The Gospel of Luke is generally regarded as the third of the four canonical Gospels. Almost all scholars agree that the author of Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles.
The Gospel is known by many names. Some
see it along with Acts as narrating the history of salvation, which is divided
into three parts. This first is the time before Jesus where everything is old.
This is possibly why Luke has changed Mark 8,28 which has “one of the prophets”
as one of the answers of the people regarding Jesus’ identity to “one of the
old prophets” (9,19). The second is the time of Jesus who inaugurates the
kingdom (4,16-30) and the third is the time of the Church (The Acts of the
Apostles), which continues the work of Jesus.
Others see it as a Gospel of Prayer
because when compared with Matthew and Mark, the Lucan Jesus prays oftener.
There are seven accounts of Jesus praying that are exclusive to Luke. (3,21;
5,16; 6,12; 9,18; 9,29; 11,1; 22,32).
Still others see it as a Gospel of Women
since Luke gives special importance to women in his Gospel. In Luke’s Infancy
narrative, Mary rather than Joseph is an important figure. Only in Luke do we
find the miracles of the raising of the widow’s son (7,11-15) and the healing
of the woman with a spirit of infirmity (13,10-17). Luke alone tells us that
Jesus had women disciples who provided for him out of their means (8,1-3).
Some also see Luke as the Gospel of
Great Mercy or Pardon. This is because the Parables of the Good Samaritan
(10,30-35) and the Prodigal Son (15,11-32) are found only in Luke. While
hanging on the Cross, it is in Luke’s Gospel alone that Jesus forgives those
who crucified him (23,34).
The Gospel of Luke begins with the
announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah followed by the
announcement of the birth of Jesus to Mary. Immediately after this announcement
Mary goes to meet Elizabeth who will be the mother of John the Baptist in order
to share the good news with her. Luke alone of all the Evangelists narrates an
incident in the early life of Jesus after his birth where he is found in the
Temple. Jesus begins his public ministry immediately after his Baptism and in
the Synagogue at Nazareth where he reads from Isaiah what may term as his own
manifesto and plan of action. He chooses disciples to help in his mission,
which he continues in Galilee.
A large part of the Gospel (9,51-19,27)
has been termed as the Journey to Jerusalem during which Jesus both preaches
and heals. After his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, he cleanses the Temple
but continues to teach in it even after this incident. During this time he is
questioned about his authority and other matters of the law and most of the
questions are with a view to trap Jesus. It is one of the Twelve, Judas who
betrays Jesus to the Jewish leaders. He is tried, and condemned to death on a
cross where he dies forgiving those responsible for crucifying him.
The last part of the Gospel begins with
an episode of the empty tomb in which the women who go to the tomb are asked
why they look for the living among the dead. Jesus then appears to two
disciples when they are on their way to Emmaus and chides them for their lack
of faith. Finally Jesus appears to the eleven, gives them a commission and then
is then taken up to heaven. The disciples return to the Temple in Jerusalem
with great joy.
Some of the characteristics unique to
Luke’s Gospel are as under:
1. The Gospel of Luke is the
only Gospel, which narrates the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist,
and his birth. The birth of Jesus is announced to Mary (not Joseph as in
Matthew). Luke alone narrates the ascension of Jesus into heaven.
2. Only Luke narrates the
incident of Jesus being found in the temple (2,41-52). This is the only incident
from Jesus’ childhood that any evangelist narrates.
3. Luke’s genealogy of Jesus
goes back to Adam the first human being (3,38) unlike Matthew’s, which begins
with Abraham. Luke alone gives us the age of Jesus when he began his ministry
4. In Luke alone we find the
parables of the Good Samaritan, the Publican and the Pharisee who went to the
Temple to pray, the rich man and Lazarus, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the
unjust steward, the rich fool who would tear down his barns and build greater
barns in order that he might store his goods, and the story of Zacchaeus, who
climbed a tree in order that he might see Jesus. Each of these parables and
stories illustrates what Luke regards as an essential characteristic of Jesus’
5. Compared to the other
canonical gospels, Luke devotes significantly more attention to women. The
Gospel of Luke features more female characters, features a female prophet
(2,36), and details the experience of pregnancy (1,41-42). Prominent discussion
is given to the lives of Elizabeth
and of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Ch. 2).
6. Luke portrays Jesus as
extremely concerned about the poor and those who were considered social
outcasts. Already in the Sermon on the Plain, the Lucan Jesus pronounces a
blessing on “the poor" (6,20) unlike the Matthean Jesus whose blessing is
pronounced on the “poor in spirit” (Mt 5,3). Three parables in Chapter 15 (the
Lost sheep, the Lost coin and the Lost Son) are told one after another because
the Pharisees and scribes complained about Jesus’ table fellowship with tax
collectors and sinners.
7. Luke mentions the Holy Spirit
more than the other two synoptic gospels, Matthew and Mark. John the Baptist is
filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born (1,15); next, John's mother
Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit (1:41); before long, John's dumbstruck
father Zechariah is also filled with the Holy Spirit (1,67). Jesus is conceived
by the power of the Holy Spirit (1,35). The Holy Spirit reveals to the aged
Simeon that he will see the Messiah (Christ) before he dies (2,26-27). John the
Baptist announces that the powerful one coming after him will baptize with the
Holy Spirit and with fire (3,16). When Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit
descends on Him in bodily form as a dove (3,22), as God the Father confirms
from heaven that Jesus is "My Son, whom I love". At this point Jesus
is "full of the Holy Spirit" (4,1), and is "led out by the
Spirit into the wilderness" (4:1), where the Devil tempted Him for forty
days. Having successfully resisted the Devil as a man (4,4.8.12), Jesus returns
to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit" (4,14). Luke uses all these
references as a build-up to Jesus reading the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me"
(4,18-19). 'The Anointed One' is 'the Messiah' in Hebrew, 'the Christ' in
Greek. The total involvement of the Holy anointing Spirit at every step of the
way (conception, babyhood, childhood, extended family, baptism, temptation and
inauguration to ministry) proves that He, Jesus, is the Anointed One, the
Messiah, and the Christ.