Luke is the third and final synoptic Gospel, but it is more than a monotonous repetition of Matthew and Mark. In fact, Luke goes into more detail concerning the events around Christ’s birth than any other Gospel (Luke 1), and such beloved parables as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are found only in Luke (10:25-37; 15:11-32). The Gospel according to Luke is full of the miracles, compassion, and parables of Jesus. It portrays Jesus as the perfect God-man who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
Author and purpose
While some may doubt that Luke is the author of the Gospel which bears his name, between a deep early church tradition, the parallel of Luke and Acts, and the near certainty of Luke’s authorship of Acts (because of the “we” passages, etc. compare Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-5) it seems we can confidently say that Luke wrote Luke. Luke is well-known to the New Testament. Luke is mentioned several times in Paul’s epistles as a companion and physician (Col. 4:14; Phile. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11). And, between his Gospel and the book of Acts, Luke’s writings comprise nearly 30% of the New Testament, making him one of the most prolific New Testament writers.
Most scholars agree that Luke was a Greek. If this is true, it means that he is the only Gentile New Testament writer. It has long been said that while Matthew wrote to Jews and Mark to Romans, Luke’s audience was Greek Christians. Luke’s Gospel is addressed to “most excellent Theophilus,” most likely a Gentile of high social standing. Luke’s stated purpose is to “write an orderly account” so that Theophilus may have certainty in what he had been taught since Luke had “followed all things closely for some time” (Luke 1:3-4). Luke sought to write a thorough, comprehensive account to deepen the faith of Gentile Christians, assuring them that their faith is rooted in the facts surrounding the extraordinary birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luke couples eye-witness testimony with fulfilled prophecy to create an undoubtedly conclusive view of Jesus as the savior of mankind.
Luke’s Gospel begins with an extremely detailed account of Jesus’ birth. Not only does this Gospel include Jesus’ genealogy (Luke 3:23-38), it includes a lengthy prelude detailing the pregnancy of both Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with Jesus’ cousin John who would later prepare the way for the Christ. The beginning of Luke’s Gospel also gives unprecedented insight into Jesus and his parents visiting the temple and a twelve year old Jesus impressing the teachers at the temple (Luke 2:22-52). After the inclusion of Jesus’ genealogy and his temptation by Satan, Luke begins to describe the ministry of Jesus starting in Galilee, moving towards Jerusalem, and once in Jerusalem. This leads Luke’s narrative into the passion scene and Jesus’ consequent resurrection. Through this narrative Jesus is seen as compassionate, supernaturally wise, suffering, and triumphant.
There are several themes throughout Luke that make his Gospel stand out. One such theme is comprehensiveness. Luke begins his Gospel roughly 6 months earlier than Matthew and Mark, and he goes a bit further; not ending in the resurrection, but with the ascension. Also, of the twenty miracles in Luke, six are found only in Luke. Similarly, of the thirty-five parables in Luke, nineteen are found in no other Gospel account (Hiebert 141). Another theme is the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ. In Luke, Jesus is portrayed as the promised “son of man.” The Greek mind was one focused on human excellence, and Jesus appears in Luke’s Gospel as the perfect man: deity in the flesh worthy of all worship and praise. Jesus as the savior of all mankind is a third theme in Luke. Luke describes Jesus as a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel (2:32) and quotes Isaiah’s prophecy that all flesh will see God’s salvation (3:4-6). Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus extends the grace of God to Gentiles, Jews, Samaritans, tax collectors, sinners , outcasts, nobles, the poor, and the rich. Indeed Jesus came to seek and save the lost, no matter their background (Luke 19:10). In Luke’s Gospel, it is clear that Christianity has “universal significance” (Hiebert 143).
Some significant sections
- The recipient, sources, and purpose of Luke’s Gospel (1:1-4)
- Boy Jesus in the temple (2:41-52)
- The genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38)
- The roll call of apostles (6:12-16)
- Luke’s version of a section from the sermon on the mount (6:20-49)
- Jesus resurrecting a widow’s son (7:11-17)
- The parable of the sower (8:4-15)
- The parable of the good Samaritan (10:25-37)
- Repent or perish (13:1-5)
- Parables of saving the lost (chapter 15)
- The rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31)
- Jesus cleansing the ten lepers (17:11-19)
- The rich ruler (18:18-30)
- Jesus and Zacchaeus (19:1-10)
- The Lord’s Supper (22:14-23)
- Jesus crucified among thrives (23:32-43)
- Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35)
- The ascension (24:50-53)
Luke is worth a look
Overall, the Gospel according to Luke is a treasure trove of insight. Jesus is portrayed by this inspired author as the ultimate God-man who fulfilled the will of the Father and sacrificed himself for all. Luke includes some of our favorite parables and most recognizable sayings / actions of Jesus. Though Luke is a synoptic Gospel, it includes so many extra gems not found in Matthew or Mark. Thankfully, God gave us four views at our Lord, and thankfully, the scope of Luke’s is vast and unique. Luke is certainly worth a look.
Hiebert, Edmond D. An Introduction to the New Testament Volume One The Gospels and Acts. Moody Press, 1981.