Luke also started his investigation from the very beginning. His is the only gospel that begins with Gabriel’s appearance to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Gabriel’s speech to Zechariah was the first word from God in over 400 years and the revelatory event that inaugurated the New Testament era. Luke writes to give his recipient, Theophilus, certainty about what he had been taught. Events rooted in history communicate certainty so Luke ties his narrative to historical figures. For example, he dates the start of John the Baptist’s ministry by naming seven known individuals (3:1-2). All of Luke’s ability and carefulness as a writer come together in this gospel to present a convincing portrait of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Jesus as Savior
Luke presents Jesus as on a mission to “seek and save that which was lost” (19:10). Even at the birth of Jesus, the angels announce him as a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord (2:11). Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna see in Christ’s birth the fulfillment of God’s promise of deliverance for His people (1:47, 69-79; 2:30, 38). The disheartened disciples on the Emmaus Road voice the same expectation: He was the one who was about to redeem Israel (24:21).
Jesus as Savior of all
Luke presents Jesus as a Savior for all—the One who brought salvation for anybody, whether rich, poor, male, female, Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, or social undesirables. The forgiveness available in Jesus’ name is to be preached to all nations (24:46-47). Luke mentions women more than any of the other gospels (e.g., 8:1-3). Samaritans are depicted as heroes (10:33; 17:16). Salvation comes to unlikely persons, like a sinful woman (7:38-50), a chief tax collector (19:9), and a criminal on a cross (23:43) while a Pharisee comes off looking like the phony he was (18:9-12). Those who criticize Jesus for His mission of seeking the salvation of society’s outcasts are as unlikable and as unreasonable as the prodigal son’s older brother (15:25-32).
Jesus the Savior heads for Jerusalem
Luke also clarifies that Jesus’ work as Savior necessitated the cross. From Luke 9:51 onwards, Jesus’ face is set toward Jerusalem. Yes, He is the Son of man and, yes, He will come back as the Son of man, but first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation (Luke 17:24-25). He must because the Scriptures affirm it to be so (24:26-27, 44-46). His suffering on the cross is what makes possible the offer of forgiveness of sin as His body is given up and His blood shed as a substitutionary atonement (22:19-20). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. The necessity of the cross for the salvation of humankind explains the sustained focus Luke gives to Christ’s journey to Jerusalem (9:51-19:44).
Jesus the Savior communes with His Father
Luke also portrays a Jesus dependent on His Father. No gospel records Jesus’ praying more than Luke: He prays at His baptism (3:21). He prays before selecting His twelve disciples (6:12). He prays at His transfiguration (9:28). He, in fact, prays often (5:16). If Jesus as a perfect man needed communion with His Father, how much more do we!
Jesus the Savior and the role of the Holy Spirit
The role of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus is more prominent in Luke than in any of the other gospels. Seemingly, the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity is part of what Luke expects to convince his readers of the certainty of the events he describes. The Spirit is involved in the birth of Jesus (1:35) and fills the mouths of early witnesses to the new messianic era dawning for Israel (1:41, 67). The Spirit leads Simeon into the Temple to see the baby Jesus (2:27). Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted; He returns to Galilee in the fullness of the Spirit (4:1, 14). Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and applies the words to Himself (4:18). The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift God can give to His children and as a good Father, He will give the Spirit to those who ask Him (11:13). The Spirit will teach believers what to say in challenging situations (12:12), and He is the one that Jesus’ disciples are to wait for in Jerusalem before they begin their work as Jesus’ witnesses. They dare not set out on their mission until they have Him (24:48-49).
In this way, Luke prepares the way for the second volume of his story, Acts, where we see the coming of the Holy Spirit and the way He empowers the disciples to continue the work of Jesus in His absence.
- What is the connection between the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts?
- What does Luke emphasize about Jesus in his portrait of Him? (How does a familiar verse like Luke 2:11 reinforce this emphasis?)
- Look up Luke 19:10. Explain how this verse captures a chief emphasis in Luke.
- What do we mean when we say that in Luke Jesus is portrayed as the Savior of all? Give some examples of unlikely candidates for salvation that we find in Luke.
- From Luke 9:51 onward, Jesus is bound for Jerusalem. Why is it so important that Jesus go to Jerusalem? (In other words, why in a gospel that focuses on Jesus as the Savior of the world is so much emphasis given to Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem?)
- What lesson should we draw personally from Luke’s portrait of Jesus as a man of prayer?
- What are some ways that we see the Holy Spirit at work in the Gospel of Luke?
- What/who did the disciples need before they set out on their mission as Jesus’ witnesses? (Do we have the same need? Has God already met this need?)