The Nature of Luke’s Gospel

KEY VERSE: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” —Luke 5:32

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:1-4; 5:29-32; 8:19-21; 9:18-22

AS INDICATED in the first few verses of the book, it was written to present an accurate record in logical order, verifying the certainty of what Theophilus, a Gentile convert of rank, had been taught. We think it also likely that Luke thought it would be helpful if he filled in certain gaps in the narrative that had been omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, he records six miracles and eleven parables that are not found in the other Gospels. We especially benefit from the account because it gives another viewpoint of the life and personality of Jesus.

The selected scriptures of our lesson reveal something of the life of Jesus and the mission he came to fulfill. The first incident is recorded in Luke 5:27-32. The account states that Jesus met a publican by the name of Levi whom he invited to follow him. Levi was also known as Matthew, and apparently had known of Jesus and his teachings, and in some way, Jesus knew that God had selected Matthew to be one of the apostles. Matthew followed Jesus without any hesitation. Matthew was a tax collector, a profession that was held in very low esteem by the Jews. They were classed with the Gentiles as publicans and sinners. But evidently he was popular among some of his fellows, because in his enthusiasm and joy at being called to follow Jesus, he invited his friends and Jesus to a feast to celebrate, and a sizable number came. During the feast, the scribes and Pharisees observed that Jesus was eating and drinking with publicans and sinners, and Jesus replied, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”—Luke 5:31,32

Jesus, at his first advent, was sent only to the Jews in order that they might have a first and exclusive opportunity to accept him as their Messiah and have the privilege of becoming a part of the seed of Abraham. Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24; Rom. 15:8) But in order for them to accept Jesus as their Messiah, it was necessary that they put aside their pride, prejudices, and self-righteousness. The scribes and Pharisees were not willing to do this; it was only the common people, and the publicans and sinners who were willing to accept Jesus. They recognized their own undone condition and their inability to keep the terms of the Law Covenant because of their fallen flesh and were glad to accept Jesus because he gave them hope.

The lesson Jesus was teaching was that the scribes and the Pharisees considered themselves to be righteous and to have no need of help from anyone, and therefore, they were not teachable. Because of this, they lost the great opportunity that was theirs at the end of the Jewish Age. Jesus said of them, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.”—Luke 19:42

This incident teaches us something more about the character of Jesus. He was not prudish or self-righteous, but was willing to conform to the circumstances of the occasion, in order to be a witness and to proclaim the message of the kingdom to those who had a hearing ear.

On another occasion, the mother of Jesus and some of his brethren wanted to speak with him, but because of the crowd of people they were not able to get close. The word was given him that, “Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are those which hear the Word of God, and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21) Jesus took this simple occasion to teach a most profound lesson with respect to the relationship that exists between Christ and those who have made a covenant to walk in his footsteps. The bond that makes them one is complete and unreserved obedience to the Heavenly Father. This implies also justification and Spirit begettal, about which Paul said, “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”—Heb. 2:11

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