Week #44: October 29-November 4
Luke was a physician by training before becoming the author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. These two volumes are a master set compiled from interviews with primary sources. Luke also was written more to a Gentile audience than to that of the Jewish background (which would have been Matthew’s Gospel). Luke tends to portray more women than the other writers as well, which we can see from the start of the Gospel. Luke begins with the story of John the Baptist and Jesus being foretold to their parents. Mary’s song which is regularly called the Magnificat deriving its name from the opening word in Latin. This is a song that has been a part of the church’s music throughout the years with some wonderful arrangements. One of my personal favorite arrangement is Bach’s Magnificat. It is small piece for Bach in terms of his larger church works, however it is a gem from his catalogue of compositions. The words of this humble song from Mary gives us an insight into why God chose her for this grand task of being the mother of Jesus. Luke does include a genealogy for Jesus, but approaches it quite differently than Matthew. Matthew looked for symmetrical generations to point to the kingly pedigree of Jesus. Luke starts his genealogy off with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and the Holy Spirit coming down in the form of a dove. Then we begin to look backwards (opposite of Matthew) through the layers of history. Luke chooses for this genealogy to not include the same women that Matthew did include. However, we get the history all the way back to Adam, the son of God.
One of the things that additionally stands out with Luke in comparison especially to the other two synoptic gospels is his telling of the parables. Luke contains more parables than do Matthew or Mark, and his telling of these stories are some of the more memorable stories we know from Jesus. The chapter that comes to mind is the chapter of the lost parables: the lost coins, the lost sheep, and the lost son. This last story better know as the prodigal son is something that has become part of the American culture apart from it’s Biblical references. It is the story of a son who asks for everything, squanders it all, and runs back begging for mercy and grace. I believe it is a story that as Christians, we can read many times as there are a number of ways to find ourselves in the story depending on the place we find ourselves in life. The crux of this story and the Gospel of Luke is the father that is willing to run even brining some disgrace to himself to celebrate the son that has finally come back. This is the story that God has for each of us as we think about life and not following through with the life that God would call us to live. However, God is ready and willing to run more than halfway down the lane to meet us with open arms and tears to tell us how much He loves us.
One of the most memorable stories that comes to us from Luke is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. This parable is another story that has made its way into the fabric of American culture. Reading through the different characters in this story provides much food for thought in terms of how we interact with people. The obvious goal would be to be like-minded with the Samaritan who opened up his life and finances to someone that would have been an enemy (or maybe from the other side of town today). However, as we read through this story it captivates us differently each time we approach it as we think about the different roles that God has placed us into. We may be in the role of the priest or Levite that has too much on his mind to stop and help this poor man who has suffered at the hands of the robbers. We may also find ourselves in the place of the man laying on the ground that has suffered so greatly. It may be those moments when we believe that all we have to cling to is God’s grace and hope. Maybe we find ourselves in the role of the innkeeper who is performing the task that God gives to us. Being in the place where we can share the blessings God gives us as we take care of the people that come into our lives. I personally believe that this innkeeper is actually the role that many of us would regularly find ourselves in. We hopefully are not broken, bruised, and left for dead on a regular basis. We also have the compassion and heart to reach out to people that we encounter who are hurting. However, we may not be in a place where we can drop everything to change the course of life for a person so dramatically as the Good Samaritan. That is definitely in the realm of possibilities, but I think it is a great challenge for everyday life. But we all do have the roles and purposes we play in God’s divine story that happen daily where we show hospitality and grace to all we encounter and meet! What does it mean to be a Good Samaritan in 2017? I believe that is a great question to think about as we ponder the implications of the Reformation that we celebrate at 500 years. How has the faith God has given to us made an impact on us and then through us on our community and world? Where is God leading the way to reform for the next generation of Christians and leaders in the church?
Luke takes the approach of a doctor and historian as he crafted this book. He includes a number of stories that we didn’t get in the other Gospels. One of them has to do with a tax collector from the town of Jericho, whom Jesus decides to have dinner with despite the rebuke of the Pharisees for eating with such a sinner. This wee little man as the song goes, Zaccheus, then presents some of the purest truth in repentance that we see. He promises to do above and beyond any legal limit at the time for anyone he had wronged in the tax collection process. This process was the bane of the Jewish people’s lives as the tax collectors regularly pocketed quite a bit more than they were supposed to. This story illustrates the power of the Gospel and the healing that Jesus brought to Israel in much more than just their body and soul. Another story that is a personal favorite describes the journey Jesus takes with two friends after the resurrection on Easter Sunday on the road to Emmaus. Here Jesus has the ability to speak freely without being recognized until the end. Jesus is able to break bread and share from the bounty God had given him with these two friends who had been with him, but were trying to understand the myriad of events that had taken place in Jerusalem. I believe this is similar to the way that Jesus joins each of us on our journey of faith to continually encourage and uplift us.