January 8, 2009


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Luke: The Gospel of Encouragement

The usual and indeed the long-standing traditional assumption is that Luke was a Gentile Christian who wrote his Gospel for the Gentile church of the late first century; that it was a pastoral document concerned with issues within the church; and that the time of Christian outreach to the Jews was long past, even if some Jewish Christians continued to play an important role in the ongoing life of the church.[1]

Until more recent times, the Gospel of Luke remained somewhat less notable than Matthew, John or Mark. The Gospel of Matthew drew immediate recognition among the early Christians because of its direct connection with one of Christ’s disciples, and its extensive presentation of fulfilled prophesies.

While prophetic roots were less clear in John’s Gospel, his credentials as a disciple were, in some ways, even more impressive. As the last living apostle, his name generated both reverence and awe, and the gospel bearing his name had significant impact on intellectuals interested in Christ.

Because of their close association at the time of Peter’s preaching and martyrdom in Rome, and because the earliest Christian writers[2] characterized his gospel as the “reminiscences of Peter,” Mark has also always enjoyed popular appeal. More recent scholarly theories that his Gospel is a primary source for both Matthew and Luke have also drawn readers.[3]

Still, in a world such as ours, with limited biblical background and no immediate regard for the true significance of Jesus, Luke reemerges in importance. Clearly interested in a pagan world filled with unbelievers, and especially interested in people from non-Jewish backgrounds, Luke writes with clarity and compassion towards those outside the boundaries of God’s already chosen people. With conscious intention, the barriers are removed between those with no heritage of faith, and the Savior sent by God: Jesus, the Messiah or Christ or Anointed one. As will be seen below, many unique characteristics define and commend Luke’s account to all readers. His teaching on the ethics embedded in a relationship with God, as well as the importance of every individual in God’s sight most certainly invites current interest.

Most important, Luke attempts to develop how God’s plan met, meets and will meet its fulfillment in Jesus. The gospel is universal in perspective and cosmic in scope, and Luke’s story explains how an originally small Jewish movement grew into a community that spans all nationalities. As we look at our multicultural world with its sometimes bitter ethnic divisions, certainly there is relevance in a Gospel that highlights how men and women of different ethnic origins can be transformed into a unified community and how humanity can come together in a relationship with its Creator. [4]

As the longest book in the New Testament, Luke presents the most comprehensive picture of the life and work of Jesus. Written from the perspective of a well-educated, non-Christian, this Gospel presents aspects of Christ’s life which show, in a unique way, His compassion and wisdom.

This gospel commences with the annunciations of John the Baptist and of Jesus and includes the fullest infancy narratives. It ends with a reference to the ascension, which is absent from both Matthew and Mark. Its record is longer than its synoptic counterparts and is especially detailed in its account of the last journey to Jerusalem. It is in fact the longest book in the New Testament…. Luke both spans the gospels and epistles and joins them together. Indeed it may be said that without Luke’s writings the

connection would be much less evident.[5]

At the same time this book has, from the beginning, been connected by virtually every serious scholar, with the 5th book in the New Testament, Acts. The combination takes the story from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Athens to Rome. It provides a roadmap revealing the importance of following the Way established and protected by God. It also exposes the value of many side roads and detours which ultimately enlarge and enhance the effort.


[1] Nolland, J. (2002). Vol. 35A: Word Biblical Commentary : Luke 1:1-9:20. Word Biblical Commentary, p. xxxii.

Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[2] See the statements by Papias, a disciple of John, who about A.D. 105 describes Mark as the accurate recorder of

Peter’s teaching in: Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume I :

Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. The apostolic fathers with Justin Martyr and

Irenaeus, p. 154. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[3] The majority view is that Mark is the earliest of the synoptic Gospels; that Mark was in turn used by both

Matthew and Luke, who also both had access to, and made use of, an additional body of material which is

designated by the letter Q. For further discussion of this topic, see Guthrie, D. (1996, c1990). New Testament

Introduction. Series (4th revised edition). The Master Reference Collection, p. 102. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-

Varsity Press.

[4] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke. The IVP New Testament commentary series, Luke 1:1. Downers Grove, Ill.:

InterVarsity Press.

[5] Guthrie, D. (1996, c1990). New Testament introduction. Series (4th rev. ed.). The Master Reference Collection

p. 102. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press. See especially his footnotes.

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January 8, 2009

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