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A Year Through the Gospels: Week 16 | Luke
May 4, 2016
This is the sixteenth installment in a yearlong series. You can find the previous installments here.
Luke’s gospel is bout the lost, the poor, and women. The representation of these three groups is unlike the other gospels. The teachings within Luke emphasize the offer of salvation to everyone who would normally be overlooked. It is an insightful book and brings an understanding of the gospel that is difficult to find anywhere else.
Luke authored both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. These two works are designed to be read together as part on and part two. Luke played an interesting role in the formation of the early church. Ethnically, he was Greek, and professionally, he was a physician. Luke was one of the first gentiles to have an important role in the church: he was very involved in the early church with the apostles by accompanying Paul on some of his missionary journeys (Acts 16:10-17); Paul even referred to Luke as the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Luke remained loyal to Paul throughout his missionary journeys. At the end of 2 Timothy, Paul states that everyone who was once with him had abandoned him except Luke (2 Timothy 4:11).
Luke was a precise author. He states in the prologue to his gospel that he gathered the apostles’ eyewitness stories of Jesus in order to write a thorough account of his ministry (1:1-4). He used this same level of inquiry when writing the book of Acts, but, of course, he was able to draw on his own personal witness of the adventures of Paul. Luke also stated his purpose fro writing and who he wrote to in his brief prologue. The two volume work of Luke and Acts was written for Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). It is uncertain if Theophilus was a real person or if it was a name given to the body of believers. The name is derived from the Greek words theos (qeovß), meaning God, and philos (fivloß), meaning friend or friendly; thus, Theophilus means friend of God, or loved by God. At the end of his prologue in verse four, Luke says he compiled his volume on the life and ministry of Jesus so that Theophilus might know that the things he had been taught were correct. Luke dedicated his life to making sure that the teachings of Jesus and the apostles were properly recorded and distributed. By doing so, he helped eliminate confusion and uncertainty among the believers in the early church and every subsequent generation since then.
- Historical and Well Researched
- Dates and Rulers: There are many times throughout his gospel that Luke uses rulers as a point of reference for when events took place. Chapter 1:5 says “In the days of Herod, King of Judea…” Luke often says something similar to this to indicate the time frame of an even because our modern form of dating did not exist yet. Dates and times were kept track of through rulers. Other examples of this within Luke are 2:1-2; 3:1-3.
- Elizabeth and Zechariah: Chapter one records the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist. This story is not recorded anywhere else in Scripture. Elizabeth was related to Mary; her husband, Zechariah, was a priest. Their story resembles Abraham and Sarah because they were older, and Elizabeth was barren. God is very present throughout the story as he intervenes in the lives of Elizabeth, Zechariah, and Mary. One cannot help but sense the presence of God’s holiness throughout the hole story.
- Nativity Story: Other than Matthew, Luke is the only place where the birth of Jesus may be found in the Bible. Luke excludes the account of the Magi, but it includes the interaction with a righteous man named Simeon and a prophetess named Anna.
- Genealogy: Like the nativity story, Luke has the only other record of Jesus’ genealogy outside of Matthew. However, unlike Matthew’s genealogy, Luke begins with Jesus and works back all the way to Adam instead of ending with David. The reason for this difference is the purpose of writing. Matthew wanted to show that Jesus is the heir of David, but Luke wanted to show that Jesus represents all of mankind and not just the Jews.
- Women play a much greater role in Luke than any of the other gospels. Both Elizabeth and Mary are righteous and pious and play greater roles than Zechariah and Joseph. Mary is called “Favored One” by the angel Gabriel. The prophetess Anna received the message about Jesus as the Messiah before the Scribes, Priests, and Pharisees. Chapter 7:36-50 records the story of a sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with an expensive alabaster ointment. Jesus upholds her as an example because she loved him so much. Immediately following this passage, chapter eight begins with Luke mentioning all the women who supported Jesus’ ministry out of their own means. Later on in chapter 10:38-42 Jesus says that Mary’s choice of sitting at his feet is good and that she will be rewarded for it.
One of the biggest themes throughout the gospel of Luke is that Jesus came to save the lost not just within Judaism but the whole world. The famous parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and the prodigal son in chapter 15 reflect this as does the genealogy. One of the best images of this is the parable of the banquet in 14:15-24. The man who threw the banquet initially only invited his friends, but he quickly invited anyone who would listen when his friends did not show up.
Read Luke with these things in mind and pay close attention to how it broadens your understanding of the gospel.