Highlights From the Book of Luke
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HIGHLIGHTS OF LUKELuke’s account of the life of Jesus, written to confirm the certainty of events surrounding the life of Christ and in a manner that would appeal to people of all nations
The second Gospel written; it was likely recorded between 56 and 58 C.E.
Events preceding Jesus’ public ministry (1:1–4:13)
Gabriel announces in advance to Mary that she is to bear the Son of God; at Jesus’ birth angels identify him as “Christ the Lord”
At 12 years of age, Jesus questions the teachers at the temple
At his baptism by John, holy spirit comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven identifies Jesus as God’s Son
Satan fails in repeated efforts to tempt Jesus
Jesus’ early ministry, largely in Galilee (4:14–9:62)
In a synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus reads his commission from the scroll of Isaiah; hearers attempt to kill him
He teaches in a synagogue in Capernaum, expels a demon, and cures many who are sick
He is challenged on issues such as the forgiveness of sins and healing on the Sabbath
After praying all night, Jesus chooses his 12 apostles
He delivers the Sermon on the Mount
He heals an army officer’s slave and resurrects a widow’s son
Jesus tells the parables of the two debtors and the sower; he performs more miracles, including the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter
The apostles are sent out to preach the Kingdom of God
Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ; soon after, he and two other apostles witness the transfiguration
Jesus’ later ministry, largely in Judea and Perea (10:1–19:27)
Jesus sends out the 70 to preach
He tells the parable of the neighborly Samaritan
He teaches his disciples how to pray, then refutes the charge that he expels demons by means of Beelzebub
Jesus warns against materialism and urges disciples to seek God’s Kingdom; he speaks of the little flock and the faithful steward
He heals a woman who is bent double and answers objections because this is done on the Sabbath
He shows that those who would be disciples must face up to what it involves
He relates parables, including the ones about the prodigal son and the rich man and Lazarus
Jesus warns his disciples about stumbling others; he illustrates the need for humility
He heals ten lepers, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to thank him
Jesus compares “the days of the Son of man” to the days of Noah and of Lot
He again stresses the need for humility—especially for the rich—then travels to Jericho, where Zacchaeus is converted
Using the parable of the minas, he shows that the Kingdom is not going to come at that time
Jesus’ final public ministry, in and around Jerusalem (19:28–24:53)
Jesus rides into Jerusalem and is hailed by the people, but he weeps over the city and foretells its desolation
He ejects the money changers from the temple; then he is confronted with tricky questions about taxes and the resurrection
Foretelling the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus speaks also of the end of the appointed times of the nations
He institutes the Memorial of his death, and afterward he is betrayed; when Peter strikes off the ear of the high priest’s slave, Jesus heals the man
Arrested, Jesus is led to the house of the high priest, to the Sanhedrin, and to Pilate; then he is sent to Herod and finally returned to Pilate
Jesus is impaled; on the stake he speaks about Paradise to an evildoer hung with him; as he dies, darkness falls over the earth and the curtain of the sanctuary is rent down the middle
His body is buried, but within three days the resurrected Jesus appears to his followers
Finally, Jesus starts his ascent to heaven before their eyes
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CONTENTS OF LUKE10 Luke’s introduction (1:1-4). Luke records that he has traced all things from the start with accuracy and that he has resolved to write them in logical order so that the “most excellent Theophilus . . . may know fully the certainty” of these things.—1:3, 4.
11 The early years of Jesus’ life (1:5–2:52). An angel appears to the aged priest Zechariah with the joyful news that he will have a son whom he is to call John. But until the boy is born, Zechariah will not be able to speak. As promised, his wife, Elizabeth, becomes pregnant, though also “well along in years.” About six months later, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will conceive by “power of the Most High” and bear a son who is to be called Jesus. Mary visits Elizabeth and, after a happy greeting, declares exultantly: “My soul magnifies Jehovah, and my spirit cannot keep from being overjoyed at God my Savior.” She speaks of Jehovah’s holy name and of his great mercy toward those who fear him. At John’s birth, Zechariah’s tongue is loosed to declare also God’s mercy and that John will be a prophet who will make Jehovah’s way ready.—1:7, 35, 46, 47.
