Introduction to the Gospel of Luke
I recently had the privilege to open the Bible of a young 15 year old girl. It is worn from overuse, so worn that large sections have come unglued from its binding. It is heavily highlighted, and peppered with written notes. In some places I found a color key for the different color underlines, Red for promises, Blue for commands and Black for What Evers.
As I gingerly and joyfully looked through it, I paused to read a few of the written notes…and I share: “Beautiful, beautiful, Jesus you’re beautiful and you make beautiful things of my life.” “Thank you Jesus for THIS promise” referring to the passage in which promises that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us and if we know He hears us, we have whatever we ask of Him. “Give glory to God, he does it all…not you!” “I love you Jesus.”
Inside the front cover of her Bible—where you find those blank pages to write who gave you the Bible and the date, the church record and family record…everyone’s Bible is different—I found a profound quote written there…one I’m sure you have heard before.
It goes like this, “sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin. by D.L. Moody”
Now I’m not 100% positive that she personally wrote that quote in her Bible, but its there…written in ink for her to see everytime she opened her Bible. And judging from the condition of her Bible, she took it seriously. She used God’s Word constantly to know the exact truth about everything she had been taught… so that she could know the exact truth about Jesus and His salvation.
In the same way…the author of Luke wanted believers to have an orderly account so that they may KNOW the exact truth about the things THEY had been taught.
We know this from his purpose statement in 1:4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
The “things” that we are to KNOW the exact truth about is the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord.
Which presents an excellent reason for us to study the Gospel of Luke. Because many of us have been taught about Jesus and have been preached to about who Jesus is, and have read extra-biblical books about Jesus…and of course have read about Jesus in the Bible…
BUT do we KNOW Jesus? Do we really KNOW what KNOW means?
There are two words for KNOW or “knowledge” in Greek.
Oida refers to knowing facts, data.
I know that Prishtina is the capital of Kosovo.
I know that Red, Blue and Yellow are primary colors.
I know that Bobtail is the name of the horse in the song Jingle Bells.
Ginosko refers to a different kind of knowledge. Its a personal, felt knowledge…gained through experience.
Pastor J.D. Greear theologically explains the difference this way:
· “I might know (oida) that Krispy Kreme’s are made of sugar and baby angel nectar, but that’s different from the experience of putting one in your mouth which is (ginosko).”
· You might know how a 50 cal. Machine gun works, but that’s different than sitting behind that thing a letting it ROCK.
· That’s ginosko.
· The Hebrew version of this word was used for sexual intimacy— when a husband and wife would unite their souls in sexual intimacy, the Bible says they “knew” each other.
o says, Adam (Ginosko) Eve…he knew Eve.
· It doesn’t mean he learned some facts about her. They experienced each other.
· That’s the kind of “knowledge” Ginosko is reflecting.
Again, Pastor J.D. Greear says “it is a felt knowledge of the love of God that we experience deep within our soul. When God grants spiritual sight to us, he takes the doctrines of the gospel we understand with our mind and makes them burst alive with sweetness in our hearts; we come to know them as real, and personal, and felt. You see, IT IS possible, to be around Jesus for a long period of time— maybe a lifetime—and never really know him.”
So At the risk of Lavdim calling me Captain Obvious, it is important for us to KNOW to GINOSKO Jesus so that we can BE like Jesus to our city.
And because the author of Luke’s Gospel focuses on Jesus as the Son of Man, this Gospel presents a picture of Jesus as the perfect man. Therefore, if we want to BE like Jesus, than we should study the Gospel of Luke to KNOW Jesus.
Much of what is essential in our picture of Jesus…we owe to the author of Luke and his dedication to research. Only the Gospel of Luke tells us the three parables about the way that God's love…patiently seeks for us: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost penny, and above all—perhaps Jesus' best-known parable—the parable of the prodigal son ().
Thanks to the author of Luke, we know some important things about Jesus' Passion.
· Only the author of Luke tells us about Jesus sweating blood during his sorrow unto death, about his agony, and about the angel sent to strengthen him ().
· Only this Gospel tells of the deeply disturbing scene of Jesus turning…and looking right at Peter after Peter had betrayed him. ().
· Only Luke refers to the way that Jesus forgives not only Peter, but also those who crucified him: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do ().
· Only Luke describes the transformation of the thief by Jesus' loving forgiveness. ().
These are only a few examples of the distinctiveness of the Gospel of Luke that emphasized Jesus' turning toward sinners, as well as his love for the poor, the sick, and those who have lost their way.
