The Gospel of Luke
- Luke was not an Apostle.
- Luke was a physician.
- He also wrote the book of Acts.
- He frequently traveled with Paul.
- He was not an eyewitness of the events in the gospel, but got his information from eyewitnesses and written sources. (Luke 1:1-4) Since he traveled with Paul, he was able to meet many people who had known Jesus.
Place and Time of Writing
- No one knows for sure where it was written. The best guess is that it was written outside of Israel since Luke spent much time traveling with Paul, and Paul spent most of his time outside of Israel.
- It is similar to the Gospel of Matthew in its relationship to the Gospel of Mark (that Luke used Mark as a starting point for his Gospel and added many details), and so a good guess is around the year 80.
- Luke is a Synoptic Gospel along with Matthew and Mark.
- Luke is the longest book in the NT.
- The combined books of Luke and Acts constitute 28% of the NT, which means that Luke wrote a larger portion of the Bible than anyone else. (for example, 2138 verses for Luke vs 2033 for Paul)
- Luke is written in the most refined, proper Greek of all the NT books, which makes sense since he was a physician.
- Luke states that he is writing to Theophilus. “Theophilus” can refer to a person or to “friend of God” (which is the meaning of "Theophilus" in Greek).
- If the audience was "friends of God," he probably had a Greek audience. As a companion of Paul, he traveled to many Greek cities.
- He translates Aramaic terms with Greek terms and explains Jewish customs and geography to make his gospel more understandable to a Greek audience.
- This Gospel was intended to be the first part of a two-part book that included Acts.
- Luke shows the compassion of Jesus and how Jesus cared for common people.
Details about the Gospel of Luke
1. As mentioned in Matthew, only Matthew and Luke discuss the birth of Jesus. Matthew discusses the Magi/wise men since he focused on Jesus being a spiritual leader, and Luke discusses the shepherds since he focused on Jesus working with common people.
2. Only Luke describes the incident when Jesus was 12 and he and his parents went to the Temple. (2:41-52)
3. While the other Gospels describe the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees as difficult, the Gospel of Luke instead shows Jesus as friendly to them.
- 7:36: "Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him . . ."
- 11:37a: “When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table.”
- 13:31: “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’”
- Luke shows that the relationship between Jesus and Pharisees was more complex. Many Pharisees did dislike Jesus, but some apparently looked favorably to Jesus. Luke focuses on the friendly relationships that Jesus had with some of the Pharisees.
4. Luke includes three stories that highlight the compassion and openness of Jesus. These three are unique because they are only found in Luke.
- The Good Samaritan
- Mary and Martha, two sisters
- Zacchaeus, the tax collector
The Good Samaritan: 10:25-37: "10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 26 'What is written in the Law?' he replied. 'How do you read it?' 27 He answered: ''Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'' 28 'You have answered correctly,' Jesus replied. 'Do this and you will live.' 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?' 30 In reply Jesus said: 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' 36 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' 37 The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'"
- Description: In this story, Jesus has a conversation with an “expert in the law.” This was a Jewish scribe or other expert in the Law of Moses. He seems to have honest questions about life after death and loving his neighbor. According to Jesus’ style, he answered in a parable. The key of the parable is that the hero of the story is a Samaritan. It is important to know that Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Even more, Jews hated Samaritans because they considered them “half-Jews” who did not fully worship the Jewish God. (For more information on the background to this, go here.)
- Jesus’ point is that everyone is a neighbor to each other and is deserving of love. Even if people think that someone deserves to be hatred, or even if they think God wants them to hate someone else (as the Jews felt about the Samaritans) that person should still be loved. Many people think this story is about helping others out, but that is not right. The story tries to show that Christians need to love everyone.
- As an example of how the expert in the Law in the story missed the point, consider this: when Jesus asked him who the true neighbor was, he could not even say “Samaritan” but instead said (basically), the one who helped the hurt man. He hated the Samaritans so much he could not even say "Samaritan." Luke includes this story to illustrate how everyone should have compassion and love everyone else.
Mary and Martha: 10:38-42: "38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 41 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"
- Description: Jesus may have known this family before this story took place. For an example, consider the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11. In that story Jesus knew the sisters Mary and Martha and even loved their brother Lazarus deeply. (The only time when the NT mentions that Jesus wept was when he learned that Lazarus died.) According to the story in Luke, Jesus stopped by their house. While there Mary went into the main room of the house with Jesus and his Apostles while Martha went into the kitchen to prepare food.
