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We are going through the series, ‘Books of the Bible’. The Bible is the most important book in our lives. It is the greatest Book ever written. We should take time to understand it thoroughly. In today’s message, I would like to introduce the Gospel of Luke.
There are 4 gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four gospels inform us the birth, life, teachings and works of our Lord Jesus Christ. Chartres Cathedral is a famous Cathedral in France. One of its windows depicts the four prophets and four evangelists. We see four prophets – Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. We see four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John sitting on their shoulders. The theological message of this artwork is, the prophets only looked dimly. But the evangelists had clearly seen the works of Lord Jesus Christ. Sitting on the shoulders of the prophets, they had a better vision of our Lord. They lived with Christ, they walked with Christ. They shared their eyewitness accounts with the world. Evangelist Luke compiled his gospel based on those eyewitness testimonies of individuals who spent their time with Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Luke comes to us with many beautiful stories: We can see baby Jesus in a manger, we can see the shepherds visiting the baby, we can see boy Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem; we can see his miracles, we can listen to great stories like Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
Author of the Gospel
First, let us take a look at the author of this gospel: Luke, the evangelist. He wrote two books in the New Testament: the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. From Luke chapter 1 to Acts chapter 28, Luke gives us a beautiful history from the birth of Jesus all the way to the establishment of Christian church and its propogation in the Roman Empire. In Colossians 4:14, Apostle Paul called Luke, ‘a dear friend, beloved physician’. Luke was a doctor and a historian. Warren Wiersbe wrote that Luke wrote his gospel ‘with the mind of a historian and the heart of a doctor’. I like that. The mind of a historian and the heart of a doctor. You will see the meticulous details of a historian interspersed with the heart touching gentleness of a doctor throughout this gospel.
Let us see the beginning of this gospel:
Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the world; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 KJV)
Here Luke tells us why he wrote the Gospel – I went to the eyewitnesses and gathered all the relevant information. I got the ‘perfect understanding of all things from the very start’. Now, I would like to pass on the most reliable information to you, Theophilus.
Luke is the most historical of all four gospels. This gospel firmly establishes the life of God-man into the contours of the Roman Empire and of Judea. Today many historians and archaeologists are using the Gospel of Luke to understand the history of the Roman Empire and of Jewish people. Luke wrote his gospel after meticulously researching his material. He gives us the names of hundreds of individuals, of places and of events. He ranks among the greatest historians ever lived – both Christian and secular worlds combined. In the Book of Acts, he described events he personally lived through as he accompanied Apostle Paul.
In Philemon 24, Apostle Paul called him, ‘Luke, my fellow worker’. So, living as a fellow worker, Luke recorded the great miracles God performed in the lives of his apostles.
We learn from 2 Corinthians chapter 12, that Apostle Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ which tormented him physically and spiritually. Dr.Luke was assisting him during those hard times. Christian doctors take Dr.Luke as their example. Many pastors and ministers come to my clinic for medical help. I think of Dr.Luke while helping them. That is important. We should care for the pastors and mission workers who are laboring among us. Dr.Luke was helping Apostle Paul even to the point of imprisonment. He went to jail with Paul.
In 2 Timothy 4:10, Apostle Paul says,
For Demas hath forsaken me,
having loved this present world,
and is departed unto Thessalonica;
Crescens to Galatia,
Titus unto Dalmatia.
Only Luke is with me.
Note those words. Only Luke is with me. ‘Lots and lots of people came and visited me. One by one, everyone disappeared. Only Luke is with me’. When the great apostle was beheaded in Rome, there was Luke standing there, praying, weeping and collecting the dead body of his beloved friend. He was the one who gave a proper burial to the mortal remains of Paul. Luke is a friend who will stick with you until the end. Paul boldly declared, ‘this Luke is my beloved friend, coworker and physician’.
