Luke in all likelihood was a Gentile. He worked and traveled much with Paul who referred to him as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4;14). According to Roehrs Franzmann (Concordia Self-Study Commentary, NT, pp. 55-58) stylistically Luke is the most literary of the Gospels. As we read we will see that, and we also see that what really sets this Gospel apart is the material peculiar to Luke that is not found in the other two synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke are called ‘synoptic’ because they basically see the life and work of Jesus “with an eye”, that is - reporting mostly the same or similar material concerning the acts and statements of Jesus and events in his life). The material particular to Luke’s Gospel speaks of:
- The absoluteness and fullness of forgiveness that is in Christ
- Jesus as the seeker of the lost
- Jesus as one who deals with and welcomes the outcast or fringe members of society – women, ‘sinners’, Samaritans, shepherds, Gentiles (non-Jews), etc.
- Jesus as being universal in grace and salvation - “bring salvation to the ends of the earth”(Acts 13:47).
- The contrast between mammon (possessions, money) and what constitutes the kingdom of God – man’s obsession with having and getting versus the totally free salvation that God bestows on us by grace.
- The contrast between human elitism and God’s openness to all.
- The work of the Holy Spirit.
- (In Luke and in “Part 2” – the book of Acts) The movement of the Gospel from Israel to other nations (See Paul’s statements about this in Acts 13:42-52, 22:12-22. See also his loving concern for his people in Romans 9:30-11:36)
- Related to point 8 is the fact that “Luke stresses that Christianity is not a new religion, but rather the fulfillment and present-day expression of the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (ESV Study Bible, p. 1936. Interestingly, 1500 years later the Reformers would argue the same thing - that contrary to opponents’ claims, “Lutheranism” was not a rejection of the teachings of Scripture or of the early Church, but rather it was a return and holding to them as we see in The Augsburg Confession and The Formula of Concord).
Keep these thoughts in mind and note in the coming weeks how often they reoccur.
Devotional Hints: Daily ask the Spirit to open your heart and guide your reading. Also, read the passages out loud. When we hear the passage, at times, details will come out we have missed or not thought of before.
A Word of Caution – Some of these readings are so familiar that we tend not to read them carefully – We think, “We know what will be said by heart, so why spend time on a careful read of it? Let’s skip ahead.” But let’s not do that. Instead, let’s take time, quiet time, and with prayer and deliberation read once again the wonder of what Luke reports.
Please read Luke 1:1-4 (see also Acts 1:1-5) - What Luke wrote is well researched, based on eye witness accounts. The hearers in his day would have had no problem verifying the facts. Note and rejoice in how Luke uses the inclusive word ‘us’ in this reading. That small word is a reassurance to the readers of his day and us today that Jesus and the message of the Gospel are also meant for us. Rejoice and find comfort also in the ‘certainty’ of what we have been taught. Thought question: How am I personally doing when it comes to sharing with others what I know and have been taught so that in Christ they too may be one with ‘us’? How am I doing with my prayers and offerings so that same message may be shared with others around the world?
Father, thank you for thinking of ‘us’, saving ‘us’ and bringing ‘us’ into your kingdom. May we bear that in mind as we share your world with others that they too, by grace, in Christ, may be one with ‘us’. Amen
Please read Luke 1:5-25 We might be surprised at Zechariah’s response to the angel and his message. But consider – you’re all alone, going about the normal tasks of the day - baking a cake, changing the oil on your car, doing taxes late on the morning of April 15, nursing your baby in the wee-hours – and an angel appears at your right side with a fantastic message! How would you respond? Thought question – what made Zechariah’s request of the angel different from Mary’s in Luke 1:34 (see v. 20 and Mat. 12:39a)? Also consider– How did you respond as you read this reading - was there joy, wonder, peace, gratitude to hear the promises of old were about to be fulfilled? Or was your response “Ho-hum. It’s the same old story”? Maybe our present-day response to the angel’s message needs as much rebuke as Zechariah’s response elicited!
Spirit, let “the old, old story of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love” ever move our hearts and change our lives. Amen.