- The background to this story is that Martha was doing what women were supposed to do in those days: serve men. So, according to the culture, Martha was correct and Mary was wrong. From a cultural standpoint, Martha was right in complaining to Jesus. But instead of rebuking Mary, Jesus rebukes Martha. Jesus speaks against the culture of women serving men, and instead explains to Martha that God views men and women equally. This was a radical idea in that day, and Luke’s point in including this story is to show that God is equally open to everyone.
Zacchaeus: 19:1-10: "1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, 'He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'' 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.' 9 Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.'
- Description: Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector, but also a chief tax collector. That job would have set him apart as one who the Jews believed they needed to hate. (See the story of the Good Samaritan.) Tax collectors in those days are different than today: a tax collector today collects taxes for their own country. But at that time and in Israel, tax collectors collected taxes for the Roman government, which was the occupying country. Basically, Zacchaeus, a Jew, was collecting taxes for the enemies of the Jews, the Roman Empire. Therefore, most people in Jericho hated him.
- As a sign of how much he was hated, he had to climb a tree to see Jesus. When he learned that Jesus was coming through Jericho and he decided to see Jesus, he knew that he should not mingle in or push through the crowd to see Jesus because he had many enemies. Do you remember the Zealots and the Sicarii? They would have beaten or killed Zacchaeus if they could have gotten to him. So, instead, Zacchaeus decided to climb a tree where he could see Jesus and be safe.
- Back to Jesus: as Jesus was working through the crowd, he saw Zacchaeus up in a tree. Jesus knew who he was and what his job was: he fully understood how most of the crowd felt about Zacchaeus. Plus, as Jesus worked his way through the crowd, he was looking for someone to eat with. By this time Jesus was very popular and well known, and many people in the crowd would have enjoyed eating with Jesus. But Jesus picked Zacchaeus to eat with. This was unpopular with the crowd, but Luke shows that Jesus knew what he was doing. While eating at his house, Zacchaeus said that he would change his life and stop cheating people.
- In showing the compassion of Jesus in this story, Luke intends to point out the same message as in the Good Samaritan story: everyone has prejudices against some other people, but everyone should be loved nonetheless. And even further, by showing love to those who seem unworthy of love, the person might realize his/her errors and change.
Outline of Luke (chapters)
- 1-2: Birth of John the Baptist and Jesus and Jesus in the Temple at age 12.
- 3: John the Baptist baptizes, preaches, and answers questions and a genealogy of Jesus.
- 4: The temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil and Jesus heals people.
- 5: Jesus calls his first Apostles and heals people.
- 6: Jesus chooses his 12 Apostles and gives them a speech.
- 7: Jesus heals many and discusses John the Baptist.
- 8: Jesus tells a parable, heals many, and discusses his family.
- 9: Jesus sends the 12 Apostles on a mission and performs miracles, Peter describes Jesus as the Christ, the Transfiguration, and opposition to Jesus appears.
- 10: Jesus sends 72 followers on a mission; the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary and Martha.
- 11-18: Jesus tells parables, preaches, and performs miracles
- 19: The story of Zacchaeus, Jesus tells a parable, and the entry into Jerusalem a week before he is crucified.
- 20-24: Jesus is in and around Jerusalem; he is crucified, buried, resurrected, and eventually ascends out of sight.
Timeline up to the Gospel of Luke
|63 B.C.||Romans conquer Israel.|
|27 B.C.||Pax Romana began and lasted until 180.|
|4 B.C.||Jesus born.|
|All dates after this are A.D. ["c." means "about"]|
|c.30||Jesus crucified, buried, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven.|
|64||Fire in Rome and Christians persecuted by EmperorNero; Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded.|
|c.67||Gospel of Mark written.|
|70||Temple in Jerusalem destroyed by Romans (it has not been rebuilt).|
|c.80||Gospels of Matthew and Luke written.|
|95||Christians persecuted by Emperor Domitian; Apostle John exiled on island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation.|
|96||Emperor Domitian died; Apostle John probably moved to Ephesus.|
|c.100||Apostle John died; he was the last Apostle to die.|
|390's||NT canon "closed" at Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).|
|1200's||Chapters added to the NT.|
|1500's||Verses added to the NT.|
©2012 Mark Nickens