The Gospel of Luke: The Greek Gospel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, December 22, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” ~1 Corinthians 1:22-23

It is often said that belief in Jesus is simplistic, unreasonable, and, in some respects, judgmental. If you are one of these people, I highly recommend that you give the Gospel of Luke a fair reading because your biases against the Christian faith might dissolve before your very eyes.

The first thing to keep in mind is that its author, Luke, is a physician. In other words, he was an ancient man of science and a scholar. The other gospel accounts are based on recollection of some sort. Matthew was an eyewitness, Mark probably drew his account from Peter, and John was also an eyewitness. Luke, on the other hand, investigated the various gospel accounts and drew up an account of his own based on the words and writings of various eyewitnesses. If he had written his account today, citations would be scattered throughout its pages to give credit to the sources that were responsible for providing the information. It is one of the most scholarly writings of its day. Its opening words include the statement, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:3-4)

The Gospel of Luke has a very logical flow of events. It is suspected that although the other gospels may not have followed strict chronologies, Luke drew his account out in a very strict time line. This helps to connect ideas and to see the consistency of Jesus’ ministry from its beginning to its end. Just as Matthew’s gospel does, it begins with the story of Christmas. Once again, had this account been written today, it would have supplied us with the very first Christmas carols as it has three songs concerning Jesus’ birth, belonging to Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon.

The emphasis of the Christmas story inside of Luke is different from that of Matthew. Matthew focused on the predicament that a Jewish man would have to deal with in realizing that his wife was unlawfully pregnant before he was united with her. Luke focuses on the lowliness of Jesus’ birth through the emphasis of Israel’s disparity under Roman rule and the proclamation of the Gospel to the shepherds by word of the angels. Later on, in chapter four, Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll to declare the purpose of his ministry. He reads:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:14-15)

In chapter six, he preaches the beatitudes, except this time he does not only pronounce blessings but woes as well. This is clearly a warning against those who use their status as a means to oppress, exploit, or ignore the poor. A Greek would have resonated greatly with these teachings because a large number of the Greek population lived in bondage and poverty and was exploited by those in the Greek community who occupied high status.

Like the Gospel of Matthew, Luke does not only have teachings that appeal to the Greek mind, but he also points out their inconsistencies. According to popular Greek religious thought, only the rich and powerful would go to heaven because they were thought to be the children of the gods. Luke’s gospel points out the importance of all people and God’s love for even the lowliest. Half of the Gospel of Luke is devoted to Jesus’ journey to the cross. This is incredible as Luke’s gospel is actually the longest of all four gospels. (Random trivia: both of Luke’s writings, his gospel and Acts, comprise over half of the New Testament. In these two books he wrote more of the New Testament than both Paul and John!) Aside from other lessons that can be learned from Jesus’ journey to the cross, this gospel emphasizes a very important point to not just the Greeks, but the entire world.

In chapter three, Jesus’ chronology is given and it contains a different message than that of Matthew. Matthew’s gospel emphasized the lineage of Jesus through Joseph, which includes kings and such and only traces back to Abraham. It is a very Hebrew genealogy. Luke’s gospel, however, traces all the way back to Adam, the first man. Where Matthew’s gospel emphasizes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, Luke reveals to the world that Jesus is actually the Savior of all mankind. The Greeks knew they had to be children of God to go to heaven and now, through the Gospel message, they could be adopted into God’s family no matter how lowly they were.

Any Greek would have recognized the scholarly content and depth of Luke’s gospel. He appeals to their love of beauty through its opening songs, relates to the poor in Greek culture through his emphasis on the poor, and reveals that through Jesus their longing for deliverance could be fulfilled by being adopted into God’s family. This is a gift we can all be thankful for during this season. Merry Christmas!