I’m preaching on Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” this Sunday (for “plain” read “level place”!).
I’m starting to get really annoyed by the lack of useful stuff in commentaries. The number of commentators and preachers who ignore the structure of the passage is not helping in my preparation!
Fortunately, I discovered this file by Stephen Levinsohn which actually takes note of the conjunctions that are present in the text iself – rather than trying to divide the sermon by some kind of random subjective thematic strategy.
The two biggest issues that I find that are missed by most is the “speech orienter” in v39 and the use of γάρ in v43.
The speech orienter inv39 is the only bit of non-speech in the whole sermon and so is significant in determining the structure of the sermon. Most commentators and preachers seem to completely ignore it. What comes before v39a is “direct teaching” and what comes after is parabolic teaching. There is a distinct division.
The other big issue that people seem to miss or ignore is the use of γάρ in v43. Γάρ functions to introduce material which provides background/support for what preceded it – and yet most exegetes like to make v43 the start of a new section, which it cannot be. Vv43 function to explain vv41-42. As Levinsohn writes
‘To illustrate why only he who himself is reformed is able to reform others, Jesus tells the parable of the good and corrupt tree’ (Geldenhuys). A key word in v42 is Hypocrite, as a hypocrite is like a bad tree which attempts to bear good fruit.
Levinsohn makes a number of other useful observations about the conjunctions, like the double use of πλήν in vv24 and 35 which divide two sections (vv20c-27 and 27-39) into subsections (20c-23,24-26 and 27-34, 35-39).
Go read the document for some genuinely helpful exegesis of a difficult passage!