Luke 1: Here’s what Happened
Luke writes to Theophilus with the intent of making sure he knew exactly what happened concerning Jesus. He investigated carefully and checked eyewitnesses. He wanted readers to know with certainty. Luke starts with the birth of John the immerser. His father, Zechariah, was a priest doing his service when told by an angel that he would have a son. Though he and his wife Elizabeth were old (like Abraham and Sarah), God would provide a son who would be the forerunner to the messiah. Luke then tells of Gabriel’s appearance to Mary to tell her that she, too, would have a son even though she had not known a man. He would be named Jesus and He would sit on David’s throne. Mary was also told about Elizabeth, so she went to visit her. Luke then records a great song of praise from Mary as she recognized this as a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. This is followed by John’s birth and a praise hymn from Zechariah his father. The chapter is rich with fulfillment and expectation. We are blessed to see how God’s plan was working out.
Luke 2: A Grand Birth
The birth of Jesus is recorded. Events brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem where Mary gave birth to Jesus. Angels told shepherds in a nearby field about this, and they went to town to find Jesus. They glorified and praised God for what they saw and heard. Jesus was then presented at the temple where a righteous and devout man named Simeon had been waiting for this day. He recognized Jesus as the One who is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Also there was a prophetess named Anna, who gave thanks to God and spoke of Jesus “to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” They returned to Nazareth where Jesus would grow up. However, they did come back to the temple at appointed times, and Luke records the occasion of coming to the temple when Jesus was twelve. He impressed those who heard Him, and even His parents, who thought they lost Him, needed to learn this great lesson: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” This would identify Jesus’ mission from this point on.
Luke 3: A Voice in the Wilderness
Luke identifies the time-frame in which John the immerser begins his ministry. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s “voice crying in the wilderness,” the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Crowds would come to him to be baptized, and he would warn them of judgment, tell them to repent, and point the path to Jesus and His kingdom. John clearly saw his place in God’s plan and would not try to take any glory for himself. Yet even Jesus came to be baptized by John, and this identified for John with certainty who Jesus was as the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord. Luke then tells the readers of the genealogy of Jesus (perhaps that of Mary) to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the seed promise that goes back to Adam, through Abraham, then David. God’s plan was finally coming to fruition, and we are blessed to see how it happened.
Luke 4: Temptations
Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He faces particular temptations from the devil. He is tempted to misuse His power for His own desires, to take short cuts to God’s plans, and to test the Father through recklessness. Jesus stayed firm, unwavering, committed to what He knew needed to be done. He referred to Scripture, demonstrating His view that God’s word is authoritative and practical. The devil was unable to break through, so he left Jesus for more opportune times; he would never win. Now Jesus begins His public ministry. He goes to Nazareth, His home town, enters a synagogue and is given Scripture to read. He opened to Isaiah 61 and read, then stated that the Scripture is fulfilled in their hearing. Jesus did not meet their expectations and many became angry at Him, even trying to take Him to a hill top to throw down. Yet Jesus continued, healing, performing miracles, and preaching “the good news of the kingdom of God.” It was for this purpose He came into the world. Thank God He fulfilled HIs purpose!
Luke 5: Fishers of Men
Upon seeing two boats on the lake, Jesus told the fishermen to put out their nets for a catch. Simon Peter told Jesus that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” Their catch was so heavy that the boat began to sink, and Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Jesus told them, “from now on you will be catching men.” They then followed Jesus. Luke shows Jesus healing a leper (indicating His power to cleanse), healing a paralyzed man (here showing His authority to forgive), and calling Levi, who made a feast for Jesus. When Pharisees complained that Jesus ate with sinners, He responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Only those who see their need will come to Jesus. Jesus is then approached with a question about why His disciples were fasting. There was no need to fast since Jesus was with them. The point made shows the stubbornness of those who refused to hear Jesus (the new wine) in favor of their old ways.
Luke 6: The Sabbath Connection
Much of what Jesus did, including His miracles, were connected to the Sabbath. Luke records Jesus’ disciples plucking some grain on the Sabbath, so the Pharisees asked about it. Yet they had accepted David eating showbread, and Jesus called out their hypocrisy. The bottom line, however, is that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand. This was demonstrate that the purpose of the Sabbath included doing good and saving life. Many were filled with fury at Jesus. Luke then lists the disciples (apostles), followed by His work and teachings among the multitudes. Luke’s account of the sermon on the mount is recorded here, which includes the beatitudes, woes, love, judging others, the need to bear good fruit, and the need to build on the solid rock. Are we hearing and doing what the Lord teaches?
