Gospel of Luke
"That you may know the truth..."(1:4)
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
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Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Gospel of Luke (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading comments below). Reflections on each chapter are drawn from my personal interaction with the chapter in a daily quiet time.
Introduction: Luke, the only Gentile author in the NT and a physician (Col. 4:14) and frequent companion of Paul in his missionary work and imprisonment, wrote the largest proportion of the NT (27% by word count). His work is addressed to Theophilus (v.3 and Acts 1:1) and spans Luke and Acts, which he viewed as a single work. Luke explains in detail his purpose and method in writing (v.1-4) and is broadly seen as a careful historian throughout.
In addition, Luke's contribution includes a perspective intended to be helpful to Gentile readers, much additional detail about events surrounding the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist, including four beautiful hymns (chapters 1 and 2), and many stories about Jesus' encounter with individuals including Jesus' respect for women. The Gospel also gives great emphasis to prayer, interest in justice, poverty and wealth. Unique also are the wonderful parables of the Good Samarian and the Prodigal Son. It is hard to overestimate the contribution of Luke to the New Testament.
We know little of Luke's early life, or of his life following Paul's martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:11) of which Luke may have been the only NT witness. It is likely that Luke wrote around 60 AD during Paul's two-year imprisonment (Acts 24:27), possibly in part in preparation for Paul's trial.
Luke's high purpose: is to investigate carefully and write a orderly historical account from the beginning of the Gospel (v.1) to the time of Luke's writing, some 60 years later (Acts 28:30-31). Like John (1:1ff), who will write 30 years after Luke, Luke focuses on Christ as God's Logos (v. 2). In this Luke's highest purpose is that we might know the "exact truth" (v.4, NASB) of the Gospel and be utterly certain of it. While Luke addresses Theophilus (v.1), a dignitary otherwise unknown to us, his widest purpose, in the end, is for Christ to be proclaimed to all nations (Luke 24:47).
The announcement of the forerunner: it was common in Roman days for an important person to send someone running ahead on the road announcing who was to come. John the Baptist was given this preparatory role in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (v.17; cf. 17:10-14), fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6, to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (v.17).
Elizabeth and Zacharias, like Abraham and Sara, were aged and barren but "nothing is impossible with God" (v.37).
The announcement of the King: Jesus (meaning "the Lord is salvation") will sit on the throne of his father David forever (v.33) and would be called the Son of God because the "power of the Most High" would conceive him in Mary's womb (v. 35). Mary's "Magnificat" (from the first word in Latin translation; v. 46-55) contains 15 OT quotations, suggesting how loved and rich was the knowledge of God's Word in Mary's home.
The birth of the forerunner: John (meaning "God is gracious") is born (v.57) and named over strong tradition of the firstborn being called by his father's name. Zacharias' "Benedictus" (“Blessed” from the first word in Latin translation, vs. 68-79) reflects moving worship of the God of Israel. God is celebrated for His mercy fulfilling His promise to Abraham (v.72-73) and our rescue from our enemies (v.71,74) that we might serve Him without fear (v.74), in peace (79) and holiness (v.74).
God's faithfulness to His covenant promises to Abraham (v.73) and David (v.32-33), despite the unfaithfulness of Israel - and often the Church, is astounding. God does this all for our undeserved salvation! May His praises fill our hearts.
Personal Application: I will hold to God's promises without wavering regardless of time involved, particularly in regard to the salvation of family members for whom we continue to pray.
My Prayer: Father, how faithful your covenant promises and how tender Your mercies. How gracious Your ways to shine on us who "sit in darkness and the shadow of death" and to "guide our feet in the way of peace" (v.79).
The birth of the King: Jesus is Savior, Christ and Lord (v.11) who brings good news and great joy to all people (v.10). "The Messiah’s coming brings glory to God in the heavens and peace to humans on earth (NLT)." In this wonderful work, Jesus is God's light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel (v.32). Whereas there can be no final peace for the wicked (Isa. 57:21), peace comes to the humble who receive God’s grace.
Revealer/Divider of human hearts: at eight days old (v.21) Simeon prophesized that Jesus, who would raise many to glorious salvation, would precipitate the fall of others (v.34). Christ, before whom there is no neutrality, reveals the depths of the human heart in response to His Father's Kingdom (v.35). This response of allegiance or opposition determines human destiny.
