Unique Characteristics of Luke

The longest Gospel account composed of 19,482 words, Luke is one with numerous distinctive characteristics and qualities. Truly, Luke is a beautiful and remarkable book and an excellent take on our Redeemer, showcasing the humanity of Jesus. Ranging from the attention to the humanity and openness of the Kingdom to all, the writing style and language, the attention to prayer, the recordings of worship and thanksgiving, and the medical language of the book, Luke has several unique traits worthy of taking note and appreciating.

            Introducing Jesus as Son of man and Savior to all, Luke proudly displays the humanity and compassion of Jesus, showing He has come to save everyone. Oriented to the Greeks, the book focuses on the universal Kingdom being open to everyone. Jesus is aptly called, “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32) as a mere child, and Luke records Jesus growing up and doing just what He had been proclaimed to do, focusing in on His compassion for the Samaritans, a people loathed by the Jews at the time. The book also records His consideration for the Gentiles, Jews, Publicans, sinners, outcasts, well-thought-of, poor, and the wealthy. Even women play a more prominent role in the book of Luke, despite both the Jews and Gentiles viewing women as lesser at the time. Luke is the only Gospel account to mention Elisabeth, mother of John, certain events with Mary and Elisabeth, Anna, the widow of Nain, and the daughters of Jerusalem. The account shows Jesus, our Savior, who loved and sacrificed Himself for all.

            Another distinction is Luke’s focus on prayer, writing more on the subject than the other Gospel writers. Luke shows Jesus praying before several events, details the other accounts did not mention, such as before His first confrontation with the Jewish leaders in chapter five. Only in Luke will one find the parables about prayer like the parable of The Friend at Midnight in chapter eleven, The Persistent Widow in chapter eighteen, or the parable of The Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). Luke concentrates on prayer and its power, displaying the importance and impact on the act of praying.

            Beginning with worship and ending with worship (1:9; 24:53), Luke records multiple moments of worship and thanksgiving. The only book to record the praise of Zacharias known as Benedictus (1:68-70), the praise of Mary known as the Magnificat (1:46-55), the praise of the angels at the birth of Jesus, known as Gloria in Excelsis (2:14), and Simeon at Jesus’ presentation, known as the Nunc Dimittis (2:29-32), it exhibits the praise and glory God was and still is worthy to receive. Luke also writes about those who received blessings more than the other writers; worship is heavily highlighted.

            Proving the book to be oriented to the Gentiles, details in Luke all point to the fact that it was written by a Gentile for a Gentile audience. Luke uses Greek names and words to describe Hebrew words and names, such as Simon being called a Zealot in Luke six rather than “Simon the Canaanite” as he was referred to in Matthew and Mark. Instead of “Golgotha,” the place Jesus was crucified is called “Calvary” by Luke, unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke uses a term Gentiles would have been familiar. Even Jesus’ descent is traced back to Adam, the father of both Jews and Gentiles. Unlike the other accounts—especially Matthew—Luke has fewer quotations from the Old Testament because they had a greater meaning to the Jews than the Gentiles. Only Jesus is recorded speaking about the fulfillment of prophecy in Luke, aside from chapter three of Luke. Little is known about Theophilus, the person Luke wrote the account to, but what we can determine from Luke’s language and writing style is that Luke was a Gentile writing to another Gentile.

            The fulness of the historical record is another factor in the uniqueness of Luke. Desiring for Theophilus to “know” in detail the account and history of Jesus, Luke provides a complete record.

            “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which  from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that  thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” (Luke 1:1-4)

            Luke writes to Theophilus concerning the accounts; despite showing the distinction between himself and the eyewitnesses, Luke writes about also being a recipient of perfect understanding and is inspired, deciding to give an account himself to help Theophilus to know the certainty of the life of Christ through the details and explanations Luke includes for him. Luke begins earlier in the historical record than Matthew and Mark, and he continues his account to the ascension after the resurrection.