12 In due course, Jesus is born at Bethlehem, and an angel announces this “good news of a great joy” to shepherds watching their flocks at night. Circumcision is carried out according to the Law, and then, when Jesus’ parents “present him to Jehovah” at the temple, the aged Simeon and the prophetess Anna speak concerning the child. Back in Nazareth, he ‘continues growing and getting strong, being filled with wisdom, and God’s favor continues with him.’ (2:10, 22, 40) At the age of 12, on a visit from Nazareth to Jerusalem, Jesus amazes the teachers with his understanding and his answers.
13 Preparation for the ministry (3:1–4:13). In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, God’s declaration comes to John the son of Zechariah, and he goes “preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for forgiveness of sins,” that all flesh may “see the saving means of God.” (3:3, 6) When all the people are baptized at the Jordan, Jesus is also baptized, and as he prays, the holy spirit descends on him, and his Father expresses approval from heaven. Jesus Christ is now about 30 years of age. (Luke supplies his genealogy.) Following his baptism, the spirit leads Jesus about in the wilderness for 40 days. Here the Devil tempts him without success and then retires “until another convenient time.”—4:13.
14 Jesus’ early ministry, largely in Galilee (4:14–9:62). In the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus makes clear his commission, reading and applying to himself the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1, 2: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” (4:18, 19) The people’s initial pleasure at his words turns to anger as he continues his discourse, and they attempt to do away with him. So he moves down to Capernaum, where he heals many people. Crowds follow him and try to detain him, but he tells them: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (4:43) He goes on to preach in the synagogues of Judea.
15 In Galilee, Jesus provides Simon (also called Peter), James, and John with a miraculous catch of fish. He tells Simon: “From now on you will be catching men alive.” So they abandon everything and follow him. Jesus continues in prayer and in teaching, and ‘Jehovah’s power is there for him to do healing.’ (5:10, 17) He calls Levi (Matthew), a despised tax collector, who honors Jesus with a big feast, attended also by “a great crowd of tax collectors.” (5:29) This results in the first of a number of encounters with the Pharisees that leave them maddened and conspiring to do him harm.
16 After a whole night of prayer to God, Jesus chooses 12 apostles from among his disciples. Further works of healing follow. Then he gives the sermon recorded at Luke 6:20-49, paralleling in shorter form the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew chapters 5 to 7. Jesus draws the contrast: “Happy are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you rich persons, because you are having your consolation in full.” (6:20, 24) He admonishes his hearers to love their enemies, to be merciful, to practice giving, and to bring forth good out of the good treasure of the heart.
17 Returning to Capernaum, Jesus receives a request from an army officer to cure an ailing slave. He feels unworthy to have Jesus under his roof and asks Jesus to “say the word” from where he is. Accordingly, the slave is healed, and Jesus is moved to comment: “I tell you, Not even in Israel have I found so great a faith.” (7:7, 9) For the first time, Jesus raises a dead person, the only son of a widow of Nain, for whom he “was moved with pity.” (7:13) As the news concerning Jesus spreads through Judea, John the Baptizer sends to him from prison to ask, “Are you the Coming One?” In answer Jesus tells the messengers: “Go your way, report to John what you saw and heard: the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, the dead are being raised up, the poor are being told the good news. And happy is he who has not stumbled over me.”—7:19, 22, 23.
18 Accompanied by the 12, Jesus goes “from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.” He gives the illustration of the sower, and he rounds out the discussion by saying: “Therefore, pay attention to how you listen; for whoever has, more will be given him, but whoever does not have, even what he imagines he has will be taken away from him.” (8:1, 18) Jesus continues to perform wonderful works and miracles. He also gives the 12 authority over the demons and the power to cure sicknesses and sends them forth “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.” Five thousand are miraculously fed. Jesus is transfigured on the mountain and the following day heals a demon-possessed boy whom the disciples could not cure. He cautions those who want to follow him: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” To be fit for the Kingdom of God, a person must set his hand to the plow and not look back.—9:2, 58.
19 Jesus’ later Judean ministry (10:1–13:21). Jesus sends out 70 others into “the harvest,” and they are filled with joy at the success of their ministry. As he is preaching, a man, wanting to prove himself righteous, asks Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” In answer, Jesus gives the illustration of the neighborly Samaritan. A man, lying on the roadside half-dead from a beating by robbers, is ignored by a passing priest and by a Levite. It is a despised Samaritan who stops, tenderly cares for his wounds, lifts him up on his own beast, brings him to an inn, and pays for him to be taken care of. Yes, it is “the one that acted mercifully toward him” who made himself neighbor.—10:2, 29, 37.