Luke 7: Great Faith
Jesus went to Capernaum (like his second home) where a centurion sent some of the Jews to ask Jesus for help. They did so. This Gentile showed great faith, and Jesus healed his servant. Then He went to Nain where a widow had just lost her son. In His compassion, he told her not to weep, then he raised the young man up. Fear seized the people, and they knew Jesus was a “great prophet” and that God had visited His people. Next, two of John’s disciples came from John to see Jesus, asking if He were the expected One or if they should look for another. Jesus had just been healing people, so he told them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard…” Jesus took the occasion to speak to the crowds about their expectations concerning John. The chapter ends with Jesus at a feast. A woman known to be a sinner brought a flask of ointment. She wept as she put the ointment on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. Some there could not understand why Jesus would let a “sinner” do this. Jesus said she is forgiven and she was showing much appreciation because she was forgiven much: “But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” This again hits at the heart of what people think of themselves in relation to Jesus. We need Him. Will we show our appreciation?
Luke 8: The Good News of the Kingdom
While the twelve apostles followed Jesus as He was “bringing the good news of the kingdom of God,” so did a number of women who are named here. They would help take care of the needs of the group, and it is clear that Jesus appreciated them. The chapter then enters into a series of parables followed by miracles. Jesus tells the parable of the sower, gives the purpose of speaking in parables, then tells the parable of the lamp under the jar. As Jesus taught, his family tried to gain access to Him, but he used that as a teaching moment: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Jesus then calms the storm on the sea, heals a demon-possessed man, heals a woman with a long time illness, and heals the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue official. Jesus’ identity is being shown through both what he says and does, his teachings and His miracles. Today, we ought to be impressed with who He is and pay attention to what He wants from us.
Luke 9: Ready to Suffer
Jesus sent out the twelve giving them “authority over all demons and to cure diseases” with the purpose of proclaiming the kingdom of God and to heal. They were given instructions about it then sent out “preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” Herod had heard about Jesus and wondered if He was possibly John the immerser back from the dead (he had beheaded John, so he was perplexed). Jesus continued in his miracles and teachings. Here Luke presents his account of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus asked his disciples who men thought he was, and Peter confessed that He is the Christ. Jesus then told His disciples that he had to suffer, be killed, and rise again. He also told His disciples they needed to be ready to give their lives as well. This is followed by Luke’s account of the transfiguration, healing a boy with an unclean spirit, then dealing with an argument among his disciples about who was greatest in the kingdom (answer: the child is!). Jesus encountered a Samaritan village that rejected Him, then He laid out the importance of being committed without looking back. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 10: Plentiful Harvest, Few Workers
Jesus appointed seventy-two to be sent out, telling them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He wanted workers in the field. They were told to heal the sick and tell the people, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” He pronounced woes against those who rejected the message, for “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy-two returned, saying that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus said that the real cause for joy is “that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus rejoiced over the work being done and that His disciples could understand the message that even the prophets wanted to see. Next, a lawyer came to Jesus asking what the greatest commandments are. Jesus asked him how he read it, and the lawyer appropriately responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said that was correct: “do this and you will live.” Here the lawyer, wishing to justify himself, asked, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer was to tell the parable of the good Samaritan, showing that whoever was in need was a neighbor. The chapter closes with Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, choosing that good part.
Luke 11: Prayer and Signs
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he responded with what is often termed “the Lord’s prayer.” Jesus then taught the importance of persistence in prayer. Later as he was casting out a demon, he was accused by some of casting them out by Beelzebul (the devil). Jesus knew their thoughts and told them that a house divided against itself cannot stand (i.e., the argument they made is ridiculous). “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The kingdom was there with Jesus and they were denying the obvious. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Later, as some sought for signs, Jesus told the people that the sign He would give is that of Jonah the prophet (i.e., resurrection followed by Gentile conversions). Jesus then taught them to be careful, for “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” He then pronounced a series of woes against the Pharisees and lawyers (experts in the Torah). At this point, many of them “began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”
Luke 12: Beware
Many were gathering to see Jesus, so he wanted them, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The Pharisees were more concerned with outward ritual than with inward holiness. But people should not fear them. They should rather fear God, who can number the hairs on one’s head and who places real value on His creation. Further, they should never be afraid to identify with Jesus and trust Him in difficulties. To illustrate the need to trust God (and not be anxious), Jesus gave the parable of the rich fool who thought to build himself bigger barns for his stuff. It is foolish to be rich in this life but not rich toward God. He then taught them directly not to be anxious, but to seek God’s kingdom and the necessities of life would be added to them. And they ought always to be stand ready, for the Lord could come at any time they would not expect (this includes disciples). The serious nature of being disciples is discussed; it is more important to stay loyal to Jesus over any other relationship. He is teaching them to pay attention, to be careful, and to make sure they are always ready to give an accounting.