            The writing in Luke is organized and concise, showing Jesus’ ministry and three divisions, each group beginning with events showing the rejection of Jesus. The Galilean ministry begins with an attempt on Jesus’ life in Nazareth in chapter four. His ministry outside of Galilee starts with a negative response from the Samaritans in chapter nine. The final division focuses on the final days of instruction in Jerusalem, beginning with Jesus lamenting over the rejection from the city; this can be found in chapter nineteen. Presenting duplicates in his account, Luke writes about duplicates of events such as Mary’s song of praise and Zacharias’ song of praise. Simeon is recorded welcoming the infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna is included as well. Duplicates in miracles are written about, such as the two instances of the dead being raised, as well as duplicates in parables. Recording the sayings of Jesus, one can read duplicates when it comes to lighting a candle, taking up one’s cross, and humbling yourself. Likewise, Luke is a Gospel account full of contrasts, such as the doubt of Zacharias versus the trustfulness of Mary or the Rich Man and Lazarus. The thankful leper in chapter sixteen stands in stark contrast to the ungrateful lepers Jesus also healed. Differing from the other accounts, Luke also has seventeen parables and seven miracles distinctive to the writing. The book of Luke is meticulous in how it is written, presenting Jesus’ ministry and teachings.

            Fittingly, the book of Luke has over four hundred medical words or phrases used by its author. Luke, a medical doctor writes his account full of medical language, setting Luke apart from the other Gospel accounts. In chapter one, the word “eyewitness” is unique to Luke; it is a medical term similar to our English word autopsy. In chapter sixteen, the word Luke uses for “sores” is a medical term for ulcerated. In chapter seventeen, Luke uses a phrase, “with observation”: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:” (Luke 17:20). Luke is writing about watching closely in this section in regards to this phrase, it is a peculiar phrase of Luke, used by physicians to indicate the observation of symptoms of a disease in order to determine its progress.

            Depicting Jesus in numerous domestic settings, more so than any other Gospel account, Luke captures the humanity of our Savior and applicability in the descriptions of everyday life included in the writing. Meals in the houses of Simon, Mary and Martha, a Pharisee, and supper with two disciples in Emmaus are shown taking place. Jesus is also recorded going to the house of Zacchaeus, a publican. Even parables have domestic tones included, such as in chapter fifteen, the Parable of the Lost Coin, showing a woman sweeping in search of her lost coin. The account of Luke is where the parable of the Prodigal Son and the feast in the house for the son is written. Unlike Matthew or Mark, Luke does not use the terms “in the earth” or “in his field” when it comes to the story of the mustard seed being sown, but instead, it uses the phrase, “in his own garden.” These phrases of domesticity highlight the deep compassion, love, and interest Jesus had for the people. It creates the sense that He really was a man, just like us; it is personal, up-close, and a comforting account of the humanity of Jesus.

            The book of Luke is one with abundant unique characteristics and qualities. A beautiful and remarkable account in the extreme details and attention it pays on our Redeemer, showcasing the humanity of Jesus using the writing style and language, the attention on prayer, the recordings of worship and thanksgiving, and the domestic scenes captured within the pages of the record. Proving itself to be distinctive in the medical language used, the historical records, the organized writing, the contrasts, the duplicates included in the writing, and the miracles and parables the account records that the other Gospel accounts do not, the peculiarities and unique characteristics of Luke make the book undeniably a notable and valuable read for a more profound and interesting perspective of our Lord and Savior.

Approaching God in Worship: What He Did Not Ask For

One of the first things people ask about the Church is why we do not use musical instruments; the second question is, “why does it matter if the New Testament does not explicitly say not to use musical instruments in worship?” The same logic is then applied to other facets of worship like communion; if the Bible does not explicitly speak against drinking orange juice instead of the fruit of the vine, God must be fine with us using orange juice and Oreos for communion just like He is accepting of worshipping Him with a piano, right?

            Allow me to introduce you to two people who might disagree, two people who learned the hard way that silence is not permission, Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. The story of how they learned this lesson the hard way is found in Leviticus 10:1-3.

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.

Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.”-Leviticus 10:1-3

            The strange fire was not authorized by the Lord, and thus, not accepted. Not only was it rejected by God, but Nadab and Abihu paid a high price for not obeying the pattern God had given them. God wants what He asks for. The whole book of Leviticus is a template for the people on how to approach God in worship; in God being clear on what He wanted; the people knew what He did not want. When God instructed Noah to build an ark out of gopher wood, He did not have to specify not to use oak to build the ark. Noah already knew what he had been told to do. When you go to a restaurant and order a salad, and the waiter brings your food plus a steak and fries, you will be confused because they did not bring you what you asked. Nadab and Abihu knew God’s order for offerings, yet they chose not to follow it.  

            Nadab and Abihu did not bring God what He asked for, and it cost them their lives. Why do we think we can do the same in our worship to the Lord today when our God is the same God who burned these two men for unauthorized fire? Ephesians 5:19 does not have to read, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord but not with musical instruments.” For us to be capable of inferring what God wants and what He has not authorized, let us learn from the mistake of Nadab and Abihu.