Now, Apostle Paul is known as ‘the Apostle to the Gentiles’. In the beginning of his ministry, he was not aware of it. He was going to cities in Asia and preaching the gospel mostly to Jewish congregations. Then in Acts chapter 16, we see a great turning point in the history of the world. God gave a vision to Paul. In this vision, a man of Macedonia appeared to Paul. He pleaded with Paul, ‘Come over into Macedonia, and help us’.
Come over into Macedonia and help us. After obeying this vision, Paul went to Europe and started preaching the gospel of Christ. Soon, the Western Civilization would become a footnote to Jesus Christ, our Lord. In Acts chapter 16, Luke often says, ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’. Obviously, Luke was staying with Paul in Troy in today’s Western Turkey.
Remember in Troy, Alexander the Great of Macedonia made a vow to conquer the whole world with his military genius. He marched with his mighty army and conquered large areas of the world, but died prematurely without ruling it. Standing in Troy, Luke and Apostle Paul made a vow before God: We are going to conquer this world for Lord Jesus Christ. They started their crusade in Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander. And God blessed their decision. Where Alexander the Great failed, Lord Jesus succeeded. He became the king of billions of people around the world.
Paul said, ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ
for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16)
That is also the theme of the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. Read Luke 24:47 – Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
The name of Jesus among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke wrote in Acts 10:36, ‘Jesus Christ is the Lord of all’. Whether you live in America, Australia, Africa, Europe, or Asia – Jesus Christ is your Lord.
There is another curious fact about Luke. All the books of the Bible were written by the Jews except Luke. He was approaching Jesus as a Gentile. What does Jesus mean to me as a Gentile? He connects Jesus not to Abraham, but to Adam, the first human being. Historians Eusebius and Jerome inform us that Luke was from the city of Antioch. This Antioch was where the believers were first called ‘Christians’. It was the headquarters of early Christian missions. No wonder Luke spends a lot of time describing this city.
Time of Writing
Then let us look at the timing. When was this gospel written? Luke first wrote his gospel and then the Book of Acts. If we follow some clues, we can make some assumptions. In Luke chapter 19:42-44, we read the dooming prophecy of Jesus over the city of Jerusalem. He said that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, not leaving one stone upon another. Now, that was fulfilled in AD 70. The Romans came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its temple. Suppose Luke witnessed or heard about this destruction at the time of writing this gospel, he would have added a note, ‘As Jesus predicted, the temple was destroyed by Roman general Titus’. But Luke makes no mention of these catastrophic events in the history of Israel. That means this Gospel must have been written before AD 70.
Luke’s second book, the Book of Acts, was written about the events that happened between AD 30 to AD 62. The Book of Acts ends with Apostle Paul imprisoned in Rome. That was AD 62. The great Roman persecution of Christians under Nero started in AD 64. Luke was completely silent about this persecution. That means the Book of Acts must have been written before AD 64, most likely between AD 62 to 63. Because the Gospel of Luke was written before the Book of Acts, we can say it was probably written around AD 60 or 61 or earlier. So, by following these clues, we can reasonably conclude that the Gospel of Luke was written a few decades after the life of Christ.
Now, let us spend some time understanding Jesus, according to Luke. I would like to give you 10 things about Jesus as presented in this gospel.
Jesus, the Son
First, Jesus, the Son. We see our blessed Savior as the ‘Son of man’. Jesus is God in human flesh. He is God from heaven, yet he belongs to the human race.
Prophet Isaiah said, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14)
Prophet Micah said, ‘the one who will be ruler over Israel will come from Bethlehem’ (Micah 5:2)
Prophet Daniel said, ‘the son of man is coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Daniel 7:13)
Luke is calling people to see this Son of man. Come to Nazareth and see this virgin who is pregnant with the holy Son of God. Come to Bethlehem and see this baby Messiah, who is born to rule his people. Come to Jerusalem and see this son of man who will come in the clouds.
The ‘Son of Man’ is also imbued with a profound meaning of human existence. What are you here for? What is the purpose of the human race? As of today, Elon Musk is the richest man in the world. Recently he said, ‘We should procreate so that we can populate planets like Mars’. According to these ‘masters of the universe’, the human race is not for God. It is for filling other planets.
