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The Gospel According to Luke
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
In two weeks’ time, on Sunday 3rd December, we begin a new year in the Church’s liturgical calendar. In the 3 year cycle of Sunday Lectionary readings, 2007 is Year C, the year of Luke.
Based on Luke's use of Mark and his description of local church issues, the gospel of Luke is dated at around the year 80AD. Luke admits that he was not an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus. For his narrative he draws on Mark's gospel, on a collection of Jesus' sayings known as Q (for the German word Quelle meaning "source") and on a number of other written and oral sources.
Luke wrote his story in two volumes - the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke's gospel tells of Jesus' journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, a journey which is completed in the Acts of the Apostles by the journey of the church from Jerusalem "to the ends of the earth".
Luke's journey story is more than simply a geographical or historical record; rather it describes a journey for the whole church and for the individual Christian - a journey towards suffering and glory. Luke inspires Christ's followers to be faithful to their commitment despite the difficulties they face by reminding them of God's past faithfulness and drawing attention to parallels in the present.
Luke's is the only gospel to call Jesus "Saviour", and salvation is a prominent theme throughout. Unlike Mark and Matthew who link salvation to Jesus' death on the cross, Luke shows that the ministry of Jesus is bringing salvation here and now: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled", "Today salvation has come to this house", "Today you will be with me in paradise".
The gospel of Luke is full of the stories that people often nominate as their favourites from the Bible: the parables of the Good Samaritan and the prodigal son, the stories of the annunciation, the visit of the shepherds to the infant Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The wonderful "lost and found" stories (the stray sheep, the missing coin, and the wayward son) are only to be found in Luke.
A particular feature of Luke's gospel is the emphasis on Jesus' ministry to those on the fringes of society. This focus appears right from the start with Mary's song, The Magnificat, and Jesus’ first act of preaching: "He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free" (Lk 4: 18).
Food figures prominently in Luke’s gospel, with nineteen different meals mentioned. Several of the parables have a banquet as their setting and Jesus comes under fire for eating with the wrong people. At Emmaus the disciples recognise Jesus when he accepts their invitation to a meal and makes himself known "in the breaking of the bread".
More than any of the other gospel writers, Luke gives importance to the role of women. He places Mary at the centre of his infancy narrative, unlike Matthew who focuses on Joseph. Luke pairs the men in his stories with women – for example, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna. In Luke's story about Martha and Mary, Mary does what would have been unacceptable in Jesus' time - she sits at his feet as a disciple.