The numerical position which Luke occupies in the Sacred Canon, supplies a sure key to its interpretation. It is the third book in the New Testament, and the forty-second in the Bible as a whole. Each of these numbers are profoundly significant and suggestive in this connection. Three is the number of manifestation, and particularly, the manifestation of God and His activities. It is in the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity that the one true and living God is fully revealed. Hence, also, three is the number of resurrection, for resurrection is when life is fully manifested. Appropriately, then, is Luke's Gospel the third book of the New Testament, for here it is we are shown, as nowhere else so fully, God manifest in flesh. But Luke's Gospel is also the forty-second book in the Bible as a whole, and this is, if possible, even more significant, for 42 is 7 x 6, and seven stands for perfection while six is the number of man: putting the two together we get the Perfect Man! And this is precisely what the Holy Spirit brings before us in this forty-second book of the Bible. What an evidence this is, not only of the Divine inspiration of Scripture but, that God has unmistakably superintended the placing of the different books in the Sacred Canon just as we now have them!
Luke's Gospel is concerned with the Humanity of our Lord. In Matthew, Christ is seen testing Israel, and that is why his Gospel has the first place in the New Testament, as being the necessary link with the Old. In Mark, Christ appears as serving Israel, and that is why his Gospel is given the second place. But in Luke, the writer's scope is enlarged: here Christ is seen in racial connections as the Son of Man, contrasted from the sons of men. In John, Christ's highest glory is revealed, for there He is viewed as the Son of God, and, as connected not with Israel, not with men as men, but with believers. Thus we may admire the Divine wisdom in the arrangement of the four Gospels, and see the beautiful gradation in their order. Matthew is designed specially for the Jews; Mark is peculiarly suited to God's servants; Luke is adapted to men as men - all men; while John's is the one wherein the Church has found its chief delight.
Luke's Gospel, then, is the Gospel of Christ's Manhood. It shows us God manifest in flesh. It presents Christ as "The Son of Man." It views the Lord of glory as having come down to our level, entering into our conditions (sin excepted), subject to our circumstances, and living His life on the same plane as ours is lived. Yet, while He is here seen mingling with men, at every point He appears in sharp contrast from them. There was as great a difference between Christ as the Son of Man, and any one of us as a son of man, as there is now between Him as the Son of God, and any believer as a son of God. That difference was not merely relative, but absolute; not simply incidental, but essential; not one of degree, but of kind. "The Son of Man" predicts the uniqueness of His humanity. The humanity of our Lord was miraculously begotten, it was intrinsically holy in its nature, and therefore, saw not corruption in death. As The Son of Man, He was born as none other ever was, He lived as none other did, and He died as none other ever could.
The humanity of Christ, like everything else connected with His peerless person, needs to be discussed with profound reverence and care. Speculation concerning it is profane. Rash conjectures about it must not be allowed for a moment. All that we can know about it is what has been revealed in the Scriptures. Had some of our theologians adhered more rigidly to what the Holy Spirit has said on the subject, had they exercised more care in "holding fast the form of sound words," much that has been so dishonoring to our Lord had never been written. The person of the God-Man is not presented to our view for intellectual analysis, but for the worship of our hearts. It is not without good reason that we have been expressly warned, "great is the Mystery of Godliness. God was manifest in flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16).
As we prayerfully examine the written word it will be found that Divine care has been taken to guard the perfections of our Lord's humanity, and to bring out its holy character. This appears not only in connection with the more direct references to His person, but also in the types and prophecies of the Old Testament. The "lamb," which portrayed Him as the appointed Sacrifice for sin, must be "without spot and blemish," and the very houses wherein the lamb was eaten, must have all leven (emblem of evil) carefully excluded from them. The "manna," which spoke of Christ as the Food for God's people, is described as being "white" in color (Ex.16:31). The Meal offering, which directly pointed to the Humanity of Christ, was to be only of "fine flour" (Lev. 2:1), that is, flour without any grit or unevenness; moreover, it was to be presented to the Lord accompanied with "oil" and "frankincense," which were emblems of the Holy Spirit, and the fragrance of Christ's person. Joseph, the most striking of all the personal types of the Lord Jesus, was, we are told, "A goodly person, and well favored" (Gen. 39:6).
This same feature is noticeable in the prophecies which referred to the humanity of the Coming One. It was a "virgin" in whose womb He should be conceived (Is. 7:14). As the Incarnate One, God spake of Him thus: "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him" (Is. 42:1). Touching the personal excellencies of the Son of Man, the Spirit of prophecy exclaimed, "Thou art farier than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever" (Ps. 45:2). Concerning the Sinlessness of Him who was cut off out of the land of the living, it was affirmed, "He hath done no violence, neither was any deceit found in His mouth" (Is. 53:9). Looking forward to the time when His humanity should pass through death without corruption, it was said, "His leaf also shall not wither" (or, "fade," margin), Ps. 1:3 - contrast with this, "We all do fade as a leaf" (Is. 64:6).
Coming now to the New Testament, we may observe how carefully God has distinguished the Man Christ Jesus from all other men. In 1 Tim. 3:16 we read, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." It is remarkable that in the Greek there is no definite article here: what the Holy Spirit really says is, "God was manifest in flesh." Manifest in "flesh" He was, but not in the flesh, for that would point to fallen human nature, shared by all the depraved descendants of Adam. Not in the flesh, but in flesh, sinless and holy flesh, was God "manifest." O the marvellous minute accuracy of Scripture! In like manner we read again concerning the humanity of Christ, "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh (Greek): Rom. 8:3. The spotless and perfect humanity of the Saviour was not sinful like ours, but only after its "likeness" or outward form. As Heb. 7:26 declares He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." Separate from sinners He was, both in the perfect life He lived here. He "knew no sin" (2 Cor.5:21); He "did not sin" (1 Pet. 2:22); He was "without sin" (Heb. 4:15); therefore could He say, "The prince of this world (Satan) cometh and hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30).