As the Son of Man, Jesus is unveiling a completely different purpose before humanity. Man’s purpose is not to fill other planets but to fill his own life with the purposes of God.
As the son of man, Jesus came to please his Creator God
he would like to live every day to accomplish the will of his God
he would like to spend every day in the fellowship of God
He would like to depend on God for everything.
Jesus, the Scholar
Then, Jesus the Scholar.
Luke 2:52 says, Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. When he was 12 years old, he went to Jerusalem with his parents and visited the temple. Inside the temple the teachers and scholars are pondering over the scriptures. There you see in the midst of them – boy Jesus. He is listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone was amazed at his wisdom. Jesus, the Scholar is full of wisdom. As Apostle Paul wrote, ‘All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ’ (Colossians 2:3).
The words of Jesus, the works of Jesus: They are full of heavenly wisdom. Throughout this gospel, we see how people are amazed by the wisdom of Jesus Christ. The teachers in the temple, common folks, Jesus’s parents, Jesus’s relatives, Jesus’s neighbors, the Pharisees, the sadducees, King Herod, Pontius Pilot – everyone was mystified by the heavenly wisdom of Jesus. That is why the Gospel of Luke is called ‘the Gospel of Amazement’. Isaiah 9:6 says, He is ‘the wonderful Counselor’ because the Son of Man is full of divine wisdom.
Jesus, the Sacred
Then, Dr.Luke shows us Jesus, the sacred. In Luke chapter 5, we see Simon Peter falling before Jesus and saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man’. Peter saw the holiness of the Son of man and realized his own sinfulness. He encountered Jesus, the Sacred, the Holy Son of God standing right in front of him. Peter wrote in his gospel, ‘Jesus committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth’ (1 Peter 2:22).
How important we keep Jesus, the sacred before our eyes! The Southern Baptist Convention released a report that hundreds of pastors in their churches are guilty of abusing women and children in their congregation. Horrible, horrible things are happening in our churches today because we have lost the sight of Jesus, the Sacred, the Holy Son of man.
Jesus, the Supplicant
Next, Jesus, the Supplicant. Luke is calling our attention to Jesus, the Supplicant. His Jesus is spending a lot of time in prayer. Among all four gospels, Luke presents us the most prayerful Jesus.
Before his baptism, we see Jesus praying (Luke 3:21)
In the wilderness, we see Jesus praying (Luke 5:16)
Before selecting his disciples, we see Jesus praying (Luke 6:12)
On the Mount of Transfiguration, we see Jesus praying (Luke 9:28)
He told Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail’ (Luke 22:31)
We see Jesus praying for his disciples
On the cross, we see Jesus praying – ‘Father, forgive them, they do not know that they are doing’ (Luke 23: 34)
We see Jesus ending his life with a prayer – ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46)
Luke is showing us Jesus, the Supplicant. A man who cannot do anything without praying. Like the Son of man, we should learn to spend more time in prayer.
Jesus, the Sympathizer
Next, Jesus, the Sympathizer. Luke wants us to see a Jesus, who sympathized with the suffering people around him. Through this gospel, we see Jesus reaching out to outcasts. We see Jesus reaching out to the abandoned and segregated individuals.
Mary from Magdala is possessed by seven demons. Noone would like to deal with her. Yet, Jesus cast out her demons and made her one of his female disciples. He first appeared to Mary after his resurrection. What an honor!
Who would go to cemeteries like Jesus and touch demon possessed men and women?
Who would go to Samaria like Jesus and talk to Samaritans?
Who would go to Tyre like Jesus and let a Gentile woman touch him?
Who would go to a leper like Jesus and touch him or her?
Who would sit down to have a meal with a prostitute?
