. Luke, the beloved physician, wrote this gospel for Theophilus, a Greek, who had come to the Christian faith. While doing this, he was led by the Holy Spirit to write a Gospel in some ways distinct from the others.
THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF LUKE’S GOSPEL
1.Luke was a historian and God used him to give us an accurate historical account of the ministry of Jesus (recorded in the Gospel of Luke) and of the establishment of the early Christian church (recorded in the book of Acts). Included in his Gospel is the reference to the decree of Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed and, “this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria” (2:2). The Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities seems to contradict this by mentioning that this taxing was done in A.D. 6, too late to coincide with the birth of Jesus which was approximately 3 B.C. Upon further investigation, however, this seeming contradiction can be resolved when we consider the fact that in those days taxation was a long drawn-out process. First the people had to register their persons and possessions; and this registration was followed at a later date by the actual assessment and payment of the tax. In all likelihood, Cyrenius (Quirinius) supervised the registration around 3 B.C. while the actual payment was made later, around A.D. 6. Two sources confirm that Quirinius was a legate of Syria during the time Jesus was born; there was an inscription found in Rome by the Tiber, and another in Antioch of Pisidia that referred to Quirinius as being ruler of Syria at this time.
Being interested in history, Luke connected the events of the New Testament with the political situation of his day. For example, Zacharias was priest when Herod was King of Judea (1:5), Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem upon the decree of Caesar Augustus (2:1), and we read in chapter three verses 1 and 2, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the Word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
Luke also gives us biographical detail of the life of Christ. The Gospel was not written for this purpose, but, of all the Gospel accounts, Luke’s has the most detail. We get some insight into his family, his ancestors, parents, and brethren. We learn something of Jesus’ infancy, boyhood, and growing up. If we look in the other direction of His life, its end, we observe the same thing. Luke gives us interesting detail about the trial, the charges made against Him (23:2), Pilate’s attempt to avoid having to sentence Jesus, even by sending Him to Herod (23:7ff.).
2.This historical emphasis, however, does not discredit the theology of salvation which underlies the ministry of Jesus. Luke traveled with Paul and learned to love the gospel of justification by faith without the works of the law. In the gospel narrative Luke sets forth the Gospel truth: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10). Jesus said of the publican, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (18:14).
In addition to this, we should note the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit and His role in salvation. Again, remember that Luke had already researched his material for the Book of Acts, even before he wrote the Gospel of Luke. This made him Spirit conscious. He points out in the Gospel that the Holy Spirit was in John (1:15), Elizabeth (1:41), Zacharias (1:67), Simeon (2:25-26); that He was instrumental in the conception of Christ (1:35) and present at His baptism (3:22); that He strengthened Jesus for the temptation (4:1,14) and blessed Him in His ministry (4:18,10:21). The same Spirit filled His disciples (24:49).
3.As the Son of Man, Jesus came to apply salvation to all classes of people. Luke, a physician, could well appreciate the power of the miracles. Among them he records the following: raising the widow’s son at Nain (17:11-18), healing the man who had dropsy (14:1-6) and the ten lepers (17:11-19), restoring the ear of Malchus (29:50-51). Luke refers to women often (43 times, compared to Matthew and Mark who refer to them 49 times between the two accounts). He gives us a good picture of Mary His mother by referring to her throughout the Gospel, He writes about Elizabeth (1:5-6,39-54,57), Anna the prophetess (2:36-38), the women who followed Jesus (8:2-3), the weeping women who walked behind the cross as Jesus carried it (23:27-28), the women at the cross and tomb (23:55-56, 24:1-11). Luke also refers to children. The infancy of Jesus covers some three chapters; and he refers to miracles upon an only child in three different places (7:12, 8:42,9:38). Of His many parables, Luke refers to Jesus’ care for the poor and oppressed. Those not recorded in any other gospel include ones mentioned in 7:41,43; 11:5-8; 12:13-21; 15:8-10, 16:1-13, 16:19-31, 18:1-8.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE GOSPEL
1. The preparation for Jesus’ ministry: the births of John the Baptist and Jesus are announced, John is born (1:5-80), Jesus is born, circumcised, presented in the temple, visited Jerusalem, grew in wisdom and stature (2:1-52).
2. Inauguration into His ministry: ministry of John, baptism of Jesus (3:1-22), Jesus’ geneology (3:23-38), the temptation (4:1-13).