Please read Luke 1:26-38 Another pregnancy is announced! THE PREGNANCY is announced! Wonder at what various characteristics that mark the fact that the Child to be born is no ordinary child (vv. 31-33, 35, 36). Note how the angel graciously gives to Mary the sign she did not ask for (in contrast to Zechariah). What kinds of comfort can we derive from the fact that “Nothing will be impossible with God”? Note also the simple, humble obedient faith Mary expressed. While God may not asking us to do wondrous things in our day to day life, as he asked Mary to do in hers – yet he is asking us to hear and believe his Word, promises and commands to us – such ‘simple’ things as “love your neighbor as yourself”, “I am with you always,” “fear not.”. How are you doing at those ‘simple’ things?
Lord, give us such a childlike faith that we too marvel at the wonder of the God/Man Jesus Christ. And in that faith may we humbly serve you as Mary did. Amen.
Please read Luke 1:39-45 Not to be taken lightly here is Elizabeth’s response to Mary’s visit. How often are our conversations with fellow believers salted with such “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5)? That is what “Christian fellowship” is about.
Lord of our mouths, let them ever be filled with praises to and of you. Let them be mouths that bring blessings to others. Amen
Please read Luke 1:45-56 Let’s read carefully Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s song of praise. Her song is based on and a response to well-known and loved psalms and other biblical promises and truths. It is a reminder that our Bible reading is to be done with marking and inwardly digesting in our souls what we have read. Again - How often are our conversations salted with such “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, giving thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5)? You see, that is what “Christian fellowship” is about.
Lord, forgive us for salting our conversations with complaints, grousing, fault-finding, curses, gossip, and dwelling on the trivial. Lord, open our mouths that they, with Mary’s, may speak your praise. Amen.
Please read Luke 1:57-66 The one who would go before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah (see 1:17, and 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 2) is born and named as foretold. Interesting to note that this birth was spoken of all around the hill country of Judea, as was Jesus’ birth several months later (2:18). So why then, when the Magi came (Mat. 2), did Herod have to ask when the king of the Jews had been born? Is it possible that the high and mighty sophisticates of Jerusalem, were too high and mighty and so involved in the important intrigues of the day to take note of ‘lesser’ events in the less ‘with it’ areas of Judah and thus missed the birth of the High and Mighty? If that is the case, what warning is there for us moderns and sophisticates busy about the ‘important’ in our day?
Humble us, O God, so we hear your still small voice, then, so filled, may we speak of what is truly important. Amen.
Please read Luke 1:67-80 Note all the ‘singing’ in this book’s opening chapter. Read Zechariah’s song carefully noting how much of it, as Mary’s song was, is based on a rich heartfelt knowledge and understanding of the Psalms, Old Testament history and God’s Old Testament promises. Then, based on your love and knowledge of God’s Word, join Zechariah to sing praises of your Savior sent to save us.
Lord God, King of the universe, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by your Spirit give me such a love and knowledge of your Word and your Son that I, as Zechariah and all other men and women of faith have done over the centuries, may likewise ever sing of you. Amen.
Please read Luke 2:1-7 In verses 1-7 Luke records and documents carefully that Jesus’ birth took place in the setting of verifiable details, dates, events and persons. This is not a “once upon a time” fairytale event. Thank God that the people, places, dates, times are real – as is the Child, the Savior, who was born of Mary.
“Swaddling clothes” (v. 7) are nothing new – they have been used for thousands of years by various cultures to tightly wrap babies after birth and for the early period of a baby’s life. Such swaddling is still used today as babycenter.com reports:
Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket for warmth and security. It can keep him from being disturbed by his own startle reflex, and it may even help him stay warm and toasty for the first few days of life until his internal thermostat kicks in. Most importantly, it can help to calm your baby.
Nowadays, you probably won't leave the hospital without a little lesson in this technique. Try it, after you've made sure your baby isn't hungry, wet, or tired. It can be used to help settle your baby down when he's over-stimulated or when he just needs to feel something close to the tightness and security of the womb.