My Father's House (v.49): At age 13 a Jewish boy becomes a "son of the commandment" (Ryrie); preparation begins a year or two earlier. Jesus' insights and responses so amazed (v.47) his teachers that they gathered around him to hear. Jesus would also divide the hearts of his teachers.
Staying Close: We are wise to stay close to the identity and purpose revealed in the announcement of Jesus' birth (v.10-14). Worldly wisdom attempts to add or subtract from the angel's message. Such efforts in essence reveal the human heart in response to Jesus: Savior, Christ and Lord (v.11).
Personal Application: I will align my heart with Jesus, asking Him to purify any wrong in me. I will center my heart only on Him who is and brings "good news of great joy for all people."
My Prayer: Father, my heart is full of joy! Enable me to keep my heart and spirit simple; focused always and only on the good news of my Savior, Christ the Lord.
John and Jesus - One Message: Since John the Baptist came to prepare Israel for Jesus the Messiah (v.4-6), John's message must be assumed to be in direct line with the purpose of Jesus' coming. John's clear warning was judgment (v.7) on those relying on religious privilege (v.8) without demonstrating the fruit of repentance: "bear fruits in keeping with repentance…the axe is already laid at the root of the tree" (v.8-9). Water baptism signals a desire for forgiveness and the commitment to repent (v.3).
Repentance is evidenced by a continual giving to the poor (v.11) coupled with overcoming greed and the temptation to enrich ourselves at the expense of others (v.13-14). Care for the poor is more central to repentance in God's sight than we may recognize. Even the smallest surplus should be shared with others in need (NLT).
Repentance is far more than a change of heart. Likewise a change of heart is only that if it changes behavior at those points we find hardest and most resistant.
The Messiah (Christ) comes with dual roles: Jesus is the one who calls to repentance and baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire (v.16). He is also the final judge of all mankind (v.17). Both roles bring purification to holiness in heart and behavior.
Jesus, having received the Holy Spirit (v.22), can now pour Him out on those He baptizes, empowering us for holy living.
Christ is commonly spoken of as Lord and Savior, which He is fully. His role as Holy Spirit baptizer and judge are also more specific pointers to both his absolute authority and sole ability to save us from judgment.
Jesus's genealogy is traced through Mary - whose father was Eli (v.23ff) and Joseph's father by marriage - back to the first Adam.
Personal Application: The tithe applies to all, including the poor. I am not poor and will practice the graduated tithe in which 20, 30% or more of income is shared with the needy and the cause of the Gospel. I will also seek Christ's baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire in an ongoing way, recognizing I 'leak'.
My Prayer: Father, I'm surprised at how little John the Baptist's call to repentance has to do with worship directly, and how much with sharing with the poor. Forgive me for accepting a false distinction to avoid obedience and dealing with greed.
Son of God: the Greek sentence construction makes clear the devil did not doubt Jesus was the Son of God (v.3,9, Ryrie). Likewise, demons knew Jesus to be the Son of God (v41), the Holy One of God (v.34). Jesus had heard it also from His Father (3:22). Yet, Jesus wanted to reveal his identity in his own way, not through the announcement of demons, v.41 (NLT).
Satan: means accuser or adversary. He is always against us. He has limited rule (v.6) but surrender (contrary to the lie of v.7) would not give us anything, rather only give Satan unlimited rule over us, i.e. hell. There is no more fundamental decision and battle in the universe.
Victory over Temptation: There is therefore immense consequence to our response to temptation, as there was for Jesus. Adam had failed the test. Jesus, the second Adam, did not fail. Satan tested Jesus three times while fasting (vs.1-12) and additionally during his ministry and passion. Our temptations are also require repeated right decision. Satan always withdraws (v.13) when we stand firm. The power of the Holy Spirit is prominent in victory (v.1, 14). Jesus gave priority to this vital relationship (v.42).
Jesus' Announcement: Jesus' ministry was an expression of the Year of Jubilee "the year of the Lord's favor." The remainder of the quote "the day of vengeance of our God" was not read, reserved for those rejecting God's salvation in Christ at His second coming. Jesus' hometown wanted the blessing but rejected the notion that the Year of Jubilee extended to Gentiles also (like those living in Zarephath and Syria v.25-27).
Jesus' Authority Overcomes Resistance to Jubilee: Satan resists the Year of Jubilee since it releases those oppressed by evil. The superior authority of Jesus is demonstrated in his teaching (v.32), expulsion of demons (v.35) and deliverance from disease (v.40). All Jesus did was evidence of the Kingdom (Jubilee) of God which He was sent to advance at the expense of Satan's kingdom.
