Introduction to The Gospel of Luke:
a commentary & meditation 

Luke, the “beloved physician”

Paul the Apostle calls Luke the “beloved physician” (Col. 4:14).  Luke was a companion and fellow worker of Paul (2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24).  They traveled extensively. Luke was a keen observer of the human condition.  Like a good physician, he saw people as they were and he loved them all.  His gospel is the easiest to read and understand, because it presupposes that his audience is not familiar with Jewish customs and practices.
“It seemed good to me also to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3)
Why did Luke write his account?  In his introduction to the gospel (see Luke 1:1-4) Luke speaks in the first person. This is a somewhat unique approach since the other gospels all speak in the third person. Luke addresses his friend, Theophilus, a name which means "beloved of God".  In so many words he says, "I am writing to you the most incredible story humankind has known."  And this story is utterly believable because it comes from many reliable firsthand witnesses of those who knew Jesus Christ personally, heard his teaching, and saw his miracles, death and resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Who were these many?  Mark the evangelist was certainly one of them.  Luke’s account contains over half of the verses in Mark’s account (some 350 verses out of a total 660 verses in Mark) .  Some 325 verses of Luke are also common to Matthew’s gospel.  The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Luke was in Israel for some time.  This would have given him an opportunity to speak with many contemporaries of Jesus.

The Gospel for the Gentiles

Luke was a Gentile.  He is the only New Testament writer who was not a Jew. He addressed his gospel to a fellow Gentile, named Theophilus.  Luke intended his gospel for the Gentile Christians. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and likely encouraged Luke to write such an account.  Luke wanted to give an account of the gospel to a non-Jewish audience who were not accustomed to Jewish beliefs and practices and who lived in a society dominated by Greek culture and language. Luke wrote his gospel in the common Greek of the day. It was likely written between 63-70 A.D.

“That you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed” (Luke 1:4)

Luke is an evangelist like Matthew and Mark.  He writes that Theophilus may know the truth of the things in which he has been instructed (Luke 1:4). Luke also writes as an historian.  He has investigated the matter closely and he intends to give an orderly account of the what has happened.  Luke emphasizes the events of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.  He is the only gospel writer to give an account of the ascension.  He also uses the Greek title for Lord and speaks of Jesus as the Savior.

The Universal Gospel

Luke makes clear that the gospel was addressed not just to the Jews but to all without distinction. He speaks of Jesus as the “friend of sinners” and of outcasts.  He says that the Son of Man has come to seek and save what is lost (Luke 19:10).  The parables and miracle accounts in Luke emphasize the compassion of Jesus to sinners and to those who suffer, his patience, friendliness, and desire to seek out the lost (the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost prodigal son).  Luke shows great concern for the poor. “The poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22).  He alone tells the Parable of the Rich Man and poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Luke gives reference to the universal scope of the church (see Luke 2:14, 32; 24:47).  The kingdom of heaven is not shut to the Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56). Luke speaks of the Samaritans as models of charity and gratitude (Luke 10:25-37 and Luke 17:11-19).  Luke shows Jesus giving approval and praising Gentiles for their faith (Luke 4:25-27; Luke 7:9).  He quotes Jesus’s words, that “men will come from the east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).

The Gospel of Women

Luke gives a special place to women in his gospel account.  More women appear in Luke than the other gospels. The events leading to Jesus’ birth are told from Mary’s point of view.  We read of Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, of Anna the prophetess, of the widow at Nain, and of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50).  Luke tells us of the special friendship Jesus had with Martha and Mary and how Jesus transformed the life of Mary Magdalene.  Luke also mentions many women who traveled with Jesus and the apostles and who “ministered to their needs” (Luke 8:1-3).

The Gospel of Prayer and Praise

Luke gives special emphasis to prayer and to the power of intercession.  He shows Jesus at prayer on many occasions (Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 9:29; 11:1;  23:46).  Jesus prayed for Peter in his hour of testing (Luke 22:32).  And Jesus told two parables about the power of prayer (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8).  Jesus concludes the Lord’s Prayer with an exhortation to pray confidently knowing that “for every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:10).

The Gospel of the Holy Spirit

Luke’s gospel emphasizes the role and work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is active in the initiation of the Incarnation (Luke 1:5, 35, 41, 67, 80), in the early witness to Jesus (Luke 2:25-27), and in the activity of Jesus himself (Luke 4:1, 17; 10:21).  Luke’s gospel is infused with the joy of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:14, 47, 58; 2:10; 6:23; 10:17, 20; 19:37). The gift of the Holy Spirit is available to all who seek: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

“Good news” for today!

The word "gospel" literally means "good news".  The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and the freedom he has won for us through his death and resurrection. The gospel is God's word for us today! It's is a living word that has power to change, transform, and bring freedom and healing to those who accept it as the word of God.  Are you hungry for God's word?  And do you receive it with expectant faith and trust?

"Lord Jesus, you are the fulfillment of all our hopes and desires. Your Spirit brings us grace, truth, life, and freedom. Fill me with the joy of the gospel and inflame my heart with love and zeal for you and for your kingdom".

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 (c)1999 Don Schwager