In keeping with the theme of Luke's Gospel, it is here we have the fullest particulars concerning the miraculous birth of the Lord Jesus. Here we read, "In the sixth month (how significant is this number here, for six is the number of man) the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary" (Luke 1:26,27). Twice over is it here recorded that Mary was a "virgin." Continuing, we read, "And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." This troubled Mary, for she wondered at this strange salutation. The angel continued, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus." In reply, Mary asked, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" And the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
The coming of the Holy Spirit "upon" a person is always, in Scripture, to effect a supernatural, a Divine work. The promise of the angel to Mary that the power of the Highest should "overshadow" her, suggests a double thought: she should be protected by God Himself, and how this promise was fulfilled Matt. 1:19,20 informs us; while it is also a warning that the modus operandi of this miracle is hidden from us. The words of the angel to Mary "that holy thing which shall be born of thee," have been a sore puzzle to the commentators. Yet the meaning of this expression is very simple. It refers not, concretely, to our Lord's person, but instead, abstractly, to His humanity. It calls attention to the uniqueness of His humanity. It is in pointed contrast from ours. Put these words of Luke 1:35 over against another expression in Is. 64:6 and their meaning will be clear - We are all as an unclean thing." Our human nature, looked at abstractly, (that is, apart from its personnel acts) is, essentially, "unclean," whereas that which the Son of God took unto Himself, when He became incarnate, was incapable of sinning (which is merely a negative affirmation), but it was inherently and positively "holy." Therein the humanity of Christ differed from that of Adam. Adam, in his unfallen state, was merely innocent (a negative quality again), but Christ was holy. Perhaps it may be well for us to offer a few remarks at this point concerning the Saviour's "temptation."
We are frequently hearing of preachers making the statement that our Lord could have yielded to the solicitations of Satan, and that to affirm He could not is to rob the account of His conflict with the Devil of all meaning. But this is not only a mistake, it is a serious error. It dishonors the person of our blessed Lord. It denies His impeccability. It impeaches His own declaration that Satan had "nothing" in Him - nothing to which he could appeal. If there had been a possibility of the Saviour yielding to the Devil that season in the wilderness, then for forty days the salvation of all God's elect (to say nothing of the outworking of God's eternal purpose) was in jeopardy; and surely that is unthinkable. But, it is asked, If there was no possibility of Christ yielding, wherein lay the force of the Temptation? If He could not sin, was it not a meaningless performance to allow Satan to tempt Christ at all? Such questions only betray the deplorable ignorance of those who ask them.
It ought to be well understood that the word "tempt" has a double significance, a primary and secondary meaning, and it is the application of the secondary meaning of the term as it is used in Matthew 4 and the parallel passages, which had led so many into error on this point. The word "tempt" literally means "to stretch out" so as to try the strength of anything. It comes from the Latin word "tendo" - to stretch. Our English word attempt, meaning to try, brings out its significance. "Tempt," then, primarily signifies "to try, test, put to the proof." It is only in its secondary meaning that it has come to signify "to solicit to evil." In Gen. 22:1 we read, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." But God did not solicit Abraham to evil, for, "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He (in this sense) any man" (Jas. 1:13). So, too, we read, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil" (Matt. 4:1). The purpose of this Temptation was not to discover whether or not the Saviour would yield to Satan, but to demonstrate that He could not. Its design was to display His impeccability, to show forth the fact that there was "nothing" in Him to which Satan could appeal. It was in order that Christ might be tried and proven: just as the more you crush a rose, the more its fragrance is evidenced, so the assaults of the Devil upon the God-Man only served the more to bring out His perfections, and thus reveal Him as fully qualified to be the Saviour of sinners.
That the Saviour could not sin, does not rob the Temptation of its meaning, it only helps us discern its true meaning. It is because He was the Holy One of God that He felt the force of Satan's fiery darts as no sinful man ever could. It is impossible to find an analogy in the human realm for the Lord Jesus was absolutely unique. But let us attempt to illustrate the principle which is here involved. Is it true that in proportion as a man is weak morally that he feels the force of a temptation? Surely not. It is the man who is strong morally that feels the force of it. A man who is weakened in his moral fiber by sin, is weakened in his sensitiveness in the presence of temptation. Why does the young believer ask, "How is it that since I became a Christian I am tempted to do wrong a hundred times more than I was formerly?" The correct answer is, he is not; but the life of Christ within him has made him keener, quicker, more sensitive to the force of temptation. The illustration fails, we know; but seek to elevate the principle to an infinite height, and apply it to Christ, and then instead of saying that because He had no sin and could not sin His temptation, therefore, was meaningless, you will perhaps discover a far deeper meaning in it, and appreciate as never before the force of the words, "He Himself hath suffered, being tempted" (Heb. 2:18). Should it be asked further: But does not this rob the Saviour of the capacity to sympathize with me when I am tempted? The answer is, A thousand times No! But it is to be feared that this last question is really an evasion. Does not the questioner, deep down in his heart, really mean, Can Christ sympathize with me when I yield to temptation? The question has only to be stated thus to answer it. Being holy, Christ never sympathizes with sin or sinning. Here then is the vital difference: when Christ was tempted He "suffered," but when we are drawn away by temptation we enjoy it. If, however, we seek grace to sustain us while we are under temptation, and are not drawn away by it, then shall we suffer too, but then we also have a merciful and faithful High Priest who is able, not only to sympathize with us but to, "succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18). Our digression has been rather a lengthy one, but necessary, perhaps, in a consideration of the Humanity of Christ, one postulate of which is His impeccability.
