We live in changing times! Whether in the economic, political or social realms, change is occurring at an unprecedented rate. Consider musical styles: A musical “generation” used to be 40 years. Now it is 3 years. Consider communication methods: Our grandparents wrote letters, our parents added the telephone, and we have moved from email to Facebook to texting and Twitter. Consider the economy: current events worldwide are proving that trusting our security to our bank accounts is sometimes misplaced.
Change has both positive and negative implications, but even good change can be unsettling. In times like this it is good to refocus on our unchanging source of hope, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you find Luke’s message of hope to be an anchor for your changing times!
Weekly Word: Lesson 1
Luke: Message of Hope
Overview and Author Introduction
How wonderful it is to be loved by God Who demonstrated His love for us by giving His only Son to bring us hope! Hope is the one thing we can’t live without. Hope is that which gives meaning to life and the ability to persevere through trials: the hope of spring after a long winter; the hope of health after illness; the hope of reconciliation after conflict; the hope of life after death. Hope is not mere wishful thinking. It can be defined as “looking forward to something with confidence or expectation of its fulfillment.” You and I need hope – for this life as well as for the one to come!
Two millennia ago, God’s people also needed hope. God gave a promise to Adam and Eve of a Savior who would solve the sin problem they had introduced into the world and bring hope for all mankind (Genesis 3:15). Over the years, God provided more information about this person, but it had now been 400 years since He had last spoken through one of His prophets. Then – hope appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who was God in human flesh. Jesus lived a sinless life as the perfect Son of Man, and then died on the cross to pay for our sin. He rose again and ascended to a position of authority at the right hand of God from which He offers us the hope of eternal life – a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus – which begins at the moment of faith and continues in the next life.
Four authors tell the story of Jesus. Each one writes with a different audience in mind and thus a different emphasis and style. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, proving Jesus was the prophesied Messiah and King. Mark wrote to Romans presenting Jesus as the obedient servant. Luke wrote to Greeks presenting Jesus as the perfect Son of Man. John wrote to all people, proving that Jesus was the perfect Son of God.
Perhaps the most loved gospel is Luke. Luke writes with a human touch which speaks into our hearts in a very personal way. Luke is the book which announces hope through the gospel of Jesus to every person in every place in every time.
I. DAY ONE: Overview of Luke
A. Authorship and date
- There is no question that Luke, the beloved physician, was the author of both Luke and Acts. Luke was a Gentile and wrote in excellent Greek. Luke’s writing style and descriptions were designed to meet the needs of Gentiles. Luke addressed both books to Theophilus whose name means “one who loves God.” Theophilus was a person of high social standing. Some think he might have been Luke’s patron, responsible for seeing that Luke’s writings were copied and distributed. Regardless, Luke wrote both for the personal instruction of Theophilus and to strengthen the faith of all believers and answer questions of skeptics.
- The apostle Paul called Luke his “dear friend Luke, the doctor.” Perhaps it was Luke’s medical background that caused him to include so many instances of Jesus’ concern for hurting people and healing of medical problems. It may have also been why Luke was so sensitive to women. Tradition has Luke practicing medicine in Antioch which might be where he met the apostle, Paul. From a careful reading of Acts (compare Acts 16:7-8 with 16:10-11), we learn that Luke was a companion of Paul on parts of his missionary journeys. Toward the end of his life, Paul commends Luke’s loyalty (II Timothy 4:11).
- Because most scholars believe the gospel of Luke was written after Mark but before Acts, a reasonable dating for Luke is 58-60 AD.
- Luke presents Jesus as a real man, rooted in human history at a specific time and place. Jesus is presented as He was in reality, not exaggerated as are mythological or legendary figures. Luke wrote at a time when eyewitnesses, both friends and enemies of Jesus, were alive to verify his account.
- Matthew, Mark and Luke are called “synoptic gospels” as they have much material in common. (As we study Luke there will be occasional references to the <Matthew study>, https://www.womenoftheharvest.com/publications_archive_weeklyword_matthew.asp, which is archived on the Thrive website, when a passage has already been covered in depth there.)
- Although Matthew, Mark and Luke contain much of the same material, over 50% of this gospel is unique to Luke, including fifteen parables found only here. Luke is the longest gospel, with half of the verses containing words of Jesus. Luke and Acts together comprise over 20% of the New Testament.
