Introduction What follows is a brief introduction to the contents and themes of the Gosopel of Luke. You can download a PDF of this teaching here.
One volume or two? Like many scholars it is my belief that the Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a two volume work. Luke's Gospel and Acts take up more than 1/3 of the New Testament, so this particular Gospel plays a large part of our understanding of who Jesus is and how the earliest gentile followers understood his mission.
The prologue to Acts is a summary of Luke’s Gospel, and a great place to begin if you are interested in the cliff notes.
Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “The volumes are joined by an intricate skein of stylistic, structural and thematic elements which demonstrate convincingly that the same literary imagination was at work in both.” (LTJ, Luke, I)
Who wrote this Gospel? Luke, follower of Jesus and partner with Paul, is the person identified in the work of patristic writers, (earliest Christian theologians) and in the letters of Philemon (24), Colossians (4.14) and 2 Timothy (4.11).
Early collections of Christian writings, like the Muratorian Canon, also mention that Luke traveled with Paul. For instance:
“The third gospel according to Luke. After the ascention of Christ, Luke, whom Paul had taken with him as an expert in the way (teaching), wrote under his own name and according to his own understanding. He had not, of course, seen the Lord in the flesh, and therefore he begins to tell the story from the birth of John on, insofar as it was accessible to him” (Muratorian Canon lines 3-9)
The “we” passages in Acts, are written from a first person perspective. This leads many to believe they are written from the vantage point of an eye witness, leading credence to the idea that the author traveled with Paul. These passages are: Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16. (LTJ, Luke, 2)
Some say that would make the author too old. There is nothing to preclude a person from having traveled with Paul at age 20 in the year 50, to writing the Gospel in the year 80. Most mainstream scholars place the date of the Gospel of Luke around 70-80.
Some scholars question why Luke doesn’t include the letters of Paul or mention their existence in Acts. Still others aren’t so sure that there are not remnants of the Gospel of Luke in the Pauline letters.
Where do we get the tradition that Luke was a doctor? Eusebius thought he was a doctor from Antioch. And, Col 4, 14, Phlm 24, II Tim 4:11 testify that he was the beloved physician.
To Whom is Luke writing? Both Luke and Acts are written for the same reader, Theophilus. Scholars believe that Theophilus might have been a new Gentile Christian or the benefactor of the two literary masterpieces. In my mind what is clear is Luke's intent on instructing those who follow Jesus. I have always believed that this reason is why Luke makes a wonderful first Gospel to read as it can help anyone come into contact with Jesus and provide direction and instruction on living a life that follows Jesus.
Luke is well educated, as his arguments and structure within the text demonstrate. He is most certainly a Greek – speaking author, and writing for a Greek – speaking reader. Leading us to believe his community was most likely very similar.
His first readers were Christians. As it says in 1.4, Luke is writing to confirm teachings already held by his readers.
Most of all Luke was a story teller. His intent is story telling, to tell the story of Jesus. He weaves a wonderful tapestry of conversations, events, and miracles along the way to Jerusalem. Luke is certainly an apologetic writer on behalf of the Gentiles. His view of the Empire is also without malice. This gives the tale quite a different reading than Mark’s Gospel for instance for instance.
Some recent scholarship invites speculation that perhaps Luke was writing not only an apology for Christians in general but an apology for Paul’s ministry specifically.
Prophetic Theme Luke has a prophetic message for the Christian church today. Luke’s Gospel shows a Jesus lifting up the eyes of the people (mostly Gentiles) to see the coming kingdom and to prepare and work for its coming. In the midst of our own worries and church struggles we too need to have our eyes lifted up to the work of God in the restoration of creation.
The prologue leads into the first major section of the Gospel 1:5-4:13. This section moves through the historical antecedents: announcements of the birth of John to the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ ancestry and his temptation. This section sets the stage that Jesus is himself the one prophesied, the Son of Man, to come and bring the Kingdom of God.
The second section of the Gospel is from 4:14-9:50, it is Jesus' ministry and mission to Galilee. These healings and this action move the reader from the first recognition of the disciples to the confession of Peter the second passion prediction. It also holds major teaching moments on topics such as the Sabbath, the sermon on the plain, and the parable of the sower. This is a very rich section.
The third section is from 9:51-13:30, and it is marked by Jesus beginning his journey to Jerusalem. We have the sharing of mission with the disciples in this section and sending out of the 70. This section holds a number of teachings on the nature of discipleship. Guidance on preparation for the judgment are given by Jesus to both disciples and people alike.
