Chapter 36 in a series

lukeMore interpretations through song, art, poetry, drama, and modern worship liturgies get their inspiration from the book of Luke than any other Gospel.  His ability to describe the details of Jesus’s conception, birth story, infancy, and childhood brings the story to life. This book provides a prospect to share the gospel story more visually.

Written originally for the Greek Gentile audience, Luke is a man who creatively makes use of talents from his perspective as a doctor while writing these sacred words. He writes more about Jesus, His healings and the quality of Jesus’s love than any previous Gospel writer.  Luke is the only Gentile whose writings are included in the New Testament.  He was a learned, cultured man oriented toward research.  Luke, along with writing the book of Acts, makes the largest contribution to literature in the NT.  He hung out with Paul and, word for word wrote more than Paul, therefore there is an emphasis on Jewish Christianity (mentioning the temple, observed feasts, and festivals).  When the adolescent boy Jesus went to the temple to be about “the Father’s work”, getting separated from his parents, it was probably around the time of his bar mitzvah. Most of what he wrote was from others eyewitness accounts  (especially Peter’s) of others like what a reporter would do in writing a feature article (Lk. 1:1-4).  The story of Jesus’s second advent after His resurrection is shown in Luke 12:37.

I gravitated to this GospeI first.  I think it appealed to me because he includes those considered low status in this era and exalts them while those who are part of the establishment find themselves on the fringes of God’s saving grace.  Luke depicts more of Jesus’s parables about women at a time when only references to men were used, ten of which are only mentioned in this book.

Dr. Luke never references himself other than in “us” (he, Paul and occasionally Timothy) found in the book of Acts (16:10). In this book bearing his name (which means light giving), Luke’s portrays Jesus as a compassionate man of love toward the fringes of society who were thought of as last, or the least and the lost.

Luke also shares Jesus’s ancestral lineage, not just to Abraham as Matthew did, but to the beginning with Adam. It’s interesting to note that the Christain message (Romans 10:13) is not unambiguous to the Jews. Dig a little deeper and find in the Jewish Apocrypha (that which is not part of the canon but written roughly around the same time), describes the anointed one, the Messiah  (i.e. servant, shepherd, judge, king, son of man, etc).    Israel was told its story, not beginning with itself, but within the context of the entire human race in the first ten chapters of Genesis before Israel’s ancestral line which begins with  Abraham in Genesis 12.  In 1Corinthians 15:22, Paul wrote, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive.”  In verse 45, he calls Jesus the “last final Adam.”

The Jews are the elect and chosen ones, but not all Jews (just like not all Gentiles)by God. That would be cheap grace.  The lists of these genealogies record those of the Jewish line who were the elect (sometimes names in a generation were skipped who weren’t considered so). And then there were the Jews who converted to Christianity.

Because more women appear in Luke, it’s been called the gospel for women.  As writer Dorothy Sayers said, “During this era, women were to be seen in public but not heard.  Not here, the women listed include Elizabeth and Mary who are first to receive the message of Christ’s coming.  Anna, the prophetess, in the temple, and Mary Magdalene the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet are mentioned.  Mary Magdalene holds the position of the first person the resurrected Jesus appears to and the first woman commissioned to tell the disciples what she had witnessed.   Many women who traveled with Jesus, supporting Him and the disciples out of their own financial pockets (Lk. 8:1-3).  Luke (1:46-55) is the only gospel that records Mary’s prayer (known as a song or the Magnificat) of praise and thanksgiving.

The doctor gives an account of the healing of the woman on the road who had been hemorrhaging that touched the hem of his robe, the centurion’s daughter raised from the dead, the crippled woman restored and then the one cured on the Sabbath.  There are parables of the women who gave their last two coins or their best oils to Jesus ministry and the one about the persistent Godly widow who wanted justice from a local judge.

