Monday, May 5 Chapter 1
The first four verses give us much information. The author is not named even as he names the recipient of the book. The earliest sources we have available (about a century after the writing) name Luke as the author. There is little doubt that the same person wrote this book and the book of Acts, where there are several clues pointing to Luke as the author.
It is clear that the author was well educated in Greek. Luke was a Greek doctor with an analytical mind who wanted a neat and orderly report for Theophilus. That does not mean the same thing in the First Century that it means in the Twenty-first. History was written in the heroic style of Homer, not the clinical style of moderns.
We do learn that Luke followed several others in the writing of an account of Jesus’ life. We have no idea how many were written, but it is likely that most were short accounts of a portion of Jesus ministry, and that most have been lost and the rest absorbed into the Four Gospels. By the time Luke began his own account, there were at least 50 gospels for him to look at. We do not have copies of any of them, but their names have survived in early writings. That does not include the many dozens of later gospels from the second century on. We do have copies of several dozen of them, the oldest being the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas from the early Second Century.
One more point regarding the Gospel writings. Imagine that you have to write an account of the Watergate affair and your only source of information is the memories of the people in your community. No written records, no internet, no libraries. That is roughly what Luke and the others faced. They each included the information available to them.
Luke is the only account to give priority of John’s birth over that of Jesus’. That does not seem strange to us because John was six months older than his cousin, but for early readers it suggested that the more important person was John because he was mentioned first. That was the writing style.
Notice that Luke mentions the visitation of angels to announce the births of both boys. When Mary visits Elizabeth, John recognizes Jesus, even though neither is yet born. Mary sings a song, a psalm, called the Magnificat because that is the first word in the Latin translation.
When John is born, his father also sings a psalm. Both psalms are prophesies.
Tuesday, May 6 Chapter 2
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth we see the shepherds being the first to get the Good News. We need to throw out our modern image of shepherds. In Jesus’ day they were nearly the lowest class of people on the planet. They did beat out lepers, beggars and tanners. They were dirty, stinky, uneducated and often unreliable. Worse, they never had time to clean themselves to visit the Temple so remained ritually unclean their whole lives. It is a powerful image to have the Heavenly Choir sing just for them.
Because Jesus was the first-born male he was taken to the Temple to be dedicated to God. Understand that it was normal for the first-born males to be so dedicated. Jesus and all the others were expected to spend their lives working for God in what ever way was possible given their family prospects. If they could afford it, the family would send the boy to live with a rabbi who would bring up another teacher. If not, he would do his work, always on the lookout for ways to serve God while doing the work.
Simeon is waiting at the Temple for the eight-day old baby. He also sings a prophetic psalm. Anna also recognized Jesus and praised him to all who would listen.
The chapter ends with the great story of Jesus in His Father’s House, the Temple at the age of 12. His bar mitzvah is still a year away, but he teaches like a man.
Wednesday, May 7 Chapter 3
John takes center stage again as he preaches repentance. John was not unique. For the three centuries leading to the destruction of the Temple, there was usually at least one desert preacher. Jews knew such a preacher was a sign of the Messiah, so they flocked around them, hoping to see the Messiah arrive from Heaven on his great white horse.
John was different in his preaching. He criticized those who came, challenging them to change their thinking. He attacked the Temple leaders as well as Herod. It seemed the more abusive he became, the more people were attracted to him.
Jesus came for baptism. That fact raises many questions. Jesus had no need for baptism, being without sin, yet he came. Luke does not record any discussion between John and Jesus. He does tell us that Jesus prayed while being baptized and that was when the Holy Spirit descended on him.
Some of the possibilities to explain why Jesus chose baptism: He needed to connect with the preaching of his messenger, letting the people know he was the one John spoke of. He gave us the example to follow. He actually took on our sins, a kind of reverse baptism. It was a ritual cleansing to begin his ministry. God knows.
There are also many questions about the genealogy listing. Whatever the differences with Matthew, the whole intent is to tell us that Jesus is related to King David, that he is the promised root of the stump of Jesse.
Thursday, May 8 Chapter 4
The temptations of Jesus represent common human temptations. Jesus gives us examples of how we can resist those temptations. Note: only Jesus could have given us this account.
There is a danger in reading this section. We too often fall into the trap of believing that this was the only time Jesus was tempted. The truth is, he faced temptations every day. That is why he often told people not to advertise his powers; why he slipped away from the crowds when they became too excited by his actions. The devil continued to work on Jesus because he only had to succeed once. If Jesus ever once turned away from God, if only for an instant, God’s Plan of Salvation would have been defeated. The devil threw all his resources at one target.
Back at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah a familiar passage promising the Messiah and then said, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The men there had known him as a child and could not believe he claimed Messiahship.
Moving to Capernaum, Jesus preformed his first miracle, as recorded by Luke. He then healed many others, fulfilling the passage of Isaiah he read in Nazareth.
Friday, May 9 Chapter 5
Jesus is teaching to a large crowd and steps into a fishing boat, asking the owner to push out a ways so he can speak to the crowd more easily. It was all a Spirit thing. Simon would become the lead disciple. When they went fishing, it was to show to a fisherman what he could expect as a fisher of men.
Healing a leper by touching him shocked those who saw it. Touching a leper made Jesus unclean, everyone knew that. Yet, he told the leper to go to the Temple (a three-day journey) for the purification ritual while he went on as though he was not contaminated. That turned some people away from him while exciting others.
Jesus could heal from a distance, as he often did. He touched the leper to show us that there are no untouchables. No other person can make us unclean.
Jesus next heals the paralytic without touching him.
But first, he forgives the man’s sins. The Pharisees and scribes had every right to be upset because only God can forgive sins. Jesus did it specifically to get their reaction so that he could claim Godship without actually saying it.
Luke records that Jesus called himself the Son of Man. This is the first use of the title. It was closely associated with the Messiah. It is used here in connection with a miracle. Luke uses the title 24 more times, none with miracles. It is the title Jesus preferred for himself.
Verse 26 literally refers to a b’rakhah, a Hebrew blessing common in the time. It was used about anything that was special, giving God the credit. This verse also shows the difference between the reactions of the religious experts and the common people.
Jesus called Levi (also called Matthew) as a disciple. He invited Jesus to his house for a banquet to show both is respect and gratitude. For Jews, a meal was an opportunity to share the Torah, the Word of God. Any meal without the Word was equal to a pagan sacrifice.
Jesus again takes the position that he has come to associate with the unclean. Even his disciples were unclean
In response to the question of fasting, Jesus seems to suggest that the Torah needs to be thrown out and a new system put in its place. Yet, he insisted that he came to fulfill the Torah. There is a Greek word in verse 38 translated as new. The word really means renew. Jesus is given the same message that John preached, repent and renew yourselves so that you can hold the newness of the Good News.
Be righteous and do good.