Rev. Dr. Amy Lindeman Allen, Assistant Professor of New Testament at CTS, recently wrote an article for the Political Theology Network entitled “The Love of a Father for a Son,” offering an extended commentary on Luke 9:28-43a.
In her exegesis, Lindeman Allen trains her focus on the relationships between fathers and sons in the passage, both in the transfiguration story (Luke 9:28-36), where the gospel writer records God’s affirmation of Jesus, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35, NRSV), and the following story about Jesus casting out an unclean spirit in a boy in response to his father’s petition (Luke 9:37-43). In her analysis of textual and first-century contexts, Lindeman Allen builds on and extends themes from her work pertaining to children in the New Testament, including her recent book, For Theirs is the Kingdom: Inclusion and Participation of Children in the Gospel according to Luke.
In the article, Lindeman Allen notes the importance of patriarchal lineage in antiquity and shows how these two stories in Luke’s gospel offer something surprising and subversive both to its original ears and ours. Attending to how the stories are paired in the narrative, she suggests that the writer conveys a crucial point by moving immediately from God’s affirmation of Jesus to Jesus’s healing of the boy: “Rather than revealing Jesus’ authority as pedigree from the divine, it is revealed in his act of service and mercy, extended toward a child.”
Lindeman Allen elaborates on this point as it emerges from the gospel, writing, “God’s greatness is not manifested by Jesus’ masculinity or power, but rather by Jesus’ participation in relationships—both with his disciples on the mountain and the father and son who await them upon their return. The relational realm of God, rather than a patriarchal reign, is embodied in both Jesus’ authoritative rebuke of the unclean spirit and his return of the boy to his father.”
From this, she argues, “We look for revelations on the mountain tops—among the most powerful and famous. God’s politics of reversal, on display throughout Luke, call us to re-center this search in the valleys and level places. In this text, God is revealed in the face of a child and the desperate pleas of a struggling father. The only Son of the Father returns an only son to his father and in this small gesture, demonstrates the greatness and love of God.”
Read Prof. Lindeman Allen’s article for the Political Theology Network here.