As previously stated, Luke's Gospel is wider in its range than either of the two which precede it, in both of which Christ is viewed in connection with Israel. But here there are no national limitations. The "Son of David" of the first Gospel, widens out into the "Son of Man" in the third Gospel. As "Son of Man" He is the Catholic Man. He is linked with, though separated from, the whole human race. Luke's Gospel, therefore, is in a special sense the Gentile Gospel, as Matthew's is the Jewish Gospel. It is not surprising to find, then, that the writer of it was himself, in all probability, a Gentile - the only one in all the Bible. It is generally conceded by scholars that Luke is an abbreviation of the Latin "Lucanus" or "Lucius." His name is twice found in the Pauline Epistles in a list of Gentile names, see 2 Tim. 4:10-12 and Philemon 24. It is also noteworthy that this third Gospel is addressed, not to a Jew, but to a Gentile, by name "Theophilus," which means "Beloved of God." It is in this Gentile Gospel, and nowhere else, that Christ is presented as the good "Samaritan." Obviously, this would have been quite out of place in Matthew's Gospel, but how thoroughly accordant is it here! So, too, it is only here that we are told that "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). And again, it is in this Gospel that, in describing End-time conditions, we learn that Christ spake to His disciples this parable: "Behold the fig tree, and all the trees" (21:29). Matthew mentions the former (24:32), as the `fig tree' is the well known symbol of Israel, but Luke, alone, adds "and all the trees," thus bringing out the international scope of his Gospel. Other illustrations of this same feature will be discovered by the careful student.
Returning to the central theme of this Gospel, we may observe that "the Son of Man" links Christ with the earth. It is the title by which Christ most frequently referred to Himself. Not once did any one else ever address Him by this name. The first occurrence of this title is found in the Old Testament, in the 8th Psalm, where we read, "What is man that Thou art mindful of Him? and the Son of Man that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet" (vv. 4-6). The immediate reference is to Adam, in his unfallen condition, and refers to his Headship over all the lower orders of creation. It speaks of earthly dominion, for "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:28), is what God said to our first parent in the day that he was created. But from this position of "dominion" Adam fell, and it was (among other things, to recover the dominion that Adam had lost, that our Lord became incarnate. Thus the eighth Psalm, as is evident from its quotation in Hebrews 2, finds its ultimate fulfillment in "the Second Man." But, before this Second Man could be "crowned with glory and honor," He must first humble Himself and pass through the portals of death. Thus the "Son of Man" title speaks first of humiliation, and ultimately of dominion and glory.
"The Son of Man" occurs 88 times in the New Testament (which is a very significant number, for 8 signifies a new beginning, and it is by the Second Man the beginning of the new "Dominion" will be established), and it is deeply interesting and instructive to trace out the connections in which it occurs. It is found for the first time in the New Testament in Matt. 8:20, where the Saviour says, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." Here attention is called to the depths of humiliation into which the Beloved of the Father had entered: the One who shall yet have complete dominion over all the earth, when here before, was but a homeless Stranger. The second occurrence of this title helps to define its scope - "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6). The last time it is found in Matthew's Gospel is in 26:64 - "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Here we are carried forward to the time when the Lord Jesus shall return to these scenes, not in weakness and humiliation, but in power and glory. In John 3:13 there is a statement made which proves that the Son of Man was God as well, "And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven." Nowhere in the Epistles (save in Heb. 2 where Ps. 8 is quoted) is this title found, for the Church has a heavenly calling and destiny, and is linked to the Son of God in Heaven, and not to the Son of Man as He is related to the earth. The last time this title occurs in Scripture is in Rev. 14:14, where we read, "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown." What a contrast is this from the first mention of this title in the New Testament where we read of Him not having where to lay "His head"!
It is now high time for us to turn from these generalizings and consider some features of Luke's Gospel in more detail. To begin with, we may observe, as others have noticed, how distinctive and characteristic is the Preface to this third Gospel: "For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word: It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first to write unto thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (1:1-4).
What a contrast is this from what we have at the commencement of the other Gospels. Here more pronouncedly than elsewhere, we see the human element in the communication of God's revelation to us. The human instrument is brought plainly before us. Luke speaks of his personal knowledge of that of which he is about to treat. He refers to what others had done before him in this direction, but feels the need of a more orderly and full setting forth of those things which were most surely believed. But apparently he was quite unconscious of the fact, as he sat down to write to his friend Theophilus, that he was being "moved" (better, "borne along") by the Holy Spirit, or that he was about to communicate that which should be of lasting value to the whole Church of God. Instead, the Divine Inspirer is hidden here, and only the human penman is seen. Strikingly appropriate is this in the Gospel which treats not of the official glories of Christ, nor of His Deity, but of His Manhood. There is a marvellous analogy between the written Word of God and the Incarnate Word, the details of which are capable of being extended indefinitely. Just as Christ was the God-Man, Divine yet human, so the Holy Scriptures though given "by inspiration of God" were, nevertheless, communicated through human channels; but, just as Christ in becoming Man did so without being contaminated by sin, so God's revelation has come to us through human medium without being defiled by any of their imperfections. Moreover, just as it is here in Luke's Gospel that our Lord's humanity is brought so prominently before us, so it is here that the human element in the giving of the Holy Scriptures is most plainly to be seen.
There are many other things of interest and importance to be found in this first chapter of Luke which we cannot now consider in detail, but we would point out, in passing, how the human element prevails throughout. We may notice, for instance, how that here God is seen on more intimate terms with those whom He addresses than in Matt. 1. There, when communicating with Joseph, He did so in "dreams," but here, when sending a message to Zacharias, it is by an angel, who speaks to the father of the Baptist face to face. Still more intimate is God's communication to Mary, for here the angel speaks not to the mother of our Lord in the temple, but more familiarly, in the home - an intimation of how near God was about to come to men in His marvellous grace. Again; far more is told us of Mary here than elsewhere, and Luke is the only one who records her song of joy which followed the great Annunciation, as he alone records the prophecy of Zacharias, uttered on the occasion of the naming of his illustrious son. Thus, the emotions of the human heart are here manifested as they were expressed in song and praise.
