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A Lens for Luke's Gospel

A Brief Perspective on the Third Gospel in the New Testament

by Shane Rife

I remember listening to an essay by C.S. Lewis at work months ago. In it, he disclaimed symbolic motives that others attributed to some of the things he wrote. Apparently, some of his readers/critics were overly zealous in their attempts to read between his lines. Similarly, it may be hard to guess a Gospel author's particular goals based upon some of the textual decisions he made. However, there does seem to be some reasons to believe that Luke intended to aim his work at all people groups, with more than just a traditional Jewish audience in mind[1]. Beyond that, his Gospel to be almost cinematic, communicating feelings through action. 

From the very beginning of his Gospel, Luke communicates a very professional demeanor. He was out to collect facts, to thoroughly establish just what went down during the time Jesus was among us (Luke 1:1-4). His writing may be seen as more emotionally detached, in that he leaves out certain narration that gives insight into the emotional perspective of Jesus. For example, the story of the Rich Young Ruler as told by Luke (18:18-30) may seem less touching than as told by Mark (10:17-31) who directly states that Jesus looked at the man and loved him (21a).  

However, in many other instances Luke communicates the powerful drama of the stories through establishing the scene, then depicting the vivid body language and memorable dialogue of the characters. Read the story of the Miraculous Catch of Fish in Luke 5:1-11. Luke sets it up by describing the environment and putting the characters into a concrete, well painted historical event. Then, he shows us the powerful, mysterious nature of Jesus as He works a miracle in front of Peter, driving him to bow down at Jesus' knees. Peter's words, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord," tell us everything we need to know about Peter and about the guilt of sin we all carry with us. Luke doesn't just tell us about these feelings, he shows them to us with powerful imagery. In making the event so specific, we’re drawn into the emotion that Peter felt when encountered by the powerful, imposing, but ultimately loving figure that is the Son of God.

Luke shows Jesus in this powerful way throughout his Gospel. The Lord is majestic and unafraid to confront corruption wherever He finds it (Luke 19:45-46). Yet, His mission is still one motivated by love and self-sacrifice. It is this heroic human being, connected to both God and Adam, and therefore connected to us all, that has come to save every one of us from our personal separation from God. His arm is not short, nor His back weak, so that He cannot put every lost sheep onto His shoulders and carry them home (Luke 15:3-7).

See Luke 18:18-30

See Mark 10:17-31

See Luke 5:1-11

See Luke 19:45-46 

See Luke 15:3-7


[1] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 146-155.

  • 13 January 2020
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