It’s hard to elevate one of the Gospel accounts above the others, as they each give testimony in their own way to the Messiah. In some ways, however, we’re indebted to Luke for his account. Not being a personal witness of Jesus, Luke nonetheless acknowledges others who have undertaken to write an account of what happened.
Thus Luke, an educated Gentile who practised as a doctor, set out to write an orderly account of what actually happened for the benefit of his benefactor, Theophilus.
Luke’s Gospel contains information that the other accounts do not. For example, Luke gives a lot of information about the events and circumstances leading up to the birth of Jesus, and we can only presume that Luke, as Paul’s travelling companion, took the time when in Judea to speak personally and listen to Mary’s personal testimony. (WA Elwell, RW Yarbrough, Encountering the New Testament, Page 102, Baker Academic, 2005). Thus the events of Jesus’ early life are carefully and well documented.
Like Matthew, Luke also gives a genealogy of Jesus Christ, but Luke goes further back before Abraham (where Matthew began) and links Jesus Christ to Adam, who was the son of God.
Speculation as to when Luke wrote his gospel account varies depending on different theological schools of thought on this. We must remember that Luke also wrote Acts and the timing of this second book affects when Luke wrote his original treatise – which would have to have been sometime and probably in the decade before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. Agreement on the place of writing is also speculative, as Luke does not principally identify this. Luke’s writing stands out above the gospels in its literary style, reflecting an educated and mature man well versed in the classical Greek language of his day.
Luke’s gospel is unique in perhaps more than one way. For example, Luke gives the reader special attention and appreciation for how Jesus honoured and respected women; the personal details of women in Jesus’ ministry are clearly remembered. For example, an incident is recorded where the disciples wondered why Jesus would speak to a Samaritan woman at the well. Another notable incident was when the woman who was healed simply because her faith led her to anonymously touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Luke also mentions the women in Jesus’ ministry by name and their unique circumstances. For example, Luke tells us of Mary Magdalene and the curing in her life, as well Joanna’s unique disposition.
Luke pays special attention to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, right from the conception of Jesus, through the work of John the Baptist, what Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, and how he lived his life as encapsulated in the phrase “full of joy through the Holy Spirit…” (Luke 10:21) Thus the historical Jesus is also conveyed with an overt theological overlay.
We must remember that Luke’s account was not written from a born and bred Hebrew perspective, as the others authors were. Luke was a Gentile, a Greek as we might understand it, and his writing helps the reader understand that the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ isn’t restricted to ethnicity but is available to all people. Thus if Luke’s account had been destroyed by the sands of time, we would be so much the less wiser; the critical details of Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship and conversation, for example, would have been lost. Thus Luke’s work miraculously stands the test of time; he is a worthy historian and in doing so captures the spirit of the early, pioneering followers of Jesus.
By John Klassek
For LifeSpring School of Ministry