Chapter By Chapter: Luke
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The prophecy and birth of John the Baptist. The annunciation of Jesus’s birth to Mary. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. The Magnificat (sung by Mary) and the Benedictus (sung by Zachariah).
Luke introduces his story as a formal history, told by eyewitnesses, setting up the best possible account of the gospel. He begins not with Jesus but with the prophecy of the birth of John, who will herald Jesus.
35: And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God.”
Jesus is born. Angels announce the birth to shepherds and sing the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Jesus is circumcised, and Simeon sings the Nunc Dimittis. At 12 years old, Jesus is left behind and found in the temple.
Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem was foretold, but required a movement of empires to fulfill. Simeon’s song emphasizes that Jesus came for Gentiles, too, a fact few others understand until decades later.
11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
John the Baptist begins his ministry of preaching repentance, of not relying on decending from Abraham for salvation, of generosity to the poor, and of the coming Messiah. John baptizes Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus through Joseph.
Luke, with the benefit of hindsight, connects John the Baptist to Elijah. John’s sermons prefigure Jesus’s message. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all take part in Jesus’s baptism.
22: and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus fasts in the wilderness for 40 days, and Satan tempts Him there. Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee. He claims the fulfillment of Isaiah at Nazareth, and they reject Him. Jesus heals a man with a demon.
Jesus rebukes Satan with ancient words of Scripture, even though Jesus is literally God, thereby showing us the way rather than taking a path we can’t follow.
4: And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Jesus calls Simon, James, and John to follow Him. He heals a leper and the paralytic lowered through the roof. He calls Levi and talks about why His followers don’t fast like John’s.
Jesus is doing a new thing. He makes fishers of fish into fishers of men. He not only eats with tax collectors but makes them disciples. He heals sickness and forgives sin. Some people can accept the changes, but some cannot.
38: But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
Jesus teaches about the purpose of the Sabbath. He calls the twelve disciples. He pronounces the beatitudes and woes. He preaches to give without expecting to receive. He tells the parable of the tree being known by its fruit and of the houses on sand and rock.
This “Sermon on the Plain” is Luke’s version of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Prior to calling the disciples, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer, a pattern we should follow. God’s generosity will always outdo man’s, so give everything you can.
31: And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Jesus heals a centurion’s servant and raises a widow’s son. John’s disciples ask whether Jesus is the Messiah; Jesus tells them to report what they have seen. He forgives a sinful woman.
In answering John’s disciples, Jesus did not ask them for faith but provided direct evidence the He fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah. When talking with Simon the Pharisee, He pointed not at the Pharisee’s good words but the woman’s good deeds.
47: Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the lamp under the jar, and explains why he speaks in parables. He calms the storm on the sea and heals the Gerasene who had a legion of demons. He heals the woman with the issue of blood and raises Jairus’s daughter.
Jesus’s teachings cannot be heard by everybody, but only those with open ears. Jesus has power over demons, illness, storms, and death itself.
39: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
Jesus sends out His disciples on a mission alone. He feeds the five thousand. Herod wonders whether Jesus is Elijah or maybe John; Peter confesses Jesus as Messiah. Jesus foretells His death to His disciples. Peter, James, and John witness the transfiguration.
Luke contrasts Herod and the crowds with Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Christ. Jesus follows up by predicting His own death and saying that to follow Him is to forsake your life and risk death.
20: Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
Jesus sends 72 disciples on a mission. He declares woe to cities who reject God and blessings to men who see Jesus face to face. The parable of the Good Samaritan. Martha busies herself serving, while Mary sits and listens.
Luke puts Jesus’s blessing of His disciples alongside the story of Mary and Martha to show that Jesus’s presence is more to be desired than anything else, even mandatory hospitality or ritual cleanliness or generational animosity.
42: but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer. He teaches that God gives good gifts and a house divided cannot stand. He gives the sign of Jonah, tells the parable of the lamp under a basket, and declares woes on the Pharisees and scribes.
The disciples want an identifying prayer, as John’s disciples have. Jesus gives an identifying prayer that stands forever, for all who follow Jesus. The story of the returning demon and the woes reflect each other.