Jazz  pianist Herbie Hancock shares a similar lesson in the transcript below while playing with legendary trumpeter Miles Davis (an audio is at the end of post):

“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad” is attributed to Miles Davis.  God knows the wrong notes we play.  Going to God is that next viable note. He can omnipotently orchestrate circumstances to turn impossible situations into possible ones when we co-partner with Him.

Today, I am more unapologetic about any similarities I have with Martha’s personality.     In the book of John, verse, 11 is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus, Martha and Mary’s brother, from the dead.  Martha was her usual outspoken self when Jesus deliberately came late to her request for Him to heal Lazarus.  Later, she admitted, in her confession of faith  to Jesus, that she “believed he was the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.”

She then, by faith, obeyed His order to remove Lazarus’ burial tombstone, after being sealed three days.  I discovered from this narrative that I was a more doer kind of a person versus someone who sits at Jesus’s feet.  He also uses doers to get His job done. Pleasantly, I am aware of coming full circle as I find myself “sitting” more at His feet, listening to Him and not quite so caught up in my taskers.

One of Luke’s purposes in focusing on the disenfranchised was to show how God was turning things upside down from the typical ways of thinking of that day.  He continues to do so today. The rich and complacent were rejected by Jesus while the poor and repentant accepted. As a historian, Luke shows examples of how prominent women were in the early church, along with examples of their faith, their role as disciples, and their compassionate role in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

“So, in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” writes Paul to the Galatians (3:26-28).  That verse is also known as the Magna Carta of Humanity.

Jesus tells the parable (found only in Luke at 15:11-32) of the prodigal son who asked and received an early inheritance only to squander it.  He returns home destitute, asking if he could work as one of his father’s slaves.  The father (representative of our Heavenly Father) accepts him with open arms. There is an older brother, who stayed at home, struggles with this unconditional acceptance and love.  Scholars believe the old brother is representative of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin of that era. A part of the definition of the prodigal is to be wastefully extravagant.

Over forty years ago, my surviving brother went AWOL (absent without leave).  He deserted after less than a year into his navy service commitment.  Before joining, he asked my mother to agree with him to leave high school three months’ shy of graduation to join up.  He was legally eighteen by then.  There isn’t much context I can share in the fog of the event as it happened a long time ago, and I had gotten married and moved to another state.

My mother informed me after he joined up that one of the things she told him if he screwed this up he couldn’t come home.   That sounds coarse, but I interpreted it (giving her the benefit of the doubt) to what I said similar to my son when he entered the National Guard to gain the education benefits for college.  I asked him to grasp, to be clear that once he joined military service, his duty was going to be service to country first. No longer could we (his parents) put a wing out over him to protect him should he get into any trouble while in the military.

On my brother’s part, he took Mom’s warning literally.  After about six months or so, he went AWOL. It happened during a period our country was not at war; he didn’t desert because of any hardship tour or harm anyone which are punishable offenses by the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice).  There is no statute of limitation as I understand it except for the mandated court-martial, at this late date.  When he chose to abandon his military obligation, he went into hiding.   I can only assume he has changed his identity.  My family has not seen or heard from him since approximately 1978.  So much time has lapsed that him finding the whereabouts of us, with our name changes due to marriages, relocations, and now family deaths make the task tougher for him to locate us.

When I went back to my high school reunion recently, I was stunned when a former classmate, whom I didn’t know my brother hung around with, told me my surviving brother was often questioned by the FBI about my other brother’s death.

I attribute some of my brother’s need to get away was because of the annual questioning on the anniversary date of the murder of our brother.  How far reaching a life tragedy can be for a family. Like the prodigal son, the wasteful extravagance was the cost of freedom my brother chose to live without his birth family much less the loss of his identity to stay under the radar of investigators.   My prayer is for a miracle that this brother is safe and will return to us someday.  By the seven-year absentia rule, legally he is considered dead which had to be noted on a death benefit claim.  That was hard to do, I’m not mentally or emotionally willing to believe that yet.



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