The opening verses of Luke 2 are equally characteristic and distinctive. Here we are told, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife" (Luke 2:1-5). We shall look in vain for anything like this in the other Gospels. Here the Lord of glory is contemplated not as the One who had come to reign, but instead, as One who had descended to the level of other men, as One whose mother and legal father were subject to the common taxation. This would have been altogether out of keeping with the theme and scope of Matthew's Gospel, and a point of no interest in Mark, but how thoroughly in accord with the character of Luke's Gospel!
"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who tells us of this - a point of touching interest concerning His humanity, and one that is worthy of our reverent contemplation. Why was it the Father suffered His blessed Son, now incarnate, to be born in a stable? Why were the cattle of the field His first companions? What spiritual lessons are we intended to learn from His being placed in a manger? Weighty questions are these admitting, perhaps, of at least a sevenfold answer.
(a) He was laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn. How solemnly this brings out the world's estimate of the Christ of God. There was no appreciation of His amazing condescension. He was not wanted. It is so still. There is no room for Him in the schools, in society, in the business world, among the great throngs of pleasure seekers, in the political realm, in the newspapers, nor in many of the churches. It is only history repeating itself. All that the world gave the Saviour, was a stable for His cradle, a cross on which to die, and a borrowed grave to receive His murdered body.
(b) He was laid in a manger to demonstrate the extent of His poverty. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). How "poor" He became, was thus manifested at the beginning. The One who, afterwards, had not where to lay His head, who had to ask for a penny when He would reply to His critics about the question of tribute, and who had to use another man's house when instituting the Holy Supper, was, from the first, a homeless Stranger here. And the "manger" was the earliest evidence of this.
(c) He was laid in a manger in order to be Accessible to all. Had He been in a palace, or in some room in the Temple, few could have reached Him without the formality of first gaining permission from those who would have been in attendance at such places. But none would have any difficulty in obtaining access to a stable; there He would be within easy reach of poor and rich alike. Thus, from the beginning, He was easy to approach. No intermediaries had first to be passed in order to reach Him. No priest had to be interviewed before entre could be obtained to His presence. Thus it was then; and so it is now, thank God.
(d) He was laid in a manger so as to foreshadow the Character of those among whom He had come. The stable was the place for beasts of the field, and it was into their midst the newly-born Saviour came. And how well did they symbolize the moral character of men! The beasts of the field are devoid of any spiritual life, and so have no knowledge of God. Such, too, was the condition of both Jews and Gentiles. And how beastlike in character were those into whose midst the Saviour came: stupid and stubborn as the ass or mule, cunning and cruel as the fox, grovelling and filthy as the swine, and ever thirsting for His blood as the more savage of the animals. Fittingly, then, was He placed amid the beasts of the field at His birth.
(e) He was laid in a manger to show His contempt for Worldly riches and pomp. We had thought it more fitting for the Christ of God to be born in a palace, and laid in a cradle of gold, lined with costly silks. Ah, but as He Himself reminds us in this same Gospel, "that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). And what an exemplification of this truth was given when the infant Saviour was placed, not in a cradle of gold but, in an humble manger.
(f) He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was "The Son of Man." He had left the heights of Heaven's glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human lot at its lowest point. Adam was first placed in a garden, surrounded by the exquisite beauties of Nature as it left the hands of the Creator. But sin had come in, and with sin all its sad consequences of suffering and wretchedness. Therefore, does the One who had come here to recover and restore what the first man lost, appear first, in surroundings which spoke of abject need and wretchedness; just as a little later we find Him taken down into Egypt, in order that God might call His Son from the same place as where His people Israel commenced their national history in misery and wretchedness. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.
(g) He was laid in a manger because such was the place of Sacrifice. The manger was the place where vegetable life was sacrificed to sustain animal life. Fitting place was this, then, for Him who had come to be the great Sacrifice, laying down His life for His people, that we might through His death be made alive. Remarkably suggestive, therefore, and full of emblematic design, was the place appointed by God to receive the infant body of the incarnate Saviour.
It is only in Luke's Gospel that we read of the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks by night, and to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, saying, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (2:10,11). Note that the One born is here spoken of not as "The King of the Jews," but as "a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" - titles which reach out beyond the confines of Israel, and take in the Gentiles too.
Again, it is only here in Luke that we behold the Saviour as a Boy of twelve going up to Jerusalem, and being found in the Temple "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions" (2:46). How intensely human is this! Yet side by side with it there is a strong hint given that he was more than human, for we read, "And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." So, too, it is only here that we are told, "And He went down with them (His parents), and was subject unto them" (2:51). How this brings out the excellencies of His humanity, perfectly discharging the responsibilities of every relationship which He sustained to men as well as to God! And how strikingly appropriate is the closing verse of this chapter - "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man"! There is nothing like this in any of the other Gospels; but Luke's would have been incomplete without it. What proofs are these that Luke, as the others, was guided by the Spirit of God in the selection of his materials!
Luke 3 opens by presenting to us the person and mission of John the Baptist. Matthew and Mark have both referred to this, but Luke adds to the picture his own characteristic lines. Only here do we read that it was "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilena, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the Word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias in the wilderness" (3:1,2) - points of historic interest in connection with these human relationships. So, too, it is only here that we read of other human relationships of "the people" who asked John "What shall we do?" (3:10), of the "publicans" who asked him the same question (3:12), and of "the soldiers" is also to be noted, that only here is the Lord Jesus directly linked with "all the people" when He was baptized, for we read, "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized" (3:21), thus showing Him as the One who had come down to the common level. And again, it is only here we are told of the age of the Saviour when He entered upon His public ministry (3:23), this being another point of interest in connection with His humanity.
