chiasm: Luke’s travel section

My favorite book of the Bible is Luke’s Gospel. The heart of Luke’s Gospel is what is commonly known as “the travel section” (Luke 9.51-19.44), Jesus’ ministry as a journey to Jerusalem. Great emotion bathes much of the narrative, from its start to its end:

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (9.51)

“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it …” (19.41)

And what is the purpose of this section? As one journeys with Jesus in the reading of Luke 9-19, the reader learns of the heart and soul of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. And Luke structures his narrative of Jesus’ teachings and doings regarding our formation in Christ in chiastic form. Due to the size and depth of this chiasm, the following diagram depicts only one “leg” or “side” of the chiasm; note the double Scripture references at the end of each line to see the texts that correspond (e.g. – “C” – Luke 11.1-13 and 18.1-14 play off each other).


The deadly seriousness of this business we call “discipleship” forms the tip of the spear of Luke’s narrative:

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. [emphasis mine, DPS] When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13.22-30 NRSV)

Credit: The Way According to Luke by Paul Borgman (Eerdmans, 2006); pp. 78,203