Episode 9 - Introduction to Luke's Gospel

October 1, 2013

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Luke's Gospel is unique in so many ways - from the way he narrates Jesus' birth to the way he exclusively covers Jesus' ministry in Judea and Perea 6-8 months before the cross. In this episode, I cover Luke's author, the date it was written, and some of the major themes and literary style of the book. The most important point we should understand for the purpose of this series is that Luke is chronologically arranged and includes a large portion of Jesus' ministry not mentioned by the other Gospels.

This video is part of the Opening Up the Gospels series.

Hi I'm Josh Hawkins and this is episode 9 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 8 we looked at the Gospel of Mark. One of the important things I said was that Mark is arranged linearly and chronologically, unlike Matthew which, as I talked about in Episode 7, is arranged thematically - in other words, Matthew is not trying to tell you that Jesus spoke things and did things in the order he presents them in, but he's communicating something about Jesus by the way he groups His teachings and deeds. Knowing that Matthew is arranged thematically is very important to understanding Jesus and His story and the progression we'll be going through starting in Episode 11. Now I want to clarify what I mean when I say "chronological". I'm not trying to say that we can be extremely precise about every single detail of the life of Jesus as Mark and, as we'll see today, Luke tell us. A specific, detailed chronology of most of Jesus' life is not possible. For example, we can't saying something like the Sermon on the Mount happened on Tuesday March 18 of 28AD. There's so much we can't know for sure. But a general chronology is entirely possible, and this is what I want you to have as we go through this series. Just taking the same example of the sermon on the mount, we can know that Jesus gave it in Galilee sometime shortly before the second passover feast of his 2 year ministry. Luke tells us that. Now if you don't understand what the Passover feast is and when it is, don't worry, we're going to talk about that. A general chronology is actually very easy and very simple once you get the building blocks in place. So my main point in saying a specific Gospel is arranged chronologically or said differently, arranged linearly, is just for you to have the tools to read it for yourself and place the events together. I'll talk about this much more throughout the series. Alright well in today's episode, I want to look at Luke's Gospel with you. Who wrote Luke? The church fathers including Irenaeus and Tertullian unanimously agree that Luke, the physician and the part-time companion of the Apostle Paul wrote this Gospel as well as the book of Acts. In Colossians 4:11 through 14, the Apostle Paul says that there were several Gentiles traveling with him as he ministered, and Luke was one of them. Now Both Luke and Acts share a common style and opening address to a man named Theophilus. In Acts 1:1, the text even refers to "my former book", solidifying this link between the Luke and Acts even more. As a side note, I think it's pretty cool that God chose a converted Gentile doctor to write two books of the New Testament. Now Luke doesn't claim to have been an eyewitness of what he wrote, but he says that he carefully constructed his account of Jesus' life and ministry from those who were firsthand observers and who knew the all facts. We see how Luke, just like any doctor, is so diligent to make these eyewitnesses and their testimony very clear. He often uses a literary device called an inclusio to qualify exactly who these eyewitnesses were. When was Luke written? Unfortunately, scholars can't really agree on a dating for Luke at all. Because Luke's Gospel is tied with Acts and Acts ends with the Apostle Paul in prison in Rome in about 62AD, it's possible that Luke may have finished writing his two books before Paul's release from prison and his martyrdom a little later. So if Luke was writing around this same time, it would mean that Acts could have been written in the mid 60s with his Gospel just a bit earlier than that. Also, it seems like Luke draws some of his material from Mark's Gospel, in addition to the large amount of eyewitness testimony he received. So that means Luke probably was written after Mark's Gospel was in circulation in the mid 50s. Some liberal scholars will date Luke much later, i mean MUCH later, sometimes as far as after the book of Revelation in the 90s and into the second century, but there doesn't seem to be any reason for that except for imposing a specific theological agenda. The fact that Luke received his information directly from eyewitnesses seems to deny a later dating as well. So I'm not going to be dogmatic about it but I'm going to go with a ballpark of somewhere in the early to mid 60s, with Mark's gospel just slightly before, as I said in the last episode. What about the structure of Luke? Luke is arranged linearly and chronologically, just like Mark. Luke spends the first two chapters narrating so many beautiful details about Jesus' birth. I can't wait to talk about those with you. I'm guessing that Mary of Nazareth or at least someone very close to her must have been one of Luke's eyewitnesses for these two chapters. Then in Luke 3 and 4, we see the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus' baptism, and