An Advent Invitation: Luke’s Gospel, Chapter-A-Day!
It’s the perfect set-up: Advent has 24 days this year, starting December 1. The Gospel of Luke has 24 chapters. Why not read one a day?
Join Pastor Gjerde in doing so, and he will send you daily reading helps and questions! If interested, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you will receive the daily helps right in your email box. These helps will also be printed and available at the church office, and Pr. Gjerde will post occasional videos about our readings on Zion’s Facebook page, which is publicly available.
Just think: by Christmas Eve worship, we will have read the whole life of Christ!
What a good way to prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s nativity!
Luke: Chapter One
Main Theme: The Lord Is a Promise-Keeper!
Central Verse: “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).
This is the longest chapter you will read, and you have all Sunday to do it! On one level, it is about pregnancies and birth. Yet within the surprise and joy of pregnancy, it’s also about the Lord keeping His Word to redeem Israel and all of creation. We see the sweetness of this Word-keeping in the Virgin Mary. As she welcomes the words of the angel in complete trust, she gives us a picture of the Church’s life: trusting in the great promise-keeper, God.
Verses 1-3: We learn that Luke had eyewitness testimony for his gospel. Tradition states that these eyewitnesses included the Virgin Mary herself, which would explain the focus in Luke on the birth of Jesus.
Verse 3: We don’t know the identity of Theophilus, but his name means, “Friend of God” or “Beloved of God.” He was likely high-born, having a Greek and cultured name.
Verse 31: “Jesus” means “The Lord Saves.” It’s the same in Hebrew as the name Joshua. Jesus had a normal name, but He is no normal man! It’s also the same name as the man who led Israel into the Promised Land (see the Old Testament book of Joshua).
In verses 18-20, Zechariah questions Gabriel. In verses 34-37, Mary questions Gabriel. Gabriel rebukes and punishes Zechariah, but he gives assurance and promise to Mary.
Why do you think he responded differently to Mary?
What do his different responses teach us about the difference between John the Baptist and Jesus?
How does God’s entry into this world as a baby, growing in the womb of a young maiden, “scatter the proud” and “exalt the humble” (verses 51-52)? How has it “filled the hungry with good things” (verse 53)?
Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. It is a song sung by another woman with a surprise pregnancy, Hannah. Compare and contrast it with Luke 1:46-55.
Luke: Chapter Two
Main Theme: Jesus Is the True King of Israel
Central Verse: “My eyes have seen your salvation” (verse 30)
This chapter is full of people seeing amazing things: angels in the sky, a baby in a manger, a child teaching the elderly! But what they really see is the advent (arrival) of the King of Israel.
Verses 4 & 11: The emphasis on David echoes Gabriel’s words to Mary (1:32-33). God promised David that his descendant would always sit on his throne (1 Kings 9:5, Jeremiah 33:17). Jesus, a descendant of David, fulfills this Word by inheriting an eternal throne. He is the true King!
Verses 1-3 & 14: Luke opens the chapter by reminding us of the Roman rulers in that area. By doing so, he contrasts those rulers with the true King. The true King is just a child, humble and making His home among the low and simple.
Verse 13: In the Bible, “host” means “army.” Angels are warriors!
Verse 21: Here Jesus sheds his blood for the first time, 8 days after he was born. He does so because God’s law demanded it, requiring circumcision of Jewish males. It foreshadows when he would shed His blood on the cross. The law demanded that blood, too, for the sins of the world. We remember this event every year on January 1, eight days after Christmas.
Verse 24: The offering of birds rather than a lamb was suggested for poorer people, giving us a glimpse into the relative poverty of Jesus’ family.
Verses 27-28: Even before they could “do for him” what “the Law” demanded, Simeon scoops up Jesus proclaims that He is the Light of God. Salvation does not come through the Law, but through faith in Jesus.
Verse 49: Here is the first time Jesus calls God His Father. It not only teaches us that He is the Son of God, but also that He is the Son of David and therefore the king, for God called Israel’s king “My son” (Psalm 2:7)
“Bethlehem” means “house of bread.” How is it fitting for Jesus to be born in the “house of bread”?
