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Getting to Know the Bible: Luke Overview

Updated: Jan 8

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.

Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Luke. But before we get to Luke 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Luke. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.

And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Luke, as we prepare to behold and discern Luke, beginning with Luke 1 in our next installment of this series.

Book Type: The third book of the four gospels; the third book of the New Testament; the forty-second book of the Bible.

Author: Luke's name is not explicitly used as the author of the book. However, the New Testament figure of Luke is mentioned in Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 1:24. Early church traditions universally credit both this Gospel and the book of Acts to Luke. This would make Luke the only Gentile to pen any books of Scripture.

Date of Writing: The Gospel of Luke was likely written between A.D. 58 and 65.

Audience: Luke's purpose in writing the Gospel has also suffered debate. Some suggest that Luke set out to make a case for Christianity as not being a threat to the Roman Empire. Others make the proposition that Luke-Acts was written to reassure those questioning Jesus' second coming because of its delay. Many believe that Luke was not writing to Theophilus exclusively, but that the two-volume work was intended to be distributed for ecclesiastical purposes. There is also the view, which seems to be growing in popularity, that Luke-Acts was specifically designed to aid Paul in his trial before Caesar. 

Theme: Redemption, Salvation, Peace, Prayer, Praise

Original Language: Greek

Genre: Historical, Exordium

Timeline: The Gospel according to Luke was probably the last Synoptic Gospel to be written. 

Purpose of Writing: Luke's purpose is to reveal the Lord Jesus Christ and all He “began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven” (Acts 1:1-2). The Gospel of Luke is unique in that 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.

Summary: The Gospel of 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.

Overview: Luke is one of the larger books in the New Testament, with 24 chapters covering five major themes. Its express purpose is to provide fact-checked information about Jesus Christ.

The first major section includes the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, along with Christ's boyhood, baptism, and temptations (Luke 1:1—4:13). After a brief introduction, Luke chronicles the account of Zacharias and his vision in the temple, the announcement to Mary of the coming virgin birth of Jesus, and her visit to Elizabeth and her song. Luke 2:1¬–20 describes the birth of Jesus, followed by His dedication at the temple (Luke 2:21–38). The description of Jesus' childhood includes His being raised in Nazareth (Luke 2:39–40, 51–52) and His time in the temple at age twelve (Luke 2:41–50). Years later, the preaching of John the Baptist begins, pointing toward the coming Messiah. Jesus is baptized, His genealogy is given, and He is tempted for forty days in the desert (Luke 3:1—4:13).

The second section includes Jesus' ministry in Galilee (Luke 4:14–9:50). He preaches in Nazareth (Luke 4:14–30) and Capernaum (Luke 4:31–44); calls disciples (Luke 5:1—6:16); and teaches on a plateau (Luke 6:17–49), in cities (Luke 7:1—8:25), and throughout Galilee (Luke 8:26—9:50) where He confirms His teachings with signs and healings.

The third major section covers His journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51—19:27). Jesus travels through Samaria (Luke 9:51—10:37), Bethany and Judea (Luke 10:38—13:35), and Perea (Luke 14:1—19:27).

The fourth major section covers the Passion Week (Luke 19:28—23:56). Jesus enters the city in triumph (Luke 19:28¬–40), weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44), cleanses the temple (Luke 19:45–46), teaches, argues with opponents, is betrayed, and celebrates the Last Supper with His followers (Luke 19:47—22:38). Jesus is then arrested, placed on trial, crucified, and buried (Luke 22:39—23:56).

The fifth and final section focuses on the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Luke 24). His resurrection is announced (Luke 24:1–12), He appears to two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), appears to His disciples (Luke 24:36–49), and finally ascends to heaven to conclude the book (Luke 24:50–53).

Application: 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 is near you” (Luke 10:9).

Key Verses (ESV):

Luke 2:4–7: "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 3:16: "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 4:18–19, 21: "'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, \ because he has anointed me \ to proclaim good news to the poor. \ He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives \ and recovering of sight to the blind, \ to set at liberty those who are oppressed, \ to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor'…And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

'"Luke 18:31–32: "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 23:33–34: "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.' And they cast lots to divide his garments.

"Luke 24:1–3: "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."

*Note: The biblical Luke is described as a Gentile, as well as a doctor. These traits seem to influence the writing of the Gospel of Luke, which prominently features healings, the plight of women and children, a scholarly style, and a consistently non-Jewish perspective on places and events.

The structure of Luke's Gospel begins with the exordium (1:1-4), followed by the births of John the Baptist and Jesus (1:3-2:52). Luke then covers John's ministry and the preparation of Jesus' ministry (3:1-4:13). He then gives account of Jesus' Galilean ministry (4:14-9:50), and his journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:27). Jesus' time in Jerusalem (19:28-24:53) can be divided up into his ministry (19:28-21:38), the passion (22:1-23:56), and his resurrection and ascension (24:1-53).

I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.

Love you much.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!

-Humble Servant

P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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