Introduction to the Gospel of Luke
and Study of Luke 1-2
October 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Luke is the only Gentile (non-Jew) author in the New Testament, but he set out to create an accurate Gospel based on as many first-hand accounts as he could gather, resulting in a book that is longer than any of the three other Gospel books (Matthew, Mark, or John). Luke was not one of the original Disciples, but was an ally of Peter and Paul in the process of growing the early church. Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14 - NIV).”

After reading Matthew and Mark we may think we already know the whole story of our Savior’s life on earth, but we will find new revelations in Luke, including additional details regarding the birth of Jesus and a whole section from chapter 9 through 18 that is not recorded anywhere else.

Luke also wrote the book of Acts, a sequel to his Gospel in which he includes his own first-hand accounts of the growth of the early church. The significance of this combination of books is that Luke is emphasizing that the story of Jesus did not end with the Resurrection and Ascension, but continues with the creation and growth of Christ's Church. Luke and his contemporaries recorded the growth and struggles of the early church in the book of Acts and in the letters of the New Testament. The story of the growth of the church also continues today. Part of our role is to contribute to the sharing of this on-going story.

The book of Luke could be divided into several sections (1):

  • Infancy Narratives (Chapters 1-2)

  • Luke 1-2 (Promises of Birth are Fulfilled) - October 21st

  • Ministry of John the Baptist (Chapter 3:1-20)
  • The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry (Chapters 3:21-4:13)

  • Luke 3-4 (Launch of Ministry for All Towns) - October 22nd

  • Jesus in Galilee (Chapters 4:14 – 9:50)

  • Luke 5-6 (Blessed are the Fishers of Men) - October 23rd
    Luke 7-8 (Extraordinary Healing and Extraordinary Faith) - October 24th
    Luke 9-10 (Travel Lightly) - October 25th

  • From Galilee to Jerusalem (Chapters 9:51-19:44)

  • Luke 11-12 (What to Pray For) - October 26th
    Luke 13-15 (An Open Invitation) - October 27th
    Luke 16-18 (Jesus Challenges Our Understanding of Order) - October 28th

  • Jesus in Jerusalem (Chapter 19:45 – end of 21)

  • Luke 19-20 (Jesus Arrives to Save the Lost) - October 29th
    Luke 21-22 (Sacrifice) - October 30th

  • Crucifixion (Chapters 22-23)
  • Resurrection (Chapter 24)

  • Luke 23-24 (Forgive Them Father) - October 31st

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • Morris, Leon The Gospel According to St. Luke, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1974

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Luke 1-2 (Promises of Birth are Fulfilled)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
   you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
   which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
   and the glory of your people Israel.”

- Luke 2:29-32 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

In chapter 1, Luke records visits by Angels to Zechariah and to Mary to announce the conception of special babies. In the case of Zechariah, his wife Elizabeth would give birth to John the Baptist and in the case of Mary, she would give birth to the Son of God.

At first Zechariah did not believe what the angel was telling him, so the angel made him mute until after the birth of their son. Mary expressed some doubt and puzzlement, noting that she was a virgin, but then accepted the role, and declared herself God’s servant:

    “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

    And Mary said,

    Yes, I see it all now:
       I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
    Let it be with me
       just as you say.

    Then the angel left her.

    - Luke 1:36-38 (MSG)

When pregnant Mary visited pregnant Elizabeth, the baby inside of Elizabeth leaped for joy in the womb, for it recognized the presence of the Son of God. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang a song of praise. Mary responded with another song of praise that incorporated verses from many Psalms regarding God’s mercy, love, and deliverance.

Chapter 2 lays out the Christmas story that is now so familiar to us. Luke explains how the birth happened to take place in Bethlehem, which fulfilled scripture.

    And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

    (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

    And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

    And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

    To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

    And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

    And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

    - Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)

Luke also describes the arrival of the angels and the shepherds and the circumcision on the eighth day, at which he was acknowledged by a faithful man who gave thanks and praise to God for that blessing.

The remainder of chapter 2 summarizes the return to Nazareth and a childhood visit to Jerusalem for the Passover. On the way home from this trip his parents thought he was lost, but found that he had been spending time conversing with the religious leaders. Luke says that many were amazed by his answers. They would be even more amazed at his actions when he became a full-grown man.

Reflection and Application

The stories from these first two chapters have been celebrated and retold in many different art forms. There are countless songs and a large volume of movies depicting the story of the birth of Christ. The result is that many of us have lyrics and images of scenes from the story that are embedded in our minds, such as the journey to Bethlehem and the birth in a manger. The manger probably looks a lot nicer in most movies and nativity sets than it did in real life. The stable area provided to Mary and Joseph was probably a very small and odorous cave-like structure or perhaps even an open air area where the animals were fed. In either case, it was most likely no larger than the size of a New York City studio apartment.

One December, a group of people in my church organized an outdoor living Nativity scene that featured live animals and members of the congregation acting out the roles of the participants. We even had a roster of live babies and their moms who took turns playing the role of Mary and Jesus. The living Nativity was a wonderful witness to the community. We were not trying to sell anything or sign anybody up or charge any money. We only wanted to bring the story alive.

This simple scene, set up in the garden of our church was very popular among the members of the community who came streaming through for one weekend. The attendance was a witness in itself because there are so many other activities and distractions during this season – as we know all too well. But they came, despite the call of the mall and parties and the allure of more high-technology entertainment choices that were available. They came to see a simple story of our Savior, brought to life on the lawn of a church.

There are also many artistic depictions of the scene from Luke 2 where a young Jesus speaks with the religious leaders. One examples is a watercolor by the French artist James Tissot (1836-1902) that is currently owned by the Brooklyn Museum, but is not on display. You can see a photograph of the artwork and read about it at the following link: "Jésus_parmi_les_docteurs"

For those who might be interested in a more high-technology depiction of Luke's stories, you can check out a very creative social media presentation of the Christmas story that someone produced and posted on YouTube in 2010:

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your favorite Christmas song regarding the birth of Jesus?
    2. What are the additional facts from Luke 1-2 that you find to be most useful?
    3. What method would you like to use to retell the story of Jesus’ birth and youth to your contemporaries?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father, we know that you sent angels to speak to Elizabeth and Mary and that you continue to send messengers to us today. Help us to respond like Mary - pledging that we are ready to serve.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Digital Artists


    (1) Morris, Leon The Gospel According to St. Luke, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1974, p. 61-63

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Luke 3-4 (Launch of Ministry for All Towns)

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