Luke

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, his birth, infancy, and childhood to his death and resurrection on the cross ( a key verse is 23:33-34) bring Christ’s narrative to life. This book provides a more descriptive visual way to share the Gospel.

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 other 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 his 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, who provided the 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”,  which temporarily separated him from his parents.  The reason for the trip was probably at the time of Jesus’s bar mitzvah. Most of what he wrote was from others eyewitness accounts  (to include Peter’s) of others like to what a reporter would do in researching and writing an article (Lk. 1:1-4).  The account 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 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 of creation with Adam. It’s interesting to note that the Christain message of Jesus (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), description of the anointed one, the Messiah  (i.e. servant, shepherd, judge, king, son of man, etc).   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.”

As I worked through Adams sin and whether I, in turn, carry it with me I lean toward yes.  If I believe in Jesus (the second Adam), and that his death and resurrection binds me up into my salvation then I have to acquiesce to the inheritance of bearing the first sin.  Just as I believe in Jesus, as the God incarnate, miracles and how his spoken word instantaneously occurred I, in turn, believe in the literal reading of creation in Genesis.  It’s because I came to God first through Jesus and need to remember they are one and the same.

The Jews were a people elect by God, but not all Jews (just like not all Gentiles) will accept God’s Messiah so not all are accepted 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).

Because more women appear in Luke, it’s been called the Gospel for women.  As writer Dorothy Sayers said, “Women were the first at the cradle and the last at the cross.”    Contrary to this, the women listed in this book 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 distinction of the first one the resurrected Jesus appears to and the first woman commissioned to spread the good news by telling the disciples what she had witnessed.   Many women who traveled with Jesus, supporting Him and the mission of 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 while playing with legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in the following the recording:

“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 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.

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 as He continues to do so today. The rich and complacent were not as singled out by Jesus while the poor and repentant were.

“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, who 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 for him to leave high school three months’ shy of graduation to enlist.  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 just gotten married and moved to another state.

My mother told me that part of her response to him was that 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.  Plus there was the ongoing struggle this brother had with my youngest brother’s murder.   I asked my son 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.

For 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 did not come home but instead went into hiding.   I can only assume he changed his identity.  My family has not seen or heard from him since approximately 1978.  So much time has elapsed since then that him finding the whereabouts of his family, 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. For me, along with the lingering heartache, is the residual effect of seeing the violence upon humanity.  I really have to shore myself up to watch or read anything that includes it, particularly graphically.  I don’t find it entertaining and usually, avoid anything showcasing it.  Real life is violent enough.

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 my mother’s death benefit claim.  That was hard to do, I’m not mentally or emotionally willing to believe that yet.

 

 

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