Keys to Unlocking the Gospel of Luke

Jun 2, 2014

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The Gospel of Luke was originally part of a two-volume set that included the Acts of the Apostles. This Gospel provides Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry. Acts covers the first thirty years of the church after Jesus’ ascension. Luke is the only one of the evangelists that tells us a bit about how he wrote his book: “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)

As with the other three gospels, there are several ways in which a reader can approach and study Luke. A first way that someone could approach the study of Luke, would be to examine the first two chapters and compare them to the opening narratives in the other three gospels. Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus is, by far, the most detailed. Matthew also provides a birth narrative. Mark and John’s opening sequences are very different from both Luke and Matthew. Luke not only details the birth of Jesus, he also provides a narrative account of the birth of John the Baptist. An interesting question for the reader to pursue would be, “How does Luke relate and show connection between the births of John the Baptist and Jesus?”

A second approach to studying Luke would be to examine the groups of people that the author spotlights. More than any of the other three gospels, Luke shows Jesus reaching out to marginalized groups in society. Women, children, Samaritans, tax collectors, and sinners are all groups that Jesus is shown taking time to engage with and minister to. Two examples of this are the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke ten and the account of Jesus inviting Himself to lunch at the house of the tax-collector, Zacchaeus, in chapter nineteen. Luke, over and over again, shows Jesus reaching out to groups of people that no other self-respecting rabbi would go near.

A third way that Luke’s Gospel can be studied is by tracing the theme of prayer through the book. This gospel has often been referred to as, “The Gospel of Prayer.” Jesus is shown at prayer in Luke more than the other gospels. He also speaks of and teaches on prayer more in Luke than anywhere else. Luke also portrays other individuals at prayer, such as Zechariah and Simeon, for example. Luke contains Jesus’ extended teaching on prayer in chapter eleven.

A last theme that could be studied in Luke’s Gospel would be Luke’s emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Only John gives as much teaching on the Holy Spirit as does Luke. John, however, records Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit. Luke tends to show Him in action. Of all the gospel writers, Luke is the only one who refers to someone being, “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Studying Luke’s portrayal of the Holy Spirit is a fascinating study and will prepare the reader for their reading of the second volume of this two-volume work, The Acts of the Apostles.

What are some other themes that you have encountered while studying Luke’s Gospel?

My wife, Annie and I are serving in Curitiba, Brazil. We are helping with church planting efforts, training leaders, and serving on the pastoral team of a great local church. Would you consider becoming a part of our support team? Here is the link. Obrigado! 

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