The book of Luke, named after its author, is one of the four Gospels, biographies that focus on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There are many parallel passages in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Luke was a medical doctor and the only non-Jewish writer in the New Testament. As such, his words are that of an outsider and may more readily connect with those on the outside, looking in.
The book of Luke contains details and information not included by Matthew, Mark, and John (the other three biographies of Jesus) serving to nicely round out and fill in our understanding of Jesus.
A favorite Gospel among many Christians, Luke writes with straight-forward, yet compelling language. He also includes the familiar and oft-read Christmas account of the birth of Jesus, in chapter 2.
The book of Luke is actually part one of a two-book combination. Acts, also written by Luke, is part two, picking up the story with the early church.
Both Luke and Acts are written to Theophilus who may have commissioned the work.
There are many parallel passages in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not too many with the Gospel of John.
The apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia about being “crucified with Christ.” In his letter to the church in Corinth, he states, “You are in Christ.”
That is a hard concept for me to grasp, yet, the phrase “in Christ” occurs some 90 times in the Bible. It appears in about half of the New Testament books, from Acts to 1 Peter, encompassing the writings of Luke, Paul, and Peter.
What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ” and to be “in Christ?”
Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand, offers a most helpful illustration. He says, “If I put a dollar bill between the pages of a magazine, and then burn the magazine, where is the dollar bill?”
It is turned to ashes, along with the magazine. What happens to the magazine also happens to the dollar. “Their history has become one.”
“Just as effectively,” he continues, “God has put us in Christ. What happened to him happened also to us. All the experiences he met, we too have met in him.”
“Our history,” he concludes, was “written in Christ before we were born.” We were crucified with him.
Luke was another companion of Paul. He wrote the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Despite having penned two major books in the Bible — comprising about 25% of the content in New Testament — Luke is only mentioned three times in the Bible, so we don’t know too much about him.
First, we learn that he is a “dear friend” of Paul’s and a doctor. He is also esteemed by Paul as a “fellow worker.” Third, in one of his darker hours, Paul laments that “only Luke is with me.” As such, we see Luke as faithful and persevering.
We also know that Luke was a participant-observer in many of the events he recorded in the book of Acts. We see this through his first person narratives and the use of the pronoun “we.”
Although Luke was not a leader or an apostle, his contribution to our faith and understanding of Jesus and his church is significant. Doctor Luke’s ministry function was not leading or preaching, but rather playing a silent and almost unnoticed supporting role .
His work was quiet, but his legacy lives on, loudly influencing Jesus’ followers two millennia later.
Another of Paul’s friends, mentioned in his letter to Philemon, is Aristarchus. We first hear of Aristarchus in Acts. We learn that he is a Macedonian from Thessalonica who is traveling with Paul on one of his missionary journeys. Later, when Paul is sent to Rome as a prisoner, Aristarchus (along with Luke) travel with him. Aristarchus is both loyal and supportive.
Aristarchus is also esteemed by Paul as a fellow worker, as well as being mentioned as a fellow prisoner. Just like Epaphras, Aristarchus’s assistance to Paul and service to God does not preclude him from suffering.
While righteous suffering for our faith is not a given, it should not be viewed as an anomaly either.
If we do suffer, however, it is important to suffer for the right thing. If we suffer because of something foolish we said or did, that is not suffering for God, but suffering for our shortsightedness. There is nothing noteworthy or Godly about that.
The short, often overlooked book of Philemon is tucked towards the end of the New Testament, nestled between letters to Titus and to the Hebrews.
Philemon is a letter written by Paul to his friend Philemon about a man of mutual interest, Onesimus.
The short version is that Onesimus is a slave who runs away from his master, Philemon. Onesimus meets Paul, who tells him about Jesus, mentors him, and encourages him to do the right thing by returning to his master. To help facilitate the reunion, Paul jots a quick note to Philemon, which has been preserved for us in the Bible.
In addition to Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus, there are eight other names mentioned in this brief correspondence: Timothy, Apphia, Archippus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Mark, Demas, and Luke. For each there is a story to be told and insight to be gained.
Of course, Jesus is also rightly mentioned in Paul’s letter to Philemon, a total of six times. Jesus is actually the central character in this story, for it all revolves around him.
Is Jesus the central character in your story, does your life all revolve around him?
There’s a verse in the Bible that frustrates me — not for what it says, but for what it doesn’t say. Here’s the background:
Jesus dies and rises from the dead, but his followers are slow to catch on. Two of them are on a road trip and Jesus begins walking with them, but they don’t recognize him. As they walk, he begins to remind them what the Bible says about the coming savior. Here’s how Luke tells it:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27
That’s the verse that frustrates me. It’s good to know that Jesus explained this, but I want to know exactly what he said.
True, there are a finite number of verses in the Old Testament that point to Jesus, so we could study them and reasonably guess at which ones he picked. But speculating about this leaves me wanting more. I want to know what verses Jesus used and to hear him explain it.
Anything short of that leaves me wanting more. And that’s why this verse frustrates me.
Doctor Luke records a parable of Jesus. It is about a noble man who, before going on a journey, entrusts three servants with varying amounts of money to invest for him. The first two invest their amounts and earn a good return, apparently doubling their stakes. The third however, to whom little is entrusted, makes no effort to invest it. He lazily does nothing and merely returns the original amount to his master. This is done under the guise of keeping it safe, calling his master a “hard man.” The master judges him accordingly, taking the money away from him and giving it to the first servant.
Although we must guard against reading too much into a parable, the noble man in this one parallels God. When the servant declares that the noble is a “hard man,” is this a characteristic that we can apply to God? At first glance it is difficult, perhaps even seeming sacrilegious, to call God “hard,” but is there truth that can be gleaned form this? In balancing the paradox of a God of love with a God whom we fear, does a “hard” God fit somewhere into the picture of who he is?
For those who think God will give them a free pass regardless of how they act or what they do, the image of God as hard, that is a strict God, might be a good characteristic for them to ponder.
However, there are also those who view God as mean and vindictive, just waiting for them to mess up so that he can inflict ill-will upon them. Their view of God is already way too “hard”; they will do well to focus on his loving nature instead.
Yes, God does have a hard side to him, but that’s not all there is to him; he is also loving and gentle.
Happy Easter! Today is the time when we remember — and celebrate — Jesus overcoming death and rising from the dead.
Each account of Jesus in the Bible records this:
Matthew: The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him’.” [Matthew 28:5-7]
Mark: “Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” [Mark 16:6]
Luke: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’.” [Luke 24:5-6]
John: simply confirms that the tomb where Jesus’ body lay was found to be empty; recording that he then appeared to Mary Magdalene, ten of the disciples, and lastly to Thomas. [John 20]
In the Bible, Dr. Luke records the scene: Jesus is eating his final meal with his followers. He is sharing some parting words when he makes a perplexing remark about buying swords.
His disciples matter-of-factly reply that they have two swords.
Did you catch that? Jesus’ disciples have swords!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never envisioned Jesus’ band of followers as wielding weapons. Although I’ve seen many paintings of them, along with many more movies, never once did I notice a disciple with a saber strapped at his waist. The whole idea seems a bit shocking, yet at a time when Jesus tells them to get a sword, they already have two.
If I were picking people to start a movement with, I’d certainly eliminate anyone brandishing a blade.
Yet, Jesus’ criteria is different. He accepts his followers as they are — with issues, baggage, problems — and swords.