some preparatory things for Jesus' public ministry. Then the following chapters up through Luke 9:50 narrates Jesus' public ministry in Galilee. Now Luke 9:51 through Luke 17:10, we have some very special content that is completely unique to Luke's Gospel. This is a narration of Jesus' Judean and Perean ministry beginning about 6-8 months before the cross. I'll talk about this more in a minute. The last part of Luke, 17:11 through the end of chapter 24, narrates His final journey to Jerusalem, Passion week, and the resurrection. Alright, how about some of the themes and distinguishing features we see in Luke? Perhaps the biggest theme we see throughout Luke and Acts together is that of Jesus as Israel's King, just called "the Messiah", and that of Jesus as the one true God. We see this even from the opening chapters in Luke. The angel Gabriel in Luke 1:32-33 said to His mother Mary that Jesus would be the one who would sit on the same throne that King David did and reign over Israel from the city of Jerusalem forever. Then just a couple chapters later in Luke 3, we see John the Baptist saying he was preparing the way for the LORD, Yahweh. And who's the one who shows up next on the scene that John points at and says "there he is"? Jesus! I love that! Jesus was the LORD that John was preparing the way for! Luke presents Jesus as the Savior for all people, tracing Jesus' genealogy proving that He was the son of David, but also goes all the way back to Adam, showing that He is the Son of God. As I already mentioned, Luke narrates a large portion of Jesus' Judean and Perean ministry that the other synoptics do not include. This is narrated in Luke 9:51 through Luke 17:10. After a little more than a year of public ministry in Galilee, which is in northern Israel he rejects them heads south to minister in the regions of Judea and Perea. This specific section is extremely significant in that none of the other Gospels narrate this 6-8 month time frame in Jesus' life directly. Matthew thematically includes some dialog from Jesus' teachings during this time, but Mark doesn't narrate it at all. John, as we'll see in some future episodes, does in fact mention Jesus' ministry during these last months leading up to the cross, but is specifically focused on what He's doing in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles which is in October and the Feast of Dedication which is in December of that year. This is a huge point we have to see as we put together a general chronology of the life of Jesus. The Holy Spirit also plays a big role in Luke's Gospel and in the Book of Acts. At Jesus' baptism, the descent of the Spirit designates Jesus as the promised King who will reign from David's throne in Jerusalem. Just a chapter later in Luke 4, Jesus stands up in the synagogue in Nazareth and quotes Isaiah 61 saying "the Spirit of the LORD is on me" - again, another declaration of Him as the promised Messiah. And in the book of Acts, Luke continues his emphasis on the Spirit as the "new circumcision" - the covenantal seal to designate who would be the ones to inherit the promises made to Abraham on the Day of the LORD. And also fight at the beginning of Acts in chatper 2 we see that Jesus is the one who poured out the Spirit at Pentecost. So, the Holy Spirit is clearly one of Luke's main highlights. Luke also demonstrates Jesus' compassion for the lower class of Israel's religious society - More than the other Gospels, he highlights Jesus' concern for the poor, the tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles, and women. He includes the parable of the good Samaritan, the account of the ten lepers, the account of Zacchaeus in Jericho, which the other Gospels don't narrate. So as a summary of the main points of this episode relating to this Gospel: Number one, Luke, the Gentile doctor, is the author. Number two, it was probably written sometime in the early 60s AD, likely shortly after Mark's gospel was written. Number three, Luke is arranged chronologically, including a large section of narrative down in Judea and Perea not mentioned by the other Gospels. And number four, Luke focuses on Jesus as the Savior of all, as the rightful King of Israel, and as the One true God. Just as an encouragement to you related to these last few episodes - don't walk away from these overviews of each of the Gospels thinking "ok, now I've got more knowledge about Luke", or "cool, now I can sound smarter than my friends on social media". These details are far more than just academic points to be studied. Take them into your heart, and let them change the way you read your Maker's story. We're talking about a real Person with real emotions, real thoughts, real hands and feet and eyes... Not just an idea in a textbook. Well, that's it for this week. Don't forget to tag your social media posts on the Gospels with the hashtag #gospels - it gives us all a way to see what part of the gospels we've been pondering and what Jesus has been making more alive to our hearts. Also if you want to be notified by email when I release new episodes, sign up through the form on the Gospels section of my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. You'll find all the other episodes on the series there as well. In the last introductory episode next week, we'll look at the Gospel of John. God bless, and see you next Tuesday.

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