In all four gospels, the authors launch the story of Jesus’ ministry by introducing John, the Baptist, son of Zechariah. Like the others, Luke recalls John’s message, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But Luke doesn’t just stop there. In answer to the crowd’s question, “What then shall we do?” John provides an answer: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none…” to the tax collectors, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do…” and to the soldiers, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations…”
John then answers his listeners’ expectation: Could he be the Christ? No, he replies, “I baptize you with water but He who is mightier than I is coming… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand. These early emphases of Luke’s – of the conduct that reflects repentance, of Jesus’ separating wheat from chaff – can be tucked away for future reference. Introductions have a way of setting the stage for themes that are important to the author.
It’s fitting to read Luke’s gospel in sequence with Matthew’s, because some of their emphases are quite distinct from each other. For example, Matthew routinely cites prophecy; Luke’s focus is the signs and wonders associated with Jesus’ birth and life. In the birth narratives, Matthew’s spotlight favors Joseph, while Luke’s attention is almost exclusively on Mary.
Even their genealogies of Jesus take different tracks: Matthew follows Joseph’s line back through David to Abraham. Luke traces Mary’s line through David, but through Abraham all the way to Adam. Again, there could be themes established here as well.
Chapter 4 opens as Jesus is led from the Jordan into the wilderness, being tempted by the devil for forty days. Three specific temptations are recounted, and in the first two Jesus responds with Scripture. In the third, the devil himself teases Jesus with Scripture, but Jesus again rises above. He then returns to Galilee, again, in Luke’s observation, in the power of the Spirit, and taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
The next story, which begins when Jesus came to Nazareth, is pivotal. Read it slowly, placing yourself in the room as Jesus takes the Isaiah scroll, reads the words “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me...because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovering of sight, liberty to those who are oppressed…to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” then sits back down, and explains, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Our verse for this week is Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Luke chapters 3 and 4. Now let’s read it!
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?