Today in Our Hearing by Arthur A. Just

Today in Our Hearing

The Living Voice of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke

by Arthur A. Just

Viva vox Jesu—the living voice of Jesus—is what we hear when his written word is read and preached. In lesson and sermon, this word, transcribed in the divinely inspired pages of the Holy Scriptures and canonically received by the Church, is proclaimed as the living voice of Christ in the here and now of Christ’s body, which is the Church. By this bodily proclamation, Christ is present in his Church in a bodily way. It is his living voice.

This sense of Christ’s presence serves also as a principle of the Word’s interpretation. Exegesis is always kerygmatic and therefore homiletical, and to interpret Scripture rightly requires a proper hermeneutical method that reflects a biblical theology of preaching.

Consequently, to confess our preaching as viva vox Jesu is to speak of the Christocentricity of Holy Scripture. Preaching renders Christ present. When the Word is proclaimed, it is Christ who is heard. We recognize this as the teaching of the Apostle Paul:

But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14–17 ESV, emphasis added)

Luke, Preacher & Catechist

This perspective seems particularly characteristic of the writings of Luke. We may observe this by considering the prologue to his Gospel (1:1–4):

Since many have endeavored to reproduce a narrative (in Greek, diegesis) concerning the events that have come to fulfillment among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and became ministers of the Word delivered these traditions to us, it seemed good to me also, after investigating from the beginning every tradition carefully, to compose systematically a narrative for your benefit, most excellent Theophilus, in order that you come to recognize completely (epignois) the reliability (asphaleian) concerning the words by which you have been catechized (katechethes).

Luke’s stated purpose in writing his Gospel is, first, kerygmatic. By describing his gospel as a “narrative” (diegesis), Luke certainly places it into a literary genre familiar to the first century, subject to a specific kind of literary analysis. Yet his Gospel is not merely historical but also kerygmatic: a theological presentation of the events of the life of Jesus of Nazareth that bring to “fulfillment” God’s plan revealed in the Old Testament. The catechized person will listen to Luke’s Gospel to hear how Jesus fulfills biblical prophecy.

From the very beginning of his Gospel, Luke places Jesus within the context of Old Testament prophetic history as one who is now the final voice of God because he is the very Son of God. Gradually and systematically Luke demonstrates who Jesus is. Indeed, the major question in his Gospel is the identity of Jesus. Every event in Jesus’ life fills in the portrait. The Gospel is Christology.

Arthur A. Just is Dean of the Chapel and Professor of New Testament at Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is the author of a two-volume commentary on the Gospel of Luke in the Concordia Commentary Series (Concordia Press, 1996, 1997).

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