2: And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.’”
Jesus teaches the crowds and His disciples both directly and in parables. He admonishes them not to fear or be anxious, for God cares even for the sparrows, and much more for them.
Parallel to various sermons in the other gospels. Jesus teaches to seek not earthly prosperity or security but the kingdom of God, and God will take care of the rest.
31: “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Jesus comments on tragedies. The parables of the barren fig tree. A woman with a demon. Comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed and a leavened lump of flour. Strive to enter the narrow way. Jesus laments Jerusalem.
Jesus gives his followers many different images of the kingdom of God to help them and us understand it in different ways: a redeemable fruit tree, a mustard seed, a narrow gate.
18: He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?
Jesus heals on the Sabbath. The parable of sitting at the lowest place at the wedding feast. The parable of the great banquet full of the least and lost. Counting the cost of discipleship. Salt without flavor is worthless.
Jesus points in many different ways at the ordering of the Kingdom of God. It prizes the poor, the humble, the needy, the hurt—and if you reject the invitation, God will invite others.
11: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.
These three parables are the same parable: the one looking is God the Father, and the one lost is the human fallen into sin. In all three, God and heaven all rejoice to recover the sinner to their home with God.
32: “‘It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
The parable of the shrewd manager. The manner of revelation has changed since John, but the Word of God still does not pass away. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Jesus repeatedly affirms that the story of God is one story, not many. The gospel of John and Jesus is not different than the revelation of the prophets, just newer. Those who hear Jesus would have heard the prophets too.
31: He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”
Jesus teaches on forgiveness and faith. He heals ten lepers, but only one turns back to thank Him. Jesus teachs that the coming of the kingdom will not need to be pointed out; it will be unmistakable.
Not the size of faith but its presence is important. We do not need to spend our time looking for the kingdom, but instead doing the work of the kingdom; we cannot miss its coming.
24: “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.”
Jesus tells the parables of the persistent widow and the pharisee and the tax collector. He rebukes His disciples who try to keep children away from him. He tells the rich young ruler how hard it will be for him to get to Heaven. He fortells His death.
Jesus’s parables sometimes have both a present and a future meaning. The persistent widow teaches us to persevere in prayer because God will answer us now and also so that we may be found in prayer when Jesus returns.
1: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Jesus eats with Zaccheus, a corrupt tax collector who promises to make good. Jesus tells the parable of the minas (smaller than talents). He enters Jerusalem on a colt, cheered on by crowds. He cleanses the Temple of corrupt merchants.
Jesus came to save the lost, demonstrated clearly by His dinner with Zaccheus. His entry mirrored the entry of Davidic kings, clearly claiming that position, explaining the cheering crowds who had looked for such a king for centuries.
10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Scribes ask Jesus on whose authority he cleansed the Temple; He answers with a question about John they dare not answer. He tells the parable of the husbandmen and says to give to Caesar things that are Caesar’s. He teaches on marriage.
Jesus speaks in two mysterious ways: in parables, which hide the truth from those unwilling to see it; and in unanswerable questions, which challenge His opponents on the core of their beliefs. He has come for all, but only if we have ears to hear.
38: “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Two coins from a widow are greater than all the other offerings because they are given from poverty, not abundance. Jesus prophecies the tumult that will signal the end of the age, dissolving relationships and creation itself.
The end of the age and the coming return of Jesus will be obvious—wars and rumors of wars will come and go, and natural disasters will prevail, but the people of God must be patient. Jesus’s prophecies look forward to both the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and also the final apocalypse.
32: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.”
Judas plots with the chief priests to betray Jesus. Jesus eats the Last Supper with His disciples and sets out the New Covenant, promised by His body and blood. He prays in Gethsemane and is arrested and tried. Peter denies Him three times.
The entire plot of Jesus’s death bookends the establishment of the New Covenant in this chapter. Even when we are likewise surrounded by evil and betrayal, we may look to God’s promises to be fulfilled, and like Jesus make time to pray.
20: And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”