My year-long journey through The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men, brings us to the third book of the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke is considered another of the Synoptic Gospels since it contains similar stories about the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. However, its author goes well beyond the Gospels by along with Matthew and Mark to provide the most comprehensive details about the ministry of Jesus and the importance of understanding the way of salvation.
About The Author
Factually, this Gospel is anonymous since the author’s name does not appear in the book. There is unmistakable evidence though pointing to Luke, the Evangelist, as the author.
Luke lived in the city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. A Gentile by birth, Luke became well-educated in Greek culture. He was a peacemaker and a friend of the poor and so-called outcasts from different races and nationalities. He had no political ambitions, nor any intention of trying to interfere with the orderly processes of government. Although Luke never met Christ in person, he came to know about Jesus by talking to eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection. I imagine hearing the first-hand stories of Jesus helped Luke to become a believer.
Similar to Mark’s connection to Peter, Luke had a strong connection with the Apostle Paul, yet there is no tendency to call his book “Luke’s Gospel according to Paul.”
Luke accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey and remained with him through his final imprisonment in Rome. In Colossians 4:14 Paul refers to Luke as his “dear friend Luke, the doctor” (from Greek for ‘one who heals’) which explains why Luke wrote in great detail. Luke was valued greatly by Paul and remained loyal to him even after others had deserted him. Paul wrote: “Only Luke is with me. Get (John) Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11) in his final letter from prison.
About Luke’s Gospel
The most probable date for the composition of Luke is around 80–110 A.D. By this time, Christianity was fast becoming a movement that not only attracted followers but encountered opposition by the Roman government.
The Gospel of Luke is a companion volume to the book of Acts since the language and structure indicate both were written by the same person. Further evidence is that the second volume also refers to the first (see Acts 1:1). Certain sections of Acts also use the pronoun “we” (Acts 16, 20, 21, and 27) to indicate the author was with Paul when the events described took place.
Written to Theophilus
Luke addressed both the Gospel and Acts to the same individual named “Theophilus,” meaning “One Who Love God.” This could be one of Luke’s patrons but likely a Roman acquaintance with a strong interest in the new Christian religion. Regardless, the message is relevant to all those who were learning to love God.
Luke wrote so the Gentiles would hear all the true details about the life of Jesus. Although he acknowledges that many others had written of Jesus’ life (1:1), Luke used personal investigation and testimony from “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (1:2), including the preaching and oral accounts of the apostles. His language differences from the other Synoptics and distinctive material (10:1-18:14; 19:1-28) indicate independent work, though it’s obvious he used some of the same sources. Luke wanted the eyewitness accounts preserved accurately and transmitted intact to the next generations.
Sources for Luke
Like Matthew, Luke derives much of his Gospel from that of Mark. Both generally following the same sequence and incorporating about 50 percent of Mark’s material into his work. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew, however, share a good deal of material not found in Mark, suggesting that those two evangelists may have had access to another common source, presumably the Q Source, a hypothetical written collection of primarily Jesus’ sayings.
Luke’s language differences from the other Synoptics and distinctive material (10:1-18:14; 19:1-28) indicate independent work, though it’s obvious he used some of the same sources.
According to Britannia.com despite its similarities to the other Synoptic Gospels, Luke’s contains some unique content. It gives details of Jesus’ infancy not found in the other Gospels such as the census of Caesar Augustus, the journey to Bethlehem, and the adoration of the shepherds. Among the notable parables found only in Luke’s Gospel are those of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son.
Luke also recorded the only story in the New Testament about Jesus’ boyhood. When Jesus was twelve years old, He went to Jerusalem with his parents for the Feast of Passover. On the way home, His parents discovered that He was not with them and returned to the Temple to find Jesus involved in discussion with prominent Jewish rabbis.
Luke is also the only Gospel to give an account of the Ascension of Jesus Christ 40 days after His Resurrection.
