The Four Gospels - 5. The Gospel of Luke
B Jones, Tycroes
5. THE GOSPEL OF LUKE
Following the official views of the Messiah in Matthew and Mark come the personal views in Luke and John. Luke presents Christ as the ideal Man. Emphasis is placed on the humanity of our Lord. In this Gospel Messiah is seen not as Sovereign or Servant, though He rules and toils, but as our Kinsman and Friend.
The writer of this Gospel was a Greek and is the only Gentile whose writings appear in the Bible. Renan, the world-renowned infidel, regarded this book as the most beautiful in the whole world. It was written to a Greek, the most excellent Theophilus, i. 3, and seems designed to meet the Greek mind in general. The contents may be analysed as follows:
- The Annunciation and Advent of the Son of Man, 1. 1 to 4. 13.
- The Announcements and Activities of the Son of Man, 4.14 to 19. 27.
- The Atonement and Ascension of the Son of Man, 19. 28 to 24. 53.
In keeping with its theme of presenting the Man, we find in this Gospel the fullest details concerning the birth of Christ. It was in the sixth month that the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, 1. 26-27. Only in Luke we read of the visit of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to pay taxes and also that ‘she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’, 2. 7. How poignantly this reveals the world’s estimate of the Christ of God. He was not wanted then and the world has no room for Him now. All that the world gave the Saviour was a stable for His birthplace, a manger for His cradle and a cross on which to die. Yet, knowing all this beforehand, in amazing grace ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’, 1 Tim. 1. 15. ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich’, 2 Cor. 8. 9. How poor He became! He preached from another man’s boat; foxes had their holes and birds their nests but He had not where to lay His head; He had no penny to pay the temple tax and was buried in another man’s tomb. Cradled in a manger He was accessible to all; few could have reached Him had He been born in a palace. Thus from His birth He was approachable. No priest had to be interviewed to gain access to His presence; it is the same today!
Contrasts with Matthew
The child sought by the wise men in Matthew is called ‘the king of the Jews’ whereas in Luke the angel of the Lord directs the shepherds to Him as ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’, 2. 11. This title reaches out beyond the confines of Israel, meeting all men in their deep need. The genealogy in Luke 3 is also different from that recorded in Matthew 1. The latter presents the royal birthroll of the son of David whilst the former is rather the personal genealogy of the son of Man. Hence in Matthew it is traced forward from Abraham, but in Luke it is traced backward to Adam. Matthew’s presentation of Christ as Messiah finds its roots in Abraham whilst Luke traces the lineage of the universal Saviour back to Adam, which was ‘of God’ (note ‘son’ is italicised), 3. 38. Hence the humanity of Christ is taken back to God Himself.
Luke’s portrait of Christ highlights Him as
The Perfect Man
In chapters 1-3 we behold Him as the Man made like unto His brethren.
In chapter 4 the Man tempted in all things as we are, sin apart.
In chapters 5 to 19. 27 as touched with the feelings of our infirmities. In chapters 19. 28 to 20. 23 He is our Kinsman, redeeming us.
In chapter 24 He is still the Man in resurrection and ascension glory.
In Luke particularly we find the tenderness and loving concern of Christ. He is moved because it was the widow’s only son, 7. 12, because the ruler had lost his only daughter, 8. 42, and because the lad convulsed, foaming and bruised was the man’s only son, 9. 38. He is the friend of sinners and is ready to receive the outcast of society. His intense interest and concern for people finds a place on every page and even His parables here ring with a human content that is almost peculiar to Luke (see e.g., 10. 30-37; 11. 5-8; 15. 11-32). Note, too, the prominent place given to women who were all too often despised. How often too the Lord turns in pity for those in desperate need. It is sweetly fitting that it is only Luke who records the parable of the Good Samaritan which speaks so eloquently of the Christ of God who ‘came to where we were’.
Perhaps no single feature of this Gospel emphasises the perfect humanity of Christ more than its many references to His prayer life. Seven of these are peculiar to this Gospel, and each reference displays the Lord’s utter dependence on God (see 3. 21; 5. I5f; 6. 12; 9. 18; 9.29; 10. 21; 11. 1; 22. 39-46; 23. 34, 46). The response of the disciples living in the presence of such a Man of prayer was ‘Lord, teach us to pray’. How much we all need to learn the lessons on prayer both in the example and exhortation of Christ throughout Luke’s Gospel.
The Man in Heaven
The One who died at Calvary is risen indeed and is still a Man; ‘a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have’, 24. 39. Luke specially emphasises this as a cause for joy and the Lord’s desire to establish the reality of His bodily resurrection by eating ‘a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb’, v. 42L Then the Risen One blessed them and ‘while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven’, v. 51. The curtain falls to the strains of human joy, worship and praise: ‘And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen’, vv. 52-53. What a tremendous difference the Man in heaven has made! In the opening chapter of this Gospel a priest is introduced who is on the earth and is dumb and unable to bless the waiting people. In the closing chapter the Christ of God carries perfect Manhood to the throne of God and there, as an ever-living Great High Priest, He is able to bless His people and enrich their earthly experiences. Through Luke’s pen-picture we behold the man.
To be concluded with ‘The Gospel of John’.