Luke 1-4 – Reading Helps

Overview

  • Luke is a Gentile (or most likely a Gentile – see Col 4:10-14) writing not as an eyewitness but based on others’ eyewitness accounts.
  • Luke is a physician (Col 4:14).  It’s interesting to consider how this affects his writing about Jesus’ miracles and healings.  Luke likely has a unique perspective on Jesus’ role as healer and Savior.
  • As a Gentile (the only Gentile gospel author), Luke writes for a non-Jewish audience and stresses Jesus’ humanity and His coming for all the world, not just for the Jews.  Along those same lines, it’s important to remember Luke’s close relationship with Paul and his personal knowledge of Paul’s ministry and how those might inform his perspective on Jesus’ life and ministry. 
  • Luke emphasizes the many ways Jesus fulfills what was written about Him in the Law and the Prophets.  He stresses this more than the other gospels.
  • Luke’s is the longest of the gospels and – along with Matthew and Mark – is one of the Synoptic Gospels (meaning they are similar in subject matter – John is unique in its subject matter).  Most believe Luke had access to Mark’s gospel when he wrote the book.
  • Luke is the most prolific of all the New Testament writers – his books of Luke and Acts take up more of the New Testament than either Paul’s or John’s writings.

Introduction (1:1-4)

  • Both Luke and Acts are written to Theophilus.  No one has any idea who this is.
  • Luke reassures the reader that his account is from eyewitnesses and is completely reliable.
  • His purpose in writing is so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.  Essentially, he wants Theophilus to understand the life and ministry behind the gospel so that he can better understand it and trust that it’s true.
  • This purpose applies to the modern reader too.  Luke’s purpose means that we read his account so that we better understand the gospel and more fully believe it.  Jesus is the Savior of the world, and this account shows that to be true.

Birth Accounts – John & Jesus (1:5-2:40)

  • Elizabeth (John’s mother) is described as a daughter of Aaron (meaning she’s a Levite – 1:5), yet she is also a relative of Mary, who’s from Judah.  This means they’re likely related through their mothers (since the tribal association is through the father).
  • Zacharias is struck dumb by Gabriel because of his unbelief (although the way the text is written it sounds like he asks a fairly innocuous question – apparently Gabriel knows what’s in his heart when he asks – 1:20).  Based on 1:62, he apparently is deaf too.
  • It is likely that Mary is around 14-15 years old when she hears she’s going to give birth to the Messiah (based on when young women married in that culture).  It’s amazing to read her words and actions in light of her age.  It highlights the difference between our world and a world where people are forced to grow up very quickly.  Remember too that she perfectly understands the stigma that will now follow her for getting pregnant before her marriage is consummated.
  • Do not forget that these are real people living real lives in a real world.  These miraculous births are not any more normal or believable than they would be today.  The four people affected – Zacharias, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary – aren’t sitting around thinking, “We’re Bible people, so of course we’re seeing angels and miraculously getting pregnant – that’s what Bible people do.”
  • 1:37 – great verse that can’t be taken out of context.  It applies to anything and everything.  We should weaponize it and use it liberally.
  • Mary goes to see Elizabeth to rejoice with her but probably also to verify that what the angel told her is true.
  • The angels’ message to the shepherds explains the twofold purpose of Christ’s coming: glory to God and peace between God and men in whom God is pleased.
  • Luke is the only writer to record the scene with Simeon in the temple.  Simeon calls Jesus a light of revelation to the Gentiles and predicts His death.  It’s interesting to wonder if Mary remembers these words when she later stands at the foot of the cross.

Jesus Announces Himself (2:41-52)

  • This is the first time we see that Jesus knows exactly who He is.  He’s 12 years old in the story and is fully aware of his identity and purpose.  No way to know how long in His life this has been the case.
  • Mary and Joseph don’t understand His words about His Father’s house.  This is interesting since they obviously know who He is.

Ministry of John the Baptist (3:1-20)

  • John goes to the Jordan and calls people to repentance.  There is symbolism here – it’s as if he offers the Israelites the opportunity to start over.  When Israel originally crossed the Jordan into the promised land, they didn’t obey God and were eventually thrown out.  Now John calls them back to a renewed commitment to God.
  • John is clear that he is NOT the Messiah but that the Messiah is coming, and He’s coming to gather His followers and punish those who aren’t.

Jesus Begins His Ministry (3:21-4:15)

  • Three events begin Jesus’ public ministry.  He’s baptized, He goes into the desert for 40 days to fast and pray, and He’s tempted by the devil. 
  • The 40 days in the desert likely symbolize the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.  Unlike Israel, however, Jesus obeys God throughout. 
  • He apparently is tempted by the devil throughout the forty days (4:2), not just with the three temptations listed in 4:3-13.

Jesus Rejected in Nazareth (4:16-30)

  • Nothing like returning to the ol’ hometown and having a mob try to kill you.
  • Jesus’ words about Elijah and Zarephath and Elisha and Naaman make the point that just as Israel rejected the prophets and drove them to the Gentiles, so He will go somewhere else if the people of Nazareth reject Him.  It’s really a prediction of what will happen when Israel rejects Him.
  • Nazareth becomes a picture of Israel in its rejection of Jesus.

Jesus Continues His Ministry (4:31-44)

  • As Jesus preaches and performs miracles, His fame spreads.
  • Note verse 40 – ALL who had any sick brought them to Him and He healed ALL of them.  This is a monumental undertaking and shows the heart of our Savior. 

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