Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Good Doctor Luke

Mattias Stom's depiction of Mark (distracted and looking at us - he probably already finished his 16 chapter cliff notes version on Jesus' life) and Luke (still hard at work with his research).
Mattihas Stom’s depiction of Mark (distracted and looking at us – he probably already finished his 16 chapter cliff notes version on Jesus’ life) and Luke (still hard at work with his research).

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus….
Luke 1:3 (NIV)

This morning I was up early and spent some time hyperlinking all of the chapters of 1 Chronicles, which we just finished yesterday, into the Chapter-a-Day Index. As I was doing this mundane task I began to think about all of these posts I’ve written day-by-day for over eight years. My brain, still fogged by sleep, had a silly thought: “If I was running for President [talk about a nightmare for all of us], and both the press and public started pouring over my blog to find out more about me, what would they conclude about me based on what I’ve written?”

I then opened to the Luke’s biography of Jesus to start on this morning’s chapter and read Luke’s introduction to Theophilus, the person to whom Luke addressed his account of Jesus’ life. Having just been thinking about what your writing reveals about the person, I realized how much Dr. Luke [traditional holds that he was a physician] revealed about himself in his introduction.

  • He is methodical, making sure that his “orderly” account was properly introduced. There’s a formality to Luke’s style and structure.
  • He notes that his account is the result of “careful investigation,” and I could imagine the brain of a scientist at work.
  • He had researched everything “from the beginning.” The good doctor was thorough as well as methodical.

As I’ve poured over the “big four” biographies of Jesus countless times, I’ve come to appreciate particular things that are unique to each. The thing that I quickly observed in reading Dr. Luke’s investigative report, and which I have come to greatly appreciate over the years, is that it contains small details and entire episodes in the story of the life of Jesus that aren’t found in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and John. A physician diagnosing the events he’d witnessed, you can feel Luke’s brain systematically questioning, researching, cataloging, and filing all of the facts so as to lay them out to Theophilus in the most clear and logical manner. These details and episodes provide incredible color and context to the story.

This morning, I am thankful for context and color. I’m thankful for diverse peoples and personalities whom God created to bring that color and context to both His-story and to each of our own stories. I’m thankful for Dr. Luke, whose physician’s brain does not work like mine (I think I’m more like John), and his meticulous investigation which I have enjoyed and from which I have greatly benefitted.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 1

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, from the Book of Ke...
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The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son: Matthew 1:1 (MSG)

I remember back to grade school and some of the contests of pride me and the boys would get into on the playground, in the lunch room, and during recess. Whose dad is bigger? Who is better at [fill in the blank]? Who was related to somebody famous?

It’s silly to look back on now, but some of those things are simply a part of human nature, and they carry down through generations. Walk onto any playground today and you’ll hear variations on the same pissing match.

Even in Jesus day, the people took a great amount of pride and interest in who was related to whom. In those days, much of your life was determined by the tribe in which you were born. In fact, the writers of the gospels knew quite well that the Old Testament prophets claimed that the Messiah would come out of the royal line of David. Unless Jesus could trace his lineage back to David, the people would not accept him as the Messiah. That’s why both Matthew and Luke begin their biographies with a family tree. Matthew traces the lineage through Jesus earthly father while Luke traces the lineage through his mother. Either direction, you find the key link to David.

And, while Jesus could have bragged to the other boys on the playground about being from the royal line, they would have taken one look at the list and given Jesus grief that the line also included prostitutes, deceivers, adulterers, murderers, and evil idolatrous kings.

Everyone can point back to honorable and dishonorable branches in the family tree. While the past can help us understand who we are and where we came from, the journey is all about the steps we choose to take in propelling us forward.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 23

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The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Luke 23:45 (MSG)

Torn. Ripped. Split asunder.

There are so many things that were ripped apart that day. Jesus’ flesh was torn with the soldier’s scourge. His face ripped with long Judean thorns. His body ripped through with nails. His heart torn with a Roman spear.

Then, the Son was ripped from the Father. Carrying the sin of the world, the beloved son became an anathema. The Father turned away from his own. Sin split asunder the unity between God the Father and God the Son. Jesus died alone and isolated. Because of my sin.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

At the same time, the curtain of the temple was torn apart. The temple curtain separated the “Holiest Place” where God dwelt in the temple apart from sinful man on the outside. But with Jesus carrying the sin of the world and paying the penalty for our sin, the gap between God and man was bridged. God himself bore our sins. God himself made a way for us to enter his presence. The curtain of sin that separated us was torn asunder. Jesus paid the price. Jesus separated himself from the Father so that we could be united with the Father. Jesus paved the way for us to enter God’s presence.

That’s why the angels sang:

“Glory to God in the highest.
And on Earth: peace. Goodwill to men.”

