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The Gospel According to Luke
The Third Gospel
The Practical-Minded Physician's Story of Christ
Luke was not one of the apostles. But he certainly was a Christian. He traveled with Saint Paul for years after the death of Christ. In fact he wrote the story of Saint Paul, an upper class citizen who persecuted Christians until he was converted by a miracle, and then spent the rest of his life preaching Christianity. Paul and Luke knew the apostles and disciples who had seen and heard Jesus. Luke's gospel was based on what those people told him.
I am not unmindful of the opinions of my many friends who are atheists, agnostics, Jews, Unitarians, Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims. With all respect to those who would doubt whether the gospels are truth or fiction, this is a rendition of things that impressed me about Luke's version of the life of Christ.
Luke begins by telling of the birth of John the Baptist to elderly parents who considered it a miracle to have a child. John was a cousin of Jesus. We do not know the family names of either John or Jesus. We know Jesus by the name Jesus Christ simply because Christ meant The Christened One, that is the prophet foretold in the Old Testament, who would come sometime in the future.
With the terse and logical clarity of a doctor writing a medical report, Luke launches into the story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem, to which his parents traveled under orders from the Romans to return to the city of their ancestors for the taking of a census. The ancestors of Jesus' father Joseph were from Bethlehem, including the great King David himself, a far distant relative of Jesus.
After the census, everyone returned to where he or she actually lived and worked, which for Jesus' parents was Nazareth, a town noted more for its mediocrity than anything else. Later, doubters of Jesus would ask whether anything good could come out of Nazareth.
Luke does us the favor of tracing, generation by generation, all of Jesus' ancestors all the way back to Adam, the original human, referred to in this gospel as the son of God.
In the home town, Nazareth, the people finally despised Jesus, considering him just the carpenter's son whom they already knew, and resenting His implying that He was divine.
Jesus traveled onward throughout the region, performing miracles and declaring very definitely that he was the christened One. The messages of Jesus were hard to accept for many people then, and still are to this day. For example, Jesus said, "Give to everyone who asks of you" ... "Love your enemies" ... "God is kind to the unthankful and evil."
But always it's shown that those with faith can receive miracles to answer their prayers. Having faith brings miracles into our lives.
Jesus is very demanding, insisting that His followers realize His divinity and not consider Him only a prophet. Jesus tells his disciples how lucky they are to have seen Him. But He is quick to detect that certain lawyers, scribes, and pharisees have their minds on things other than loving God.
Jesus issues tremendous warnings against placing importance on anything except faith in God. Luke makes this clear in Chapter 12, a passage that I should frame and put on the wall.
As He journeys toward Jerusalem, Jesus continues to teach constant faith in God, humility, and forsaking all worldly possessions and advantages to follow His teachings.
Sometimes Jesus would surprise people with his observations. For example, He considered it very right and natural that more excitement and joy be shown for the repentance of one sinner than for the goodness of many devout people.
Jesus preached generosity with money. He cautioned people not to oppress each other and always to be ready for death.
Luke provides some brief introductory explanations of some of the parables that Jesus related. There were many symbolic stories to teach faith in prayer, forsaking riches, having humility, accepting God like children, and valuing faith.
Entering Jerusalem, Jesus cried, realizing how easily it could have been saved. In debates with the urban sophisticates, He confounded intellectuals, citing Old Testament passages to refute them. He warned that all Jerusalem would be destroyed and ruled by Gentiles (that is, people other than Jews).
The familiar circumstances of the capture of Jesus upon Judas' betrayal lead into the trial and condemnation. Clearly, Jesus died because of the chief priests' jealousy. At the crucifixion, one criminal beside Jesus had faith that saved him.
After Jesus returned to life, Luke gives vivid details, with Jesus connecting His life to the predictions of Moses, the prophets, and psalms in the Old Testament over the thousand or so years before Christ. The gospel ends with Jesus' telling His apostles and disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit, and then start spreading Christianity.
It is difficult to end a rendition of a gospel by discussing the fact that decent and kind people I've known as friends and family place doubt on whether anyone named Luke ever existed to write a story about someone named Jesus, who might have been a made-up character. Those friends who are religious will grant the greatness of Jesus' teachings at least; others even accept Jesus' divinity, incorporating it into their own liberal views of non-Christian religion; while others deny not only the existence or deity of Jesus, but the whole idea that any God exists, who is capable of hearing and understanding our prayers, and then assisting us in life.
History has not left us with concrete proof. Those who pray to Jesus, and those who pray to God the Father, have told me their prayers have been answered, sometimes in surprising and mysterious ways.
But the greatest irony is that many atheists I've known live lives of kindness and consideration. They just don't like some of the high priests in charge of the rituals and dogmas of organized religion. This is strange because these dislikers of dogmatic, ritualistic religion seem to have things in common with the Man whom Luke was writing about.
Proof of Luke's Gospel
What Do Modern Scholars Think?
Historians are careful enough with the facts. When it comes to a religious faith on which most of the world stake their lives, historians are extremely careful. Because Luke's gospel is so long, it may be considered by believers to be the best written proof of the divinity of Jesus. Some scholars who are not even Christians still believe the gospel of Luke and verify its authorship. But an equal number of scholars dispute this seriously.
It's fairly clear that the author of the Acts of the Apostles (the adventures of Saint Paul and his attempt to bring Christianity to gentiles) was the same as whoever wrote the Gospel of Saint Luke. Those who would disbelieve the essential divinity of Jesus, however, feel that Luke's gospel was written by "someone" who either heard about, or read about the story of Jesus, and who may or may not have actually seen the miracles.
A lot of debate centers around a topic of questionable significance to the world, which is whether Luke was a physician who accompanied Saint Paul in his adventures as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The important issue, however, is whether Jesus was really sent by God to instruct the human race about how to live and what can happen after death.
The destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 is not mentioned by Luke in his gospel. This is a significant event for Jews. It's fairly clear, therefore, that Luke's gospel was written before that. Scholars estimate it was written in years 55 to 59 approximately (at first, although any "first-edition," original manuscript that's clearly proven to be that old lacks concrete evidence).
Significantly, Luke, unlike other gospel writers, doesn't claim to be an eyewitness to the events and miracles of which he writes. Luke mentions in his gospel certain laws in effect in Syria and the names of Roman and Jewish rulers at the time of Jesus. There is historical evidence that Luke's gospel, in fact all 4 gospels, were being read in churches in the Roman Empire within about 120 years after the death of Jesus.
Any attempt to research the authorship of Luke's gospel, or the far more important claim that Jesus was truly the Son of God, will run up against the conflict between Christian scholars who rely mainly on "internal" proof derived from other religious texts, and skeptics who rely only on "external" proof from non-Christian manuscripts.
Within about 120 years of Jesus' death, non-Christian writers definitely mentioned the Gospel of Luke. It was being accepted by religious people in the Empire by A.D. 150.
But unfortunately, mankind is left wondering whether Jesus was the Son of God because there is absolutely no proof to convince everyone in the world. However, what is important to many people is the fact that they do believe the Gospel and have placed their troubles and souls into the hand of God in the form of Jesus, trusting in the words of the Gospel that Jesus indeed was sent to Earth by God who created the Universe in order to give hope and faith to everyone. Therefore, it can be concluded that absolute proof not only of Luke's authorship but also of the far more essential fact of Jesus' divinity, lies only within the mind of a true believer based on that person's own experiences. But this cannot be proven to any outsider merely by talking or pointing to historical evidence, unless that person then chooses to believe for reasons of his or her own.