20 In Martha’s house, Jesus mildly rebukes her for becoming overly anxious about her household chores, and he commends Mary for choosing the better part, sitting down and listening to his word. To his disciples he teaches the model prayer and also the need for persistence in prayer, saying: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find.” Later he expels demons and declares happy “those hearing the word of God and keeping it.” While at a meal, he clashes with the Pharisees over the Law and pronounces woes upon them for taking away “the key of knowledge.”—11:9, 28, 52.
21 As he is again with the crowds, a certain one urges Jesus: “Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus goes to the heart of the problem in replying: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” Then he gives the illustration of the wealthy man who tore down his storehouses to build bigger ones, only to die that very night and leave his wealth to others. Jesus concisely makes the point: “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” After urging his disciples to seek first God’s Kingdom, Jesus tells them: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” His healing on the Sabbath of a woman who has been sick for 18 years leads to a further clash with his opposers, who are put to shame.—12:13, 15, 21, 32.
22 Jesus’ later ministry, largely in Perea (13:22–19:27). Jesus uses colorful word illustrations in pointing his hearers to the Kingdom of God. He shows that those who seek prominence and honor will be abased. Let the one who spreads a feast invite the poor, who cannot repay; he will be happy and be “repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.” Next, there is the illustration of the man spreading a grand evening meal. One after another the invited ones make excuses: One has bought a field, another has purchased some oxen, and another has just married a wife. In anger the householder sends out to bring in “the poor and crippled and blind and lame,” and he declares that none of those first invited will have so much as “a taste” of his meal. (14:14, 21, 24) He gives the illustration of the lost sheep that is found, saying, “I tell you that thus there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner that repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who have no need of repentance.” (15:7) The illustration of the woman who sweeps her house to recover one drachma coin makes a similar point.
23 Jesus then tells of the prodigal son who asked his father for his share in the property and then squandered it “by living a debauched life.” Falling into dire need, the son came to his senses and returned home to throw himself upon his father’s mercy. His father, moved with pity, “ran and fell upon his neck and tenderly kissed him.” Fine clothing was provided, a big feast was prepared, and “they started to enjoy themselves.” But the elder brother objected. In kindness his father set him straight: “Child, you have always been with me, and all the things that are mine are yours; but we just had to enjoy ourselves and rejoice, because this your brother was dead and came to life, and he was lost and was found.”—15:13, 20, 24, 31, 32.
24 On hearing the illustration of the unrighteous steward, the money-loving Pharisees sneer at Jesus’ teaching, but he tells them: “You are those who declare yourselves righteous before men, but God knows your hearts; because what is lofty among men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.” (16:15) By the illustration of the rich man and Lazarus, he shows how great is the chasm that is fixed between those favored and those disapproved by God. Jesus warns the disciples that there will be causes for stumbling, but “woe to the one through whom they come!” He speaks of difficulties to appear “when the Son of man is to be revealed.” “Remember the wife of Lot,” he tells them. (17:1, 30, 32) By an illustration, he gives assurance that God will certainly act in behalf of those who “cry out to him day and night.” (18:7) Then, by another illustration, he reproves the self-righteous: A Pharisee, praying in the temple, thanks God that he is not like other men. A tax collector, standing at a distance and not willing even to raise his eyes to heaven, prays: “O God, be gracious to me a sinner.” How does Jesus evaluate this? He declares the tax collector to be more righteous than the Pharisee, “because everyone that exalts himself will be humiliated, but he that humbles himself will be exalted.” (18:13, 14) Jesus is entertained at Jericho by the tax collector Zacchaeus and gives the illustration of the ten minas, contrasting the result of faithfully using entrusted interests with that of hiding them away.