The fourth main section is 13:31-19:27, begins after the teaching to disciples and people and we see a marked and steady march to Jerusalem. This section has the most Lukan material. And, it is in this section that we see Luke’s particular vision of Jesus and how he lays the stage for the story of Acts. It is a major teaching section on discipleship with material dealing with: Jesus need to go to Jerusalem, sitting at table, parables of tower-builder and warrior, parables of lost sheep and lost coin, and the two sons, instructions on attitudes towards earthly goods, the parable of the unjust householder, how to deal with offense, reconciliation, faith, obligation and the blessing children. This section concludes with Zacchaeus almost as an exclamation point to the whole section on discipleship.
The fifth section is 19:28-24:53 where we arrive at Jerusalem and we see the actions unfold as prophesied. We have the last supper and arrest on the Mount of Olives, to the account of the crucifixion and the Easter message of the empty tomb. This last section sets the foundation for Acts. (1.1-1.14)
The Prophets The Gospel of Luke is a book about the Holy Spirit. It is about the prophetic voice of Jerusalem foretelling through the power of the Holy Spirit the coming of the Messiah, the Son of Man. It is the story of how the Holy Spirit brings about the history of Jesus, who himself will be a great prophet of the Kingdom of God, and who will provide the Holy Spirit that those who follow him may work for the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world.
The apostles are seen as prophetic, these first followers of Jesus are men of the Holy Spirit, filled and empowered to be bold in their proclamation of the Good news and the Word of God. They are witnesses. They work signs and wonders themselves. They preach and perform these wonders among the people.
Jesus is a prophet like Moses. Luke makes major changes in the Joel quote from Peter in Acts (Acts 2:17-21). The changes he makes to Joel 2:28-32 in Peter’s speech. These changes are: after these things in Joel to in these last days. This appears to define the Pentecost moment as an eschatological event in and of itself. He adds the words, “and they shall prophesy” in verse 18, accentuating the prophetic character of the Spirit. And, he adds the words “sings on the earth below” in verse 19, tapping in to the signs and wonder imagery of Luke and in keeping with the idea that with Jesus’ birth a major event occurs that begins the revelation and realization of the kingdom of God in this world.
Luke hangs a great deal of this idea that Jesus himself was a great prophet upon the a passage from Deut 34:10-12. For Luke he believes that this particular passage reveals to the faithful that the the Holy Spirit is speaking specifically of Jesus. There has not arisen a prophet since, or in Israel, like Moses, whom the lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt…and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all the people.
The people of Luke's time were people in expectation. They believed that God was going to “raise up a great prophet.” Luke recognizes Jesus as the great prophet and his resurrection takes on even greater meaning in this light. We see Peter in Acts 2:22-24 referring to Jesus in just this way:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst….this Jesus you crucified…but God raised him up.” (LTJ, Luke, 18)
If we hold on to this idea that Jesus is like Moses in the eyes of Luke and we turn again to Acts 7:35-37 we see perhaps a view of the parallel of lives lived.
“This Moses, whom they refused, saying “who made you ruler and judge?” God sent as both ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea an in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.” (LTJ, Luke, 18ff)
We cannot know if Luke’s idea of who Jesus was informed his idea of Moses, or the other way around. What is clear is the powerful imagery being used in the telling of this Gospel story for the purpose and empowerment by the Holy Spirit of God’s church.
What is important is the reality that in the Gospel of Luke we have a pattern of authority rooted in the Holy Spirit that follows the succession pattern of Moses. Jesus is a prophet like Moses. Jesus was not simply raised up because he was chosen; Jesus for Luke is the Lord of the Resurrection. Moses received and gave the living words to the people, but Jesus receives the Holy Spirit from God and pours it out on his followers. (LTJ, Luke, 20).
Other Themes The Prophetic theme is not the only theme in the Gospel. Luke has a positive understanding of the world and history, the lost, the word of God, and conversion.
Affirmation of the World To affirm the world and culture is not to mean that everything goes. The prophetic imagery leads to very clear religious expectation on social values. We see this especially in the section on discipleship and teaching about how to live life as a prophet of Jesus. (Third and fourth section described above.) Luke pays attention to women, outsiders of all kinds, the poor, and those in need.