Jesus sympathized with the most neglected and abused people of his time. In Luke chapter 4, he declared that was the purpose of his mission. On a Sabbath morning, we see him in a synagogue preaching to the crowds. He opened the scroll of Isaiah and read these words,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach
the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to preach deliverance to the
captives and recovery of sight
to the blind, to set at liberty those
who are oppressed, to preach
the acceptable year of the Lord’. (Luke 4:16-19).
He told them that prophecy was fulfilled in him. They were all shocked. The Messiah came to sympathize with the most neglected people in their society.
On one occasion, Jesus was in the house of a pharisee. A sinful woman goes inside and sits at the feet of Jesus. She cleans his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. She anoints them with a perfume and kisses them as precious objects. Seeing all these things, the Pharisee thinks in his heart, ‘Wow, this is not right. This sinful woman came into my home to meet Jesus. As if that is not enough, she sat at his feet. Someone like Jesus should have no business with a woman like her. Why would Jesus allow this sinful woman to sit at his feet?’
The Pharisee was unable to see Jesus, the Sympathizer of the sinners. He was unable to see that Jesus came to his house to meet that sinful woman.
Luke shows us a Jesus, who disrupts established orders in his society.
He did not come just for the Jews, he also came for the Gentiles
He did not come for the rich, he came for the poor
He did not come for the elite, he came for the commoner
He did not come for the healthy, he came for the sick
He did not come for those who think they are righteous, he came for sinners
He did not come for the free, he came for the captives
He did not just come for men, he came for women and children too.
The Son of Man came to turn the world upside down.
Jesus, the Scatterer
Next, Jesus, the Scatterer. Let us see Luke 12: 51-53. ‘Do you think I have come to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, not peace, but division!…..It is going to be father against son, and son against father, and mother against daughter, and daughter against mother’.
Here, Luke wants us to see Jesus, the scatterer. He divides people.
Recently, one gentleman told me with sadness, ‘Hey, our society is so polarized’. I told him, ‘That is ok. That is why Jesus came to this world’. He thought I was weird. Yes, there is so much polarization in our society today. But remember it is God who created the north pole and south pole. It is God who created heaven and hell. You cannot polarize more than that.
Jesus the sympathizer is also Jesus, the scatterer. He divides people into groups. Today, one of the biggest myths in our society is, ‘You cannot love someone unless you agree with their lifestyle’. Jesus loved sinners without agreeing with their sinful lifestyles. He was kind to the woman caught in adultery, but he also told her, ‘now, sin no more’. Love is not acceptance of sin.
Jesus said, ‘I brought fire to this world. I brought division into the families. Father against son. Son against father. Mother against daughter. Daughter against mother’.
Prophet Elijah told his generation, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. but if Baal is God, follow him’.
That’s Elijah causing polarization. Don’t be confused. Don’t wave between two opinions.
God built this world on strict binaries.
Life and death
Light and darkness
Truth and falsehood
Angels and demons
Wide gate and narrow gate
Heaven and hell
Male and female
Love and Hate
Sacred and Profane
Let people polarize well and we will see clearly who is taking a stand for God. So, Luke presents to us Jesus, the Scatterer. After his scattering, we can clearly see who is on his side and who is against him.
Jesus, the Simple
Next, Jesus, the Simple. Throughout the Gospel of Luke we see Jesus in all his simplicity. In Luke 9:58, Jesus said, ‘Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head’. Jesus did not even own a home. That was his simplicity. He also rebuked people who amassed wealth without giving a thought to eternity.
In chapter 12, Jesus talks about a rich man who stored up so much grain in his barns. He hoarded up his supplies for the rest of his life. He never worried about his soul. He never worried about God, afterlife or salvation. Jesus called him a fool. A foolish rich man.
Look at the news this week. Pastor Ted Haggard is accused of using methamphetamines and having sinful relationships with young men who worked at his megachurch. Pastor Jordan Hall or J.D.Hall has been removed from membership at his church because he has been abusing xanax and being violent towards his wife and child. Sadly, many pastors today are addicted to drugs like amphetamines, opioids and xanax. They are addicted to money, big homes, expensive cars, private jets and big churches. Jesus lived a very simple life. Pastors who focus on drugs, sex, money and big homes bring a lot of shame to God. They should look at the simple Jesus of the New Testament, control their desires and live with contentment.