Luke 13: Repent
Repentance is a significant teaching in the gospel accounts. Jesus told the people that they needed to repent or they, too, would ultimately face judgment. He tells the parable of the fig tree that failed to produce and needed to be cut down. When Jesus healed a woman to came to Him, Jesus was rebuked by a ruler of the synagogue because He did this on a Sabbath. Jesus showed the hypocrisy of those who would help an animal but would refuse to allow the woman to be healed. He then compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed and leaven to show the nature of the kingdom’s expanding influence. Even so, the door was narrow and people needed to hear Jesus to enter. The chapter ends with Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem because they were not willing to come under His wings. The lessons here have in common our need to hear, repent, and submit to our Lord.
Luke 14: Healings and Parables
Jesus continues healing on the Sabbath even while being watched closely by the Pharisees. He likened healing with their pulling an ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath, and they had no reply to that analogy. Jesus then continues telling parables. The parable of the wedding feast exposed the pride of those who wanted the honor for themselves. The parable of the great banquet showed how willing God was to bring those into His kingdom that were no thought of so highly in society, with the irony that those who thought themselves so worthy would not be able to finally participate. Jesus then spoke of the cost of discipleship. To come to Him, one must choose Him over all else, including family. One must bear the cross and make sure they are willing to finish what they begin. A disciple who loses the ability to be the salt he is called to be would become worthless. These all serve as warnings to Christians today about the need to remain humble and stay committed to the Lord.
Luke 15: Lost and Found
Three well-known parables are found here: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coins, and the lost sons. These parables are told against the backdrop of the opening verses: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” The parable of sheep shows how important even the one sheep is. The coins demonstrates the willingness to search long and hard for what is lost. The sons goes even a step further. While the prodigal is often considered for the great lessons of how great the Father’s love is for his children, the older son is ultimately the issue because he represents those Pharisees who were unwilling to mingle at all with “sinners.” He, too, is lost. The attitude of the older son is a warning to all of us who are tempted to look down on others. All the parables show the depth of desire God has to save His children. How we receive these teachings is an indicator as to whether our attitude is like that of the prodigal or that of the older son.
Luke 16: Treasures and Reward
Jesus’ next parable is that of the dishonest steward who actually dealt shrewdly with those who owed money to his master. Though dishonest, he showed more prudence in his dealings than many do spiritually. Jesus says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” The Pharisees loved money, so they ridiculed Jesus for this. Jesus replied, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Perhaps Jesus’ point about marriage in this chapter serves to illustrate the point that they were willing to hurt others for their own gain. Jesus’ teachings on this include the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Whereas the rich man refused to help the poor and suffered for it after death, Lazarus was the one who was subsequently rewarded. These are great lessons today when we are tempted to put earthly treasures above God.
Luke 17: Increase our Faith
“Increase our faith” seems to be a continual theme in Luke. On this occasion, Jesus told His disciples how they needed to be forgiving toward those who did wrong to them. Upon hearing this difficult teaching, they asked Jesus to increase their faith. Even a little faith can grow and move mountains. Yet faith begins in humility, recognizing that we are unworthy servants only doing what we are expected to do. Luke then records how ten lepers were healed by Jesus, yet only one returned to thank Him. The thankful faith of the leper teaches a great lesson about appreciating what Jesus does. Next, the disciples asked Jesus about when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus told them that the kingdom was essentially in their midst (perhaps a reference even to Himself among them). Though many would look for signs (and such signs were visible with the destruction of Jerusalem), the rule of God is manifested in many ways. Even today, we show forth the rule of God in our lives when we submit ourselves to His will.
