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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Gospel of Luke - Introduction - Chapters 1-4 Notes

St. Luke presents his gospel as a historical account written for a man named Theophilus. He also gives us the Acts of the Apostles as well. Luke-Acts is actually a 2-part book. As a physician, St Luke would have been strong in many of the arts. He is known for being the first iconographer. Back in the 1st CE, you would have made iconography and art with wax and we have what is claimed to be the icons he made, they are made of wax. Luke likely possesses a lot of the information he shares about Jesus' infancy because he directly gained that information from Mary, Mother of Christ herself. Luke's gospel is traditionally associated with an ox as a symbol of sacrifice and Luke focuses a lot on the priesthood of Jesus. If you read Luke you will see he reads in classical Koine Greek. He seems to have Gentile readers mostly in mind in his writings however this would also apply to the Greek-speaking Jews as well. 

Chapter 1


Theophilus, which means "lover of God" is a convert who wants the gospel told and has had St. Luke do this as a commission. St. Luke is a 2nd Generation Christian just like St. Mark is. 

"Those things which have been fulfilled among us" lends credibility to this writing being constructed after 70 AD. 


Begins in the days of Herod the Great, before his death and the tetrarchy formed. He begins with Zechariah, who is unusual for this time because he is supposed to legitimately be a High Priest while the Sadducees are not legitimate. Zechariah was not the High Priest but he was a liturgical part of the priesthood. He and his wife Elizabeth are righteous but have had no children yet. Zechariah is offering to Yahweh in the Temple when the angel of the Lord comes to him. There has been no presence of God at the altar because of the Exile being ongoing so this is why he is deeply troubled because this is obviously not a common occurrence taking place. The angel promises him and Elizabeth will have a child who will have the spirit and power of God over him like the prophet Elijah. Elijah is coming in 2nd Temple Judaism to prepare the way for the Messiah, the time of Restoration and Judgment. Things will begin to be made right and John the Baptist is part of this. John the Baptist will be the New, 2nd Elijah. He will be The Voice in the Wilderness who prepares and will be like a Nazarite.

Zechariah is baffled because he is old and has been told this child is also the 2nd Elijah. He asks for a sign and is given one: he is made mute until John is born. When Zechariah came out of the Temple he was speechless and couldn't see. His time to serve is up and he departs to his home. Elizabeth hides for 5 months because she is old and pregnant.


Mary meets Gabriel, an archangel, at Nazareth. She will give birth, as a Virgin, to Messiah. Joseph and Mary are both listed as descendants of King David. St. John the Baptist is a descendant of Aaron the High Priest. 

Mary - Miriam, on the side of Jesus, the Messiah of David's lineage. "One filled with grace" - "highly favored one". 

Mary isn't troubled by an angel showing up. She is troubled by the way Gabriel greets her. She shows great humility here. Mary was a dedicated woman to the Temple. A nun essentially in our period. She asks how she will be pregnant if she doesn't have sex with a man and Gabriel answers her that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit. 

Her asking "How can this be?" shows she never planned to have sexual relations. She planned to stay dedicated to God and the promise of Anna and Joachim, her parents. This should not surprise people because this practice of women being dedicated to God and keeping chaste was done even in the time of the Maccabees. She is told He will be the "Son of God". Gabriel also tells her that Elizabeth is pregnant too. Luke makes a point that she, Mary, actively signs off on the plan of God, and consents to it; a 14-year-old who is dedicated to the Temple accepts her role God has asked her to complete. Festal virgins when found pregnant could and would be stoned. In Nazareth, it was definitely doubted how Jesus was born. Mary is a woman and so at this period, she has no rights whatsoever. It is going to be a huge test of potential suffering and danger. 


Mary meets up with Elizabeth and they greet each other. Elizabeth asks why she has been granted to meet with the Mother of God, My Lord. Lord is a replacement for God. So she is quite literally saying: Mother of My God. Theotokos.

Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. She is speaking God's Word. 


Elizabeth says Mary is blessed. John in the womb is also a person here. Mary sings the Magnificat and exults the Lord. 

1:48 "From now on, all nations will call me blessed". All will be blessed through Abraham's descendants. His seed - Jesus. This song has a lot in common with the OT prophets. This child will fulfill all OT prophecies. 