25 Final public ministry in and around Jerusalem (19:28–23:25). As Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt and is hailed by the multitude of the disciples as “the One coming as the King in Jehovah’s name,” the Pharisees call on him to rebuke his disciples. Jesus replies: “If these remained silent, the stones would cry out.” (19:38, 40) He gives his memorable prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction, saying that she will be surrounded with pointed stakes, distressed, and dashed to the ground with her children and that not one stone will be left on another. Jesus teaches the people in the temple, declaring the good news and answering the subtle questions of the chief priests, the scribes, and the Sadducees by skillful illustrations and argumentation. Jesus gives a powerful portrayal of the great sign of the end, mentioning again the surrounding of Jerusalem by encamped armies. Men will become faint out of fear at the things coming to pass, but when these things occur, his followers are to ‘raise themselves erect and lift their heads up, because their deliverance is getting near.’ They are to keep awake to succeed in escaping what is destined to occur.—21:28.
26 It is now Nisan 14, 33 C.E. Jesus holds the Passover and then introduces “the new covenant” to his faithful apostles, associating this with the symbolic meal that he commands them to observe in remembrance of him. He also tells them: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (22:20, 29) That same night, as Jesus prays at the Mount of Olives, ‘an angel from heaven appears to him and strengthens him. But getting into an agony, he continues praying more earnestly; and his sweat becomes as drops of blood falling to the ground.’ The atmosphere grows tense as Judas the betrayer leads in the mob to arrest Jesus. The disciples cry: “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” One of them does lop off the ear of the high priest’s slave, but Jesus rebukes them and heals the wounded man.—22:43, 44, 49.
27 Jesus is hustled along to the high priest’s house for questioning, and in the chill of the night, Peter mingles with the crowd around a fire. On three occasions he is accused of being a follower of Jesus, and three times he denies it. Then the cock crows. The Lord turns and looks upon Peter, and Peter, recalling how Jesus had foretold this very thing, goes out and weeps bitterly. After being haled into the Sanhedrin hall, Jesus is now led before Pilate and accused of subverting the nation, forbidding payment of taxes, and “saying he himself is Christ a king.” Learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate sends him to Herod, who happens to be in Jerusalem at the time. Herod and his guards make fun of Jesus and send him back for trial before a frenzied mob. Pilate ‘surrenders Jesus to their will.’—23:2, 25.
28 Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension (23:26–24:53). Jesus is impaled between two evildoers. One taunts him, but the other manifests faith and asks to be remembered in Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus promises: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (23:43) Then an unusual darkness falls, the curtain of the sanctuary is rent down the middle, and Jesus cries out: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” At this he expires, and his body is taken down and laid in a tomb carved in the rock. On the first day of the week, the women who have come with him from Galilee go to the tomb but cannot find Jesus’ body. Just as he himself foretold, he has risen on the third day!—23:46.
29 Appearing unidentified to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus speaks of his sufferings and interprets the Scriptures to them. Suddenly they recognize him, but he disappears. Now they comment: “Were not our hearts burning as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?” They hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. Even while they are speaking these things, Jesus appears in their midst. They cannot believe it for sheer joy and wonderment. Then he ‘opens up their minds fully to grasp’ from the Scriptures the meaning of all that has happened. Luke concludes his Gospel account with a description of the ascension of Jesus to heaven.—24:32, 45.
*** w08 3/15 p. 30 - p. 32 Highlights From the Book of Luke ***
Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of LukeMATTHEW’S Gospel is understood to have been written primarily for the Jewish reader, and Mark’s Gospel, for the non-Jewish. However, the Gospel of Luke was intended for people of all nations. Written about 56-58 C.E., the book of Luke is a comprehensive account of Jesus’ life and ministry.
With the eye of a caring and careful physician, Luke traces “all things from the start with accuracy” and covers a period of 35 years—from 3 B.C.E. to 33 C.E. (Luke 1:3) Nearly 60 percent of the material in Luke’s Gospel is unique.
(Luke 1:1–9:62)After relating details about the birth of John the Baptizer and of Jesus, Luke tells us that John began his ministry in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, that is, in the spring of 29 C.E. (Luke 3:1, 2) Jesus is baptized by John in the fall of that year. (Luke 3:21, 22) By 30 C.E., ‘Jesus returns into Galilee and begins to teach in their synagogues.’—Luke 4:14, 15.
Jesus sets out on his first preaching tour of Galilee. He tells the crowd: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) He takes along with him Simon the fisherman and others. He says: “From now on you will be catching men alive.” (Luke 5:1-11; Matt. 4:18, 19) The 12 apostles are with Jesus during his second preaching tour of Galilee. (Luke 8:1) On the third tour, he sends forth the 12 “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.”—Luke 9:1, 2.
