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Book of Luke

Dear Precious Friends,
On this Magnificent Monday, I pray you will join me starting tomorrow in reading a chapter of Luke every day until Christmas. We started this last year with several of us doing this together and it made Christmas so much richer! When we are in God's word, His truth permeates through us and we are changed and more Christlike! Let's join together and walk through the book of Luke and the richness of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus which has profound implications for our relationship with God today. Jesus walks through Luke’s gospel illustrating His deep and abiding care for people, regardless of what they have done or their status in society. There are 24 chapters in Luke which leads us right up to Christmas Day!
Here's a little background on Luke:
While Luke’s name never appears in this gospel, ancient Christian tradition unanimously ascribes the book to him. One ancient prologue written to introduce the gospel describes Luke as a Syrian from Antioch. With this piece of information, we can deduce that Luke was probably not Jewish. Paul also listed him with other Gentiles in his greetings to the Colossians (4:14). The ancient prologue goes on to state that Luke eventually settled in the Greek city of Thebes, where he died at age 84.1
Luke’s own introduction to his gospel indicates that Luke composed the letter with the purpose of providing a careful rendering of the events of Christ’s life in chronological order. As a physician, Luke would have been trained as a careful observer, a quality that would have been invaluable in this project. The result was the first part of a two-volume work written to Theophilus. We know the subsequent volume as Acts.
Just as Matthew portrays Jesus as the King, and as Mark reveals Him as the Servant, so Luke offers a unique perspective of Jesus as the Son of Man. This phrase, “Son of Man,” was Jesus’s favorite way to refer to Himself.
Most famous among the people unique to Luke’s gospel is the tax collector Zaccheus, a short man who had to climb a tree to see over the crowds as Jesus approached his town. Jesus ended up sharing a meal with Zaccheus at his house, much to the chagrin of the local religious leaders. When Zaccheus expressed his regret over his former way of life and vowed to make restitution, Jesus responded with what became the theme of Luke’s gospel: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Luke portrayed Jesus as God’s ideal Man, who offers salvation to all humanity—Jew and Gentile alike.
Luke’s style is that of a scholarly, well-read author (see note on 1:1-4). He wrote as a meticulous historian, often giving details that helped identify the historical context of the events he described (1:5; 2:1-2; 3:1-2; 13:1-4).
His account of the nativity is the fullest in all the gospel records, and (like the rest of Luke’s work), more polished in its literary style. He included in the birth narrative a series of praise psalms (1:46-55; 1:68-79; 2:14; 2:29-32, 34-35). He alone reported the unusual circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, the annunciation to Mary, the manger, the shepherds and Simeon and Anna (2:25-38).
A running theme in Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ compassion for Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, sinners and others often regarded as outcasts in Israel. Every time he mentions a tax collector (3:12; 5:27; 7:29; 15:1; 18:10-13; 19:2), it is in a positive sense. Yet, Luke did not ignore the salvation of those who were rich and respectable, e.g. 23:50-53. From the outset of Jesus’ public ministry (4:18), to the Lord’s final words on the cross (23:40-43), Luke underscored this theme of Christ’s ministry to the pariahs of society. Again and again, he showed how the Great Physician ministered to those most aware of their need (compare 5:31-32; 15:4-7, 31-32; 19:10).
The high-profile Luke accords to women is particularly significant. From the nativity account, where Mary, Elizabeth and Anna are given prominence (chapters 1 and 2), to the events of resurrection morning, where women again are major characters (24:1, 10), Luke emphasized the central role of women in the life and ministry of our Lord (e.g. 7:12-15, 37-50; 8:2-3, 43-48; 10:38-42; 13:11-13; 21:2-4; 23:27-29, 49, 55-56).
Several other recurring themes form threads through Luke’s gospel. Examples of these are human fear in the presence of God (see note on 1:12); forgiveness (3:3; 5:20-25; 6:37; 7:41-50; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3-4; 23:34; 24:47); joy (see note on 1:14); wonder at the mysteries of divine truth (see note on 2:18); the role of the Holy Spirit (1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25-27; 3:16, 22, 4:1, 14, 18; 10:21; 11:13; 12:10, 12); the temple in Jerusalem (1:9-22; 2:27-38, 46-49; 4:9-13; 18:10-14; 19:45-48; 20:1 – 21:6; 21:37-38; 24:53); and Jesus’ prayers (see note on 6:12).
Starting with 9:51, Luke devoted 10 chapters of his narrative to a travelogue of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. Much of the material in this section is unique to Luke. This is the heart of Luke’s gospel, and it features a theme Luke stressed throughout: Jesus’ relentless progression toward the cross. This was the very purpose for which Christ had come to earth (compare 9:22-23; 17:25; 18:31-33; 24:25-26, 46), and He would not be deterred. The saving of sinners was His whole mission (19:10).
Distinctive Features: Luke’s language: He uses 266 words (not counting proper names), found nowhere else in the New Testament. He is capable of elevated literary style (1:1-4). He often writes in a manner reminiscent of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. If he was a Gentile, as many think, he nonetheless knew and loved the Old Testament well.
Luke’s accuracy: For many, of course, accuracy in a biblical writing is assumed. But Luke has been a prominent battleground (one scholar calls Lucan studies a “storm center”), for those probing the New Testament’s reliability, since it so clearly places itself in the context of ancient history (e.g., 3:1-2).
The historian and classical scholar Sir William Ramsay (1852–1916), began by assuming Luke’s inaccuracy, but became convinced rather of the opposite. In this, Ramsay is hardly alone. Where Luke can be tested, he shows a remarkable command of often obscure facts, and a determination not to distort those facts in the telling.
Luke expressly stated that his knowledge of the events recorded in his gospel came from the reports of those who were eyewitnesses (1:1-2), strongly implying that he himself was not an eyewitness. It is clear from his prologue that his aim was to give an ordered account of the events of Jesus’ life, but this does not mean he always followed a strict chronological order in all instances (e.g. see note on 3:20).
By acknowledging that he had compiled his account from various extant sources (see note on 1:1), Luke was not disclaiming divine inspiration for his work. The process of inspiration never bypasses or overrides the personalities, vocabularies, and styles of the human authors of Scripture. The unique traits of the human authors are always indelibly stamped on all the books of scripture. Luke’s research is no exception to this rule. The research itself was orchestrated by divine Providence. And in his writing, Luke was moved by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, his account is infallibly true (see note on 1:3).Luke’s focus: Several themes dominate the gospel. Luke stresses the overarching plan of God in human history as revealed through Israel, Christ, and the church. He puts special emphasis on “salvation” as such (the word, though not the idea, is absent from Matthew and Mark, and appears once in John).
He is concerned with individuals (Zechariah, Elisabeth, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary and Martha, and Zaccheus, to name a few), shows the importance of women, and calls special attention to children, the poor, and the disreputable. He stresses the Holy Spirit, both in the life of Jesus and in the early church. Finally, as in all the gospels, Jesus’ suffering and death find lengthy and detailed treatment. Luke’s gospel is a careful and engrossing presentation of God’s saving will and work in the world, preeminently through His Son.


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