B. Prologue: Luke 1:1-4
- Read Luke 1:1-4. By the time of Luke’s gospel, many other accounts of Jesus’ life had been written with varying degrees of precision and truthfulness. Luke, being a careful historian as well as a physician, determined to carefully research Jesus’ life and ministry and present them in an accurate and orderly way. (This does not require that they be totally chronological. Luke was not only writing about historical events, he was also recording the events of “salvation history.”)
- Luke’s call to his readers was not to a blind faith, but to a reasonable faith based on facts. Luke does not try to manipulate Theophilus’ thinking. What can we learn from his model? How careful are you and I to be sure that facts we share are accurate?
- Read Luke 1:5 and Luke 2:1-4 which give the timing of these events. In writing to a Gentile audience, Luke uses the reign of Gentile leaders to establish his dating. Herod the Great ruled as king of Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC. Caesar Augustus was officially the Roman emperor from 27 BC to 14 AD.
- It is reasonable to assume that in addition to researching the gospel of Mark and other writings, Luke would also have interviewed eyewitnesses such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, some of John the Baptist’s disciples, some of Jesus’ disciples, and others.
C. Reasonable response
- Is it possible to know that our faith is based on truth? Luke says it is. What does John say in I John 5:13?
- Besides the Biblical record, we can now compare its historical facts with those in the archaeological record, among other sources.
- In addition to Luke’s careful research, he had the assistance and oversight of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26 and II Peter 1:16-21.)
- A neighbor and I were discussing whether it matters if one’s religious beliefs are grounded in truth. She didn’t think so. To her, how she “felt” was more important. What is your opinion? How does Luke’s purpose for writing, given in verse 4, speak to that issue? Can we know the truth?
- Luke, a compassionate man, recognizes and emphasizes the compassion of God toward all mankind, expressed through the person of Jesus. Jesus cared about all people – Jews and Gentiles, men and women and children, rich and poor, saints and sinners. Jesus associated with people from all strata of society and freely met their needs. While Matthew portrayed Jesus as King of the Jews, Luke portrays Him as Savior of all the world.
- The Holy Spirit is active in this gospel. It is instructive to observe His role and His power.
- Prayer was important to Jesus, and of all the gospel writers, Luke most emphasizes this. We get to see many of the occasions when Jesus prayed and to listen in as He gives instruction on prayer. We see that prayer is not merely a religious ritual, but part of an intimate relationship with God.
- Luke also emphasizes the “revelation-response” principle – that is, when we are given insight into Jesus and His message, a personal response is required.
- The key verse of this book is Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
- It is always wise to read a book of the Bible (in one sitting if possible) to see the big picture before doing a study of the details. With the prologue and key verse in mind, and the hope that they offer us, let me challenge you to read through Luke over the next four days. I’ve given you a couple of things to look for each day, but don’t be limited by them. Ask the Holy Spirit to impress on you what you need to see.
- For the purpose of this overview, I have divided Luke into four sections of six chapters each.
II. DAY TWO: The Birth of Hope
A. Skim Luke chapters 1-6
- What verifiable facts of history does Luke record?
- Note the variety of responses to the revelation of who Jesus is.
III. DAY THREE: The Proclamation of Hope
A. Skim Luke chapters 7-12
- In what different circumstances do we see Jesus praying?
- Note many instances where Jesus compassionately meets physical as well as spiritual needs of a wide variety of people.
IV. DAY FOUR: Parables of Hope
A. Skim Luke chapters 13-18
- Which parable most encourages you?
- Which parable most challenges you?
V. DAY FIVE: The Purchase of Hope
A. Skim Luke chapters 19-24
- How did prayer enable Jesus to fulfill His purpose?
- What was Jesus’ purpose for His followers? (chapter 24)
Each week we will close with one or more challenges to help us be “doers” of God’s Word, not merely “hearers” (James 1:22). If you journal your responses, you will be able to hold yourself accountable for application of God’s Word to your life and will be able to see how you are growing not only in your knowledge of Scripture, but more importantly in your relationship to God. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you about something different, take that as your challenge for the week instead. Journal that and prayerfully respond to His prompting with full obedience.
- In your journal, record your personal goal for this study.
- Consider memorizing the key verse, Luke 19:10, as an aid to your understanding of Luke.
- If you are not already doing so, join me in committing to pray daily over what God is revealing to you, so that your relationship with Him grows in intimacy and trust.
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