GPR S2 E2: Luke and John overview
Growth Project Radio

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In this episode, Robert and Danny give a little background to Luke and John.





LUKE- Probably the third Gospel written chronologically. Of the Synoptic Gospels, probably the most different of the Synoptics. Very similar as the other two, but considerably different as well. So let’s take a look at this fascinating book.

  • BASICS. Let’s begin with some of the basics to get a foundational understanding of this incredible letter. Author- As with the other Gospels, technically the author is anonymous, but Luke’s authorship is not seriously questioned. Nowhere in the Gospel does the author identify himself, but the early church fathers confirm that Luke was the author. Luke- What do we know about Luke? Actually, personally, not too much but we do know some things.. First, it is almost certain that Luke was a Gentile…the only Gentile to write a Gospel . As such he was also not one of the original 12 Disciples. As we stated before, 2 of the 4 Gospels were written by people who were not a part of Jesus original 12 Disciples. We also know his profession . He was a doctor. Question: Who wrote the most in the New Testament? It depends. If you’re talking number of NT letters…Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books of the NT. But Luke actually wrote more material (words) than Paul. Paul-32,408. Luke- 37,932. In fact, based on word count, Luke wrote the third most material in the entire Bible after Moses and Ezra. Why? Because Luke wrote Acts as well. In fact, Luke wrote the two longest books in the NT. We’ll get to this when we get to Acts, but he was also traveling companion to Paul in that book. Great Historian. More new people and places in Luke than the other Gospels combined. Date- Before the destruction of the temple and after Matthew and Mark. Probably 60-61 AD.
  • THEMES. Most Gentile of the Gospels- It would make sense that Luke was a Gentile, then he would be writing to a Gentile audience. That would explain the unique aspects of this Gospel. Whereas 80% of Mark’s Gospel is in Matthew, just 50% of Mark is in Luke. He explained words that Jews would have known, he used the Septuagint when quoting the OT and did not quote it as much as Matthew did. He used the Greek alternatives to Hebrew words Golgotha; Abba; and Rabbi. He was interested in portraying Jesus and salvation as being open to all peoples…not just Jews. Only Gospel dedicated to a person, Theophilus . Worship and Prayer- This plays a huge role in this Gospel. The other Gospels do this as well, but Luke includes way more of an emphasis on prayer and worship than the other Gospels. The Gospel starts with people worshipping in the temple and ends with people worshipping in the temple. Twenty times Luke mentions people who are specifically worshipping and/or giving thanks to God. It is the only Gospel that records the Disciples specifically asking Jesus to teach them to pray . Outcasts and disadvantaged- Interesting that it would be the only Gentile to write a Gospel that would focus on Jesus ministry to those in the society that were considered outcasts. Women play a big role in this Gospel. Way more than the others. Since they were a maligned group culturally in that time, Luke made a big deal out of Jesus reaching out to them. The poor, the physically disabled, the dregs of society are also well represented as having access to God’s grace. The Good Samaritan; the ten lepers; Zacchaeus; prodigal son; and the redeemed thief are just a few examples of outcasts who receive God’s grace. Unheard of. People were in dire straits because God was punishing them for sin. Luke blows that up…just like Job should have for them. Work of the Holy Spirit- No other synoptic Gospel talks about the Holy Spirit as much as Luke. Jesus is conceived by the Spirit; anointed with the Spirit; others are filled with the Spirit and inspired and moved by the Spirit. John talks a lot about that as well, but among the Synoptics, Luke develops a theology of the Spirit far behind the others. Material unique to Luke- Too many to name all of them. Luke’s birth narratives; Miraculous catch of fish; Raising the widow’s son; Good Samaritan; Mary and Martha; Prodigal son; Rich man and Lazarus; Ten lepers; Zacchaeus; Road to Emmaus.
  • SELECTED EVENTS. So hard with this amazing letter. But here are a few things that make Luke…Luke. Birth narratives- (Luke 2)Simply put, this is probably the most well-known part of any Gospel…even those who are not Believers. Luke 2 is the quintessential story related to the Nativity. So many things that we think are in all of the Gospels only in Luke. The shepherds, the manger, no room in the inn, the angels announcing, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Simeon, …all unique to Luke. So much of what we know and love of Christmas is here. No Luke…no Charlie Brown Christmas. Miraculous catch of fish- (Luke 5) This is a bit under the radar screen compared to some…but this is an amazing event. So much involved with this short passage. Peter recognizes Jesus and immediately recognizes his sin. But we see Jesus’ forgiveness and redemption and that He will still use us. The Good Samaritan- () This story would have been most controversial because of the feelings towards Samaritans and the high stature given to priests and Levites.


