The Gospel of Luke. We have finally arrived. While I have been on record as saying that John is my favorite Gospel, and it is, Luke nevertheless provides more historical data and more of a rounded approach to the life of Jesus than any other Gospel. As legend would have it the author is the physician Luke, but there really is nothing to support that claim. The details that he gives about healings and physical attributes are no more technical than any terms you or I might use in describing bodies. What is crucial is that Luke is the author of not only the Gospel of Luke, but also the Acts of Apostles. This author has composed more than 27% of the New Testament making him the most prolific writer of the New Testament, even more so than the Apostle Paul. As we read along in Luke keep in mind the detail that Luke lifts up, from the birth, to his childhood (the only one containing a story about a 12 year old Jesus) all the way to his arrest, crucifixion, and then eventual resurrection. It is the easiest of the Gospels to read because of its penchant to details. Enjoy the ride!
Chapter 1 of Luke is the longest chapter in any of the Gospels. We haven’t even arrived at the birth of Jesus yet, but it feels like God has already performed some mighty acts, and He has! Luke begins his Gospel by giving us a reason for why he wrote it. Notice in vs. 3 that he is addressing an individual (or is he) who is called Theophilus. If you break that word down into two parts you get Theo, which means God in Greek. We have the term theology, the study of God, which comes from that root. We also have the term philus which comes from phileae, how about Philadelphia the city of brotherly love, which means love. So the term Theophilus while potentially being an individual, could also mean “lover of God. In essence it might seem like Luke is writing this Gospel to all who are lovers of God. I think we can include ourselves in that one. Because of his constant use of Greek terms I think we can safely say that Luke is writing to a Greek audience. If you read on to Acts of the Apostles you can see that this theme continues.
Our first account is that of the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. It is absolutely crucial to understand the key role that he plays in the life of Jesus and in the salvation story. John the Baptist can be understood as the first century Elijah who foretold the coming of the Messiah, the one who was to prepare the people of Israel for the advent of the anointed one. His father Zechariah was a priest and his mother, Elizabeth, came from the priestly class so he was really a PK (Pastor’s Kid) through and through. It should be no surprise then that he took off for the wilderness as soon as he was old enough to decide for himself. Those pastor’s kids tend to be a little different.
In vs. 26 we find the beginning of the Jesus story with his mother, Mary, being visited by the Angel Gabriel. More than any other Gospel Luke stresses the virginity of Mary. This leads back to Isaiah 7:14 which in reality speaks about a young woman, but the Gospels have picked that up to mean a virgin. It is important to note that the virginity of Mary speaks to the miracle that God is able to perform in the incarnation. God became one of us, Emmanuel, in the most unlikely way possible. And yet it was still foretold by the prophets. This coming of Jesus, our Savior and our God, through Mary is not something which was simply created in the first century. No, in fact, we read that just about everything that Jesus does and all that he represents is brought to us previously by the prophets.
Vs. 38 really speaks to the demeanor that each one of us ought to take on. Mary states: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” That should be all of our calling cards. In vs. 37 she is given the assurance that nothing will be impossible with God, and so that allows her to respond in kind. As we go through life we have to keep that promise in front of us at all times. Nothing is impossible with God, and at the same time, all things work for good for those who trust in the Lord. These two promises, one found in Luke and the other found in Romans, ought to be able to propel us through any experience in life. Nothing is impossible, and all that happens is for the glory of the Lord.
The visit of Gabriel to Mary is sandwiched by the account of the birth of John the Baptist. As we read about Mary we then transition to the birth of John. No other Gospel has the birth of John like Luke does. I gave you the heads up that we need to pay attention to the details of Luke. There are many details and they are magnificent. Zechariah’s prophecy reflects Mary’s magnificat. They both lift up the lowly who are raised up. I can’t help but think that both of these families came from poor backgrounds. Both of these families needed to see the redemption of the Lord who would bring salvation to the nation of Israel. Mary focuses more on those who physically are in need, the poor, and against those in power as she says God has scattered them from their thrones. Zechariah does seem to focus more on the promises of old which are being fulfilled for the entire nation. “The oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham” is underlined as a key component to the promises that are being fulfilled.
So by the end of this chapter John the Baptist is in place, and now it is time to welcome our Savior. In the middle of Lent, it is nice to see where it all started.