church.

5,12-6,11: Overview

Because Luke is following Mark so closely at this point, it is easy to spot the series of five conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees and then interpret them in a way similar to Mark. This is what many commentators do. They fail to ask the question of why Luke has inserted the call of the disciples where he did. Luke is not Mark and as we look closely we find his editing brings out a different message. We could indeed say that Luke moves the stress from fasting to feasting. Banquets are important for Luke and he stresses that Levi gave a great banquet following his conversion (5,29). The parable of the great banquet in chapter 14 provides a helpful background.

The other factor between the two Gospels that we can note is that there is a clear new beginning in Mk 2,1, following the healing of the leper. Luke however has both 5,12 (the leper) and 5,17 (the paralytic) begin "it happened that". That is a much weaker break.

The conclusion therefore is that we can read 5,12-6,11 as a unit of six stories which are linked in pairs. Luke's insertion of the calling of the disciples in 5,1-11 has the effect of connecting the healing of the leper in 5,12-16 to the stories which follow. In Mark, this healing of the leper just fits rather loosely at the end of the first chapter (Mk 1,40-45). Here in chapter 5, Luke has been given the healing of the leper a clearer purpose by linking it with the second healing, that of the paralytic.

The two healings and the statement that Jesus came to forgive sinners (5,24) prepare us then for the great sinner who is about to be called, Levi (5,27-32). Note especially verses 31-32.

The following discussion about fasting (5,33-39) then acts as a foil to Levi preparing a great banquet for Jesus (5,29). 5,33 makes a clear continuity "and they said to him", instead of the break made in Mk 2,18.

This is followed by the two incidents on the sabbath (6,1-11) which are also linked by Luke (6,6) more closely than in Mark (Mk 3,1).

This gives us a flexible reading through these verses which shows us how the incidents presented in the same order as Mark have been used to bring out a different message by Luke. Luke has linked the stores together in pairs while Mark keeps them separate. We now need to read the unit more closely with these ideas in mind.

Finally, the ending we noted in 6,11 is confirmed by verse 12 where there is a strong new beginning: "Now during those days...

Following all that, we can now return to the overview