One author said The richness of the author of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus has profound implications for our relationship with God today. Jesus walks through the Gospel of Luke illustrating His deep and abiding care for people, regardless of what they have done or their status in society.
The author of Luke portrayed Jesus as God’s ideal Man…who offers salvation to all humanity—Jew and Gentile alike.
Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” ().
This is the reason that Jesus came, and this is the reason WE all came. Yes, I know we can’t “save” the lost, but we can certainly lead the lost to the One who can.
But to do that, we must KNOW Him. Hence our study of the Gospel of Luke.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you probably noticed that I have been using the phrase, “the author of Luke.” I did this purposely because I WONDER if we really know who is the author of the Gospel of Luke.
We ASSUME the Gospel of Luke is written by a guy named Luke. In fact, we assume all the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—get their titles from their author’s name.
This is a natural assumption because in our Bibles they are titled the Gospel according to Matthew; according to Mark; according to Luke; according to John.
Because of this we take for granted that these Gospels come from the pen of their namesake.
But should we?
18 out of 27 books of the New Testament are explicitly addressed by the author.
But the Gospels, Acts, Hebrews and the 3 Epistles of John are not.
In fact, the only places where Luke’s name occurs in the entire NT are:
Let’s take a closer look.
We can surmise that Luke and Acts are written by the same author. Why?
· The language and structure of both Luke and Acts are very similar.
· Both books are written to the same person and note the phrase in “The first account I composed.”
Now that we’ve established that Luke and Acts are written by the same author…
It is probably easier to determine the authorship of Luke, once we solve the problem of the authorship of Acts.
There are passages in Acts where the author includes himself in events by the use of the first person plural pronouns “we” and “us” (; ; ; ). This indicates that the author was with Paul when the events described in these passages took place.
The first authentic “we” passage occurs within Paul’s second missionary journey.
… immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia ().
To establish that Luke was the real author of the “we” sections in Acts, we need to follow the process of elimination.
NOW STICK WITH ME HERE, THIS IS GOING TO GET A LITTLE TRICKIE!
· Studying Paul’s epistles, we can determine the following people were with Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome: Aristarchus, Demas, Epaphras, Epaphroditus, Jesus called Justus, Luke, Mark, Onesimus, and Tychicus (; ; ; Philem. vv. 10, 23–24).
· Since the author of Acts traveled with Paul to Rome, Epaphras and Epaphroditus would be ruled out because they arrived later (; ).
· Aristarchus (19:29), Mark (12:25), Timothy (16:1), and Tychicus (20:4) are eliminated because they are all mentioned in the third person in Acts.
· The converted runaway slave Onesimus came to Paul later and wouldn’t be a likely candidate for authorship.
· Since Demas later deserted Paul (), it is very doubtful that he would have written these two books.
· Only Luke and Jesus called Justus remain as distinct possibilities.
· Since no early tradition ascribed the book of Acts to Justus ANNND since it is known that Luke was later with Paul (), Only Luke is with me...
· …it seems best to ascribe the third Gospel and Acts to Luke.
· And to add the cherry on top… Several early Church Fathers, including Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, ascribed the book to Luke.
o Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John.
What else is there to know about Luke?
Luke was a Gentile
· Paul seems to make a distinction in his listing of helpers in
o He lists Aristarchus, Mark and Justus as the only fellow workers from the circumcision.
o He then lists Luke, Demas and others outside the list of the circumcision.
· In Luke says “in their own language,” referring to Aramaic which implies it was not his language.
· In his Gospel Luke omits all the controversies with Pharisees concerning the Jewish Oral Law.
· Luke is the longest Gospel. In fact, if you reject the idea that Paul wrote Hebrews, which I am not ready to just yet…but if you do Luke-Acts contain the largest number of pages by any author in the New Testament and LUKE IS A GENTILE. Not just any Gentile but a second-generation Christian Gentile!
· Can you believe it? Before my study, I always thought Paul, the Hebrew of Hebrews, from the tribe of Benjamin was the majority author of the NT.
· Imagine that, …Of all the people to be the author of the longest Gospel and, with Acts, the author of most of the New Testament, 28% to be exact…it is surprising that a little-known, non-eye-witness (i.e. non-Apostle) Gentile would would be the one.
· YET, this is the unanimous tradition of the early church, with NO dissenters!
Luke’s audience is Gentile as well
Being Gentiles ourselves, it is another great reason for us to study the Gospel of Luke.
There are several pieces of evidence that cause us to come to this “Gospel to the Gentiles” conclusion.