The poor but faithful and oppressed are to be rescued from evil rulers both physical and spiritual. Mary remains with Zechariah and Elizabeth for 3 months more. 


John is born, and circumcised on the 8th Day. The neighbors marvel and rejoice and they think they will name him Zechariah but she says no, because Gabriel already said what he was to be named. Zechariah writes on a tablet, "His name is John". Then he can speak and praise God. This scares everyone and Judaea's community freaks out because they seem to all recognize that John is special and that God is with him. Luke has apparently talked to some of these people who witnessed John the Baptist and found it odd and amazing. 


Zechariah filled with Spirit, prophesies that the time of Redemption is taking place. God has visited them. He is in Mary's womb. Our humanity and salvation are already incarnated. Jesus is the Davidic King, the horn of salvation. All the way back from Genesis, this was the plan of God to overthrow all enemies of God. Remember that this letter is written to Theophilus and the entire Church, which here is largely Gentile. 


Now he speaks of John the Baptist. He is to be the Messenger who leads the people and prepares them for the Messiah. He is the Highest of prophets. When John baptizes, their sins are forgiven. This is important to remember here. There is real forgiveness even before Christ dies and is resurrected. God can forgive AT WILL. And always has been able to. 


The child, John, grew and became strong in spirit and was in the desert until the day of his manifestation of Israel. Tradition has that when Herod had all the children murdered Zechariah was murdered at the Temple trying to stop him. Elizabeth by tradition fled to the desert and died there where John stayed in the desert and was from then on raised by angels. Jesus refers to Zechariah's murder later in the Gospels when He says that from Abel to Zechariah were the prophets of God murdered. 

Chapter 2


Reign of Ceasar Augustus. He wanted taxes so he called for a census that happened as Syria was being governed by Quirinius. There is no record of Quirinius, however, we don't have evidence of most of the governors of that time either. We also until the 1960s did not have a verified record of Pontius Pilate beyond the Church Fathers. Being governor of a province was kind of like being a mayor of a city at that time. You are usually forgettable but it doesn't mean you didn't exist or that none of this happened. 

Joseph and Mary leave Galilee to be registered in Bethlehem. This fulfills Micah 5:1. Mary is with a child and visibly pregnant. Mary has Jesus, her firstborn Son, called Prototokos, meaning no child was born before Him. None after too. Tradition says that Mary was Joseph's second wife after his first wife had died. The first calf born is sacrificed and the first child is dedicated to God. The animal is sacrificed as a substitution for the child.


Nowhere in the Gospels does it say Joses or James are the sons of Mary. Jesus is her son. The manger is actually a cave where they keep animals. In the same area surrounding Bethlehem, there were migratory nomad shepherds who lived with their sheep basically. They see an angel and the angel tells them that a king who is the Messiah has been born. This angel has told a bunch of poor homeless shepherds who are powerless and have nothing really. This tells us that God is more interested in these people rather than the ones with power, the kings and the rulers. St. Luke was educated and would not have been part of the peasant class but he nonetheless shares often about how Jesus cares greatly for the poor. 

The angels proclaim "peace" which is significant because Rome declares Pax Romana. This peace however is not from the state declaring it. That has no real power nor claim to power at the end of the day and can't last. This peace from Yahweh is everlasting and He gives it to Christ, not Rome nor anyone else. 

God never declared war on mankind. Man declared war on God. God declares Peace through Christ, who forgave us. They went after the angels left and met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, and praised and glorified Jesus. They told many people while Mary kept it all and pondered over all of it in her heart. Her own faith is strengthened by this all. 


After 8 days Jesus is circumcised. In Hebrew His name is Joshua. In Greek it is Yesu. In Latin, it is the most common usage of Jesus. 


The firstborn is dedicated to God. You sacrifice your first lamb or animal to God as a substitute. Mary and Joseph are dirt poor so they sacrifice a pair of turtledoves or two pigeons. Their dedicating Christ is them offering Jesus to God too which He is the Lamb of God (Genesis 22:8). 


Simeon, a wise and devout man of God, filled with Spirit is here. All around is corruption but there is still a remnant of good and godly believers. Simeon is one of these men. He has the Spirit of God so he is a prophet. God had told Simeon he would not die until he saw the Messiah. He sees Christ and knows who He is. He is righteous and sees Him and knows Him. Out of all these babies, He sees Him. Then sings for joy a psalm. Now depart - Nunc Dimittis. 