The Lost The prophetic work of the kingdom and its partners in ministry, their lives, and discipleship living in Luke is not given for the destruction of the wicked – but for the saving of the lost. Luke amplifies more than any other gospel the sense that this is Good News. Jesus is philosopher and king, he is savior too, bringing salvation, through signs and saving acts. This theme of salvation, the saving of the lost, is the theme of parables after the teachings on discipleship and daily living. Why do we do these things? To find the lost, comes the answer.
Word of God leads to Conversion The Word of God is powerful in Luke’s Gospel. It is alive in the people and in their prophetic actions, and in the prophetic actions of Jesus.
Conversion and the disciples’ response are the last two major themes. “God’s restored people answer the challenge of his visitation with fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8, Acts 26:20. People who hear the word are converted, by their turning around, their metanoia, literally their facing a different direction (away from worldly values to kingdom values). The followers of Jesus respond with faith, which for Luke is defined by hearing the word and patient endurance. It is not a momentary decision but a journey, it is a response daily. This is nurtured by faith in Luke’s Gospel. And, this work changes the way we live our lives. Following Jesus means that we change our social behavior to imitate God. Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “The opening of home and heart to the stranger is explicitly connected to the theme of accepting or rejecting the prophet. Luke provides concrete examples of the proper response of hospitality in Luke 10:38 and Acts 16. In the same way, as the Messiah showed leadership as a kind o table-service, so is leadership in the messianic community to be on of service spelled out in the simple gestures of practical aid.
When preparing to read through a Gospel it is good to see the landscape of the text. Here is a great road map to see the journey of Jesus and his followers through the Gospel of Luke.
The sections are according to Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 1991.) Descriptions by Werner George Kümmel (Introduction to New Testament, trans. Kee, 1973.)
The prologue 1:5-4:13 Chs. 1-2: names and places of origin of Jesus; genealogy of Jesus (1:1¬17); birth and naming of Jesus (1:18-25); homage of the Magi in Bethlehem (2: 1-12); flight to Egypt (2: 13-15); slaughter of the children in Bethlehem (2: 16-18 ); return from Egypt and residence in Nazareth (2: 19-23). 3: 1-4: 16: preparation for the activity of Jesus: John the Baptist (3 :1-12); baptism of Jesus (3:13-17); temptation of Jesus and residence in Capernaurn (4:1¬3) .
The second section 4:14-9:50 4:17-16:20. After the account of the call of Jesus' first disciples (4: 18-22) and his first teaching and healing activity (4:23-25), portrayal of his action through word (5-7: sermon on the mount) and act (8-9): ten miracles, interrupted by conversations (8: 18¬22; 9:9-17): healing of the leper (8:1-4); healing of the servant of the official from Capernaum (8: 5-13), of Peter's mother-in-law and of many sick (8: 14-17); dismissal of unsuitable followers; stilling the storm (8 :23-27); healing the Gadarene demoniac (8:28-34), of a lame man (9:9-13); question of fasting (9:14-17); healing of Jairus' daughter and of the hemorrhaging woman (9:18-26), of two blind men (9:27-31), and of a mute demoniac (9:32-34).
The third section 9:51-13:30 Conversations follow in Chs. 11 and 12, framed by the discourses of Chs. 10 and 13 and introduced by a new description of the teaching and healing work of Jesus (9:35-38). Sending out of the twelve and address to the disciples: instructions for the mission; words concerning the fate of the disciples; warning about fearless confession and suffering (10: 1-11:1); Jesus and the Baptist (11: 2-19); pronouncement of woe on the cities of Galilee (11:20-24); shout of joy and summons of the Savior (11:25-30); conflict conversations with the Pharisees (Sabbath conflict; defama¬tion of Jesus as being in league with Beelzebub, demand for signs) 12:1-45; the true relatives of Jesus 12:46-50; seven parables of the kingdom of God (Sower, with explanation; mustard seed, leaven; treasure; pearl; fishnet) 13 :1-30.
