Explore the Gospels: Luke
|The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are the two parts of a work addressed to Theophilus (compare Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1-2). The author of Acts apparently accompanied Paul on some of his journeys – note the ‘we’ in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1 - 28:16. A comparison of Acts with Paul’s epistles indicates that Luke the physician was the author of Acts and the third gospel.|
Theophilus was frustrated. He was a wealthy man and had a responsible position in society. Others might have thought he ‘had it made.’ But Theophilus lived up to his name, which meant ‘lover of God.’ He was still looking for the truth.
Although he was a Gentile, he was fascinated by the religion of the Jews. He had recently come into contact with an unusual sect, who on the one hand seemed to be Jewish, and yet were rejected and even hated by them.
These people were known as Christians, after their leader, Chrestus. Something about Chrestus’ radical teachings fascinated Theophilus. In spite of his education and position, he was at heart a humble man. Chrestus seemed also to have been humble, even though his followers claimed that he was God.
Chrestus had been dead – executed as a criminal – several decades ago, but he was already a legend. His followers claimed he had worked miracles, walked on water, and had even raised the dead. He could easily have become rich and famous, but he chose to live and work among ordinary people. He considered everyone – even the lowliest outcasts and misfits – worthy of respect.
But were these stories true? Chrestus and his revolutionary way of life fascinated the gentle Theophilus, but before he could commit himself to it he needed to know more. But how? Were Chrestus’ devoted disciples, who even seemed ready to die for him, reliable? They were mostly uneducated. Some were even slaves! Were their stories to be trusted? Well, he did know someone he could trust. This man was a Christian, and an educated person like himself. He was known as Luke, the beloved physician. He had not known Chrestus personally, but he was a meticulous scholar.
Luke, knowing that Theophilus needed a careful explanation of the factual basis for the Christian beliefs, sent him a carefully written manuscript. It began: ‘So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, I decided to write it out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of doubt the reliability of what you have been taught.’
Fascinated, Theophilus settled down to study the manuscript – the first person to read what we now know as…
The Gospel according to St. Luke
Maybe this is not exactly the way it happened. But something like this prompted Luke, the ‘beloved physician’ to put pen to papyrus and write a definitive account of the life of Jesus Christ. The result was a thoroughly researched and beautifully written narrative of what Jesus was like and what he did.
Luke’s Gospel is not a dry theological treatise. He was excited by what he had discovered, and he wanted to share that excitement and joy with his readers. ‘Gospel’ is an old English word meaning ‘good news.’ No one has conveyed that good news better than the ‘beloved physician.’
What this book means for you
Jesus brought good news to everyone, including the poor and oppressed, to all groups who were despised and marginalized by society in first-century Israel. Through the church, he brings the same good news for our society today. Luke’s Gospel emphasizes that through Jesus Christ, salvation is available to all, freely and without prejudice.
In Luke, despised tax collectors become examples of repentance and discipleship – in parable and in reality (3:12; 5:27-32; 18:9-14; 19:2-10). Jesus forgives and praises a sinful woman (7:36-50) and promises paradise to a repentant thief (23:43). Repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be preached in Jesus’ name to all nations (24:47). ‘All [humanity] will see God’s salvation’ (3:6).
All we have to do is ask! (11:13)
We know you will enjoy this beautifully written account of the life of Jesus. Why not read, or re-read the Gospel of Luke? If you take one chapter a day, it will only take three and a half weeks for you to discover for yourself this awesome message of hope.
Women: Luke-Acts shows us that, both during Jesus’ ministry and in the early church, several women were among the most dedicated of his followers. D.L. Block comments: ‘Luke features the responsiveness of women’ (7:36-50; 8:1-3; 8:48; 10:38-42; 13:10-17; 24:1-12). Often it is not just a woman but a widow who is cited, since she represented the most vulnerable status within society (2:37; 4:25-26; 7:12; 18:3, 5, 20:47; 21:2-3). [For more on this subject, see another article.]
Prayer: Luke shows that the practice of prayer is rooted in the example of Jesus (5:16). He ‘includes parables which teach so much about prayer: the friend at midnight (11:5.), the unjust judge (18:10.). Luke records Jesus’ instructions to the disciples to pray (6:28; 11:2; 22:40, 46). He also warns against the wrong kind of prayer (20:47).’
Wealth: Luke has many parallels relating to the affluent and the influential. They direct the rich to help the poor, and show the proper use of money generally:
Learning about Jesus Christ
Luke portrays the Jesus who entered history as a human being. Only Luke’s record of Jesus’ genealogy goes back to Adam (3:23-38). Only Luke records:
Luke again stresses the humanity of Jesus in his full account of the temptation scene (4:1-13). He also paints Jesus against the background of pious Judaism. He mentions Jesus’ custom of attending synagogue on the Sabbath (4:14-16, 31, 44) and that he was frequently the guest of Pharisees (7:36; 14:1).
Luke also tells us that, ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (5:16). And only Luke records Jesus praying at particularly crucial periods in his life: at baptism (3:21), before choosing his disciples (6:12), prior to Peter’s pivotal confession of Jesus as the Christ (9:18) and before the transfiguration (9:28).
Outline of Luke
Luke tells the story of Jesus’ life and ministry in chronological order.
The preparation (1:1 - 4:13)
1:1-4 The prologue, where Luke explains his purpose in writing his gospel.
1:5 - 2:52 Jesus’ birth and early years.
3:1 - 4:13 The ministry of John the Baptist and the preparation for Jesus’ ministry and his victory over Satan.
Jesus’ Public Ministry (4:14 - 21:38)
4:14 - 9:50 Jesus’ ministry in Galilee preaching in the synagogues and performing miracles, which helped the people but began to bring him into conflict with the religious authorities.
9:51 - 19:27 Jesus sets out for Jerusalem and is welcomed triumphantly. This section contains many parables unique to Luke’s Gospel:
Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem 19:28 - 21:38
Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. 22:1 - 24:53