The Lucan Great Commission and the Isaianic Servant -- By: Thomas S. Moore

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 154:613 (Jan 1997)
Article: The Lucan Great Commission and the Isaianic Servant
Author: Thomas S. Moore

The Lucan Great Commission and the Isaianic Servant

Thomas S. Moore

[Thomas S. Moore is Senior Pastor, Gingellville Community Church, Orion, Michigan.]

Jesus’ Great Commission is found in the climaxes to the Gospels by Matthew and Luke, as well as the longer ending of Mark (Matt 28:19–20; Luke 24:46–49; Mark 16:15–16). The form of the commission differs in each. Fitzmyer observed that in each case the commission is formulated so as “to suit a major theme in the theology of each Gospel.”1 He then noted that the Lucan version highlights not only the themes of repentance and forgiveness of sins, but also, strikingly, the theme of testimony by the disciples and how this function of proclamation is related to the Old Testament.2 The purpose of this article is to build on Fitzmyer’s discussion by arguing that Luke formulated his version of the commission specifically with the Servant of Isaiah in mind. That is, Luke not only presented Jesus as the fulfillment of the Isaianic Servant, but also worded his version of the commission to depict the disciples as those who were to take up the Servant’s mission after Jesus’ departure.

Jesus the Servant

The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Isaianic Servant. Six statements contribute to this understanding. (1) Zechariah’s Benedictus speaks of the ἀνατολή, the “dawning”

of the light of salvation in the person of the Messiah (Luke 1:78).3 This ἀνατολή will “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (1:79a). This refers to Isaiah 42:7, in which Yahweh said the Servant will release those who sit in darkness.4

(2) Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis concludes with a description of the Baby Jesus as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (2:32a, NIV). While this picks up the theme of enlightenment from Luke 1:78–79, it also refers to Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6, in which the Servant is said to be appointed “a light for ...

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