Luke states at the opening of the book that he is writing to Theophilus (1:3). It is likely that he also has a larger audience in mind, including the Gentiles and new Christian converts.
Probably between A.D. 60-70.
Luke clearly states his purpose in his prologue to Theophilus: “to write to you an orderly account…that you may know the certainty\ of those things in which you were instructed” (Lk 1:3-4). By presenting an accurate and chronological account of the unique life of Jesus in the context of biblical history, Luke aims to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation to his people. Furthermore, through Jesus Christ, God has also extended this grace of redemption to the Gentile world.
Some of the unique features of this Gospel compared to the other Gospels include 1) a historian’s approach, recording events in sequence and placing them in the larger context of world history; 2) a superb literary style, marked by excellent narrative devices and a rich variation of styles; 3) a greater concern for the Gentiles and the social outcasts, such as women, the poor, tax collectors, and “sinners”; 4) the “prophecy-fulfillment” pattern showing that events took place to fulfill predictions spoken earlier.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10).
“…The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (24:19).
To get a broad picture of Luke, read the entire book and record a heading for each of the section divisions in chart B. The Gospel consists of 4 main sections:
1. Preparation (1:1-4:13): The birth narratives of John and Jesus; Jesus’ early years; the ministry of John; the baptism and temptation of Jesus.
2. Galilean Ministry (4:14-9:50): Calling and choosing of disciples; the Great Sermon; healings and other miracles; the transfiguration.
3. Later Judean and Perean Ministries (9:51-19:27): This central section, marked by Jesus’ steadfast determination to go to Jerusalem (9:51), is the largest division in the gospel and is in most part unique to Luke. Teachings and parables take up most of this section. While opposition grew, the Lord continued to extend his ministry to the lost and needy, and his call to repentance and discipleship became increasingly urgent.
4. Concluding Events in Jerusalem (19:28-24:53); Teachings at the temple; the Last Supper and prayer on the Mount of Olives; Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus as the Christ
The birth narratives make it clear that Jesus is the Son of God (1:35) and the Redeemer of Israel (1:32-33, 68-75; 2:25-38). Both John’s and Jesus’ ministries attest to Jesus’ messiahship. Luke’s recordings of Jesus’ Galilean ministry eventually lead up to Peter’s affirmation that Jesus is “The Christ of God” (9:20). Unique to Luke is the mention and recording of Jesus’ ascension (9:51; 24:51), which later serves as an important basis for the Christological theme of Acts (e.g. Acts 1:9-11; 2:32-33; 5:30-31; 7:55-56).
The Lord’s own words sum up the purpose and nature of his earthly ministry: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10). Salvation is not for the Jews only but for all who are lost in sin. The birth of Jesus Christ is a good tiding to all people (2:10). Contrary to the social and religious values of the people, who esteemed the wealthy and prominent and believed that only Jews were worthy of salvation, the Lord reached out to the despised and “sinners” regardless of their ethnic background (e.g. 6:20-21; 7:12-15, 37-50; 10:29-37; 15:1-32; 19:1-10; 23:39-43).
Purpose, Prophecy, and Fulfillment
A keyword in Luke is “must” (2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44-47). The Scriptures must be fulfilled through Jesus, and Jesus, in turn, must carry out God’s salvation plan. This sense of destiny was the driving force behind the Lord’s ministry, and it compelled him to set out resolutely to Jerusalem, where he would suffer for the redemption of God’s people. Messianic promises were fulfilled in Jesus (6:16-21; 24:25 26; Acts 3:18). Predictions of the suffering of the Son of Man are shown as having been fulfilled (9:22, 44; 18:32 33; 24:6-8, 44), and Jesus’ sayings are sometimes immediately followed by narratives in which the sayings are fulfilled (4:16-30; 7:29-50). Such prophecy-fulfillment pattern is a clear indication that Jesus was the Prophet sent by God and the Anointed of God (c.f. Deut 18:15, 18-19; Acts 3:22-26).
Luke mentions the work of the Holy Spirit more than Matthew and Mark combined (see 1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25 27; 3:22; 4:1, 14, 18; 10:21; 24:49). By attributing the development of events to the power of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel demonstrates that the ministries of John and Jesus were the fulfillment of divine will.
Luke’s original objective, “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” also serves the needs of present day Christians. By studying the orderly account of the things that were fulfilled through Jesus (1:1), we may see the Lord Jesus through the eyes of first witnesses. The Gospel of Luke, along with the other Gospels, confirms our belief that God’s redemptive plan has been fulfilled in history. Our faith today is not merely built on the teachings of men about salvation but on the real and historical person Jesus Christ, who lived among men, died on the cross, resurrected and ascended before his followers. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus as the Son of Man also gives us assurance that Christ, who once shared our humanity, is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (c.f. Heb 4:15). His examples of prayer and obedience to God’s will teach us to submit to God in all things and seek his guidance and power. His encompassing kindness and love reminds us to reach out to the lost and needy in our ministry today. All in all, the presentation of Jesus as the perfect man provides us, his disciples, a model for imitation and a basis for our belief that he is truly the Savior of all men.
Map & Chart
Chart A: Life of Christ
Map A: Palestine in the Time of Christ