Our mission too is an extension of the salvation Jubilee of God's favor to His oppressed people. We, with the same purpose (v.43), must draw on the fullness of the same Holy Spirit (v.1,14), resist temptation with the same reliance on the authority of Scripture as did Jesus (v.4,8,12), and bring truth, deliverance and grace with the same authority of the Messiah in whose name we are sent.
Personal Application: I will joy in the Jubilee of salvation. Joy and favor (grace) will be the markers of ministry in my spirit. I will draw from the fullness of the Holy Spirit daily in moments of seclusion (v.42). I will press back the oppression of Satan with the authority of Christ. Jesus' trained his disciples to say with him, I was sent for this purpose (v.43)
My Prayer: Father, Jesus expressed frustration, even anger, with those who rejected Your Jubilee of grace, yet He started with joy over the favor (2:14) announced by angels at His birth. Help me live and minister out of joy and grace also. Help me fight only Satan, rather than those oppressed, blinded and confused by him.
Fishing for People: Jesus used a miracle to help his disciples understand their calling (v.10). The chapter continues to illustrate this core purpose (4:43) of Jesus and those called to follow Him. God alone (v.21): can read hearts (v.22) and forgive sins (v.24). Jesus does both, then and now. Jews of Jesus' day also believed God alone could heal lepers. It is this belief which makes the leper's request so remarkable (v.12) and why Jesus commends him (v.13).
As darkness cannot overcome light, Jesus is not contaminated by disease or evil but rather brings healing and salvation. Likewise Jesus is not contaminated by "tax collectors and sinners" (v.30) but brings grace and newness of life. This is wonderfully freeing, also for us. Contrary to protecting ourselves from bad influences, we can reach out and embrace "those who need a physician" (v.31) confident of the work of God causing the flow of influence to go from light to darkness. Christ changes caution to joy!
The wedding feast: Jesus loved the image of Messianic Banquet (drawn from Isa 25:6-8) to help people see the joy of the Kingdom. The wedding feast is both a daily experience looking to Christ and a central gift in the consummation. For this reason it was inappropriate, at it would be at a wedding celebration, to fast with the Messiah here (v.34).
Re-Creation in Christ: The depth of the radical newness brought by the Messiah was sensed by the Pharisees (v. 17, 21, 30). "Jesus did not come to patch up the old covenant, but to establish a new one. The Kingdom of God brings a whole new orientation to thinking and living (NLT)." The new wine (of the Kingdom) must be put into fresh wineskins (of the new birth) (v.38).
The two cannot negotiate compromise (v.36-37) which sadly also guarantees a measure of spiritual conflict between those who understand and embrace, and those who sometimes persecute Christ's followers when their worldview is threatened by Him.
Christ's mission of Jubilee, though sometimes opposed by the status quo, is a mission of great joy, as prophesied by angels (Luke 2:10). Let us keep this foremost in our hearts as we show a wide range of love to those around us, especially the poor and oppressed. Jesus brings joy!
Personal Application: I will rejoice in, and learn from, those disciples who live out more radical understandings of the Kingdom than I. Let me be slow to defend church status quo which does not lean hard into the Kingdom.
My Prayer: Lord give me eyes to see those around me who need your Jubilee salvation. It's so easy to walk and see only the beaten path, missing those you want me to see and to which you want to bring joy.
Jesus is Lord of all and as such does not avoid confrontation between the Kingdom of God and those who resist. He has claimed deity (5:20) and does not hide, but directly claims sovereignty over the Sabbath and openly (v.8) heals on the Sabbath again putting human need ahead of human religious traditions.
The New Israel: Jesus' teaching would renew Israel entirely. Therefore Jesus chose 12 apostles, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, to represent the restored people of God. The range of Jesus' choice could not have been greater; from Matthew, an agent of the Roman state, to Simon the Zealot whose group actively sought overthrow of the Roman government. The Kingdom of God is for and over all.
The characteristics of the citizens of the Kingdom: Jesus speaks not that we might analyze His words but obey them, now before the "great reversal" (v.20-25). Jesus' sermon (v.20-49) continues the theme of Jubilee as in chapters 4 and 5. People were commonly taught in the ancient world to love their family and friends and hate their enemies (NLT). Jesus overturns this, the tables of the money-changers and most of our comfortable self indulgences.
