Luke: What’s that book all about?
(A brief introduction to the book of Luke)
Getting to know Jesus for Who He really is – that’s the goal I recommend you have when reading
His story in the Gospels. Each of the Jesus stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is simply that,
the story of Jesus. The book of Luke is the third of four of these brief accounts of His life. If you’re
interested in taking a fresh look at Jesus, you’ve come to the right place.
Here we’re taking the “macro view” (the big picture) of Luke’s book. As with any of the Bible's
books, this view will help you as you gradually develop in other studies a more “micro view” of the
specific contents of this Gospel. We’ll take a look at Luke's Gospel as a whole to better understand
its parts. We’ll look at the author, Luke (The Person), his main purpose in writing (The Point), some
of the specifics of his writing (The Particulars), and the uniqueness of what he wrote (The
One of the most interesting aspects of this Gospel is the identity of its author. The first Gospel was
written by a former traitor/tax-collector (Matthew). The second Gospel was written by a former failed-
missionary (Mark). This book of Luke was the work of a doctor and only Gentile author of a New
Testament book. Luke was the only one of the four who wasn’t personally acquainted with Jesus
(as a Man). He became a Christian apparently under Paul’s ministry, and subsequently became his
traveling and ministry partner. When reading through the book of Acts you’ll notice in chapter 16 a
change from 3rd person (“they”) to 1st person (“we”). This is where Luke seems to have joined
Paul in his travels. He seems to have stayed on at Philippi (note the resumption of “they” in Acts 20:
5), and then joined up again in Acts 20:6. Luke was with Paul at his arrest in Jerusalem and two
year imprisonment in Caesarea (Acts 24:27; 27:1). Then they were together through Paul’s trial
under Nero, imprisonment, and eventual martyrdom. Notice these references in Paul’s epistles to
his close partner and faithful confidant, Luke:
- “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor…” (Colossians 4:14).
- “Only Luke is with me…” (2 Timothy 4:11).
- “…My fellow prisoner… Luke, my fellow worker…” (Philemon 23-24).
Luke is helpful in that he tells us at the beginning of his book what his point is. He even reveals
something about the person (or persons) to whom he intends to make that point.
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just
as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the
word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed
good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may
know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4
Luke had in mind after “careful investigation” (he did his homework in his painstaking interviews
with “eyewitnesses”) to write an “orderly account” of the life of the Lord on earth (his being the most
comprehensive of all the Jesus stories). Theophilus, which means “friend (or lover) of God,” may
have been some sort of high ranking (thus, “most excellent”) Greek or Roman official (his name
being Greek). It is possible this is a kind of code name for a group of Christians. It may have been
dangerous for these first century persecuted saints to be distributing publications such as this, and
so Luke might have been writing to a community under the pseudonym of “Theophilus.”
“Our dear friend Luke, the doctor…”
Being the most educated of the chroniclers of the life of Jesus, Doctor Luke wrote comprehensively
and in flowing (almost poetic) Greek language. Some have said that his is the most beautifully
written book in the New Testament.
In his book Luke gives special place to women, children, to the Holy Spirit, and to prayer. Each of
these serve to point out Jesus’ impeccable Humanity. As you read through the book you’ll see how
much Jesus cared about the plight of women in first century Israel (7:37, 50; 10:41; 15:8; 23:28…).
Notice Luke’s unique references to John’s mother Elisabeth (chapter 1), to Anna the aged widow
(chapter 2), to Martha and Mary (chapter 10), to the women who followed Him to the cross (chapter
23). Luke alone tells us how partial Jesus was to widows, being the only one to record the accounts
of Anna the widow (chapter 2), and the widow at Nain whose son Jesus raised up from the dead
As a Man Jesus needed the constant empowering of the Holy Spirit. Luke includes more references
to the work of the Spirit than any of the other four. He alone tells us that Jesus went in to the desert
“full of the Spirit,” that He “returned in the power of the Spirit,” and that He preached His first public
sermon on the topic of the “anointing of the Spirit” on His life (4:1, 14, 18). He overcame the world
and the devil not by some sudden release of Divine power, but by the unction of the Spirit upon
Him. He overcame in His dependent, prayerful, and Spirit-empowered Manhood. And as such, He
became our Example. We’re encouraged then that we may be so empowered for similar victory and
Some have said that his is the most
beautifully written book in the New Testament.
In order to continually access the power He needed from the Holy Spirit, Jesus held open the lines
of communication with the Father in prayer. Luke is the most emphatic of all His biographers to
include Jesus actually praying (3:21; 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1; 22:32; 22:44; 23:34, 46) and
uniquely includes many of His extensive teachings on prayer (see 11:5-10; 18:1-8; 18:9-14). “Jesus
often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
It only makes sense, doesn’t it? Since Jesus was fully human, He had to pray profusely in order to
get His marching orders, His courage, and His power from the Father in order to fulfill His mission.
Jesus, as Man, depended on the Father and fortified Himself thoroughly in His spirit with a life of
intimate and passionate prayer. He’s our example. If Jesus needed to pray just to make it today -
then how much will I we need to fortify ourselves with a consistent, persistent, and intimate
fellowship with the Father?
Each of the Jesus stories has its peculiarities. Each of the Gospel writers includes and omits items
from the life and ministry of Jesus which fits their particular Holy Spirit inspired assignment. The
following are some things which only Luke includes or emphasizes in light of that assignment, and
which make the book unique among the Gospels.
- Luke is the longest of the Gospels, and when added to his other New Testament book (Acts),
his writings comprise a surprising 28% of the entire New Testament. Even the Apostle Paul’s
writings only add up to 23% by comparison.
- In keeping with his emphasis on the Humanity of the Lord, Luke uniquely includes many things
the other biographers omitted. For example:
- Luke gives us the most complete narrative on the nativity and childhood of Jesus (chapters 1-
- Luke’s genealogy goes through Mary (to emphasize His man-ness), and then presses all the
way back to Adam (showing Him to have intimate connection with the father of all humans).
- He’s the only one to tell us Jesus’ earthly age when He began His ministry (3:23).
- He alone tells the story of the miracle catch of fish which clinched the call of four of the
- Only Luke tells of the compassionate raising of the widow’s son in Nain (7:11-17).
- Luke alone gives the account of Jesus’ feet being anointed by a sinful woman (7:36-40).
- If not for Luke we wouldn’t have known about the sending of the Seventy (chapter 10),
- …the lunch at Mary and Martha’s house (chapter 10),
- …the healing of the ten lepers (chapter 17),
- …His interaction with Zacchaeus (19:1-28),
- …His weeping over Jerusalem (19:39-44),
- …His first and last sayings from the cross (23:34, 46),
- …and His appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:15-35).
- As a Greek writing to a Greek, Luke is careful to explain the locality of places in the Holy Land
which would be unfamiliar to non-residents (i.e. “A city of Galilee named Nazareth”;
“Arimathea, a city of the Jews”; “Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem”…).
- Luke includes more of Jesus’ Parables than any of the other biographers. Of the 23 he
records, there are 18 parables found only in his book, for example: The Good Samaritan
(chapter 10); the Friend at Midnight (chapter 11); the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Son
(chapter 15); the Rich Man and Lazarus (chapter 16); the Pharisee and the Publican (chapter
Luke’s writings comprise a
surprising 28% of the entire New Testament
I hope you’ll read and re-read Luke’s Jesus story. And as you do, please feel free to wonder! Don’t
concoct a mechanical or theologically sterile Jesus, please! Look for the real Jesus on every page!
Don’t expect to completely understand Him. Remember, after all, though fully Man, Jesus is God!
Read and wonder.