Gospel of Luke



Place and Time of Writing


Unique Characteristics







Opening Luke Up


Only Luke describes the incident when Jesus was 12 and he and his parents went to the Temple.  (2:41-52)


The Gospel of Luke avoids direct confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees, instead showing Jesus as somewhat friendly to them.


Luke includes three stories that highlight the compassion and accessibility of Jesus.  These three are unique because they are only found in Luke. 

·         The Good Samaritan

·         Mary and Martha

·         Zacchaeus


The Good Samaritan:  10:25-37

10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27 He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " 28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' 36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."


Description:  In this story Jesus has a conversation with an “expert in the law.”  This was a Jewish scribe or other expert in the Law of Moses.  He seems to have honest questions about life after death and loving his neighbor.  As Jesus’ style was, he answered in a parable.  The key is that the hero of the story is a Samaritan.  It is important to know that Jews and Samaritans usually did not get along.  And even more, Jews hated Samaritans because they considered them “half-Jews” who did not fully worship the Jewish God.  (For more information on the background to this, go here:  http://studythechurch.com/Samaritans.htm

    Jesus’ point is that everyone is a neighbor to each other and is deserving of love.  Even if people think that someone is deserving of hatred, or even if they think God wants them to hate someone else (as the Jews felt about the Samaritans) that person is still deserving of love.  As an example of how the expert in the Law in the story missed the point, consider this:  when Jesus asked him who the true neighbor was, he could not even say “Samaritan” but instead said (basically), the one who helped him.  He hated the Samaritans so much he could not even say the word.  Luke includes this story to illustrate how everyone should do the opposite by having compassion and loving everyone else.


Mary and Martha:  10:38-42

10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself ? Tell her to help me!" 41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."


Description:  Jesus may have known this family previous to this incident.  For a reference consider the story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.  In that story Jesus knew the sisters Mary and Martha and even loved their brother Lazarus deeply.  (The only time when the NT mentions that Jesus wept was when he learned that Lazarus died.)  According to this story, Jesus stopped by their house.  While there Mary went into the common area (which we can call a living room) whereas Martha went into the kitchen to prepare food.

    The story behind this story is that Martha was doing what women were supposed to do in those days:  serve men.  So, according to the culture, Martha was correct and Mary was wrong.  From a cultural standpoint, Martha was right in complaining to Jesus.  But instead of rebuking Mary, Jesus rebukes Martha.  Jesus speaks against the culture of women serving men, and instead explains to Martha that God views men and women equally.  This was a radical idea in that day, and Luke’s point in including this story is to show that God is accessible to everyone.


Zacchaeus:  19:1-10

19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.' " 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." 9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."


Description:  Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector, but also a chief tax collector.  That job would have set him apart as one who the Jews believed they needed to hate.  Tax collectors in those days are different than today:  a tax collector today collects taxes for our country.  I can be mad about that or not, but everyone would agree that the country needs money to exist.  But at that time and in Israel, tax collectors collected taxes for the Roman government, which was the occupying country.  Basically, Zacchaeus was collecting taxes for the enemies of the Jews.  Therefore he was a hated man in Jericho. 

    As a sign of how much he was hated, he had to climb a tree to see Jesus.  When he learned that Jesus was coming through Jericho and he decided to see Jesus, he knew that he should not mingle in or push through the crowd to see Jesus because he had many enemies.  Do you remember the Zealots and the Sicarii?  They would have punished, beaten, or etc. Zacchaeus if they could have gotten to him.  So instead Zacchaeus decided to climb a tree where he could see Jesus and be safe.

    Back to Jesus:  as Jesus was working through the crowd he saw Zacchaeus up in a tree.  Jesus knew who he was and his job:  he fully understood how most of the crowd felt about Zacchaeus.  Plus, as Jesus worked his way through the crowd, he was looking for someone to eat with.  Now, many people in the crowd would have enjoyed eating with Jesus.  By this time Jesus was very popular and well known.  But Jesus picked Zacchaeus to eat with.  This was unpopular with the crowd, but Luke shows that Jesus knew what he was doing.  And you know the end of the story:  Zacchaeus changed his ways.  In showing the compassion of Jesus in this story, Luke intends to point out the same message as in the Good Samaritan story:  everyone has prejudices against some other people, but everyone should be loved nonetheless.  And even further, by showing love to those who seem unworthy of love, the person might realize his/her errors and change.


Outline of Luke



1-2:  Birth of John the Baptist and Jesus and Jesus in the Temple at age 12

3:  John the Baptist baptizes, preaches, and answers questions and a genealogy of Jesus

4:  The temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil and Jesus heals people

5:  Jesus calls his first Apostles and heals people

6:  Jesus chooses his 12 Apostles and gives them a speech

7:  Jesus heals many and discusses John the Baptist

8:  Jesus tells a parable, heals many, and discusses his family

9:  Jesus sends the 12 Apostles on a mission and performs miracles, Peter describes Jesus as the Christ, the Transfiguration, and opposition to Jesus appears

10:  Jesus sends 72 followers on a mission; the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Mary and Martha

11-18:  Jesus tells parables, preaches, and performs miracles

19:  The story of Zacchaeus, Jesus tells a parable, and the entry into Jerusalem a week before he is crucified

20-24:  Jesus is in and around Jerusalem; he is crucified, buried, resurrected, and eventually ascends out of sight


Readings from Luke

See the three groups of verses above.


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

He could have been born as early as 7 BC, but we will use 4 B.C.

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

  • The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

  • The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

  • The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus is removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors.


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary find him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel while preaching, teaching, and performing miracles


Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate; Jesus raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later


Nero was Roman emperor


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


Peter and Paul martyred around this year


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


Mark written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


Persecution of Christians


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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