Luke 3 closes with a record of the Genealogy of the Son of Man, and noticeable are the differences between what we have here, and what is found in Matt. 1. There, it is the royal genealogy of the Son of David, here it is His strictly personal genealogy. There, it is His line of descent through Joseph which is given, here it is His ancestry through Mary. There, His genealogy is traced forwards from Abraham, here it is followed backwards to Adam. This is very striking, and brings out in an unmistakable manner the respective character and scope of each Gospel. Matthew is showing Christ's relation to Israel, and therefore he goes back no farther than to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people; but here, it is His connection with the human race that is before us, and hence his genealogy in Luke is traced right back to Adam, the father of the human family. But notice, particularly, that at the close it is said, "Adam was the son of God" (3:38). Thus the humanity of Christ is here traced not merely back to Adam, but through Adam directly to God Himself. How marvellously this agrees with the words of the Lord Jesus as found in Heb. 10:5 - "A body hast Thou prepared Me"!
Luke 4 opens by telling us "And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted forty days of the Devil." Only here do we learn that the Saviour was "full of the Holy Spirit" as He returned from the Jordan. Then follows the account of the Temptation. It will be observed by the close student that between Matthew and Luke there is a difference in the order of mention of Satan's three attacks upon Christ. In Matthew the order is, first the asking of the Lord Jesus to turn the stones into bread, second the bidding Him cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and third the offer to Him of all the kingdoms of this world on the condition of worshipping Satan. But here in Luke we have first the request to make the stones into bread, second the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and third the challenge for Him to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The reason for this variation is not hard to find. In Matthew, the order is arranged climactically, so as to make Rulership over all the kingdoms of the world the final bait which the Devil dangled before the Son of David. But in Luke we have, no doubt, the chronological order, the order in which they actually occurred, and these correspond with the order of temptation of the first man and his wife in Eden, where the appeal was made, as here in Luke, to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - see 1 John 2:16 and compare Gen. 3:6. We may also note that Luke is the only one to tell us that "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (4:14), showing that the old Serpent had utterly failed to disturb the perfect fellowship which existed between the incarnate Son of God upon earth and His Father in Heaven. After the horrible conflict was over, the Lord Jesus returned to Galilee in the unabated "power of the Spirit."
Following the account of the Temptation, Luke next tells us, "And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (4:16). Luke again, is the only one that mentions this, it being another point of interest in connection with our Lord's Manhood, informing us, as it does, of the place where He had been "brought up," and showing us how He had there been wont to occupy Himself on each Sabbath day. In the words that follow there is a small line in the picture which is very significant and suggestive: "And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" etc. The book, be it noted, did not open magically at the page He desired to read from, but, like any other, the Son of Man turned the pages until He had "found the place" required!
Others have called attention to another thing which occurred on this occasion and which was profoundly suggestive. There in the synagogue at Nazareth the Saviour read from the opening words of Isaiah 61, and it will be found by comparing the record of the prophet with the Lord's reading as recorded in Luke 4, that He stopped at a most significant point. Isaiah says the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to "preach" good tidings unto the meek to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;" but in Luke 4 we find the Saviour read that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him to "preach" the gospel to the poor to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," and there He stopped, for immediately following we are told, "He closed the book." He ceased His reading from Isaiah in the midst of a sentence; He concluded at a comma! Why was it that He did not complete the verse, and add, "The Day of Vengeance of our God"? The answer is, Because such did not fall within the scope of His mission at His first Advent. The "Day of Vengeance" is yet future. The Lord Jesus was setting us an example of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). As the Saviour closed the book that day in Nazareth's synagogue, He declared, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21), and that which was then "fulfilled" was the portion He had read to them from Isaiah 61:1,2; the remainder of Is. 61:2 was not then fulfilled, for it has to do with that which is yet future: hence, He read it not. It should be added that the next time we find the Lord Jesus with a "book" in His hands is in Rev. 5:7, and there we read of Him opening it - see Rev. 6:1 etc. - and the striking thing is that when the Lord opens that book the Day of God's Vengeance, so long delayed, then commences! These points have been brought out by others before us, but we have not seen it intimated that Luke is the only one of the four Evangelists to refer to this incident. Not only was there a dispensational reason why the Lord Jesus read not the whole of Is. 61:2 in the Nazareth synagogue that day, but it was peculiarly fitting that the one whose happy task it was to present the human perfections of Christ, should note our Lord's silence concerning the Day of God "vengeance"!
It is beyond our present purpose to attempt even a running exposition of each chapter of this third Evangel. We are not seeking to be exhaustive, but simply suggestive, calling attention to some of the more outstanding features of Luke's Gospel. There is so much here that is not found in the other three Gospels, that to examine in detail every distinctive feature would call for a large volume. As this would defeat our object, we shall be content to single out a few things here and there.
Luke 7 records the raising of the widow of Nain's son. None of the others mention this. There are several lines in this picture which serve to bring out that which is central in Luke's Gospel, namely, human need, human relationships, and human sympathies. Thus we may note that the one here raised by Christ was "the only son of his mother" and that she was a "widow;" that when the Lord saw her "weep not"; that before He commanded the dead to "Arise," He first "came and touched the bier," and that after the dead one was restored to life, the Saviour "delivered him to his mother."
In Luke 8:2,3 we are told, "And certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their substance." How this shows us the place which our blessed Lord had taken as the Son of Man! Nothing like this is found in the other Gospels, and that for a very good reason. It would have been beneath the dignity of the King of the Jews to be "ministered unto" with the substance of women; it would be out of place in Mark's Gospel, for there the Holy Spirit shows us that the Servant must look to God only for the supply of His every need; while John, of course, would not mention it, for he sets forth the Divine glories of our Lord. But it is perfectly appropriate, and illuminative too, in the Gospel which treats of Christ's humanity.
