Usually, when I preach through a book, I tend to preach in some depth, verse by verse. I’ve been known to spend an entire sermon on one verse. (No one EVER accuses me of saying too little :)).
My current series on Luke has a different approach. It was originally a letter. We usually read letters quickly — then perhaps we go back and read it again. I decided to take Luke more along the lines of how Theophilus would have read it the first time, looking at the broad themes. Below is a more complete form of what I handed out yesterday, summarising some key themes from Luke’s early chapters.
Some Key Words in Luke’s Early Chapters
Chapter 1 – Joy
The concept of joy pervades the entire first chapter, and Luke used the word repeatedly.
1:14 “Thou shalt have joy”
1:31-33 Mary’s joy
1:44 “The babe leaped in my womb for joy”
1:47 “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour”
1:58 “They rejoiced with her”
1:64 “His tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God”
1:78 “The dayspring from on high hath visited us”
Having established a theme of joy, there are also hints in chapter one (such as verses 65-66) of something to which Luke wants to draw our attention next — wonder.
Chapter 2 – Wonder
Though Luke doesn’t use a single word repeatedly as he did in chapter one, the concept of wonder is strong in chapter two. He describes amazing events, and uses several words with similar meanings.
2:9 “The glory of the Lord shone round about them”
2:18 “All they that heard it wondered at those things”
2:33 “And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things”
2:38 “Spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption”
2:47 “All that heard him were astonished at His understanding”
2:48 “And when they saw Him, they were amazed”
3:1-4:31 – Spirit
For the next one and a half chapters, there is a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost), and His relation to and work in the ministry of Christ.
3:16 “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire”
3:22 “The Holy Ghost descended”
4:1 “And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost”
4:1 “And was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”
4:14 “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee”
4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me”
There are also several references in this section to the Father (even the genealogy points back that far). The entire Trinity is in view in this section.
Luke never again mentions the Lord Jesus as being led by the Spirit, full of the Spirit, or working in the power of the Spirit, or anything comparable. All these references were pointing forward to His great claim in 4:18. Having established the working of the Spirit in His ministry and the complete agreement of the great Three-in-One on His work, Luke moves on to emphasise the power and authority of the incarnate Son of God.
4:31-6:19 – Power / Authority
There is more than one word in view here (both in English and in Greek), but the concept of Jesus’ power and authority is very strong in this section, and Luke uses these words repeatedly. Even the incidents he relates which don’t use an actual word meaning “power” reveal His power and authority.
4:32 “His word was with power”
4:36 “With authority and power He commendeth the unclean spirits”
5:7 “And they came, and filled both the ships, that they began to sink” — power over nature
5:13 “And immediately the leprosy departed from him” — power over the incurable
5:17 “The power of the Lord was present to heal them”
5:24 “The Son of Man hath power upon earth to forgive sins”
5:36-38 Authority to institute a new covenant
6:5 “The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath” — authority
6:19 “There went virtue out of Him, and healed them all”
After repeatedly using the word “power” (or a synonym), Luke never again uses either “power” or “authority” to refer to the Lord’s earthly ministry except in reference to His delegation of authority and power to those He was sending out.
Luke is telling a story (a true story). He draws in his readers with an account of joy and wonder. He tells us that this One who has come is working in the power and leading of the Spirit, endorsed by the Father. He has come both claiming and demonstrating His power and authority.
6:20-49 — The Teacher Who is Lord
Having established those truths, he moves on in the last part of chapter six to his first major account of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus, sent by the Father, filled by the Spirit, ministering with authority and power, teaches with that same authority, challenging His hearers:
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord,
and do not the things which I say?