The Golden Rule: The point of the "golden rule" (v.31) is not necessarily that we will be better treated. Certainly concern for self must not be our core motivation for following Jesus' the golden rule. Rather, Jesus' call is to love (v.32), do good (v. 33) and lend (v.34) also to those who don't love, do good or lend to us. Jesus’ challenge is practical love for all people, including enemies, not just those who already love us. This is what God is like (v.35).
Mercy: We desperately want mercy (v.36), not to be judged or condemned but pardoned (v.37). But we will not experience such grace from God while withholding it from others, including our enemies.
Let us give mercy, pardon and grace freely, abundantly, lavishly (v.38) to all. In this we cannot look to evaluate how others are doing in following this principle; to do so is the judge them. Let us look rather to ourselves only (v.41-42) to see how we are doing in giving grace.
Root and Fruit: The change to Kingdom living requires a deep transformation of heart by the Spirit of God. Godly attitudes and behavior can then flow from the heart and from the lips (v.43-45), just as good fruit reveals good roots.
Obedience: The starting point is obedience (v.46) on these, for all but angels, uncharted paths. The outcomes however are beyond measure. Allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom builds an unshakeable 'house' (v.48), whereas going our own way means being swept away to ruin (v.49). Such an ethic is not possible without confidence in the eternally firm foundation who holds us: Christ himself. In this ethic we are vulnerable to loss and abuse from those who might take advantage of us. But trusting Christ, we are as secure as a foundation dug to the rock.
My Response: I will give to someone today who will not give back, love someone today who will not (perhaps cannot) love back, do good today to someone who will not (perhaps cannot) do good in return.
My Prayer: Father, help me not judge or condemn but pardon and be merciful, as you have to me. Remind me of my sin and need of grace and mercy if I falter in resolve to be like you.
Finding Faith: From the beginning of Jesus' ministry (e.g. the Magi), Gentiles were equally or more responsive than Jews. Jesus went first to the Jews but delighted in faith wherever He found wholehearted response, as with the centurion (v.9), a God-fearer who had not fully converted to Judaism but fully trusted Christ.
Death itself not beyond Jesus' reach (v.14): The dead man was the only means of the widow's support and hope for the future (v.12). I would love to know what the man said as he begin to report what had happened (v.15)! Only God is the giver of life (v.16), from conception through resurrection.
Seeking confirmation: John's question (v.19) is often viewed as doubt, which would have been understandable from prison wanting to know his courageous life had not been in vain. But John's goal could equally have been a refreshing confirmation before he died. It's not clear if John had seen Jesus' ministry personally (v. 22).
Some wonder if John had expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule, rather than Jesus' "greater purpose of reversing the effects of sin and death" (NLT), but this is speculation. "
Not only did the fruit of Jesus' life demonstrate the confirmation John desired, but the effects of His ministry continue to be shown right and true by the lives of those who follow Him (v.35).
John and the Kingdom: Jesus praised John as the greatest person who ever lived under the old covenant. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than John. "The blessings of the new covenant—free and complete forgiveness of sins, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and intimate knowledge of God—give believers in Jesus a new and greater position than even John enjoyed (NLT)."
Greater forgiveness; greater love: This woman's gratitude (for forgiveness, v.37) and Mary's gratitude (for her brother's resurrection, John 12:3) show the unbreakable connection of grace and love, recognized even by the Pharisees who feared, but did not respect, Jesus (v.43ff). May I see more deeply into my need for grace.
Blessed is he who does not turn away: There are many reasons people turn away from Jesus; His authority, His claims [to be Son of God and Son of Man, the only way of salvation, His seven "I Am's" in John], His call for faith and obedience, His fearful power, His refusal to let others set His agenda causing disappointment that He didn't meet expectations. Yet those who do not turn away from Him (because they do not take offence for these reasons), are blessed (v.23).
Personal Response: I will embrace Jesus, moment by moment, in all His amazing, uncategorizable God-ness. I will love greatly, as I have been greatly forgiven. I praise the Lord that faith leads to forgiveness and forgiveness to salvation and salvation to boundless love and peace (v.50).
My Prayer: Lord, may I be more aware of how much I've been forgiven, how much grace has been given at immeasurable cost, how deep is my absolute dependence on You, that I may love more, worship more, rejoice in You beyond measure.
The Kingdom of God: Jesus' central call and message (v.1) enables us to understand and respond to what follows in this chapter.