Scriptural Questions Answered:1:35—Did Mary’s egg cell, or ovum, have any part in her pregnancy? For Mary’s child to be a true descendant of her ancestors Abraham, Judah, and David, as God had promised, her ovum had to contribute toward her pregnancy. (Gen. 22:15, 18; 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:8, 16) However, Jehovah’s holy spirit was used in transferring the perfect life of God’s Son and causing the conception. (Matt. 1:18) It would appear that this canceled out any imperfection existing in Mary’s ovum and from the very start protected the developing embryo from anything hurtful.
1:62—Did Zechariah become mute and deaf? No. Only his speech was affected. Others asked “by signs” what he wanted to name the child but not because Zechariah was deaf. He very likely heard what his wife had said about naming their son. Perhaps others inquired of Zechariah about this by making a sign or a gesture. The fact that only his speech needed to be restored indicates that Zechariah’s hearing had not been affected.—Luke 1:13, 18-20, 60-64.
2:1, 2—How does the reference to “this first registration” help determine the time of Jesus’ birth? Under Caesar Augustus, more than one registration took place—the first in 2 B.C.E. in fulfillment of Daniel 11:20 and the second in 6 or 7 C.E. (Acts 5:37) Quirinius served as governor of Syria during both of these registrations, evidently occupying that position twice. Luke’s reference to the first registration places the date of Jesus’ birth in 2 B.C.E.
2:35—How was “a long sword” to be run through Mary’s soul? This refers to the distress Mary would experience upon seeing the majority of the people reject Jesus as the Messiah and the grief she would feel over his painful death.—John 19:25.
9:27, 28—Why does Luke say that the transfiguration took place “eight days” after Jesus promised his disciples that some of them would “not taste death at all” until they had seen him coming in his Kingdom, whereas both Matthew and Mark state that it was “six days later”? (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2) Luke apparently includes two additional days—the day of the promise and the day of the fulfillment.
9:49, 50—Why did Jesus not prevent a man from expelling demons, even though the man was not following him? Jesus did not prevent the man because the Christian congregation had not yet been formed. Hence, it was not required that the man physically accompany Jesus in order to exercise faith in Jesus’ name and expel demons.—Mark 9:38-40.
Lessons for Us:1:32, 33; 2:19, 51. Mary preserved in her heart the events and sayings that fulfilled prophecies. Do we treasure up what Jesus foretold about “the conclusion of the system of things,” comparing what he said with what is happening today?—Matt. 24:3.
2:37. Anna’s example teaches us that we should worship Jehovah with constancy, “persevere in prayer,” and not forsake “the gathering of ourselves together” at Christian meetings.—Rom. 12:12; Heb. 10:24, 25.
2:41-50. Joseph put spiritual interests first in his life and cared for the physical and spiritual welfare of his family. In these respects, he set a fine example for family heads.
4:4. We should not let a day go by without considering spiritual matters.
6:40. A teacher of God’s Word must set a proper example for his students. He must practice what he preaches.
8:15. To “retain [the word] and bear fruit with endurance,” we must understand, appreciate, and absorb the Word of God. Prayerful meditation is a must when reading the Bible and Bible-based publications.
JESUS’ LATER MINISTRY
(Luke 10:1–24:53)Jesus sends forth 70 others in advance of him into cities and places in Judea. (Luke 10:1) He journeys “from city to city and from village to village, teaching.”—Luke 13:22.
Five days before the Passover of 33 C.E., Jesus enters Jerusalem riding upon a colt. The time has come for the fulfillment of his words to his disciples: “The Son of man must undergo many sufferings and be rejected by the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up.”—Luke 9:22, 44.
Scriptural Questions Answered:10:18—What was Jesus referring to when he told the 70 disciples: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven”? Jesus was not stating that Satan had already been ousted from heaven. That did not take place until shortly after Christ was installed as heavenly King in 1914. (Rev. 12:1-10) Although we cannot be dogmatic, by referring to a future event in the past tense, Jesus was evidently emphasizing that it would certainly happen.