Luke 18: Humility and Persistence
Jesus told a parable “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” The parable involved one who persistently went to an unrighteous judge who finally answered. The point is that if even the unrighteous respond to persistence, how much more is God willing to hear and answer! Then He told the parable that compared a Pharisee and a tax collector as they prayed. The Pharisee was self-righteous while the tax-collector was humble, and Jesus said it is the one who is humble who is justified. The importance of humility and trust is also indicated by how Jesus received children. In contrast, the rich young ruler was unwilling to trust, unwilling to part with his stuff to follow Jesus. At this point, Jesus told His disciples that they were going to Jerusalem where He would suffer and die. They still did not understand. On their way, near Jericho, Jesus healed a blind man who showed his trust in Jesus. This led to people glorifying God. Jesus taught in parables and through His healings, all of which pointed to the nature of the gospel. Praise God that He is willing to heal us all!
Luke 19: Salvation and Judgment
At Jericho, Jesus met Zaccheus, a tax-collector, who was willing to repent and repay any he had cheated. Jesus told him, “Today salvation has come to this house…” Jesus then told the parable of ten minas (money), in which a master gave his servants different amounts. Two of the servants doubled what they were given, while one buried the money and fail to produce anything. Jesus called this one a wicked servant, showing how important it is to be responsible with the Lord has given. Finally, Jesus came to Jerusalem where he entered on a donkey as a proclamation of His kingship. Even so, Jesus would weep over Jerusalem because of the people who not receive Him. He desired to save, but their rejection would mean judgment. As a sign of that judgment, Jesus entered the temple grounds and overturned tables of money-changers who had distorted and pervereted the purposes for which the temple had been made. The lessons are still the same: we need to honor Jesus for who He is!
Luke 20: Challengers
At Jerusalem, Jesus faced a number of challengers. Chief priest, scribes and elders came to Jesus challenging His authority to do what He was doing, yet they were unwilling to answer a question about the authority of John the Immerser. These leaders of the people were like wicked tenants who would not respect the heir of the land, and they would be judged for it. Others came to Jesus challenging Him on whether or not they should pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus taught, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God’s.” (It’s most important to render to God ourselves because we are made in His image.) The Sadducees tested Jesus on the question of the resurrection, and Jesus demonstrated that they were wrong about their understanding about that issue and God’s power. Then Jesus asked them how they could call the Messiah David’s son? They were unable to answer. Jesus followed this up by telling the people to beware of the scribes who loved honor but were hypocritical. All of this was leading to the final arrest and crucifixion.
Luke 21: Warnings
Jesus now points to the temple and Jerusalem to warn of the impending judgment (which would finally culminate in its destruction in A.D. 70). He pointed out a widow who gave all she had in contrast to the rich who gave only out of their abundance. He prophesied about the destruction of the temple and the city. He warns of the wars that would accompany these things. He also warns the individuals: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” They needed to stay alert and watch. People were hearing and learning, but this popularity would not last long. The plot to kill Jesus would soon commence.
Luke 22: Who is the Greatest?
Pride often rears its ugly head, and the disciples of Jesus had to deal with it just as we do. They fought among each other as to who was the greatest in the kingdom (Luke 22:24-30). In doing this, they failed to grasp the significance of Jesus coming from heaven to serve. God’s people are not to be fighting over who is the greatest. Rather, they are to be concerned with serving one another. Jesus said to let the leader be the one who serves. This goes right along with so many other passages: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Jas 4:10).
Luke 23: Father, Forgive Them
One of the most amazing things Jesus said was while He was suffering on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus showed love even to those who made themselves His enemies. His attitude of love and forgiveness manifested itself through the pain and suffering He endured at their hands. The very fact that He allowed them to take Him to the cross evidences His love in ways that is beyond what we can fathom. How great is God’s love for us, that He is willing to forgive us even at our worst. How much gratitude ought we to showing Him today?
Luke 24: Was it not necessary?
After Jesus rose from the dead, He began to make appearances to various people. On one occasion He appeared to a couple on the road to Emmaus and spoke with them about the events that had transpired. As they struggled to understand and believe, Jesus said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26) Notice the phrase, “Was it not necessary…?” God had a plan, and that planned worked exactly as He desired. This plan has resulted in our ability to have the hope of eternal life! We need to trust that God knew exactly what He was doing.