JOHN- This would have to be either the first Gospel written or the last. Most think it is the last one. Not one of the Synoptic Gospels and certainly the most unique of the four. Let’s take a look at this amazing book.

  • BASICS. Let’s begin with the basics to get a better foundational understanding of this incredible letter. Author- As with all of the Gospel writers, the author does not directly identify himself, but he does come the closest. He often identifies himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”. Now, that could have been any of them and that is the point. Shows the humility of John so that it would not focus on him and his writing but on Jesus. He doesn’t even mention his own name in the Gospel even though the Synoptics mention him often. John- What do we know about John? In my view, quite a bit. He was one of the original 12 Disciples Jesus called () along with his brother, James. Not the same James that wrote the epistle. He was a fisherman by trade. Also…he was probably Jesus’ first cousin. When you put all of the passages together, the 4th woman mentioned as being at the crucifixion, Salome, identified as both Mary’s sister and the mother of James and John which would make them cousins. . James and John’s mother asks that her two sons sit on Jesus right and left. Could be trying to cash in on that family connection. Also, he was one of the “inner circle” of Jesus with his brother and Peter. We see this at the Transfiguration. Had a temper or were very outspoken ; . Date- Probably written after the Synoptics and before 1,2,3 John and Revelation…about 80-90 AD maybe as late as 100.
  • THEMES. The most theological of the Gospels- Most unique too…90% original to the Gospel. That’s not to say that you cannot develop theology form the others, but this is a bit of a primer on how to view Jesus theologically. The others tell us about Jesus…but John is more interested in telling us Who He really is. It is the only Gospel with a thesis statement…what his purpose was in writing the Gospel . Doesn’t mention Jesus’ natural birth but His supernatural essence. Links Him to God beginning in chapter 1. This is a textbook on how to formulate theology. Jesus wasn’t just a good man…but the God-man. Incarnation- The other Gospels mention the Incarnation, John bathes his readers in that reality. Nearly every single verse or comment known to point to Jesus being God comes from John. From the very first verse which hearkens back to Genesis, John is telling the reader Jesus is God. Why an early church father called John a “spiritual” Gospel. This is key to understanding Jesus as far as John is concerned. The I AM sayings- Unique only to John and once again links back to Jesus being God. Same verbiage that God uses on Mt. Sinai to Moses. The seven I AM sayings: bread of life; light of the world; the gate; good shepherd; resurrection and the life; way, truth, life; true vine. The Holy Spirit- While Luke wrote more about the Spirit than the other Synoptics, John gave us more depth about the Spirit than the others combined ff. We know more about the role and working of the Holy Spirit from John than the other Gospel writers. Loving one another- More than the Synoptics combined, John talks about love…word used more than 50 times. Interesting fact that nearly every single time the love is relegated to Believers’ love for each other. This is key. The premier statement on this . Chapters 13-17- Unique to John’s Gospel and unique among all the Gospels, are these 5 amazing chapters. The rule of thumb (even in John) is that the author will cover a large amount of time with a relatively short amount of writing. In fact, covers about 18 years in one sentence. But here in chapters 13-17 we have a relatively short amount of time covered by a relatively large amount of writing. If you have a Bible with Jesus’ words in red, 13-17 is a sea of red. Fascinating stuff. Material unique to John- Way too much to list here since 90%of the material in John is unique. Here are some. Water into wine; Nicodemus; Woman at the well; Stoning of the adulterous woman; Raising of Lazarus; Washing the disciple’s feet; Jesus appears to Thomas. Might be helpful to see what is NOT in John. Jesus’ birth; Jesus’ baptism; Jesus’ temptation; transfiguration; parables; no institution of the Lord’s Supper…and only one specific miracle (outside of the Passion narratives) is in all of the Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000.
  • SELECTED EVENTS. Here are a few things that make John…John. John 3 and John 4- Not only the material that is in these two chapters, but how they are juxtaposed with each other. Both do exactly the same thing in two entirely different ways. How Jesus interacts with Nicodemus and how He interacts with the Woman at the Well is nothing short of amazing and an in-depth look at evangelism. The raising of Lazarus- (John 11) So much incredible stuff in this chapter related to God’s sovereignty, Jesus’ compassion, and the command to others to unbind Lazarus. A hinge passage in the New Testament. Peter’s restoration- () This is one of the most underrated interactions of Jesus with a person while He walked on this planet. This passage and especially its use of the words for “love” shows Jesus amazing grace, mercy and forgiveness as He tenderly deals with a man (Peter) who thought he was no longer fit to serve Jesus.


