Who wrote it?
The gospel of Luke does not clearly identify its author. From Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3, it is clear that the same author wrote both Luke and Acts, addressing both to “most excellent Theophilus,” possibly a Roman dignitary. The tradition from the earliest days of the church has been that Luke, a physician and a close companion of the Apostle Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11). This would make Luke the only Gentile to pen any books of Scripture.
When(ish) was it written?
Luke was likely written between AD 58 and 65.
Why was it written?
As with the other two synoptic gospels—Matthew and Mark—this book’s purpose is to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ and “all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up” (Acts 1:1-2). Luke is unique in that it is a meticulous history—an “orderly account” (Luke 1:3) consistent with the Luke’s medical mind—often giving details the other accounts omit. Luke’s history of the life of the Great Physician emphasizes His ministry to—and compassion for—Gentiles, Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, sinners, and others regarded as outcasts in Israel.
Some Key Verses
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
– Luke 2:4-7
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
– Luke 3:16
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.
– Luke 18:31-32
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
– Luke 23:33-34
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
A Quick Summary
Luke begins by telling us about Jesus’ parents; the birth of His cousin, John the Baptist; Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born in a manger; and the genealogy of Christ through Mary. Jesus’ public ministry reveals His perfect compassion and forgiveness through the stories of the prodigal son, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Good Samaritan. While many believe in this unprejudiced love that surpasses all human limits, many others—especially the religious leaders—challenge and oppose the claims of Jesus. Christ’s followers are encouraged to count the cost of discipleship, while His enemies seek His death on the cross. Finally, Jesus is betrayed, tried, sentenced, and crucified. But the grave cannot hold Him. His Resurrection assures the continuation of His ministry of seeking and saving the lost.
Old Testament Ties
Since Luke was a Gentile, his references to the Old Testament are relatively few compared to those in Matthew’s gospel, and most of the Old Testament references are in the words spoken by Jesus rather than in Luke’s narration. Jesus used the Old Testament to defend against Satan’s attacks, answering him with “it is written” (Luke 4:1-13); to identify Himself as the promised Messiah (Luke 4:17-21); to remind the Pharisees of their inability to keep the Law and their need of a Savior (Luke 10:25-28, 18:18-27); and to confound their learning when they tried to trap and trick Him (Luke 20).
What does this mean?
The gospel of Luke gives us a beautiful portrait of our compassionate Savior. Jesus was not turned off by the poor and the needy; in fact, they were a primary focus of His ministry. Israel at the time of Jesus was a very class-conscious society. The weak and downtrodden were literally powerless to improve their lot in life and were especially open to the message that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9). This is a message we must carry to those around us who desperately need to hear it. Even in comparatively wealthy countries—perhaps especially so—the spiritual need is dire. Christians must follow the example of Jesus and bring the good news of salvation to the spiritually poor and needy. The kingdom of God is near and the time grows shorter every day.
Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Luke 14:35, 15:1-2; 15:11-32; 9:10. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What “next step” are you considering as a result of your interaction with God’s Word?
What does the term “prodigal” mean and what examples come to mind when you hear someone or something described as “prodigal”?
Read Luke 14:35 thru 15:1-2 for context to understand the famous “parable of the lost/prodigal son”. In Jesus’ story, what sorts of people are specifically represented by the characters of the younger and older brother?
Read Luke 15:11-32. In what unique ways was the younger brother and the older brother lost? In what ways do you identify with each of the brothers? What is the solution to any sort of lostness?
Who is the main character in the parable? That is, why might the parable actually be emphasizing the loving and gracious heart of the father rather than the lostness of either son?
How should the Gospel and the truths of Luke 15 impact your view of others, especially those you view as ‘younger’ and ‘older’ siblings?