Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jesus in Luke's Gospel: Purpose, Themes, Outline

Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Purpose and Significance of Luke's Gospel
In today's post I am interested in having the reader explore the major themes that weave their way throughout the Gospel of Luke.  The main emphasis of Luke is to present Jesus Christ as the Perfect and only fit human representative of sinners before Holy God.  We get this master theme from the 72 names of Jesus' geneaology in Luke 3:23-38 that begins with Jesus, the New Adam, who in his humanity is traced through Mary's side all the way back to the First Adam, as well as the theme verse of Luke 19:10, quoted above.  According to H.L Wilmington, Luke's Gospel is the largest book in terms of content that we can find in the New Testament, and tenth longest of the all the Bible books.1 The fact that Luke's companion volume, Acts of the Apostles, may had been originally part of Luke, would make Luke/Acts comprise nearly 30% of the New Testament!  Now the reason why we mention such statistics is to underscore how much Jesus Christ and His representative ministry on behalf of sinners and saints dominates the New Testament.  Merrill C. Tenney in his New Testament Survey summarizes Luke's purpose among the four Gospels: "The Material of Luke is organized around the central concept of Jesus as a member of humanity who lived a perfect and representative life of the Son of Man through the Holy Spirit." 1

Main themes that weave their way throughout Luke
With those introductory thoughts, we can offer some major doctrinal, spiritual and practical themes that run their way through Luke's Gospel.  My prayer is that you will find such themes to be uplifting and edifying to your own Christian faith, or perhaps too, some of these themes may be of interest to readers who are not yet converted to faith in Christ.

1. Theme #1: Nourishment.  In this theme, Christ Himself or His teachings are viewed as sources of spiritual nourishment whether we speak of salvation or life following salvation.  Usages of food or food related topics characterize Luke's references as follows: Luke 1:53; 2:47-51; 4:24-27; 5:5-7, 27-39; 6:1-5;7:36-50; 9:10-17; 10:38-42; 11:37-54; 12:22-34; 13:6-9; 14:1-24; ch 15; ch 16; 17:28; 19:1-10; 20:9-18; 21:29-36; 24:30-31; 24:40-46

2. Theme #2: The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is found in the following passages of Luke's Gospel. Luke 1:15,17,35,41; 2:25, 26,27; 3:16, 22; 4:1,18; 10:21; 12:10,12

3. Theme #3: Joy of Salvation.
This theme, according to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, is found in the following passages: Luke 1:14; 8:13; 10:17; 13:17; 15:5,9,32; 19:6,37

4. Theme #4: Forgiveness.
Again the Bible Knowledge Commentary lists the following passages that mention this incredible truth about forgiveness: Luke 3:3; 5:18-26; 6:37; 7:36-50; 11:4; 12:10; 17:3-4; 23:34; 24:47

5. Theme # 5: Discipleship.
This theme emphasizes believing on Jesus Christ as Savior to follow Him as Lord so as to become more like Him in thought, word and deed.  Among the over 20 places discipleship is found in Luke, 16 of them are found in chapters 10-18, material that is not recorded in the other three Gospels.  Luke's Gospel gives us the fullest picture of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

6. Theme #6: Salvation
The need to by grace through faith to believe on Jesus Christ and repent of one's sin is huge in Luke.  In 24 places we find the word "save" or "salvation", with over 12 examples being given of those who individually were called to faith and repentance. 

7. Theme #7: Prayer
Luke is fond of recording the instances in which Jesus taught about prayer or prayed.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary lists the following verses: Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18,29; 22:32, 40-41

8. Theme #8: Miracles
Over the 35 miracles mentioned in the Four Gospels, 20 occur in Luke and six are unique to him. 

9. Theme #9: Jesus Himself
All the preceeding themes aim to point to the central Person of Luke: Jesus Himself.  His incarnation and virgin birth fulfilled all Old Testament expectation in Luke 1-3.  His miracles and healing demonstrate Him to be the Messiah in Luke 4-9.  His association with sinners and further ministry, as well as His death demonstrate Him to be the Perfect Saving Representative of sinners before Holy God in Luke 9-23.  Then His Resurrection from the dead proves Him to be God in human flesh, and that all He did and said was true - both historically and supernaturally.  He is the Son of Man Who came to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

A Suggested Outline of Luke's Gospel
I close today with a brief outline of Luke's Gospel.  My prayer is that today's blog has whetted your appetite to take a closer look at this wonderful Book of the Bible.

I. Introduction.  Luke 1:1-4
II. Jesus' Birth and Childhood. 1:5-4:13
III. Jesus' Ministry and Popularity. 4:14-9:50
IV. Jesus' Ministry on the way to the cross. 9:51-23:32
V. Jesus' death, burial and Resurrection. 23:33-24:53

1. H.L Wilmington.  The Complete Book of Bible Lists.  Page 35

2.Merrill C. Tenney.  A Survey of the New Testament.  Page 180