1. Luke frequently explained Jewish localities. This would be unnecceary to the Jew. (4:31; 8:26; 21:37; 23:51; 24:13)
a. For example:
i. And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath (4:31)
ii. And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem (24:13)
If Bill was discussing baseball history with a group of baseball fans, do you think he needs to describe what a triple play is? No.
2. He traced Jesus’ genealogy (3:23-38) all the way back to Adam, rather than just to Abraham as Matthew’s Gospel does. This shows Jesus representing all of mankind.
3. Luke used a number of words familiar to Gentile readers as opposed to the comparable Jewish terms found in Matthew’s Gospel.
a. For example:
i. Didaskalos (dee-dahskalos) rather than rabbi for “teacher.”
4. Luke’s Recognition of Gentiles in God’s plan (2:30-32 and 2:31; 3:6; 13:29; 14:23)
a. In , we’ll see Joseph and Mary presenting the baby Jesus to the Lord. Simeon, takes Jesus and thanks God for letting him see His Christ before he died and he says about Jesus “A light of revelation to the Gentiles.”
5. Many examples of God’s love for Gentiles
a. For example:
i. Luke extends the boundaries of those welcome at the Messianic banquet
ii. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
6. Luke’s Great Commission includes forgiveness preached to all nations (cf. 24:47)
i. and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, …24:47
Luke was a physician
1. Early church tradition holds that Luke is a physician.
2. Paul referred to Luke as a physician ()
3. Luke used terms related to medicine, cures, diseases, etc. at least 300 times.
4. As a physician, he was naturally been interested in the miraculous births of John and Jesus and…
a. For that reason, he describes at great length the Angel’s announcement of those births (1:5–38) and vividly describes the births of both children (1:57–2:39)
5. Luke’s understanding relationship between physicians and women is well established in this gospel.
Luke was a historian
o We can find evidence of this in his method of exact dating (1:5; 2:1–2).
o In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
· He has gained a reputation as an able historian through exactness in details.
o Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
· One commentator says, “the charm of style and the skill in the use of facts place Luke’s Gospel above all praise. The delicacy and accuracy, picturesqueness and precision with which he sets forth the different incidents is manifestly the work of a trained historian.”
Luke was a highly-educated man
· This is manifested by his outstanding command of Greek. His vocabulary was extensive and rich, and his style at times approaches that of classical Greek.
· One commentator stated that “Luke writes the best Greek of all the New Testament authors with the possible exception to the book of Hebrews.”
o WHICH…could be evidence for a non-Paul Hebrews…but I digress.
· D. Edmond Hiebert says, “the Gospel of Luke’s beautiful hymns and superb stories from the lips of Jesus, unique to this gospel, have made it a favorite with countless readers.
· Even Ernest Renan, a 19th century expert of Semitic languages and civilizations, philosopher, historian, writer and French rationalists critic of Christianity said that the gospel of Luke is the “most beautiful book ever written.”
And so it is!
But for me, I find the beauty in the presentation of Jesus. This Gospel may be characterized by literary excellence, historical detail…but also a warm, sensitive understanding of Jesus and those around him.
Luke’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ love and care for those whom the Jewish leaders never even noticed. Like:
1. women (e.g. Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and Martha, etc.)
a. Luke elevates the role of the woman. He referred to women forty-three times, whereas they are mentioned only forty-nine times in Matthew and Mark combined.
2. the poor as found in the Beatitudes
a. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ()
b. There were some rich that were included in Jesus’ followers but He seemed closest to the poor;
3. Stress on family circle – Jesus’ activity included men, women, and children with the setting frequently in the home.
4. The socially, racially, and religiously ostracized
a. immoral women (cf. 7:36–50)
1) Like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. (7:38)
b. Samaritans (cf. 9:51–56; 10:29–37; 17:11–16)
c. Lepers (cf. 17:11–19)
d. Tax collectors (cf. 3:12–13; 15:1–2; 18:9–14; 19:1–10)
e. Criminals (cf. 23:35–43)
f. Rebellious family members (cf. 15:11–32)
Jesus had great concern for sinners (Jesus was a friend to those deep in sin)
Luke’s evident goal is to present to us Jesus as “the Son of Man” and as the Savior of ALL mankind.
A study of this Gospel is bound to be a heartwarming experience and to help us GINOSKO our Jesus.
And it starts like this:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.
Next week we will dive into this passage as we begin our journey to GINOSKO together.
I want to encourage you this week to read this passage.
Read it several times and ask it questions.
Read it like you’ve NEVER read it before…like it’s the first time you’ve touched a Bible.
If you’re really feeling the motivated…read the whole of Luke in one sitting but, always keeping in mind GINOSKO as you read.
Let’s lift up our voices to our Lord one more time before we end.