Luke’s Gospel is a beautiful piece of writing. It reveals Jesus as the suffering servant king who comes to fulfil God’s promises. We, humanity, are revealed to be lost and far from God, oppressed by spiritual forces of evil and captive to our own sinfulness. Jesus comes to free us - to bring forgiveness. He comes to rescue us and bring us back to God. He achieves this rescue by his death on the cross. He the innocent one, the perfect one, is put to death so that the captive, guilty and wicked may be saved. 

Luke’s gospel is not a book of moral instructions. Luke is not trying to teach us moral standards that we should meet. We will be baffled and confused if we ask at the end of each event – what rule or law of God is being revealed here? Or, what must do? Rather, Luke’s goal is to show us who Jesus is, as the great saving King, in all his greatness and love so that we might come to him for salvation. In Jesus, we find the forgiveness needed to save us from our sin sickness. 

In this way we do find out what we ought to do. We ought come to Jesus with trust, love and obedience. The question we should keep asking is not ‘what should I do?’, but ‘what should I do about Jesus?’

So, as you read Luke the two most important questions you can ask are: 

1.    What do I learn about Jesus?

2.    How does God want me to respond to Jesus?

With these two questions you could leap into Luke’s Gospel. 

However, if you’d like a little more help to get more gold from Luke’s gospel, keep reading.

Getting more gold from Luke’s gospel

When reading a gospel, Luke or any other gospel, the two questions above will make a huge difference. 

It is also useful to think of the gospel as an unfolding journey. And so, the following framework will help us get more gold. 

1.    The start and end of the journey

2.    What is the reason for the journey? (Or what does Jesus think is going on?)

3.    Where are we in the journey?

4.    Characters we meet along the way

5.    Significant turning points

6.    Repeated themes

 

1.   The start and end of the journey

The start and end of the gospel give you the framework. There are ideas or themes are introduced in the first one or two chapters, setting up the journey and that reoccur in the final chapters as resolution. In Luke the themes of promise and fulfilment, reversal and raising up, and salvation and redemption for God’s people are at the start and end. These function as bookends telling you how to think about the whole gospel. It is the world changing story of God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus to rescue humanity. It is a story of redemption, sacrifice and rescue.

2.   The reason for the journey

Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus tells us why he has come. They are Jesus’ mission or purpose statements. Or using the journey metaphor these are the reason(s) Jesus came and made the choices that he did.

In Luke these are 

Luke 4:16-18

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (v16) Jesus from the prophet Isaiah identifies himself as the suffering servant come to bring freedom, fulfilling the Old Testament. It’s worth taking the time to read these couple of verses in full. They will be fulfilled in extraordinary ways.

Luke 5:31-52 

Jesus responds below to the religious leaders.

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 9: 21-22

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

See also Luke13: 32-33, Luke 17:24-25

Jesus’ understanding is that he has come to save and rescue sinners. He has come to bring freedom and salvation. He has come to end captivity. And, that his death is essential to this great task. So essential is Jesus’ death that the ideas in Luke 9 above are repeated explicitly two more times and they are shown, hinted at or alluded to in other ways.

3.   Where are we in the journey?

As above, we are on a journey. Is it early on in the journey when the purpose of the journey is being revealed? Or, has some turning point occurred that impacts the journey?

Another way to think about this is like a plot unfolding in a book or movie. When reading a book or a movie we almost instinctively follow the plot. Often because we watch or read in big slabs. But unfortunately, we often read the Bible differently, in bits and pieces. Furthermore, the text itself is interrupted by chapter headings, numbers, verses and other breaks. But none of these were in the original text. The text really ought to be read as one flowing story in which each event connects and links in someway with what has gone before.

So, try to read Luke as a plot unfolding. Ask yourself questions like:

·      Where are we in the plot? Is it early on when Jesus’ identity is being established? Is it later as Jesus heads to Jerusalem? 

·      How does this event contribute to the plot moving toward a resolution?

·      How does this event add to our understanding of Jesus?

·      And is there as connection with the events just before and after this event? (is there a subplot unfolding?) 