So why would the Spirit move Luke to report this ‘homey’ detail about swaddling clothes for us? Why is that detail significant to salvation history? Answer: The Jesus I/we worship is true God and He is a true human being, born of Mary, treated and cared for as any ordinary child would be. He does know my life down to the minutest detail. He has gone through and endured all things just as I have to, but was without sin (Heb. 2:14ff.). He even knows what it is like to have nothing, so much so that he was laid in a manger.
Thank you, Lord God, for a Redeemer who saved and knows us! Move us to come near to him in every need to find mercy, grace and help. Amen.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” Find a quiet corner and moment, then please read Luke 2:8-21. Visualize the scenes, try to grasp the emotions the shepherds felt. What must it have been like for them, going about the same old business, to have had their quiet routine shattered? How would you respond to an angel’s sudden glorious holy appearance? (Fear, doubt, trembling, babbling, excitement, wonder, joy.) Jesus was born subject to the Law that he might redeem us who are under Law (Gal. 4:3-5). His being subject to the Law is noted in his being circumcised (verse 21). Concerning this verse Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) said:
Great and marvelous mystery! The Child is circumcised and is called Jesus. What connection is there between these two things. . . But in this you may recognize him who comes to be mediator between God and man. . . . The circumcision is proof of the true humanity he has assumed, while the name given to him reveals . . . his majesty. He is circumcised as a true son of Abraham, he is called Jesus as a true Son of God. Oeuvres de St. Bernard, p. 76, as quoted by Leo Steinberg.
Sit back, ponder, marvel and wonder at the profoundness of that.
Lord, by your Spirit move us so we too join the shepherds and go, see, wonder, tell and praise you for all we have seen and heard! Thank you for such a Redeemer! Amen.
Please read Luke 2:22-38 The wonder of the Child does not cease. Forty days after his birth, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple according to the Law (Exo. 13, Lev. 12) so the Law might be fulfilled. While the same purification rite had taken place time and again over the course of Israel’s history – this time something, Someone, is far, far different. Concerning Simeon’s remarks, Alistair Begg has stated that no one has ever said or heard such things spoken of a newborn. Normally we talk/hear about his cute nose, “She has your eyes”, “What a head of hair!” etc. Why did Simeon say these things about Jesus? (Because Jesus is no ordinary child. He is the God/Man, the Messiah, the Savior, whose coming God promised for long ages.)
Lord, open our mouths that we too with Simeon and Anna may worship you and declare before all your praises. Amen.
Please read Luke 2:39-40 Such ordinary details – “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” It’s just a boy’s life going on as normal. Nothing earth shaking here. Or is there? Go back, re-read verse 2:21 then consider it along with this passage. In this Child the fullness of God dwells in bodily form (Col. 1:15ff.) – but how can a baby, then boy, then adult man contain the fullness of deity when the universe can’t? How is it possible that this Child grew and changed as any other ordinary human, when one of his natures, by definition, is all wise, powerful, present, never changing? How is it possible for Peter to say of him years later “you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15), when God can’t die? Human reason cannot comprehend these truths. Never-the-less the marvel of the two natures of Christ (God and Man in one person) and how they interact are wonders well worth our pondering – Martin Chemnitz did that for 495 pages in his The Two Natures of Christ. That theology is astounding and mind-boggling – but even more so when we consider that all this was and is for “us and our salvation.” Father, in love for us and desiring our salvation, you have revealed amazing truths about your Son. Let us read, ponder, and be humbled by mysteries beyond our comprehension. In amazement let us then bow down and worship you and the Redeemer you sent to save us. Amen.
Please read Luke 2:41-52 What are several things in this account that are extraordinary? (Consider a twelve-year-old 1. enjoying being in the temple and conversing with older men about God and scripture; 2. understanding about the necessity of his being “in my Father’s house [or, “about my Father’s business”] and then obediently doing that; and 3. being “submissive to” his parents. 4. Then there is, again, our hearing how this God/Man grew in stature, wisdom and favor. Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see the wonder of who you are. Moved by that and your saving work, may we humble ourselves to live such lives that they honor you alone. Amen.