1: Jesus the Son of Man (Introduction to Luke)
The early church attributed the
Gospel to Luke, who was also the author of Acts. Luke was a physician (Col
4:14) who traveled with Paul as his close companion on his missionary journeys
(Phm 24; 2Tim 4:11). Colossians 4:10-11,14 seem to suggest that Luke was a
Gentile because Paul mentions Luke’s name apart from the list of his Jewish fellow
Luke states at the opening of the
book that he is writing to Theophilus (1:3). It is likely that he also has a
larger audience in mind, including the Gentiles and new Christian converts.
Probably between A.D. 60-70.
The place of writing is unknown.
It may have been Caesarea or Rome.
Luke clearly states his purpose in
his prologue to Theophilus: “to write to you an orderly account…that you may
know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Lk 1:3-4). By
presenting an accurate and chronological account of the unique life of Jesus in
the context of biblical history, Luke aims to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus
Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation to his people.
Furthermore, through Jesus Christ, God has also extended this grace of
redemption to the Gentile world.
Some of the unique features of
this Gospel compared to the other Gospels include 1) a historian’s approach,
recording events in sequence and placing them in the larger context of world
history; 2) a superb literary style, marked by excellent narrative devices and
a rich variation of styles; 3) a greater concern for the Gentiles and the
social outcasts, such as women, the poor, tax collectors, and “sinners”; 4) the
“prophecy-fulfillment” pattern showing that events took place to fulfill
predictions spoken earlier.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save
that which was lost” (19:10).
“…The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who
was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (24:19).
Survey of Luke
To get a broad picture of Luke,
read the entire book and record a heading for each of the section divisions in
The Gospel consists of 4 main
Preparation (1:1-4:13): The birth narratives of
John and Jesus; Jesus’ early years; the ministry of John; the baptism and
temptation of Jesus.
Galilean Ministry (4:14-9:50): Calling and
choosing of disciples; the Great Sermon; healings and other miracles; the
Later Judean and Perean Ministries (9:51-19:27):
This central section, marked by Jesus’ steadfast determination to go to
Jerusalem (9:51), is the largest division in the gospel and is in most part
unique to Luke. Teachings and parables take up most of this section. While
opposition grew, the Lord continued to extend his ministry to the lost and
needy, and his call to repentance and discipleship became increasingly urgent.
Concluding Events in Jerusalem (19:28-24:53);
Teachings at the temple; the Last Supper and prayer on the Mount of Olives;
Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus as the Christ
The birth narratives make it clear
that Jesus is the Son of God (1:35) and the Redeemer of Israel (1:32-33, 68-75;
2:25-38). Both John’s and Jesus’ ministries attest to Jesus’ messiahship.
Luke’s recordings of Jesus’ Galilean ministry eventually lead up to Peter’s
affirmation that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (9:20). Unique to Luke is the
mention and recording of Jesus’ ascension (9:51; 24:51), which later serves as
an important basis for the Christological theme of Acts (e.g. Acts 1:9-11;
2:32-33; 5:30-31; 7:55-56).
The Lord’s own words sum up the
purpose and nature of his earthly ministry: “for the Son of Man has come to
seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10). Salvation is not for the Jews
only but for all who are lost in sin. The birth of Jesus Christ is a good
tiding to all people (2:10). Contrary to the social and religious values of the
people, who esteemed the wealthy and prominent and believed that only Jews were
worthy of salvation, the Lord reached out to the despised and “sinners”
regardless of their ethnic background (e.g. 6:20-21; 7:12-15, 37-50; 10:29-37;
15:1-32; 19:1-10; 23:39-43).
Purpose, Prophecy, and Fulfillment
A keyword in Luke is “must” (2:49;
4:43; 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44-47). The Scriptures must be
fulfilled through Jesus, and Jesus, in turn, must carry out God’s salvation
plan. This sense of destiny was the driving force behind the Lord’s ministry,
and it compelled him to set out resolutely to Jerusalem, where he would suffer for the
redemption of God’s people.
Messianic promises were fulfilled
in Jesus (6:16-21; 24:25-26; Acts 3:18). Predictions of the suffering of the
Son of Man are shown as having been fulfilled (9:22, 44; 18:32-33; 24:6-8, 44),
and Jesus’ sayings are sometimes immediately followed by narratives in which
the sayings are fulfilled (4:16-30; 7:29-50). Such prophecy-fulfillment pattern
is a clear indication that Jesus was the Prophet sent by God and the Anointed
of God (c.f. Deut 18:15, 18-19; Acts 3:22-26).
Luke mentions the work of the Holy
Spirit more than Matthew and Mark combined (see 1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25-27; 3:22;
4:1, 14, 18; 10:21; 24:49). By attributing the development of events to the
power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel demonstrates that the ministries of John
and Jesus were the fulfillment of divine will.
Joy and Praise
A sense of joy is prominent in
Luke. Joy and praise surrounded the birth of Christ (1:47-55; 2:10, 13-14). The
Lord and his disciples rejoiced (10:17-21). The people rejoiced and glorified
God when seeing the power of God through Jesus (7:16; 13:17; 18:43; 19:37-38).
The three parables of chapter 15 are parables of joy. The disciples returned to
joy after witnessing the Lord’s ascension (24:52-53).
The frequent recordings of Luke
emphasizes the Lord’s humanity. Jesus prayed at key moments in his life: at his
baptism (3:21), before choosing the twelve (6:12), on the Mountain of Transfiguration
(9:29), and before breathing his last on the cross (23:46). He also often
withdrew from the multitudes to pray (5:16; 9:18; 11:1). He prayed for Peter
(22:32) and commanded the disciples to watch and pray (21:36; 22:40). He also
taught believers about the importance of and the right attitude in prayer
Luke’s original objective, “that
you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” also
serves the needs of present-day Christians. By studying the orderly account of
the things that were fulfilled through Jesus (1:1), we may see the Lord Jesus
through the eyes of first witnesses. The Gospel of Luke, along with the other
Gospels, confirms our belief that God’s redemptive plan has been fulfilled in
history. Our faith today is not merely built on the teachings of men about
salvation but on the real and historical person Jesus Christ, who lived among
men, died on the cross, resurrected and ascended before his followers.
Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the
Son of Man also gives us assurance that Christ, who once shared our humanity,
is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (c.f. Heb 4:15). His examples of
prayer and obedience to God’s will teach us to submit to God in all things and
seek his guidance and power. His encompassing kindness and love reminds us to
reach out to the lost and needy in our ministry today. All in all, the
presentation of Jesus as the perfect man provides us, his disciples, a model
for imitation and a basis for our belief that he is truly the Savior of all