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Luke and His Prologue

September 27th, 2011 by Oleg Kostyuk

by Oleg Kostyuk

Today, we will look at the introduction to the Gospel of Luke. Let us look at the first four verses of the Gospel according to Luke:

Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. (Luke 1:1-4)

Luke addresses his Gospel to Theophilus. The name Theophilus is of Greek origin and means lover of God. So, we can probably even say that it is addressed to anybody who loves God or wants to love God. Luke also mentions the title of Theophilus. He refers to him as to “most excellent” (1:3). This title picks out a social superior. That is why we might conclude that Theophilus was a member of the wealthy urban elites. That explains why Luke in both his Gospel and the book of Acts was advocating poverty. In other words he was preaching to rich man Theophilus about the importance of supporting poor people. That can be clearly seen from the main body of the Gospel.

Only in the Gospel of Luke do we read that Mary and Joseph did not have a place where to stay when they came to Bethlehem (2:7). Unlike in the Gospel of Matthew, in the Gospel of Luke shepherds are the first to greet Jesus (2:15-18). Shepherds were considered as lower class people. Nevertheless, they were the first one to greet little Jesus. After the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she prayed a powerful prayer, praising God because “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly” (Luke 1:52).

Another significant detail that should not be overlooked is the sacrifice of Joseph and Mary when they came to present Jesus to the Lord (2:22). Luke states that they offered a sacrifice “according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons’” (2:23). However, according to “the law of the Lord” only “if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Leviticus 12:8). That is to say, Luke does not leave out the fact that Joseph and Mary were poor and could not even afford to bring required offering. Instead, he emphasizes that they were poor.

When Jesus started His ministry He “went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). He read from Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18; Cf. Isaiah 61:1). He clearly stated what his mission was. He came to preach not only to the rich but also to the poor. He came to show His compassion to everybody no matter what social status.

Later on, in His Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, Jesus starts His sermon with the words, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). He emphasizes that Jesus was anointed to preach Good News not only to the spiritually poor people, but also to the physically poor.

The message of Luke’s second book, the book of Acts, is also addressed to Theophilus, and contains the same idea of caring for the poor. Acts 2:44-45 says: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need”. The wealthy Christians in Jerusalem sold their properties, and pooled the proceeds to meet the needs of the poorer Christians.

To summarize, Luke clearly emphasizes the importance of caring for poor people. And this message, in addition to other important aspects, goes through the Gospel as a red thread. Luke presents the humanity and compassion of Jesus towards the lowliest of people. This is a clear message for all Christians throughout the history. True followers of Jesus should follow His example and share His love and compassion with all people regardless of social status.

We have looked at just one fascinating aspect of the introduction of the Gospel according to Luke. I hope you enjoyed our study today. Join our conversation; let us experience the Word of God come alive.

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