Above we have noted that Luke informs us the one raised from death by Christ at Nain was a widow's "only son," and we may now notice two other examples from this Gospel where the same feature is mentioned. The first is in connection with the daughter of Jairus. Matthew says, "While He spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him saying, My daughter is even now dead" (9: 18). Mark tells us, "Behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw Him, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death" (5:22,23). But Luke gives additional information, "And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought Him that He would come into his house: for he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying" (8:41,42). The second example is in connection with the demon possessed child, whose father sought relief at the hands of Christ's disciples. Matthew says, "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a certain man, kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him" (17:14-16). But Luke tells us, "And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not" (9:38-40). Thus in each case Luke calls attention to the fact that it was an "only child" that was healed, thereby appealing to human sympathies.
Luke is the only one who records the exquisite story of the Good Samaritan ministering to the wounded traveller, and there are many lines in the picture of this incident which bring out, strikingly, the distinctive character of this third Gospel. First, we are shown the traveller himself falling among thieves, who strip him of his raiment, wound him, and depart, leaving him half dead. How this brings out the lawlessness, the avarice, the brutality, and the heartlessness of fallen human nature! Next, we hear of the priest who saw the pitiable state of the wounded traveller, lying helpless by the road, yet did he "pass by on the other side." The priest was followed by a Levite who, though he "came and looked on" on the poor man that was in such sore need of help, also "passed by on the other side." Thus we behold the selfishness, the callousness, the cruel indifference of even religious men toward one who had such a claim upon their sympathies. In blessed contrast from these, we are shown the grace of the Saviour who, under the figure of a "Samaritan," is here seen moved "with compassion" as He came to where the poor traveller lay. Instead of passing by on the other side, He goes to him, binds up his wounds, sets him on His own beast, and brings him to an inn, where full provision is made for him. So does this incident, summarize as it were, the scope of this entire Gospel, by showing the infinite contrast that existed between the perfect Son of Man and the fallen and depraved sons of men.
In Luke 11 we read of the unclean spirit who goes out of a man, and later, returns to his house, to find it "swept and garnished." Then, we are told, this unclean spirit takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they "enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (11:24-26). Matthew also refers to this in 12:43-45 in almost identical language, but it is very significant to observe that Luke omits a sentence with which Matthew closes his narrative. There in Matt. 12 we find the Lord applied the incident to the Jewish nation by saying, "Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation" (or "race"). This was the dispensational application, which limits it to Israel. But appropriately does Luke omit these qualifying words, for in his Gospel this incident has a wider application, a moral application, representing the condition of a more extensive class, namely, those who hear the Gospel, and reform, but who are never regenerated. Such may clean up their houses, but though they are "swept and garnished," yet they are still empty - the Spirit of God does not indwell them! They are like the foolish virgins, who, though they mingled with the wise virgins and carried the lamp of public profession, yet had they no oil (emblem of the Holy Spirit) in their vessels. Such cases of reformation though at first they appear to be genuine instances of regeneration, ultimately prove to be but counterfeits, and at the last their condition is worse than it was at the beginning - they have been deceived by their own treacherous hearts and deluded and blinded by Satan, and in consequence, are far harder to reach with the Truth of God.
In Luke 12 we have an incident recorded which is similar in principle to Luke's notice of our Lord's omission of the closing words of Is. 61:2 when reading from this scripture in the synagogue at Nazareth. Here we find that a certain man came to Christ and said, "Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me" (12:13). But the Master refused to grant this request and said, "Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?" The reason why Luke is the only one to mention this is easily seen. It would have been incongruous for Matthew to have referred to an incident wherein the Lord Jesus declined to occupy the place of authority and act as the administrator, of an inheritance; as it would have been equally out of place for Mark to have noticed this case where one should have asked the Servant to officiate as "judge and divider." But it is fitting it should have found a place in this Third Gospel, for the words of Christ on this occasion, "Who made Me a judge or a divider over you?" only show us, once more, the lowly place which He had taken as "The Son of Man."
In Luke 14 there is recorded a parable which is found nowhere else: "And He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship (or "glory") in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (vv. 7-11). How thoroughly is this parable in accord with the character and scope of Luke's Gospel! First, it ministers a much needed rebuke upon the general tendency of fallen human nature to seek out the best places and aim at positions of honor and glory. Secondly, it inculcates the spirit of meekness and modesty, admonishing us to take the lowly place. And thirdly, it is an obvious shadowing forth of that which the Lord of glory had done Himself, leaving as He had, the position of dignity and glory in Heaven, and taking the "lowest" place of all down here.
In accordance with the fact that Luke's Gospel is the third book of the New Testament (the number which stands for manifestation), we may notice that in the fifteenth chapter we have a parable which reveals to us the Three Persons of the Godhead, each actively engaged in the salvation of a sinner. It is very striking that it is one parable in three parts which, taken together, makes fully manifest the One true God in the Person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Luke 15 may well be entitled, God seeking and saving the lost. In the third part of this parable, which deals with the "prodigal Son," we are shown the sinner actually coming into the presence of the Father, and there receiving a cordial welcome, being suitably clothed, and given a place at His table in happy fellowship. In what precedes we learn of that which was necessary on the part of God before the sinner could thus be reconciled. The second part of the parable brings before us the work of the Holy Spirit, going after the one dead in sins and illuminating him, and this under the figure of a woman who, with a light in her hand (emblematic of the Lamp of God's Word), seeks diligently till she finds that which was lost. Notice, particularly, that her work was inside the house, just as the Holy Spirit works within the sinner. In the first part of the parable we are shown that which preceded the present work of God's Spirit. The ministry of the Spirit is the complement to the Work of Christ, hence, at the beginning of the chapter, the Saviour Himself is before us, under the figure of the Shepherd, who went forth to seek and to save the sheep that was lost. Thus, the first part of the parable tells of God's Work for us, as the second tells of God's work in us, the third part making known the blessed result and happy sequel. So, in this one parable in three parts, we have revealed the One God in the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, fully manifested in the work of seeking and saving the lost.
