#814. Introduction to Luke (15/5/23)
This week we begin our series in Luke, Exploring who Jesus is. Therefore, this devotional is longer than usual.
‘Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.’ (Luke 1:1-4)
Summary: The gospel of Luke is written so that we can be certain of our faith in Christ and grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus.
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Who is Luke?
The ethnicity of Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, is not definitively known. However, many believe that he was a Gentile, meaning that he was not Jewish. This belief is based on several factors, including the fact that Luke is not mentioned among the Jewish Christians in the New Testament and that his writing style and vocabulary differ from those of the other Jewish New Testament writers.
Assuming that Luke was not a Jew, his testimony of conversion to Christianity would may have carried more weight with those, such as Theophilus, who were from a non-Jewish heritage. Also, being an educated medical doctor, Luke's testimony would have carried significant weight. If a qualified physician like Luke could attest to the virgin birth, the miraculous healing of many, and the resurrection of Jesus, then it would be difficult for Theophilus and others to simply dismiss these accounts as fanciful tales believed only by the ‘ignorant masses.’
Luke, as a Gentile, brings a unique perspective to his writing, demonstrating an affinity for outsiders and those who are often despised. For example, he is the only Gospel writer to mention that of the ten lepers that Jesus healed, the only one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan, a people-group that was despised by the Jews and vice-versa. Additionally, Luke's Gospel is the only one to include the story of The Good Samaritan, highlighting Jesus' message of love and compassion for all people, regardless of their social status or ethnicity.
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke includes Simeon's prophecy that Jesus would be ‘a light to the Gentiles,’ underscoring Jesus' mission to reach beyond the Jewish community. Throughout his writing, Luke includes stories that showcase Jesus' compassion and love for those who were often rejected by society, such as Zacchaeus the tax collector, who was - as children’s workers are keep to point out - was also a short man!
Luke also includes the involvement of the often-disrespected group of shepherds in the birth of Jesus, emphasising that God's message of salvation is for all people, regardless of their station in life. Furthermore, he shares the story of "the woman who had lived a sinful life," likely an ex-prostitute, anointing Jesus with perfume, demonstrating Jesus' willingness to accept and forgive those who society had rejected.
As a group that was often marginalised, Luke also includes a significant number of women in his Gospel, including at least ten who are not mentioned in the other Gospels. In sum, Luke's Gospel speaks to the inclusiveness and love of Jesus for all people, regardless of their background or social status.
As a gentile doctor Luke is concerned about people and particularly with outcasts. David Pawson in his excellent introduction to Luke lists some of the unique events included in Luke that reveal his concern for people:
The prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of a Pharisee
The woman touching the hem of his garment in the middle of a big crowd
The meal at the home of Martha and Mary
The tax collector up a tree (Zacchaeus)
The healing of the man with dropsy
The crippled woman
The ten lepers The widow’s offering
The dying thief
The two on the road to Emmaus
The purpose of Luke
It seems that helping people to be sure of their faith and come to faith is the main purpose of Luke’s gospel. Walter Liefeld and David Pao write:
‘The centrality of the theme and theology of salvation and the frequent proclamation of good news, both in Luke and in Acts, make the evangelisation of non-Christians a possible purpose for Luke—Acts. When evangelism is understood in a broader sense, Luke’s concern for the outcasts and those outside the worshiping community of Israel highlights the significance of this agenda.’ (Luke, Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
An orderly account
The gospel of Luke is a carefully researched historical account. This is not poetry or myth; this is record of true events in order that we may come to know and put our faith in Christ.
Outline of the book
During this series, we have broken the book down into 6 main sections:
PART 1 - INTRODUCTION (PROLOGUE 1:1-1:4)
PART 1 - BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD (1:5-2:52)
PART 3 - PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY (3:1-4:15)
PART 4 - JESUS’ GALILEAN MINISTRY (4:14-9:50)
PART 5 - THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (9:51-19:44)
PART 6 - MINISTRY IN JERUSALEM (INCLUDING HIS DEATH, RESURRECTION, PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT FOR ONGOING MINISTRY AND ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN) (19:45-24:53)
Who was Theophilus?
We are not entirely sure who Theophilus, the recipient of this account (and the book of Acts) was. In using ‘most excellent Theophilus’ it is clear that he was a Roman of high standing.
He may well have been the one who was going to preside over Paul’s trial in Rome with the books of Luke and Acts being evidence to support Paul’s innocence. More likely, He was a Roman convert who was struggling in his faith and this was written - probably paid for by him - to encourage him and then to be used more widely for this purpose
So you may know
Luke's Gospel was written with the intention of conveying to his readers that the gospel is meant for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or background.
God - through Luke as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit - wants us to be certain and strong in our faith. Faith is something that needs to be protected and nourished through truth and I trust that this series in Luke will help to strengthen your trust in Christ, love for God and faith that God wants to involve you in His mission to help others to come to the Jesus that Luke introduces us to.
The promise of the Spirit
A major theme of this gospel is the work and promise of the Holy Spirit. Luke’s accompanying book - the Acts of the Apostles - takes this theme even further. As we read this book, we are to see the work of the Spirit at the centre of God’s work and believe that this promise is for us. Jesus last words in this book are:
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
This series is about exploring who Jesus is so that we may know and love Him more deeply. What does this section (1:1-4) teach us about Jesus?
Firstly, Jesus and the message about Him is called ‘the word’ (v.2); Jesus and this story about Him is revelation of who God is; through this gospel we will learn about who God is as we study Jesus the word.
Secondly, God wants us to know that Jesus came as a ‘fulfilment’ of the promises that God had made; God wants us to know that He is a promise-keeping God who will fulfil all His plans in history, in the church, the nations and our lives.
Finally, spend a moment thinking about other things that this text teaches you about Jesus.
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
What has God been speaking to you about from His Word this week and how has this helped you / affected your life?
3. STUDY AND PRAY TOGETHER
Please read Luke 1:1-9
Did anything strike you or did God speak to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?
From today's text, what is the reason given from Luke writing this gospel?
List all the things that today's text tells us about Jesus.
List the various applications and responses one could make to today's text.
How do you plan to respond?
SIV - What does this introduction to Luke say about our mission?
SIV - How and with who are you seeking SIV - Serve, Invest and Invite?
Pray together - Spend some time in prayer together out of today's study or/and in regard to seeking to reach our communities for Christ.