Why is verse 19 important? (Hint: reread Luke 1:1-2.)
If the “favor of God” is on Jesus (verse 40), then what does it mean that Jesus is now given to you (Baptism, Word, Supper)?
Luke: Chapter Three
Main Theme: Jesus is the Son of God
Central Verse: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (verse 3:22b)
This chapter focuses on “sons” and “children.” Who is the son or child of whom? Notice all the references to parents, sons/children, and family.
Verses 1-2: Similar to chapter two, Luke contrasts all the mighty rulers of the land with the humble John. “The word of God came” NOT to those rulers in their palaces, but “to John . . . in the wilderness.”
Verses 3-9: Preaching a baptism of repentance to Israel was a scandal. It said, in effect, “You are not yet the true Israel; you are not yet true people of God.” That’s why John says, “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our Father’” (verse 8). God’s true family is being formed through Christ, who makes us children of God through Baptism.
Verses 23-28: By tracing Jesus’ descent all the way back to Adam, Luke reminds us that Jesus belongs to the whole world, not just Israel. God’s family is opened through Him to all people, regardless of their origin.
John says that Jesus will come with the Holy Spirit and fire (verses 16-17), and then Jesus comes and puts Himself in the water (21-22)! Where is Jesus still “in the water” today, with all of His Holy Spirit and fire?
What will it mean for you, this day or tomorrow or the next day, to be a child of God, joined to Jesus in Holy Baptism and therefore a shareholder with Him of the Holy Spirit? How will it encourage, direct, or change you?
Luke: Chapter Four
Main Theme: Nothing Stops Jesus
Central Verse: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (verse 18)
Several things try to “stop” or “slow” Jesus in this chapter: the devil, a lack of faith, demons, and lastly, the desire and enthusiasm of the crowds. But Jesus passes through all of them, driven by the Spirit to fulfill a different mission.
Verses 1-13: The devil tries to stop Jesus, but He confounds him with the word of God.
Verses 16-30: The doubt of the people at Nazareth tries to stop Jesus by killing Him! But Jesus, filled with the Spirit, “passes through them” (verse 30).
Verses 31-37: A demon tries to debate Jesus and embarrass him, but Jesus hushes him up!
Verses 38-44: The people, enthused by Jesus’ healings, try to keep him with them longer, but Jesus is compelled to preach in other towns also. The Spirit puts people on the move!
How has the Holy Spirit put your Church—and you!—“on the move”?
With what “tool” did Jesus confound the devil? How does His example teach us to resist temptation?
What, according to Jesus, is His main mission (verse 43)? What does it teach us about our priorities today, being believers in Him and members of His Church?
Luke: Chapter Five
Main Theme: Jesus Acts with Divine Authority
Central Verse: “The Son of Man has authority” (Verse 24)
The events of this chapter all testify to one key point: Jesus taught and ministered on His own authority. Other teachers or rabbis of that time would identify themselves with the schools of their mentors, but our Lord Jesus gathered a brand new school for himself.
Verses 1-11: The Gospel of Mark tells us that the fishing operations left behind by Simon and Zebedee’s sons were successful, with several workers (Mark 1:20). That fact makes it all the more miraculous that they left their work to follow a new rabbi! It testifies to Jesus’ authority: He speaks, and it happens.
Verses 12-26: A series of two healings presses us to another claim of authority for Jesus: He forgives sins, which only God can do! This claim makes Jesus a stunning and controversial figure from the start—as well as a merciful one!
Verses 27-39: From miraculous healings we turn to matters of eating and drinking. The law demanded that God’s people avoid fellowship with sinners and observe fasts, etc. But now here comes Jesus, not only feasting, but doing so with “tax collectors and sinners” (and it is possible that “sinners” in this context specifically means prostitutes)! A new era of righteousness has arrived. In this era, God’s favor is not earned by our obedience. Rather, it is given freely to whomever Jesus befriends. It begs the question: Is Jesus greater than the law? (Yes!)
Has Jesus befriended you? Where? How? Just think!
How does Jesus’ insistence on “eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners” help you appreciate His invitation to the Lord’s Supper?
What does that Supper say about Jesus’ commitment to you and His friendship with you?