In full accord with what has just been before us in Luke 15, though in marked and solemn contrast, we find that in the next chapter the Lord Jesus makes fully manifest the state of the lost after death. Nowhere else in the four Gospels do we find, as here, the lifting of the veil which separates and hides from us the condition of those who have passed into the next world. Here the Lord gives us a specimen case of the present torments of the lost, in the experiences of the "rich man" after death. We read "In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (vv.23-26). Here we learn that the damned, even now, are in a place of suffering; that they are "in torments;" that the misery of their awful lot is accentuated by being enabled to "see" the happy portion of the redeemed; that there is, however, an impassible gulf fixed between the saved and the lost, which makes it impossible for the one to go to the other; that memory is still active in those that are in Hell, so that they are reminded of the opportunities wasted, while they were upon earth; that they cry for mercy and beg for water to allay their fiery sufferings, but that this is denied them. Unspeakably solemn is this, and a most pointed warning to all still upon earth to "flee from the wrath to come" and to take refuge in the only One who can deliver from it.
Passing on now to the nineteenth chapter we may observe how Luke there records something that is absent from the other Gospels. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and weep over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes" (vv.41,42). How this brings out the human sympathies of the Saviour! As He looked upon Jerusalem, and foresaw the miseries which were shortly to be its portion, the Son of Man wept. He was no stoic, but One whose heart was full of compassion for the sufferers of earth.
In drawing to a close, we would notice seven features which are particularly prominent in this Gospel, and which are in striking accord with its particular theme and scope: -
1. The full description here given of fallen human nature.
Luke's is the Gospel of our Lord's Manhood, and, as He is the true Light shining amid the darkness, it is here also that the characteristics of our corrupt human nature are shown up as nowhere else. Luke's special design is to present the Lord Jesus as the Son of Man contrasted from the sons of men. Hence it is that the depravity, the impotency, the degradation and the spiritual deadness of all the members of Adam's fallen race is brought out here with such fullness and clearness. It is here, and here only, we read that, until the miracle-working power of God intervened, the mother of John the Baptist was barren - apt symbol of fallen human nature with its total absence of spiritual fruit; and that his father, though a priest, was filled with unbelief when God's messenger announced to him the forth-coming miracle. It is only here that we read of all the world being "taxed" (Luke 2:1), which tells, in suggestive symbol, of the burdens imposed by Satan on his captive subjects. It is only here that we read that when Mary brought forth her Son, there was "no room for them in the inn," signifying the world's rejection of the Saviour from the beginning. It is only here we are told that when the Lord Jesus came to Nazareth and read in the synagogue from the prophet Isaiah, adding a comment of His own, that "All they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong" (4:28,29): thus did those who ought to have known Him the best, manifest the terrible enmity of the carnal mind against God and His Christ. It is only here that we read, "And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought Him, saying Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean" (5:12). In the other Gospels reference is made to this same incident, but Luke alone tells us that the subject of this miracle was full of leprosy. "Leprosy" is the well known figure of sin, and it is only in Luke that man's total depravity is fully revealed. It is only in Luke that we hear of the disciples of Christ asking permission to call down fire from Heaven to consume those who received not the Saviour (9:51-55). It is only here that Christ, in the well known parable of the Good Samaritan, portrays the abject condition of the natural man, under the figure of the one who, having fallen among thieves, had been stript of his raiment, sorely wounded, and left by the wayside half dead. It is only here that we read of the Rich Fool who declared, "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (12:19), for such is the invariable tendency of the boastful human heart. So, too, it is only here that in Luke 15 the sinner is likened unto a lost sheep - an animal so senseless that once it is lost, it only continues to stray farther and farther away from the fold. It is only here that we find the Saviour drawing that matchless picture of the Prodigal Son, who so accurately depicts the sinner away from God, having wasted his substance in riotous living, and who, reduced to want, finds nothing in the far country to feed upon, except the husks which the swine did eat. It is only here that we learn of the heartless indifference of the rich man who neglected the poor wretch that lay at his gate full of sores. It is only here that the self-righteousness of man is fully disclosed in the person of the Pharisee in the Temple (Luke 18). And so we might go on. But sufficient has been said to prove our statement at the head of this paragraph.
2. The Manner in which Luke introduces his Parables, etc.
In perfect accord with the character and scope of His Gospel, we find that Luke introduces most of his parables, also various incidents narrated by him, as well as certain portions of our Lord's teachings, in a way quite peculiar to himself. By comparing the parallel passages in the other Gospels, and by noting the words we now place in italics, this will be apparent to the reader.
In Luke 5:12, we are told, that "a man full of leprosy" came to Christ to be healed, whereas Matthew, when describing the same incident, merely says, "there came a leper" to Him (8:2). Again, in 8:27 we read, "When He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city, a certain man, which had demons a long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs;" whereas Matt. 8:28 reads, "And when He was come to the other side into the country of the Gergessenes, there met Him (not "two men," but) two possessed with demons coming out of the tombs" etc. Again, in 8:41 we read, "There came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet," whereas Mark 5:22 says, "There cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet." In Luke 9:57 we read, "And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto Him, Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest," whereas Matt. 8:19 reads, "And a certain scribe came, and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest." In Luke 9:62 we find that the Lord said, "No man (not "disciple," be it noted), having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." In 19:35 we read, "As He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging," but in Mark 10:46 we are told, "As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great number of people, blinded Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the wayside begging."