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 16

Statue of Mary Tyler Moore at the corner of 7t...
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“I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” Luke 16:9 (MSG)

My daughter, Madison, called last night. She is a poor college student living with three other girls in the Cities. She is working hard at work (ironically, at Bare Escentuals), working hard at school, and learning to walk her own journey on her own [cue: Mary Tyler Moore Theme].

Right now, her daily journies have become more difficult. Her beloved car (a.k.a. Squirt) is dying. In fact, there is an epidemic of car problems among her roomies. They have been sharing one girls car as they all figure out what they are going to do to repair or replace their sputtering vehicles.

“If I have to,” Madison said on the phone, “I can walk to work. It’s a long walk and I’ll freeze my butt off, but I can do it.” [This from the girl who trekked miles into the jungle of Costa Rica using a machette].

How could I not think of her this morning as I read Jesus’ dictate to be on constant alert, looking for angles, and surviving by your wits. Those are life lessons we don’t get in books nor can we absorb them from a lecture. I find it fascinating when people ignorantly believe that being a follower of Jesus is about “complacently getting by on good behavior” when Jesus call was to follow him in the opposite direction.

The journey is frighteningly more adventurous than that.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 9

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
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The apostles returned and reported on what they had done. Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida. Luke 9:10 (MSG)

One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby…. Luke 9:18a 9 (MSG)

About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray…. Luke 9:28a (MSG)

Jesus often used the phrase “he who has ears, let him hear.”

Listen.
Be open.
Pay attention.
Keep your antennae up.

Earlier this year, I told Wendy that I wanted to be more intentional in spending time together in prayer. As we’ve spent hours in the car between home and the lake, I’ve attempted to prompt us to spend a little of that time praying together.

This past week my daughter Taylor and I were doing a study wrapped around the painting Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer. In the course of our conversation, I once again felt the conviction to be less of a busy-Martha and more Mary-like in spending time with Jesus, sitting and listening and spending time in conversation.

Today, as I read the chapter I couldn’t help notice the recurring theme of Jesus getting away by himself to pray.

I find that lessons from God’s message are sometimes those things which are woven through the text; His callings then weave those lessons through life in a recurring theme. I’ve found that when God promps me, it often comes in whispers as a still-small voice, but we have to quiet our lives enough to hear them (and, if you’re like me, turning your hearing aid on helps, as well).

I hear you, God. I hear you.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 7

St. Mary Magdalene in the House of Simon the P...
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One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume…. Luke 7:36-37 (MSG)

Having lived in a few different towns of different sizes and I’ve discovered that there are community archetypes. Within any community I find the respected local politician, the business leader/power broker, the local pastor or priest who is the community religious leader, the high school star athlete who never quite got beyond his glory days, the person with special needs for whom the entire community looks out, and etc.

Years ago I had the opportunity to walk through the ruins of some of the villages along the northern shore of Galilee where Jesus carried out his ministry. They were small fishing villages not unlike the small farming towns in which I’ve lived. Through today’s chapter I get a sense of similar small town archetypes to the familiar ones I know: the Roman captain who represented the occupational civic authority, the town’s poor widow for whom life has been an on-going tragedy, the proud and pious religious leader, and the town whore.

I can’t think of a more dramatic small town scene. A regional celebrity comes for a visit. The entire town is buzzing with news and gossip. The local coffee shop is churning with stories about this Jesus and what they’d heard about him. Jesus is scheduled to go to the house of Simon for dinner. Of course he is. Simon is the town’s religious V.I.P. He is wealthy, he is powerful, and when it comes to spiritual matters in the town he calls the shots. Simon is the final word; God’s local judge, jury and executioner. Of course Jesus would go to Simon’s house.

Then she walks in. They all know about her. In fact, truth be told, some of the pious men in attendance at this private dinner party know her, in the Biblical sense, if you catch my drift. Publicly despised, privately used, and generally dismissed as dirt, she is known by all the town as a simple whore. Then, in a bold move guaranteed to turn heads, the sullied slut walks right into the religiously scrubbed crib of the local holy man. Imagine the snickers, the glares, the gossip ready to drip off the small town lips of the onlookers.

She carries expensive perfume purchased with lust money (we all knew where she got the money for that), and she falls at Jesus’ feet. Her river of tears pour across her cheeks and drip onto Jesus’ feet. They mix with the perfume she humbly, and gently spreads with her hands across his toes.

For each person in that moment, and for each archetype, Jesus is present. For each there is a lesson. For each there is a blessing. For each there is a crossroads and a transformational opportunity. That’s the way Jesus is. No matter who we are or where we find ourselves on life’s road, Jesus dramatically meets us right where we are, turns us away from where we’ve been, and points us where we need to go.

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