Blog Series on the Gospels: Part 3

Birth And preparation of Jesus, the Savior.

The Gospel of Luke, the third in the Synoptic gospels and third in sequence in the New Testament, is the most comprehensive and detailed account of Jesus' life, written around 62 AD. Luke initially wrote his gospel and the Book of Acts for the "most excellent Theophilus," it is the only gospel that names its recipient. We don't know who Theophilus is or where he was located, but Luke's greeting suggests that he was someone of a higher class or rank; but, like Luke, he was a gentile believer. Luke’s writings comprise the majority of the New Testament, making his contribution the largest by a single author and his gospel the only one written by a Gentile.

The date and circumstances of Luke’s conversion are unknown. According to his own statement in Luke 1:2, he was not an "eye-witness and minister of the word from the beginning." He was a physician converted by Paul, to whom he became a devoted companion and assistant. Luke's writings show the extent and accuracy of his knowledge and his attention to detail. He, a well-educated gentile believer, wrote for a gentile audience and recorded detailed accounts of those on the margins of society being allowed into God's Kingdom. A theme throughout Luke's gospel is that the Good News was for everyone, including the poor, women and children, and those who were outcasts and considered "far off.” This theme would have been particularly personal to him as a gentile.

Luke’s gospel is the only one to include an in-depth backstory of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist; the relationship of Elizabeth and Mary, who were cousins; and Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, announcing the news that she will bear the Son of God. He includes her response as a Song of Praise, also known as the Magnificat, and we hear in her words praise for God’s plan of salvation that would be available to all:

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

For he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;

He has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”


Throughout its twenty-four chapters, Jesus is shown teaching through parables, gaining favor with the crowds, and ruffling the feathers of the religious establishment. These leaders were envious of Jesus' power and authority and felt increasingly threatened by him, and they knew they were losing control. At this point, the religious leaders began plotting how to kill him. (Luke 19:45-48)

At the beginning of Luke 20, Jesus teaches in the Temple, and the teachers of religious law question Him. They demanded to know by whose authority and right Jesus taught and performed miracles. Jesus, in the presence of the people and the priests, tells the parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard, moved to another country, and leased it to tenant farmers. The image of Israel as a vine or vineyard was well-known in Jesus' day; the religious teachers would have been familiar with passages such as Isaiah 5:1–7. The landowner represents the Lord. Jesus says that the owner sent servants three times to collect a share of the crop, but the farmers attacked the servants, beat them up, and sent them away empty-handed. These "servants" represent the prophets of the Old Testament. The owner then sends his cherished son because the farmers will surely respect him. Instead, they plot to kill the son and steal the inheritance for themselves. Jesus ends the parable by quoting from Psalm 118:22:

'The stone the builders rejected
has become the Cornerstone;.'


He finishes by saying,

"Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on." (Luke 20:17-18)


This is the strongest parable in which He speaks against those currently holding religious power. Scripture says that all the teachers of religious law and the priests wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they knew this parable was about them. They understood that they were wicked farmers, but what held them back was fear of the crowds with whom Jesus had favor. In almost all the other parables, the implications seem hidden or secret, causing the listeners to dig deeper or to walk away puzzled, wondering about their meanings. Jesus, knowing His time was running out, became more outspoken against the incumbent religious institutions, and His public teachings increased in frequency and intensity. He moved into a more offensive position by preaching more clearly and plainly, blasting the Pharisees and the teachers of religious law. This particular parable is a perfect example of Jesus warning them that the current religious establishment was about to be replaced. Jesus' purpose in this parable was to turn the existing religious establishment on its head and fulfill the law that they so desperately tried to keep and uphold by maintaining oppressive power over others. Jesus describes Himself as the Cornerstone, the most essential stone that His Church, a unified body of believers, both Jew and Gentile alike, male and female, would be built upon, and the one that the so-called “builders” would ultimately reject.

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