Coming now to the parables, note the striking way in which they are introduced here: "And He spake also a parable unto them: No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old" etc. (5:36). "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves" etc. (10:30). "And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully" etc. (12:16). "He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard" etc. (13:6). "Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper" etc. (14:16). "And He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having a hundred sheep" etc. (15:3,4). "And He said, A certain man had two sons" etc. (15:11). "And He said also unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward" etc. (16:1). "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen" etc. (16:19). "And He spake a parable to them to this end, that men (not "believers") ought always to pray, and not to faint" etc. (18:1). "Then began He to speak to the people of this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard" etc. (20:9). "And He spake also this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the Temple to pray" etc. (18:9,10). Thus we see how the human element is emphasized here.
3. The references to Christ as "The Son of Man."
It is only in this Gospel we read that the Saviour said to the Pharisees, "The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it" (17:22). It is only in this Gospel we find that the Saviour put the question, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (18:8). It is only in this Gospel we find that the Saviour said to His followers, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (21:36). And it is only in this Gospel we find that the Saviour said to Judas in the garden, "Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" (22:14).
It is, perhaps even more striking to notice that Luke records a number of instances where our Lord referred to Himself as "The Son of Man" where, in the parallel passages in the other Gospels this title is omitted. For example, in Matt. 16:21 we read, "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day;" whereas, in Luke 9:22 we learn that He said unto His disciples, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day." Again; in Matt. 5:11 the Lord said to His disciples, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake;" whereas, in the parallel passage in Luke we read, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake" (6:22). Again; in Matt. 10:32 we read, "But whatsoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in Heaven;" whereas in Luke 12:8 we are told, "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man confess before the angels of God." Once more; in John 3:17 we are told, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved;" whereas, in Luke 9:56 we read, "For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." How these examples bring out the verbal perfections of Holy Writ!
4. The Lord is referred to as "the Friend" of publicans and sinners.
It is only Luke who tells us, "And Levi made Him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them" (5:29). It is only here we learn that Christ said to the querulous Jews, "For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and ye say, He hath a demon. The Son of Man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebidder, a Friend of publicans and sinners!" (7:33,34). It is only in this Gospel we find that the Saviour's critics openly murmured, and said, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (15:2). And it is only here we are told that because Zaccheus had joyfully received the Saviour into his house "they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner" (19:7).
It is beautiful to notice the graduation pointed by the Holy Spirit in the last three passages quoted above. In 7:34 Christ is simply "The Friend of publicans and sinners." In 15:2 it was said, "This Man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." But in 19:7 we are told, "He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner"! Thus did God make even the wrath of man to praise Him.
5. The Lord is here portrayed as a Man of Prayer.
It is indeed striking to see how often the Saviour is seen engaged in prayer in this Gospel. The following passages bring this out: "Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened" (3:21). "And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed" (5:16). "And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" (6:12). "And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered" (9:28,29). "And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray" (11:1). "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (22:31,32). "And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly" (22:41,44). "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (23:34): only here do we find Him praying thus for His murderers. Add to these examples the fact that Luke alone records our Lord's teaching on Prayer which is found in 11:5-8, that he only tells us of His parable on Importunity in prayer (18:1-7), and that he alone tells us of the two men who went up to the Temple to pray, and it will be seen what a prominent place prayer has in Luke's Gospel.
6. Christ is frequently seen here Eating food.
"And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee's house and sat down to meat" (7:36). "And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in, and sat down to meat" (11:37). "And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day, they watched Him" (14:1). "And when they say it, they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner" (19:7). "And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them" (24:30). "And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And He took it, and did eat before them" (24:42,43). It scarcely needs to be pointed out that these examples demonstrated the reality of His Manhood.
7. The Circumstances connected with His Death and Resurrection.
The awful hour spent in Gethsemane is described in this third Gospel with a fullness of detail which is not found in the others. Luke is the only one that tells us, "And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him;" as he is the only one to say, "And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (22:43,44). Then followed the Arrest, and as they were all leaving the Garden, we read, "And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far, and He touched his ear, and healed him" (22:50,51). The other Evangelists record this incident of the smiting of the high priest's servant, but only Luke shows us the tenderness of the Saviour, full of compassion toward the suffering of others, right to the last.
Luke is the only one to tell us, "And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children" (23:27,28). Appropriately, does this find a place here, bringing out, as it does, human emotions and sympathies. Luke is the only one to designate the place where the Saviour was crucified by its Gentile name - "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him" (23:33). And, again, Luke tells us, "A superscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This is the King of the Jews" (23:38). How this hints at the international scope of this third Gospel! Matthew and Mark give no hint of the "superscription" being written in the world-languages of the day; though John does, for he, again, presents Christ in connection with "the world." Luke is the only one to describe the conversion of the dying robber, and to record his witness to the Human perfections of the Lord Jesus: "This Man hath done nothing amiss" (23:41). So, too, it is only here we find a similar testimony borne by the Roman centurion: "Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous Man" (23:47).
After His resurrection from the dead, it is only Luke who mentions that long walk of the Saviour with the two disciples, and of the familiar intercourse which they had together as they journeyed to Emmaus. And Luke is the only one who presents the Lord to our view as eating food after He had risen in triumph from the grave.
It only remains to add a brief word concerning the characteristic
manner in which this third Gospel closes. Luke alone tells us, "And He led
them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them"
(24:50) - a beautiful touch is this! Then we are told, "And it came to pass,
while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven"
(24:51). Note, particularly, that Luke says that the Son of Man was "carried
up into Heaven," not that He ascended! And then the curtain falls to the
strains of the expressions of human joy and praise: "And they worshipped
Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the
Temple, praising and blessing God. Amen" (24:52,53).