These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!
Luke – Acts Background
I think it’s helpful to consider a little background behind Luke writing Luke and Acts.
If you flip to the end of Acts, you see that Paul was on trial for being rebellious to “good”, Jewish orderly piety. Luke was a companion of Paul’s (as you can see in the “we” passages in the book of Acts that start midway through the book, when Luke presumably joined Paul and his crew).
So we see that Luke wrote Luke-Acts:
- as a companion of Paul’s
- when Paul was being charged with disorderly conduct, yet to be fully tried
I think that background really helps to understand possibly why Luke-Acts is shaded the way it is at times.
One theme that emerges, in Luke is the orderliness and piety of people surrounding Jesus’ birth:
- Zechariah was a pious priest, punished for disobedience
- Mary and Luke were dutiful citizens to come at the time of the census
- They offered Jesus at the temple dutifully, in accordance with the law
- And they went back to their home dutifully, while still coming to Jerusalem to observe the feasts that brought people to Jerusalem
- Even Jesus, when he was lost at age 12, was actually in the temple amongst Jewish leaders, calling it his “father’s house”
Comparing with Matthew’s gospel we see Luke never mentions:
- Non-Jewish men (Eastern wise men) finding and worshipping Jesus and disregarding the king’s command
- Mary and Joseph’s defecting to Egypt
- The angel telling them to go to “Galilee of the Gentiles” (as opposed to the “upstanding” Jerusalem)
Hopefully that makes sense. Luke focuses on upstanding Jewish and dutiful citizen things that happened and Matthew focuses on Jesus’ mission extending beyond the Jews (and that He is a new king who is greater than the kings of the world). Matthew’s family line even emphasizes the non-Jewish parts of Jesus’ lineage, whereas Luke doesn’t.
But if you think about the circumstances of Luke’s writing (in part, to vindicate Jesus’ movement, and Paul’s dealings with it, against charges of insurrection), it may be helpful to view what and why he’s showing us things.
I’d say all of this is underneath God’s careful hand who oversaw every word. So it still communicates everything truthfully and is part of the revelation God wants the world to have concerning Jesus. But it’s fun to think about the human elements that went in, and then together we can hopefully parse out some of the power of this great gospel!
I haven’t read very far in Luke, but already noticed these phrases:
- “they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (1:6)
- “this man [Simeon] was righteous and devout” (2:25)
So you have these phrases about people being righteous and devout before Jesus even came. Of course, this isn’t true in an absolute sense, as later Jesus would say: “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19). But in a relative sense, they were diligent to do all of the rituals God commanded of them, as best as they knew how.
In part, I think this speaks to what I said above, about 1 of Luke’s themes being to show the “Jesus movement” was not made of a bunch of rebels, but upstanding citizens.
But I also think this speaks to something I’ve been pondering lately: what is the difference between unrighteous Pharisees (who Jesus staunchly rebukes — see Luke 18:9-14, for instance) and righteous disciples? It ultimately comes down to where you place your trust for your righteousness before God: in you or in Jesus? But externally, people fully trusting in Jesus and people fully trusting in self could look pretty similar honestly. That’s what I’m picking up in Luke. That you can be zealous to obey God’s law (a good thing) without falling into phariseeism of trusting/exalting/justifying self (a deplorable thing).
“She [Anna] did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37)
Observation I’ve heard elsewhere: Luke begins and ends inside the temple:
- Zechariah unbelieving while serving God in the temple (Luke 1)
- the disciples worshiping Jesus and believing while serving God in the temple (Luke 24:52-53)
Jesus Points to God
39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Love how Jesus points to God. Of course they are 1. But He gives an example as a human too, that we would keep pointing to Him.
Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
I LOVE this passage! Jesus says, “listen carefully” but the meaning was hidden from them. Only later did it make sense. Let us listen carefully and trust God to reveal later.
Being Jesus’ Disciple
Luke 9:57-62 seems a clear correlation with 1 Kings 19:19-21. I respect that Jesus demands more than Elijah did in the situation, though Elisha did make a clean break of his former life. But now One greater than Elijah is here: JESUS.
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
I think I laugh out loud every time I read this.
The lawyer thinks he’s laying it down a bit heavy. Then Jesus is like, “I’m just getting started. Glad you brought up the topic of lawyers” BOOM
Sometimes true love can feel REALLY offensive to those who are self-righteous.
Jesus and Sabbath
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
Another laugh out loud moment for me
“Stop healing on that day because God wouldn’t like it”. As if God wasn’t the One doing the healing that very day
Jesus and Social Justice
I’ve been really meditating on Luke 12:13-21. I think it has a lot to say to our current culture regarding what many call “social justice”. May we consider it together:
First, we have a man who is upset because his brother won’t share his inheritance with him. That’s all we know. But I think we may be able to fill in some details based on other Scriptures and thinking further on this. Namely:
his brother was probably the oldest, and therefore got a double portion of inheritance that is meant for the eldest son
this man thought it was unfair, so maybe found himself in some hard times–or maybe his brother was having lavish times he wasn’t having. In any case, he knows his brother got more than him, and he is protesting the injustice of this.
Jesus responds first by saying “Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (12:14). There is some irony here in the fact that Jesus will be the ultimate Judge for this man and his brother (which speaks to the rest of the passage). But, in essence, I think He’s saying here, “Your not having more money than someone else isn’t a concern of mine.” PAUSE there. Have we or others made income disparity a concern where Jesus hasn’t? CONTINUE…
Instead, Jesus looks into the man’s heart and sees a bigger concern than perceived injustice: coveting. He says to the man, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (12:15). In other words, “Be way more concerned about the state of your heart than the state of your bank account compared to someone else’s.”
Next, in 12:16-21, he furthers his point by showing that getting more wealth just for yourself will lead you to God’s judgment that you don’t want to receive. Thus the irony of his first statement of not being a judge. In essence, if your concern is with having more money just for yourself, and you want to take from your wealthier brother to do that, you’ve missed the whole point. God wants your soul to be fully given over to Him.
Thus this is really an indictment to more than just this man. It is also an indictment to his brother if his brother is gaining wealth only for self-serving purposes. The whole point is that making wealth (and even wealth inequalities) a big issue could be setting yourself up for a scary judgment to come. Get your soul right with God. If He gives you more wealth, use it for His glory. If someone else gets wealth, their soul will also be judged just as ours is judged. Keep eyes on God and the Final judgment to come, not money and temporary things of this life. (edited)