3. His Galilean ministry: He returns to Galilee (4:14, 15); at Nazareth He declares His purpose and is rejected (4:16-30); He performs many miracles, such as the healing of the demoniac and other sick, the draught of fishes, the cleansing of the leper, the healing of the man sick of palsy (4:30-5:26); He ate with publicans and sinners (5:27-39); He confronts the Pharisees over the Sabbath, His disciples pluck corn, He heals the man with a withered hand (6:1-11); He chose His twelve disciples (6:12-16), preached the sermon on the mount (6: 17-49), healed the Centurion’s servant (7:1-10), raised the son of the widow of Nain (7:11-17), answered John’s inquiry (7:18-35); the woman anoints Jesus’ feet (7:36-50); Jesus tells the parable of the sower (8:1-18), answers His mother and brothers who desire Him to show His power (8: 19-21), performs miracles, such as the stilling of the storm, the casting out of devils out of Legion, the healing of the daughter of Jairus and of the woman with the issue of blood (8:22-56); He sends forth the twelve and feeds the five thousand (9: 1-17).
4. The retirement ministry: announcement of His suffering and death to His disciples (9:18-27), the transfiguration (9:28-36), the healing of the demoniac son (9:37-45), the use of a child as an example of humility (9:46-50).
5. Later Judean ministry: He is rejected by Samaritans (9:51-56), He deals with the three would-be disciples (9:57-62), sends out the seventy (10:1- 24), tells the parable of good Samaritan (10:25-37), visits with Mary and Martha (10:38-42), teaches His disciples to pray (11:1-13), is accused of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub (11:14-29), gives the sign of Jonas and pronounces woes on the Scribes and Pharisees (11:30-54), tells more parables (12:1-13:10), heals a man on the Sabbath (13:11-17), tells the parable of the mustard seed (13:18-21).
6. Perean ministry: while journeying through Perea He speaks about the straight gate and narrow way and deals with the threat from Herod (13:22-35), heals the man with dropsy (14:1-6), relates a series of parables which includes the seating of guests at the wedding feast, the great supper, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the unjust steward, the rich man and Lazarus, and the offenses and forgiveness (14:7-17:10); He heals 10 lepers (17:11-18), speaks of the coming of the kingdom of heaven (17:20-37), tells the parable of the widow who persisted and of the pharisee and publican (18:1-14); He deals with children and the rich young ruler (18:15-30), heads for Jerusalem and on the way heals a blind man (18:31-43), visits with Zacchaeus, and tells the parable of the pounds (19:1-27).
7. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus: the royal entrance into Jerusalem (19:28-40), weeping over Jerusalem (19:41-44), cleansing of the temple (19:45-48), answering the confrontation over His authority by telling the parable of the wicked husbandmen (20:1-18), instruction regarding the payment of tribute to Caesar, answering the problem of the resurrection and marriage after death, showing how He can be both David’s Son and Lord (20:20-47), the parable of the widow’s mite (21:1-4), instruction concerning the end of all things (21:5-28), announcement of the destruction of Jerusalem (21:29-38), Judas agrees to betray Jesus (22:16), the last passover and institution of Lord’s Supper (22:7-38), prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is taken prisoner (22:39- 53), Peter’s denial and Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin (22:54-71), Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Herod (23:1-26), Jesus led to Golgotha and the women weep (23:27-31), He is crucified (23:32-49), buried (23:50-56), He arose from the dead and appeared to many (24: l-43), instructs His disciples to preach in the power of the Holy Spirit Who will be given to them after He ascends into heaven (24:44-53).
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Who was Luke and what do we know about him?
2. What five things can you mention that are included in the idea of “organic inspiration.”
3. How can we be sure that Luke was the author of this Gospel?
4. Who was Theophilus and how does the fact that he was a Greek influence the writing of this gospel?
5. What was Luke’s purpose in writing this gospel and why is it important that Christ be set forth as the Son of Man?
6. Illustrate from the Gospel itself that Luke was informed of the political situation of the world of his day and that he saw it as having a bearing upon the work of Christ.
7. Why do we not have a biography of Jesus in any of the Gospels?
8. How can we explain the emphasis on Mary (see 1:28 and 42), over against the “Mariolotry” of the Roman Catholic?
9. How do we explain Luke 9:60?
10. Review the outline of events recorded of Luke’s Gospel and compare it with that of Matthew and Mark in order to note differences.