The Blueprint for Luke’s Gospel
Luke gives the most detailed account of Jesus’s life in his 24 chapters. The Gospel is divided into four major parts:
- the birth and childhood of Jesus (chapters 1-3),
- the events that occurred in and around Galilee (4:1 — 9:50),
- His ministry in Judea and Perea (9:51-19:27), and
- Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem (19:28-24:53).
As the first historian of the early church, Luke opens with his purpose for writing to accurately preserve and transmit the eyewitness reports about Jesus for the next generations.
Next, Luke relates a number of stories related to the birth and childhood of Jesus not reported in other Gospels. Luke includes the announcements to Zechariah about Elizabeth’s birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary about her virgin birth of Jesus. He details the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where “there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke also reports that the Christ-child was circumcised after eight days, and later blessed by Simeon and by Anna.
Like Matthew, Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus. However, Matthew traces the ancestry back to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, whereas Luke traces the ancestry back to Adam, the father of all humanity, the Savior of the whole world.
- What older members of your family tree do you admire? Why?
- If they are alive, talk with them about their faith and how it impacted their life.
- If they have passed one, research your family history about how they may have come to faith.
Luke outlines the ministry of Jesus in chapters 4-21 that closely follows the Gospel of Mark, though not as closely as Matthew. If Luke and Matthew both used the same Q source, Luke used even more material.
Throughout his gospel, Luke emphasizes the fact that Jesus was a friend not only to Jews but to Samaritans and the outcasts. This includes Jesus sending out the “seventy-two” (chapter 10) to carry the message of the kingdom to different places. Luke wants to make it clear that Jesus’ mission is for all humankind and not just for the Jews.
In Luke alone, we also find several parables: the Good Samaritan (10:23), the rich fool who tore down his barns to build greater ones (12:13-21), the lost coin (15:8-10), the prodigal son (15:11-32), the unjust steward (16:1-13), the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31), and the Publican and the Pharisee who went to the Temple to pray (18:9-14). Each of these stories illustrates what Luke feels is an essential characteristic of Jesus’ work.
Chapter 19 is the well-known story of Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector who climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. In the story, we hear about the conversation that transformed Zaccheaus’ life to the point of giving half of his possessions to the poor. We also see the key verse: “Today, salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (19:9-10)
- In what ways does your checkbook record your values as a follower of Jesus?
- If you have ever cheated someone out of money, how can you repay them?
The Gospel concludes by describing the events leading up to the crucifixion. He stresses Jesus’ innocence of any wrongdoing toward either Jews or the Roman government who question His authority. Chapter 22 tells of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and the Last Supper with the remaining disciples. It details Jesus’ arrest and presentation to Pilate, the Roman governor, who declared Him innocent of any crime yet hands Him over to the Herod who orders the execution. A Roman centurion protests Jesus’ execution, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
Luke provides an account of Jesus’s resurrection and His subsequent meetings with the disciples and others. He joins two men walking to the village of Emmaus, who do not recognize Jesus until he sits at a table and blesses the food they are about to eat. Later, he meets with the disciples in Jerusalem and overcomes their suspicions by showing them His hands and feet. He follows with a farewell discourse to the disciples about what they should do once He ascends back to Heaven.
The sad news is their declarations of Jesus’ innocence and the protests against the execution did not work. The good news is that Jesus died and rose again for our salvation!
God Buddy Focus
As you read Dr. Luke’s Gospel, look for a carefully documented biography of Jesus, the only Perfect Man. Look for the emphasis on Jesus’s relationships with others, in particular, the prominence given to women and the poor. Jesus loved the poor and the needy; in fact, they were a primary focus of His ministry. But He also loved all of us enough to die to save us from ourselves.
Like Luke, your first-hand account about your belief in Jesus as your Savior is indisputable. Look for how Luke emphasizes the idea that all humans are sinners and in need of salvation. It’s good news that we can all share with the spiritually lost and needy.
- What part of Luke’s Gospel touched you most?
- When was the last time you shared your faith with someone who does not believe?
My next post is about the unique Gospel of John.