14:26—In what sense are Christ’s followers to “hate” their relatives? In the Bible, “hate” can refer to loving a person or an object to a lesser degree than another. (Gen. 29:30, 31) Christians are to “hate” their relatives in the sense of loving them less than they do Jesus.—Matt. 10:37.
17:34-37—Who are “the eagles,” and what is “the body” where they gather together? Those “taken along,” or delivered, are likened to farsighted eagles. “The body” they gather to is the true Christ at his invisible presence and the spiritual food that Jehovah provides for them.—Matt. 24:28.
22:44—Why did Jesus experience so much agony? This occurred for a number of reasons. Jesus was concerned about how his death as a criminal would affect Jehovah God and His name. Moreover, Jesus knew very well that his eternal life and the future of the entire human race depended on his remaining faithful.
23:44—Did a solar eclipse cause the three-hour-long darkness? No. Solar eclipses take place only at the time of the new moon, not when the moon is full, as is the case at Passover time. The darkness caused on the day of Jesus’ death was a miracle from God.
Lessons for Us:11:1-4. Comparing these instructions with the slightly different wording of the model prayer, given in the Sermon on the Mount some 18 months earlier, clearly shows us that our prayers should not be a mere repetition of certain words.—Matt. 6:9-13.
11:5, 13. Although Jehovah is willing to answer our prayers, we should be persistent when praying.—1 John 5:14.
11:27, 28. Genuine happiness comes from faithfully doing God’s will and not from family relationships or material accomplishments.
11:41. Our gifts of mercy should stem from a loving and willing heart.
12:47, 48. One who has greater responsibility but fails to care for it is more blameworthy than one who does not know or fully understand his duties.
14:28, 29. We are wise to live within our means.
22:36-38. Jesus did not ask his disciples to carry a weapon for protection or self-defense. Rather, their having swords on hand on the night of his betrayal made it possible for Jesus to teach them a vital lesson: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”—Matt. 26:52.
*** w89 11/15 pp. 24-25 Gems From Luke’s Gospel ***
Gems From Luke’s GospelJEHOVAH’S Son, Jesus Christ, is well-known for being compassionate. How fitting, then, that the Gospel writer Luke should stress compassion, mercy, and fellow feeling! For Jews and Gentiles alike, he wrote a truly heartwarming account of Jesus’ earthly life.
Certain aspects of this Gospel indicate that a scholarly person wrote it. For example, it has a classical introduction and an extensive vocabulary. Such points fit the fact that Luke was a well-educated physician. (Colossians 4:14) Though he did not become a believer until after Jesus’ death, he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem after the apostle’s third missionary trip. Therefore, following Paul’s arrest there and imprisonment at Caesarea, this careful researcher was able to gather material by interviewing eyewitnesses and by consulting public records. (1:1-4; 3:1, 2) His Gospel may have been written at Caesarea sometime during the apostle’s two-year confinement there, about 56-58 C.E.
Some Unique FeaturesAt least six of Jesus’ miracles are unique to Luke’s Gospel. These are: a miraculous catch of fish (5:1-6); raising a widow’s son at Nain (7:11-15); healing a woman bent double (13:11-13); curing a man of dropsy (14:1-4); cleansing ten lepers (17:12-14); and restoring the ear of the high priest’s slave.—22:50, 51.
Also unique to Luke’s account are some of Jesus’ parables. These include: the two debtors (7:41-47); the neighborly Samaritan (10:30-35); the barren fig tree (13:6-9); the grand evening meal (14:16-24); the prodigal son (15:11-32); the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31); and the widow and the unrighteous judge.—18:1-8.
Touching IncidentsThe physician Luke showed concern for women, children, and the elderly. He alone mentioned Elizabeth’s barrenness, her conception, and the birth of John. Only his Gospel reported the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary. Luke was moved to say that Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb as Mary spoke to her. He alone told of Jesus’ circumcision and his presentation at the temple, where He was seen by aged Simeon and Anna. And we owe to Luke’s Gospel our knowledge of the childhood of Jesus and of John the Baptizer.—1:1–2:52.
When Luke wrote about the grief-stricken widow of Nain who lost her only son in death, he said that Jesus “was moved with pity for her” and then restored the young man to life. (7:11-15) Reported only in Luke’s Gospel, and heartwarming too, is the incident involving Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. Being of short stature, he climbed a tree to see Jesus. What a surprise when Jesus said that he would stay at the house of Zacchaeus! Luke shows that the visit was a great blessing to the happy host.—19:1-10.