The fourth section 13:31-19:27 Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth is found in (13:31-58). Then follows a series of reports which show Jesus as itinerant, beginning and ending with the question who Jesus is (14: 1-16 :20) : Herod's opinion about Jesus (14: 1-2); arrest of the Baptist (14:3-12); feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21); Jesus' walking on the lake and Peter's sinking (14:22-23); healings in Gennesaret (14: 34-36); discourse on clean and unclean (15: 1¬20) ; Jesus and the Canaanite woman (1 5:21-28); healings of the sick (15:29-31); feeding of the four thousand (15:32-39); de¬mand for signs (16:1-4); warning about the leaven of the Phari¬sees (16: 5-12); Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (16: 13 -20) . 16:21-25:46. First prediction of the passion (16:21-23) ; sayings about the sufferings of the disciples and the coming of the Son of man (16:24-28); transfiguration and conversation about the return of Elijah (17:1-13); healing of the epileptic boy (17:14-21); second passion prediction (17:22-23); question about the temple tax (17:24-27); discourse on discipleship (sayings about behavior toward the "little ones," about offenses, about behavior within the community, parable of the roguish servant, 18:1-35); conversations about marriage and divorce (19: 1-12); blessing of children (19:13-15); the rich young man (19:16-26);
The fifth section 19:28-24 We begin this last section with a teaching on the reward for following Jesus (19:27-30); parable of the workers in the vineyard (20:1-16); third passion prediction (20:17-19); Jesus and the sons of Zebedee (20:20-28); healing of the two blind men near Jericho (20:29-34); procession toward Jerusalem (21:1¬11); cleansing the temple (21:12 f); homage of the children in the temple (21:14-17); cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22); ques¬tion of authority (21:23-27); parable of the dissimilar sons (21:28¬32), of the evil vineyard-workers (21:33-46), and of the royal marriage (22:1-14); question of the Pharisees about the tribute money (22:15-22) ; question of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection (22:23-33); question of the Pharisees about David's son as Messiah (22 :41-46); discourse against the Pharisees and scribes, including seven woes (23:1-36); lament over Jerusalem (23:37-39). Eschatological chapters: 24-25; destruction of the temple (24:1f); warning signs of the End (24:3-14); the great tribulation (24:15-28); the parousia of the Son of man (24:29¬31); determining the End (24:32-36); parables of the flood, of the watchful master of the household, of the faithful and slothful servants, of the ten maidens, of the entrusted talents (24:37-25: 30); prediction of the judgment of the world by the Son of man (25:31-46).
Conclusion: Passion Narrative and Resurrection Report 26:1¬ 28:20. Passion narrative (26:1-27:56): decree of death (26:1-5); anointing in Bethany (26:6-13); Judas' betrayal (26:14-16); preparation of the Passover (26:17-19); identification of the be¬trayer and institution of the Lord's Supper (26:20-30); prediction of the denial, Gethsemane, capture of Jesus, hearing before the high council, denial of Peter (26: 31-75); handing over Jesus to Pilate, death of Judas, proceedings before Pilate, condemnation, mocking, way to Golgotha, crucifixion and death of Jesus (27:1¬56); burial (27:57-61); guard at the tomb (27:62-66). Resur¬rection report (28: 1-20): message of the resurrection at the empty tomb (28:1-8); appearance of the risen Lord to the women (28:9 f); the Jewish lie about the theft of the body of Jesus (28 :11-1 5); final word of the risen Lord to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee: command to evangelize and to baptize (28: 16¬-20).
Please click on the link to download a copy of the lesson plans
Welcome to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Gospel of Luke
This blog is devoted to providing resources for teaching the and exploring the Gospel lessons appointed for Sunday worship in the Episcopal Church. Currently we are in Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary Cycle and many of the Gospel readings will feature the Gospel of Luke.
The site is designed in such a way that the newest bible reader and the seminary trained priest may find resources and materials in order to prepare to teach the Gospel of Luke.
The teachings are organized by season and can be downloaded or copied or used directly off the blog and projected.
I have also included a section on how Anglicans understand the Authority of Scripture. You may find this in both text and powerpoint format. It is based upon the Windsor Report. It is designed in such a fashion as to make a good introduction to the study of the bible. Giving newcomers and long time Episcopalians a common ground upon which to build a bible study group.
On the right hand side of the web page you will find resources online. You will also find a new addition to this year's program: a Google Earth Tour. If you do not have Google Earth you will need to download the program. The Tour is of the Holy Land and has three folders with links to the locations that Jesus travels in Luke's Gospel.
I have no pride in authorship. I have collected the best scholarship on Luke and resources available and placed them here for your use. I have collected what I find interesting and what I find helpful in my own sermon preparation.
I should say that I very much enjoyed doing this work and will return to the Gospel of Matthew next year.
I am glad to take suggestions and place other resources on the page if you will send me an email.
IX Episcopal Bishop of Texas
Search Blog for materials using passage or lectionary. Example: Advent 2.C or Luke 3:1-6