ACTS- The first non-Gospel letter we come to in the New Testament and certainly one of the most unique in the canon of Scripture. Written around the same time as its counterpart, Luke, it is an amazingly independent book compared to the others. Let’s take a quick look at this amazing book.

  • BASICS. Let’s begin with a few basics to better understand this fascinating letter. Author- The author does not personally or officially identify himself by name in this letter, but we still know who it is. In , the author tells us he is writing this Gospel to a man named Theophilus. In , the author tells us he is writing this letter to a man named Theophilus and that this is a compendium to his “former account”, meaning of course the Gospel of Luke. So, the author of the Luke’s Gospel is also the author of Acts. Luke- going to take time to go back through what we know of Luke. I suggest you go back to that section and read it there if you would like. Luke was a Gentile follower of Jesus who was also a doctor and very capable historian. Date- Probably between 60-62 AD. Since Acts ends abruptly with no resolution to Paul’s imprisonment, it makes sense that he wrote it during but before he was released from that imprisonment. An astute historian, if Luke had known the outcome of Paul’s trial, he would have included it in the epistle.
  • THEMES. A unique history- Luke includes a fairly detailed history of the first three decades of the Christian church…especially the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem into Europe. As Matthew ended with the Great Commission, and Luke basically re-confirming that command by Jesus before He ascended (), we see the focus of Luke was to chronicle the carrying out of that command in the personages of a great deal of people. An amazing historian. We have detailed maps of Paul’s missionary journeys because of Luke’s details. God controlling history- This is a big deal for Luke. He wasn’t a historian for the sake of being one. He wanted to show God’s sovereignty over history. His redemptive purposes displayed in history. Nothing just “happens”. Interesting that it was persecution that pushed the young Christians out to accomplish His will. Evangelizing the Gentiles- Though Luke does tout God’s faithfulness to Israel, he spends a great deal of time chronicling outreach to the Gentiles. This had to be especially pleasing to Luke who was a Gentile. This was prophesied by Jesus, of course. The transition of the church from Jewish to Gentile- . “Other vinedressers” generally the church…but also includes the fact that it will be mostly Gentile. The first 100 years or less of Christianity were a tipping point. Many Jewish leaders were Judaizers who seemed happy to leave Christianity as a sect of Judaism. The Jerusalem Council and the writings of Paul (especially Galatians) makes this clear. Luke shows us the beginning of this transformation.
  • Selected Events. Here are a few things that make this such an incredible book. Coming of the Holy Spirit- () There are many unfortunate misunderstandings regarding this passage. It is vitally important. With a few notable exceptions mentioned in the Gospels, the Holy Spirit had not come upon followers of Christ. This was especially important enough for Jesus to hold the Apostles back from their work until the Spirit was upon them. Manifestation of the Spirit’s arrival was that the Apostles were able to talk in various foreign languages. This miracle was not the so-called speaking in “tongues” associated with some aspects of Christianity. In fact, in we are given a list of known foreign languages that the Apostles were able to speak in. This does not describe the bestowing of some kind of unknown, heavenly language. The Scripture gives us 17 foreign languages that were spoken…not secret heavenly languages. Peter’s vision- (Acts 10) This is a direct confrontation of Jesus to Peter showing him the error of legalism and how it hinders grace. A hinge passage, we see the inherent danger in disobeying Jesus in favor of non-God rules. Saul becomes Paul- (Acts 9) One of the seminal events in all of Scripture is Saul’s conversion to Christianity. Not only was he the least likely to become a Christian, but the least likely to reach out to the Gentiles. God used him to do both. He went on 4 missionary journeys risking his life from everyone. He wrote 13 of the 27 NT letters and spread the Gospel into Asia minor and eastern Europe. Paul was converted when he was between 36-41…and was martyred when he was between 61-65. So, did all that in about 20 years. Paul’s address to Agrippa- (-) Media folks like to say they speak truth to power. From the comfort of the Constitution, a supporting infrastructure and a computer. Agrippa was King and his Great Grandfather was King Herod who tried to kill Jesus as an infant. Extremely powerful and wanted to hear from Paul because he had heard about him. Had his consort, and sister, Bernice with him. What follows is one of the most amazing testimonies in all of history. Complete with a challenge and one of the saddest statements in all of Scripture . A model for us to follow no matter to whom we are speaking.

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