From a Physician’s PenThis Gospel contains many terms or words with medical meanings or significance. These words were not used at all or not in a medical sense by other writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures. But we might expect medical language from a physician’s pen.
For example, only Luke said that Peter’s mother-in-law had “a high fever.” (4:38) He also wrote: “Look! a man full of leprosy!” (5:12) To other Gospel writers, it was enough to mention leprosy. But not so with the physician Luke, who indicated that the man’s disease was in an advanced stage.
Insight Into CustomsLuke said that after Jesus’ birth, Mary “bound him with cloth bands.” (2:7) Customarily, a newborn infant was washed and rubbed with salt, perhaps to dry the skin and make it firm. Then the baby was wrapped in swaddling bands, nearly like a mummy. The bands kept the body straight and warm, and running them under the chin and over the head may have trained the child to breathe through the nose. A 19th-century report on similar swaddling customs quoted a visitor to Bethlehem as saying: “I took the little creature in my arms. His body was stiff and unyielding, so tightly was it swathed with white and purple linen. His hands and feet were quite confined, and his head was bound with a small, soft red shawl, which passed under his chin and across his forehead in small folds.”
Luke’s Gospel also gives us insight into first-century funeral customs. Jesus was near the gate of Nain when he saw “a dead man being carried out, the only-begotten son of his [widowed] mother,” and “a considerable crowd from the city was also with her.” (7:11, 12) Burial generally took place outside a city, and friends of the deceased accompanied the body to the tomb. The bier was a litter possibly made of wickerwork and having poles projecting from its corners that allowed four men to bear it on their shoulders as the procession walked to the burial site.
In another illustration recorded by Luke, Jesus spoke of a man beaten by robbers. A neighborly Samaritan “bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them.” (10:34) This was a customary way to care for injuries. Olive oil would soften and soothe the wounds. (Isaiah 1:6) But what about wine? The Journal of the American Medical Association said: “Wine was a principal medicine in Greece. . . . Hippocrates of Cos (460-370 BC) . . . made extensive use of wine, prescribing it as a wound dressing, a cooling agent for fevers, a purgative, and a diuretic.” Jesus’ illustration alluded to the antiseptic and disinfectant properties of wine, as well as the effectiveness of olive oil in helping to heal wounds. Of course, the point of the parable is that a true neighbor acts mercifully. That is how we should deal with others.—10:36, 37.
Lessons in HumilityLuke alone related an illustration that Jesus gave upon seeing guests choose the most prominent places at a meal. During feasts, guests reclined on couches placed along three sides of a table. Servers had access to it on the fourth side. Customarily, a couch was occupied by three people, each facing the table while resting on the left elbow and taking food with the right hand. The three positions indicated that a person had the high, middle, or low place on the couch. One having the low position on the third couch had the lowest place at the meal. Jesus said: ‘When invited to a feast, choose the lowest place and the host will tell you, “Go up higher.” Then you will have honor before your fellow guests.’ (14:7-10) Yes, let us humbly put others ahead of ourselves. In fact, in applying the illustration, Jesus said: “Everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.”—14:11.
Also stressing humility, and unique with Luke’s Gospel, was Jesus’ illustration about a tax collector and a Pharisee praying in the temple. Among other things, the Pharisee said, “I fast twice a week.” (18:9-14) The Law required only one annual fast. (Leviticus 16:29) But the Pharisees carried fasting to an extreme. The one in the illustration fasted on the second day of the week because that was thought to be the time when Moses went up into Mount Sinai, where he received the two tablets of the Testimony. He is said to have descended from the mountain on the fifth day of the week. (Exodus 31:18; 32:15-20) The Pharisee cited his semiweekly fasting as a proof of his piety. But this illustration should move us to be humble, not self-righteous.
These gems from Luke’s Gospel prove that it is unique and instructive. Incidents related in the account help us to relive touching events in Jesus’ earthly life. We also benefit from background information on certain customs. But especially will we be blessed if we apply such lessons as those on mercy and humility so well taught in this Gospel by Luke, the beloved physician.
Source consulted or translated: Watchtower Online Library: Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Luke
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