The Definitive History of the Lord Jesus
The Gospel of Luke tells the exact chronological details of the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus, setting them in the major historical circumstances of the time. Luke’s purpose in writing was to demonstrate the firmness or accuracy of these events, shoring up the historical credibility of the good news about the Lord Jesus. In a word, the main purpose of the Gospel is “apologetical”, giving a detailed and “orderly” account of the major actions and teachings of the Lord Jesus (1:4).
The Fulfillment of the Promised Son of Man, Abraham, and David who Sets Up God’s Kingdom
The major theme of the Gospel of Luke is that the Lord Jesus is the promised Son, or Descendant, of Man – or Adam – who has come to fulfill the promises God made to Abraham, His descendants, and David, in order to bless the Jews and all nations through the establishment of His spiritual kingdom in His teachings, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
The Perfect Human and Man
The major practical teaching of the Gospel is that Jesus is the perfect Man, and therefore the perfect Example of how to please God and bring Him glory. Of course, as the perfect Man, Jesus is unique, and this uniqueness isn’t to be imitated in this life. In fact, He’s the perfect Man for the purpose of being perfected through His sufferings, so that He can be the perfect Representative and Mediator for all of mankind before the Father. It’s through His death, resurrection, and ascension that He came to redeem His people from spiritual death, slavery, and condemnation under the Law of Moses, and for the Gentiles – under the natural condemnation of Adam. Yet, this redemption only begins with His death and resurrection, since He promises to give His followers the Holy Spirit, so that they’ll bear witness to His work to every people group, beginning from Jerusalem (24:47-49).
The Primitive Model for Christian Service and Missions
As the perfect Example of representing God on this earth, Jesus serves as the best model for bearing witness to the truth of God, in order to teach people how to please and serve God. The two major ways that He does this is by teaching the good news of God’s kingdom, and by meeting the practical needs of suffering sinners. In the same way, He commissions and empowers His followers to do the same – most directly in His two missions that He first sends the Twelve on, and then the seventy-two. These two missions serve as mini demonstrations and preparations for the later missions of the early church, and of the church today. In both cases, just as Jesus taught the gospel and relieved physical suffering, so did His apostles. This pattern is repeated in Luke’s sequel to his Gospel – the Acts of the Apostles. Hence, we see both in the practice of Jesus and His disciples that the 2 main ways we are to serve people today are by teaching them the message of Jesus (meeting their spiritual needs), and by meeting their physical needs through practical service.
God’s Compassion for Sinners, Sufferers, and Outcasts
In Jesus’s service to sinners through His teaching and miracles, He also demonstrates the heart of God towards suffering people – compassion. Luke often highlights the mercy, or compassion, of God – not only toward those who are striving for conformity to the Law of Moses, but also toward those who are living in direct disregard toward this Law that God gave Israel. In Luke, this includes sinners, tax collectors, and various Gentile people, including multiple soldiers. This divine mercy is summed up in these two statements of Jesus – “’It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance’” (5:31-32 NASB).
God’s Undeserved Favor Towards the Humble
Through this compassion towards those who are the most disrespectable and despised, Jesus shows us that it’s the most unlikely people that God chooses to grant salvation through faith. However, there is a wide diversity of people who choose to follow Jesus in the Gospel. Yet, it isn’t the most powerful, or most respected, people, but mostly those who are weakest and most overlooked. This shows the constantly repeated theme in the Gospel that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted.” This humiliation resulting in exaltation is spiritual in nature, and totally the work of God through His Spirit, as will be more fully revealed in Acts with the outpouring and indwelling of the Spirit.
The Rejection of the Nation of Israel, and Its Coming Destruction
A final important teaching of Luke is the guilt, condemnation, and promised punishment of most of the people of Israel. Although John the Baptist and Jesus come to all the Jews with the gospel of the kingdom, and of repentance for the forgiveness of sins – a small minority of the Jews embrace Jesus as their Messiah, or King and Redeemer. For those who reject Him, Jesus promises in many places in the Gospel their rejection by God, and the coming judgment on the capital of Jerusalem that will come through the Roman army in 70 AD. Jesus’s teaching is clear – only those who trust in Him as their Lord and Redeemer are the true descendants of Abraham, and God’s chosen people. Israel as a nation has broken the covenant God made through Moses, and is redeeming a remnant of Jews who will be tasked and empowered to bless all the nations through the gospel. God has made a new covenant only with those who repent and follow the Lord Jesus, and this new covenant is ratified, secured, and establishment through the suffering and death of Jesus (22:20).
In the next article on Luke, we’ll examine the character of Luke, and his own explanation of his Gospel from the first four verses.