The Gospel of Luke
“Entering the Story” is the name we’ve given our plan to explore some of the major stories of Scripture in worship and education on Sunday mornings in order to learn together and share the powerful, life-changing stories of Scripture. In October and November, we focused on six of the major stories in Genesis, the first book of the Bible that gets the story of God’s creation, care, and redemption of the world. In December, we turned our attention to the Gospel According to St. Luke, a story we will follow from the anticipation of his birth in Advent through his teachings and miracles in January and February, his journey toward Jerusalem and the cross in March, and his death and resurrection in April.
Luke’s Story of Jesus
To appreciate these stories more, it may help to give a little attention to some of the distinctive themes and elements of Luke’s Gospel. As we’ve noticed before, while the various gospels share more or less the same general story about Jesus, they vary – sometimes a little bit and sometimes greatly – in the arrangement and details of the stories they share. These differences give us clues to the distinct confession of faith each Evangelist (what we call someone who is writing a gospel) is making about Jesus, a confession shaped by the needs of the community for whom the author was writing.
In Luke’s case, several themes figure prominently. The first is the significant role women play in Luke’s account. Take the stories of Jesus’ birth, for instance, which we read in Advent. Whereas Matthew’s story revolves around Joseph – he’s the one trying to decide what to do about Mary when he discovers she is pregnant; he’s the one who receives a visit from an angel – Luke’s story focuses on Mary, an unwed teen who is visited by Gabriel and responds to his announcement that she will bear the savior with courageous and decisive obedience. And before we meet Mary we encounter Elizabeth, a childless old woman who trusts the angel’s announcement and gives birth to John the Baptist, the herald of the Messiah and greatest of the prophets. Neither of these women has any power in the ancient world, yet both play pivotal roles. This will continue as Luke introduces us to characters like Martha and Mary (Luke 10), who welcome Jesus into their home and support his ministry, and shares parables revolving around women, like the woman who searches all night for a coin (Luke 15).
A second theme is Jesus’ compassion … especially for the poor. While all the Gospels report Jesus’ miracles, Luke will, more than any other, link Jesus’ miracles to his compassion. When Jesus sees the funeral procession for the son of a widow, for instance, Luke reports, “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her …” (7:13). And notice it’s a widow, one of the most dependent, vulnerable, and poor persons in the ancient world. From Mary’s song that announces that the Lord will raise up the lowly and feed the hungry, to Jesus’ first sermon where he says his mission is to “bring good news to the poor,” all the way to stories and parables that revolve around those with very little, Jesus is a compassionate healer who gives particular attention to those the world has overlooked.
A final theme in Luke worth noting is a great interest in the universal implications of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew’s Gospel begins by tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to Abraham, the patriarch of Israel. Luke shares a similar genealogy in the third chapter of his story, but he traces Jesus’ descent back to Adam and Eve, parents of all humanity (3:38). Similarly, in Luke there are more stories of persons beyond the immediate Jewish community who respond to Jesus in faith – from the Roman centurion whose faith Jesus praises (7:1-10) to the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (two words no Israelite would say together) – Luke highlights Jesus’ universal appeal and significance. Moreover, Luke’s story does not end with the resurrection but continues in his second book, The Acts of the Apostles, where he traces the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the surrounding country and eventually to Rome, the center of the ancient world.
Luke’s Gospel – his confession about the significance of the good news of Jesus – helps us understand what Jesus meant in the first-century world, especially to those who probably stood at the margins of first-century Jewish culture: women, the poor, those struggling with illness and loss, and those considered foreigners. More importantly, Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection continues to speak to us today, inviting us who were not born into the Jewish faith and who struggle with our own setbacks to receive him with joy and to recognize that God is always looking for the lost, always seeking to draw those who have been pushed to the margins of society to the center of the kingdom of God. It’s a story that has been told for nearly 2,000 years, and it will be exciting to see what God does in, with, and through our congregation as we tell it again this year in worship, song, Sunday school, and sermon.
– Pastor Lose
The Gospel of Luke – Entering the Story
Dec 2 – The First Sunday of Advent: Good News for Ordinary People – Luke 1:1-4
Dec 9 – The Second Sunday of Advent: John the Baptist – Luke 1:5-20, 57-64
Dec 16 – The Third Sunday of Advent & Christmas Communion: Gabriel Visits Mary – Luke 1:26-38
Dec 23 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Mary’s Song – Luke 1:39-56
Dec 24 – Christmas Eve: The Birth of Jesus – Luke 2:1-21
Dec 30 – The First Sunday of Christmas: Simeon and Anna – Luke 2:22-40
Luke: Signs & Wonders – Entering the Story
Jan 13 – “The Preaching of John” & Camp Sunday with Cathedral of the Pines Worship – Luke 3:1-18
Jan 20 – “The Baptism of Jesus” – Luke 3:15-22
Jan 27 – “Sermon at Nazareth” – Luke 4:14-30