Saturday, November 12, 2016

Knowing Jesus better in the Gospel of Luke

Image result for Luke's Gospel
Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Today's post is aimed at introducing the reader to Luke's Gospel. The opening verse above gives us the theme surrounding Luke's portrayal of Jesus: "The Son who is Perfect Man". If we consider how Jesus is depicted in Matthew and Mark's Gospels, Matthew portrays Him as the King and Mark presents Him as the Suffering Servant. In Matthew's Gospel we see the majestic Christ. In Mark we see the humble Christ. In Luke's Gospel we witness the Historic Christ. This is not to say that Matthew and Mark (and John) are not historical. All four Gospels record reliable history concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke's Gospel explicitly opens with some statements which serve notice that what is about to be read is genuine history, carefully researched and verified by eye-witnesses. 

When we consider the sheer size of Luke's Gospel and the companion volume "Acts of the Apostles", both together comprise over 25% of the total contents of the New Testament. Thus a brief look at Luke's Gospel will greatly enhance one's understanding of the New Testament in general and Jesus Christ in particular.

Outlines of Luke's Gospel
Biblical scholar Dr. Richard Fairman has developed the following brief outline that takes into consideration the contents of Luke 19:10:

1. "He came".  Luke 1:1-4:13
2. "to seek".     Luke 4:14-19:28
3. "to save".     Luke 19:29-24:53

Such an outline gives us a starting point for keeping in mind the main contents of Luke's Gospel. Another way of considering Luke's Gospel would be in lines with the main activities performed by Jesus. Below is a suggested outline:

I. Preparation & Arrival.  1:1-3:20
II. Public Ministry.           3:21-22:53
III. Passion and Crucifixion.   22:54-23:56
     A. Trials.  22:54-23:25
     B. Cross.  23:26-23:56

IV. Resurrection & Ascension. 24:1-53

     A. Resurrection. 24:1-12
     B. Appearances. 24:13-29
     C. Ascension.     24:50-53

The uniqueness of Luke's Gospel
When we consider Matthew, Mark and Luke as a group of Gospels, we often refer to them as the "synoptic Gospels". The reason for this term is because the term "synoptic" means "to see together". Hence, Matthew, Mark and Luke see Jesus in a somewhat similar pattern. Luke's Gospel is unique relative to Matthew and Mark for four reasons that end up aiding the Bible student in their understanding of Jesus' life and the New Testament.

A. Luke talks more about the Holy Spirit than the other two Gospels combined
Luke makes more references to the Holy Spirit in both his Gospel and Acts than any writer in either Old or New Testament (over 50 references in all!) To keep today's post at a readable length, I will give the reader main headings with accompanying scripture from Luke and Acts that refer to the Holy Spirit. May the reader find these to be encouraging, informative and insightful to the glory of Jesus Christ!

1. Filling of the Holy Spirit.
In the life of Christ: Luke 4:1

In the life of the church: Acts 6:3,5,11:24; 13:52

2. Conception
In the humanity of Christ: Luke 1:35

The believer's New birth: Acts 2:33,38; 8:15,17,19; 10:45-47; 19:2

3. Leading/prompting
In Jesus' life: Luke 2:27,27

In the church's life: Acts 1:2; 8:29; 11:12; 13:2,4; 15:28; 16:6; 19:21; 20:22,23; 21:4

4. Baptism
Jesus' baptism: Luke 3:16

Spirit's baptism (to inaugurate New Covenant church) promised on the day of Pentecost by Jesus: Acts 1:5

5. Anointing of the Spirit
Jesus' anointing: Luke 4:18; 10:21; 12:12

Anointing of the Holy Spirit in the church: Acts 1:8; 4:8,31; 5:32; 6:10; 11:28; 13:9; 20:28; 21:11; 28:28

6. Warnings of blaspheming the Holy Spirit
Jesus' warnings: Luke 12:10

Possible blaspheming by individuals: Acts 8:9-24

7. The Person of the Holy Spirit is God
Jesus says the Spirit to be fully Divine: Luke 12:10

The Holy Spirit is explicitly equated to be fully Divine: Acts 5:3,4,9

B. Luke's focus on discipleship
Not only does Luke write more about the Holy Spirit and Matthew and Mark, he secondly emphasizes the place of discipleship. In all of the material we find unique to Luke, the longest section of Luke 9:61-19:28 deals with teachings or episode clustered around the theme of discipleship or following after Jesus Christ. 

C. The ascension of Jesus
In addition to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit and discipleship, we thirdly find Luke emphasizing the ascension of Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel portray Jesus Christ's life, death, burial and resurrection. However, Luke's Gospel and the companion "Acts of the Apostles", as well as Mark's Gospel (Mark 16:19-20), record Christ's ascension. This one event represents the culminating event of Christ's first coming. Matthew and John point decisively in the direction of Jesus' ascending into heaven, however, Luke makes the ascension a centerpiece of how he ends his Gospel and how he begins Acts. Nearly every book in the New Testament following Acts builds one's proper understanding of Jesus' current ministry and future second coming off of the fact He ascended as the exalted Prophet, Priest and King.

D. Luke details activities of Jesus found in no other Gospels
In that same general section of Luke 9:61-19:28, we find Jesus' ministry in the region of Perea. The map below summarizes Jesus' ministry in this region relative to the three other major areas we find him at work (Galilee, Samaria and Judea). What is interesting to note about this particular area is that it was the same area, East of the Jordon River, that Moses and Israel encamped at the end of Deuteronomy and Joshua later led the Israelites to cross into the Promised land. Further study would possibly reveal some significance to Jesus' ministry in this region. 

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Closing thoughts:
We aimed today to introduce the reader to the Gospel of Luke. We noted how Jesus is depicted as the Perfect Son of Man. We also offered some outlines to navigate the Gospel and then ended with some unique features about Luke that sheds light on the ministry of Jesus and truths found in the New Testament. 

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