Bear fruit: obedience (v.21) is the proper response to the Kingdom of God. The perseverance (v.15) Jesus calls for is "a long obedience in the same direction" without distraction (v.14). This results, whether it is our intention or not, in becoming a light to others (v.16) in consequence of our obedience. Likewise our faith, as we face challenges around us (as Jesus did in the four amazing encounters of vs. 22-56) is also fruit of the Kingdom as the seed of the Word is bearing fruit. The difference between Jesus' faith and authority and ours seems to be a matter of degree, not of kind, as we are branches of His vine (John 15).
Master of the seas: Jesus’ calming of the storm demonstrated his authority over nature and implies his deity, since God is master of the seas (Ps 65:7; 89:9; 104:6-7; 107:23-32, NLT). Jesus' right to make His claim on our lives, as He does over the sea, is similarly unquestionable.
Cleansing the Unclean: Jesus seems deliberately to walk 30 miles to a Gentile city and enter a cemetery - which would render a Jew unclean and none would do voluntarily - to rescue a man enslaved by Satan (NLT).
The abyss (v.28-31): to where all evil spirits will go (Rev. 9:1; 20:1-3). Jesus had the authority to send them now. Why Jesus allowed postponement we don't know but it seems a form of mercy or otherwise to advance God's plan to manifest his glory.
Save: Jesus, the incomparable Emanuel, saves as none other. Both the woman's ailment (v.43) and the death of the girl were incurable. The Greek word for “save” (v.48) indicates both spiritual and physical healing (NLT).
How can we not tell others (v.56, cf. v.39)? He is master of the sea, master of the demonic, master of sickness, master of death; Lord of all. How can we but stand in amazement, fall in worship and follow forever?
Personal Response: I will hear the Word and do it. I will persevere in obedience to the Word (seed) and to the Living Word (incarnate) both through temptation and persecution. I will trust and walk in the authority of Christ over evil.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for your life-giving Word in the scriptures and your Living Word in Christ. Thank you that you give truth, life and salvation freely to all who "hear the Word of God and do it."
An unlikely Kingdom: Jesus came to announce and demonstrate the Kingdom of God (v.2), in its authority (v.38-43), humility (v.47-48) and service of the poor and needy (12-17).
Preparing us to serve: In preparing His disciples, Jesus was preparing us also to announce the Kingdom of God and demonstrate its character; carrying on His work after His "exodus" (v.31) to heaven. ("As the exodus from Egypt was God’s great act of deliverance in the OT, so Jesus’ exodus from this world—his death, resurrection, and ascension—was God’s great act of deliverance in the NT. Jesus would accomplish a new and greater exodus" (NLT).
Jesus wanted His disciples first to learn the dependability of the Father (v.3-4) despite opposition (v.5), after which He allowed disciples to carry minimal provision (22:35-36).
The point remains that the disciple of Jesus must be ready to go anywhere, willing to give up home and security (v.57-62) as Jesus calls for a commitment that takes precedence over all human relationships (NLT). Jesus' comment on allegiance (v.50) is a test to apply to others, whereas 11:23 is a test to apply to ourselves (Ryrie).
Preparing for the cross and God's glory: Jesus begins to prepare His disciples for the cross (v.44), with the first mention of that horror in v.23, but also for the glory to follow in His resurrection (v.29-36). Jesus’ pre-existent glory shone through his human body (v.31), (NLT). v.35 further clarifies Jesus' relation to the Father.
Who then is Great? Those who are willing to be the least and to serve, even unto death, those who are weakest and most vulnerable, e.g. children (v.48), are those who are great in the Kingdom. Jesus came to save even those who opposed Him (v.51-58).
Personal Application: Die to self, to personal ambitions, comfort and security, valued relationships, even to physical life. Live to the Father, to His Kingdom, to the least and the most needy, to the glory of God eternally. I will follow Jesus in full allegiance, anywhere. I will serve the least and the most needy in His name.
My Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I am, in life and death, wholly Yours, I am free, whether I live or die, have or have not, rich or poor, time, goods or health, whether I am loved or hated or ignored, I am free and whole in You! Thank you for taking me wholly and always!
It may be Jesus chose 70 for the same reason the Sanhedrin was composed of 70 priests, teachers of law, and elders (plus one to break a tie), i.e. to represent leadership of Israel in line with the practice of Moses in Exodus 24. Jesus was pointing ahead to the Kingdom greater than the political Israel which would soon crucify Him.
In process...please come again...