We’ve recently completed a brief series in Luke’s Gospel. Whilst I enjoyed working on the individual passages, I felt that we struggled to pick up some of the major themes of the Gospel.
Each of the four Gospels is distinct. At the end of his Gospel, John notes that he has had to be selective in what he has written down because there wouldn’t be room for all the books that would have to be written if everything Jesus did was recorded (John 21:25). That would be true of all the authors- they select material from Jesus’ life. John is clear on the basis for his selection- he records those things that show that Jesus is the Christ (20:31) so that his readers may find life through Jesus.
Luke is writing to most excellent Theophilus- so that he may have certainty about that which he has heard. But when you examine the material that is unique to Luke’s Gospel you find that he has something particular that he wants Theophilus to know- namely that Jesus brings about a complete reversal of worldly values.
It is evident right from the start of the Gospel. Luke alone records Mary’s great song of praise with its huge implications:
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (1:52-53).
Think about how many times you find the same theme throughout Luke’s Gospel- all incidentally in material that Luke alone records:
At the synagogue in Nazareth Jesus proclaims good news to the poor whilst the proud Nazarenes reject Him. (4:14-30)
In the sermon on the plain Jesus proclaims blessings for the poor and hungry whilst pronouncing woe on those who are rich now. (6:20-26)
The proud Pharisee Simon is rebuked by Jesus whilst the sinful woman is accepted by him (7:36-50)
The younger brother- representing sinners and tax collectors- is inside the party whilst the older brother- representing the Pharisees- is outside (15:11-32)
The rich man ends up in hell whilst the poor man Lazarus ends up in heaven (16:19-31)
The proud Pharisee is not justified whilst the humble tax collector is praised by Jesus (18:9-14)
These are just a sample of the material- and interestingly all of it is unique to Luke’s Gospel. You can see the point he is making. There is a great reversal coming when in Jesus’ words “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (14:11)
Some ponder whether Luke’s Gospel is written as a warning to “most excellent Theophilus.” It certainly has profound implications for us- that I will try to explore in the next few posts.