4.   Characters we meet along the way

Through Luke, every person is in need but not everyone realises it. We see them as they come to Jesus, some in need and some for other reasons. Luke, the author, wants us to identify with some characters and be surprised or shocked by others. 

In Luke there are four groups of characters

·      Faithful Jews looking forward to the promises of God being fulfilled 

·      Those in desperate need

·      Those who are opposed to Jesus

·      Those who follow Jesus

Here are four main questions you can use to dig deep into a character. 

·      Who are they? 

·      What is their need?

·      How are they reacting to Jesus? 

·      How does Jesus respond to them? 

5.   Significant Turning Points

In Luke’s gospel, as in all the other gospels, there is one vital turning point. It is so vital it is the hinge of the whole story. In Luke’s gospel it is when the identity of Jesus is understood by the disciples. It is below in just a few short sentences.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Luke 9:18-20

Straight after this, Jesus tells his disciples that as God’s messiah he must suffer, be rejected, killed and raised to life again. The disciples now understand Jesus identity, but the plan of Jesus, Jesus giving up his life to rescue them, will leave them confused and bewildered until the final chapter.

6.   Repeated ideas or themes

Keep an eye out for repitition. It means the writer is trying to reinforce an idea in your mind. He is driving at an idea and trying to get you to understand it. Luke does this across his whole gospel but he also does it within particular events and conversations between characters. Noticing repeated themes, words or ideas will repay a rich reward.

Across the whole gospel, look for forgive or forgiveness. It is used around 20 times in just 24 chapters. 

Putting it all together

I know that seems like a lot to think about and it is! This is what makes reading Luke such a wonderfully rich and life changing experience. A wonderful experience in which you are aiming to answer just two questions:

1.    What do I learn about Jesus?

2.    How does God want me to respond to Jesus?

I pray that as you explore Jesus in Luke’s gospel you’ll see the wonder and radical saving love of Jesus, the suffering servant king. 

Luke’s Gospel outline

Below is an outline Luke’s Gospel by chapters. 

Luke 1:1-4

Luke tells us this is his careful written account written after he interviewed the eyewitnesses and those who taught these great these words.

Luke 1-3

These chapters tell the events of Jesus birth. The themes key themes introduced are

Reversal Promise Fulfilment. Redemption of Israel (the ancient Jews). Light to all nations  Salvation

These themes set the agenda of Luke’s gospel and so the events that follow show Jesus achieving these things

Luke 4

Jesus enters into a spiritual battle with Satan. He wins by his nowledge of and obedience to the word of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus declares his agenda and his mission as the suffering servant. He is the suffering servant who will bring freedom. Israel will be redeemed.

Luke 5-8

Jesus fulfils 4:16-18 in his actions. He shows the fulfilment is greater than anyone expected. The freedom Jesus brings is from sin, spiritual evil and captivity.

Luke 9:18-20

The hinge of the book is Luke 9:18-20. 

The disciples grasp that Jesus is God’s messiah (or Christ) come as the mighty saving King to rescue the nation of Israel. 

Luke 9-19

Jesus heads toward Jerusalem. His is going to his death. 3 times he explains. As Jesus heads to Jerusalem, Luke reveals more about who Jesus is and why he has come but also what is means to be his disciple. 

Luke 20-22

Jesus’ innocence is established. Despite this he is rejected by the leaders of the Jews – the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law. God’s word is being fulfilled and the innocent one, the righteous one, the just one will be killed.

Luke 23

Jesus dies as the suffering servant. He dies as the innocent one so that the guilty and wicked can go free. It is a great exchange. 

Luke 24

Jesus is resurrected. He is risen! And Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples that everything that happened is according to the Old Testament and that the Old Testament is ultimately about him. And since Jesus has risen - everything has changed.

Luke’s gospel is deep and rich. It will reward you as a reader with more than you can possibly image as you discover and grow in your understanding of Jesus. Through Luke you will meet Jesus in the pages of the Bible. He is more wonderful than we can imagine. He is more precious than gold.