If you are doing the Lenten Reading Plan to read all four gospels between Ash Wednesday and Easter, you are halfway done! Congratulations! If you are behind, set aside 30-60 minutes and catch up! Just yesterday, I started in Luke’s gospel. It turns out Luke is a Gentile, the only known Gentile author in the New Testament. A Gentile is a non-Jew. Luke doesn’t come at the Jesus story from so much of a Jewish perspective, but from a human, detailed account. Luke is a doctor – he likes accuracy and detail. Luke also did not know Jesus personally, but was a close companion of Paul. As a companion of Paul, Luke also writes the Acts of the Apostle. I suggest when you finish Luke 24, skip over to Acts 1 and see how Acts picks up right where Luke leaves off. Acts 1 happens immediately after the resurrection, and Acts 2 happens at Pentecost, a Jewish celebration just 7 weeks after Passover – when Jesus was crucified. Luke is a historian in a sense, giving us the inside scoop of the early church in its infancy.
So Luke is a Gentile Christian, like us, and wasn’t an original disciples of Jesus – like us. He is fascinated by the story – the real, historical, accurate story of Jesus and then Peter and Paul. I’m fascinated by the story, too. What really happened? Why did Jesus say what he said – and why did he say it then? Why was he so angry at some religious leaders and so gracious to those who were sick or poor? And when Luke writes Acts, he is a historian chronicling the early church. I like history too – and wonder as I read: How did the members of the early church have such bold faith? Were they afraid for their safety when they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus? What would it be like for them to interact with their friends who didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah? What would it have been like to know Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament?
We can’t get all our questions answered. But reading Luke in his gospel account and in the Acts of the Apostles can answer some of our questions. These two short books give us a glimpse into Jesus motives, his humanity, his grace, and into the lives of the early Christians – their faith and fears. Because they struggled, I am encouraged to try again when I struggle. When I fail, I know that they failed, too. Jesus was tempted like us as a human, but didn’t fail. I can trust in him. He is the great giver of second chances. I love that!
Since Luke didn’t know Jesus personally he probably had to base some of his writings on what Mark had written earlier. He also probably personally knew some of the living disciples and interviewed them for their stories. And he was one of the Paul’s closest friends and traveling companions – which gave him a front row seat to history and the early church. Reading the gospels can help answer our questions about Jesus and how to follow Him. Luke is a lot like us – a person who probably asked a lot of questions, took notes, wrote down his story and the story of the early church, so by reading him we too can step out in faith like him.