Jesus, the Storyteller
Next, Jesus, the Storyteller. Luke shows us Jesus, who is a wonderful storyteller. No other story teller influenced this world more than Jesus. Just consider the story of the Good Samaritan. He was beaten by thieves, left to die by the roadside. Noone cared for his life. They ignored him and walked away. But the Good Samaritan looks at him and feels compassion. He goes to him and treats his wounds. He takes him to the hospital and pays out of his own pocket. This story influenced millions of people to show compassion to people in need. Thousands of hospitals were built named after the Good Samaritan. Thousands of rehabs, thousands of orphanages, thousands of nursing homes bear the name of the Good Samaritan.
Consider the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. A father had two sons. The younger son took his share of the property and went to a foreign country. He squandered all his health in the wildest extravagance. When he had run out of his money, he went to eat with the pigs. Then he repented and went back to his father’s home. His father forgave him, invited him inside the house and celebrated his return.
The story of the Prodigal Son influenced countless people throughout history. How many sons and daughters repented of their sinful life and returned to their parents! How many parents forgave their children like the father of the Prodigal Son! Jesus told us such amazing stories which still inspires us to a godly behavior.
Jesus, the Savior
Next, Jesus, the Savior. Luke shows us a Jesus, who came to save us. His whole mission was focused on saving us from our sins. In chapter 9 itself, we read – Jesus stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). I like that. Lord Jesus Christ stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. He was going to save us from our sins. As he approached Jerusalem, he wept over the city (Luke 19:41). We see a Savior, whose heart was so overwhelmed by the lostness of people in that city and he could not stop crying.
In Luke 19, we see Lord Jesus going through the town of Jericho. A tax collector wanted to see Jesus. His name is Zacchaeus. He was very short. So he climbed up into a sycamore tree to get a view of Jesus as he was heading that way. Jesus went straight to the tree. He looked at Zacchaeus and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down. Salvation has come to this house today. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
That is the central message of the Gospel of Luke. The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. People say, ‘I don’t need Jesus. I am a nice person’. You may be a nice person but you are still a lost person. You are still dead in your sins. You need Jesus to give you life.
Jesus, the Scripture
Finally, Jesus, the Scripture. Luke wants us to understand that all scripture is about Jesus. The whole Bible is about Jesus. Even as a 12 year-old boy, we see our Lord expounding scriptures in the temple in Jerusalem. In Luke chapter 4, while speaking in a synagogue, he told the audience that the prophecy of Isaiah was about him. In Luke chapter 24, two men were walking to a village called Emmaus. Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. But these two disciples completely forgot about Jesus’s words concerning his resurrection. They wanted to put Jesus behind them and start a new life. They thought that the whole Jesus business was a mission gone wrong. Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus explained to them all the scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27). That is a beautiful truth.
All scripture is about Jesus Christ, our Lord.
All the patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
All the prophets like Moses, Elijah and Isaiah
All the kings like David, Solomon and Hezekiah
All the priests like Aaron, Eliazer and Melchizedek
All the laws of God like Ten Commandments
All the places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee
All the objects in the Tabernacle of the wilderness
All the instruments in the Temple in Jerusalem
All festivals like Passover, Pentecost and Succoth
All sacrifices and all offering
They all point to Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the sum and substance of all things in the Bible.
All scripture is about Jesus. Luke wants us to see that truth in his Gospel.
Jesus, the Son
Jesus, the Scholar
Jesus, the Sacred
Jesus, the Supplicant
Jesus, the Sympathizer
Jesus, the Scatterer
Jesus, the Simple
Jesus, the Storyteller
Jesus, the Savior
Jesus, the Scripture
So, take time to read this beautiful Gospel of Luke. I hope and pray that God will enrich your soul as you contemplate on the person of Christ.