All people will be saved: Jew and Gentile are revealed the Light. 


This child is the fall and rise of many in Israel.


Simeon prophesies to Mary specifically, not Joseph. A sword will pierce through her soul as well as others. Anguish will come from what the Messiah will do. She will suffer as well as the Messiah. The first crucifixion prophecy is given here. Mary gets the privilege of birthing the Messiah but she also will have to experience hate, ostracization, poverty, and profound sufferings for it as well. She is a true saint who was loyal to her Son, Jesus Christ. 


Anna, a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, of Asher's tribe. She was 104 years old living in the Temple, had been married for 7 years, and had been a widow for 84 years. This is what Mary would have likely done and returned to the Temple like this, had she not been chosen to be the Theotokos. Anna saw the Messiah and knew He had come. 


They return to Galilee and then to Nazareth. Jesus grew and became "strong in spirit". 


Jesus' whole family has gone to do Passover on their way back to their home and then they realize that He is missing. It took them three days to find Him and He is found in the Temple. He is 12 so Jesus is not yet an adult. He is found talking with the top rabbis and they are all astonished at how wise He is. They (Mary and Joseph) freak out and Jesus asks them "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" He is saying to them that this should have been the first place they should have looked because He is there for God and already at 12 aware of His purpose. Jesus is not being disrespectful either to His parents here. 


Mary kept all these things in her heart (she committed many things to memory and gave them to Luke). Jesus, Lord of the Universe, obeyed His parents and grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. 

Chapter 3

In the Incarnation, Jesus is God and lives a TRUE HUMAN life perfectly. His ordinary life was a stumbling block for many. Still is for some. 


15th year of Tiberius Caesar. Pontius Pilate is Governor of Judaea. Herod is the tetrarch of Galilee, Phillip, and Lysania. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. Herod the Great has died since then. He has a precise history of Judaea here. 

John the Baptist, son of Zechariah is out in the wilderness preaching and prophesying a message of baptism of repentance. They are having sin forgiven by St. John the Baptist. He teaches Isaiah 40:3-5 (no punctuation... remember that when scripture is quoted it is a paraphrase of full quotes...). 

The prophecy is about Israel coming out of Exile from Babylon to Paradise and the New Covenant. This is significant because 2nd Temple Judaism still believed they were in Exile (and Reform Jews still do today). St. John the Baptist is leading and preparing the new covenant people for it and the Messiah, who is to end the Exile and begin the Restoration of Israel (with Gentiles) through the Church. 


John the Baptist tells the people to repent and to stop relying on their ancestry to save them. God's Wrath is coming (judgment). God will sort things out as the Exile ends so repent to be part of the Restoration. Some of Abraham's "children" will be cut down for they have bad fruit. 


John the Baptist tells them to make changes and transform for good to be God's child. He tells the people to give to the poor, tax collectors he calls thieves of the poor and to collect no more, tells the soldiers to go and do good to others and be content with their wages from the tax census. He's basically telling them all to quit their current jobs and find better and more ethical ways to do good. (Talks to temple guards). 

When asked if John is the Messiah, he answers them that he is not but is the Messenger who paves the way for Him Who is the Messiah, the Christ. We will all be judged for what we have done and who we have helped. 


The Messiah will separate good and evil. 


John preaches many exhortations and rebukes even Herod the Tetrarch who's been having relations with his brother Phillip's wife Herodias. He had divorced his wife to marry his brother's wife while Phillip was still alive. This is very sinful behavior. Herod has also put John into prison now at this time.


Jesus comes, is baptized, and while He prays, heaven opens. The Holy Spirit descends in bodily form and a voice from heaven says "You're My Son and I am pleased" -The Trinity is here-


Jesus begins His ministry at age 30. The genealogy is for Christ's credentials, not where He is from and who He is. Luke does the genealogy backward. His adopted father is Joseph, the son of __ (who goes on to share the lineage and goes all the way to Adam. Matthew only goes to Abraham in his. 

Matthew makes a point to show that Jesus is the 7th of 7's. St. Luke doesn't mention women's lineage but Matthew does. 

Luke is selective here for credential purposes. Basically from Zerubabbel and David to Abraham, to Noah, to Adam is to show He is the "seed" - The Messiah long promised. The seed of Abraham and of King David. He goes to Adam, son of God, to set up a parallel because Jesus is the New Adam and we are ALL descended from Adam, both Jew and Gentile. Jesus is related to everybody. 

