A Review by Ron Allen of Preaching Luke-Acts

from Consensus: A Canadian Lutheran Journal of Theology (27:2)

Preaching Luke-Acts
David Schnasa Jacobsen and Günter Wasserberg
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001.
160 pages, $23.99 Softcover

Preachers and scholars of preaching should read this excellent book both for its specific help in interpreting Luke-Acts in sermons and as a model of how exegesis and homiletics can work together. Wasserberg offers exegesis. Jacobsen (a creative scholar of the Second Testament in his own right) shows how the preacher can move from exegetical discovery to the sermon. The exegesis and the homiletical suggestions are fully integrated.

The book has a fresh thesis. According to these authors, Luke-Acts is a "grief document", that is, a document that seeks to help Luke's Christian community deal theologically with the grief that accompanies the separation of the Christian community from Judaism. The church, which had primarily been a Jewish community, was engaging in the gentile mission. Formerly a Jewish movement, the Lukan church was becoming a distinct community. This separation was accompanied by hostility among family members and friends. Some synagogues disciplined members associated with the Christian movement.

To oversimplify, the authors believe that Luke assuages the grief of the community by explaining the rift between church and synagogue. Luke portrayed many Jewish people as resistant to Jesus and to the witness of the early church. Luke further explains this resistance as God hardening many Jewish hearts against to the gospel. In this respect, the authors move away from the current trend in Second Testament and preaching to soften our perception of criticism of Jewish people, texts, practices and institutions in the Second Testament understanding such critique as in-house prophetic criticism. Our authors lead us to face fully the anti-Jewish dimensions of such materials and to recognize how they have fed anti-Semitism.

The authors examine six passages in Luke-Acts from the perspective of their thesis and offer a sketch of a sermon on each: the presentation of Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:22-40), preaching and confrontation at Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30), the encounter with the risen Jesus on the Emmaus Road as a learning experience (Luke 24:23-49), Pentecost in Jerusalem as a Jewish spring, (Acts 2:1-47), the conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1-31), the conversion of Peter when the gospel breaks into the gentile world, (Acts 10:1-18), preaching with the little hero Paul in big Athens (Acts 17:22-31).

For preaching, Jacobsen divides each text into scenes. A sermon then follows the movement of the plot of each text as it unfolds scene by scene. This part of the book creatively adapts David Buttrick's notions of the sermon as a plot of moves and preaching in the mode of immediacy (though elements of preaching in the mode of reflection appear). The sermonic discussions are incisive in theological penetration and evocative in language.

This book is exceptionally attentive to anti-Jewish implications in Luke-Acts (and in preaching). While some scholars and preachers may think that Wasserberg and Jacobsen overstate these emphases, preachers who read this book want always to take account of how a passage and a sermon relate with our Jewish heritage.

Ronald J. Allen
Christian Theological Seminary
Indianapolis, Indiana

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Last Updated: 16 March, 2011
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