In Adam, son of God, all die. In Christ, the New Adam, Son of God, all may live. 

Chapter 4


Jesus, filled with Holy Spirit is led by the Spirit to go into the wilderness for 40 days of temptation. The "wilderness" was seen as a place where evil spirits lived. On the Day of Atonement, 2 goats were used. One for sacrifice to Yahweh and one for the sin to go to the wilderness. 

The monastics used to be marveled at because to be out in the wilderness meant there must be some power or something special about the person. 

Luke tells us Jesus is human when he says he is hungry after 40 days. 


the devil - diabolos - evil spirit speaks to Jesus in the desert. Fallen beings who were cast down - demons. The wilderness is perfect for them to be and dwell in and this is also mentioned in the OT that this is where many do go and dwell in. 


Satan tempts Him. Satan knows He is God the Son very well. Jesus doesn't have to prove anything to Satan for the Father will provide. Jesus quotes the OT and Deuteronomy in response as well as other verses showing us that Christ relies on God the Father. 

The devil tempts Jesus like Adam and Eve were and He, the New Adam wins. Adam failed and they handed the world as king and queen to Satan, sin, and death. Satan right now has control and gives authority to whoever he desires. This means all kingdoms, including Rome, are under His control. He is the "prince" of this world. -warlord, strongman, petty dictator- 

After the Resurrection, however, Christ will have taken back the authority, and the Great Commission and the Acts will be Reclamation. Jesus is going to break slavery from Satan, sin, and death through the Cross. Satan knows the Bible too. He quotes against Jesus too. Satan departs after this "until an opportune time". The Devil is not finished trying to stop Christ. Having no sin means death has no claim over Jesus. He doesn't have to die but dies voluntarily to save us. 


Jesus returns with the power of the Holy Spirit to Galilee. He begins to teach in the synagogues. The Spirit is with Him constantly. 


At Nazareth Jesus reads and teaches Isaiah in the form of a codice of Isaiah from the Greek OT. This means Jesus is reading Koine Greek here. Not Hebrew. In Acts, we find Peter talks Greek too (though it is by Spirit he does this). 

Galilee was very mixed culturally and we keep finding Greek OT writings/fragments there in that area. Jesus says this verse in Isaiah is fulfilled. Is this not Joseph's son the people ask. They marvel at Him. Back then, they had synagogues for Sabbath and they preached a message, which Jesus does here. 


The Jews rejected reading the Greek OT texts after Christianity came in. Before Christ, you could read Hebrew or Greek by itself in the synagogue. The people are astonished because they know he is teaching from a Messianic passage. This was the beginning of that sermon. He goes and gives the rest of the sermon. He knows they have heard what He did in Capernaum and says He won't do it here for them. He begins to use examples of Elijah in pagan places and performing miracles for them, while Israel is basically faithless. HE uses Gentile examples. Only Naaman the Syrian, a Gentile was cleansed. He is comparing the Jews here to faithless Israel. Jews rejected Jesus and Gentiles understood Him. 

Everyone in the synagogue fills up with wrath and tries to throw Jesus off a cliff. Jesus gets away from them and "went His way". Satan's last temptation was to try and get to jump off a cliff and it almost happens here with the Jews. That's not a coincidence. 


He goes back to Capernaum and teaches on the Sabbaths. In the synagogue there is a demon possessed man here. Holy One of God that Jesus is, He commands the demon leave and the demon does. Jesus has authority over demons and only God could do this. 

These demons were seen as powerful. Many OT prophets sometimes could not even it was said deliver people from demons and it had to be God Who has authority greater than Satan to do it. Obviously Jesus has this because He is God Incarnate. 


Jesus has power over disease, a fever too. Not just spirits but the natural world as well. He heals St. Peter's mother-in-law (he's married). St. Luke makes a distinction between demons and diseases. 


The demons are saying that He is the Christ and God the Son. He is healing everyone and growing in popularity. Christ goes off to a deserted place and the people try to seek Him and keep Him with them and Christ tells them He must leave so He can preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities so he continues here preaching to Galilee. Capernaum it must be noted (Gentiles) here love Him while the Jewish populated cities and their people keep rejecting Him. 

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