You will find an outline and introduction to Luke, here.
Here is a prayer from the Book of Common Worship to use with your reading.
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
An Outline of the Gospel of Luke
I. Prologue 1:1-4
II. The Birth and Childhood of Jesus 1:5-2:52
III. Preparation for the Public Ministry of Jesus 3:1-4:13 In the previous chapters, Luke has contrasted John and Jesus, with Jesus always greater than John. Notice that Luke continues this pattern in his presentation of the ministries of John and Jesus.
A. 3:1-20 John the Baptist The description of John’s ministry includes both Greco-Roman history and Hebrew prophetic call.
Chronology and dating in the Bible can be confusing to modern readers. Events were not dated by the Christian Era until 533 CE by Dionysius Exiguus. Before that events were dated by the rulers of the particular period or by the years since the founding of Rome. “The Julian, Jewish, Syrian-Macedonian, and Egyptian calendars each reckoned the years differently.” (Culpepper, 80).
John offers four ways the Messiah will be greater. John baptized with water, the Messiah with the Holy Spirit and fire. the Messiah will be greater than John. John is unworthy to untie the Messiah’s sandal (a task for slaves not disciples). The Messiah will bring salvation for the repentant and judgment for the unrepentant.
John emphasizes three things: a prophetic warning about the coming judgment, a call to justice and compassion and a confession about the coming Messiah (Culpepper, 86)
How is John’s baptism different than Christian baptism?
What is John’s good news? (verse 18)
B. 3:21-4:13 The Introduction of Jesus
1. 3:21-22 The Baptism of Jesus: Notice Luke does not tell us who baptizes Jesus. Luke places the baptism after John’s arrest, emphasizing that John’s work is finished and Jesus’ work has begun.
Notice also that the Spirit descends when Jesus prays. Prayer will be a recurring theme in this gospel.
The opening of heaven and a voice from heave are apocalyptic signs.
The voice’s declaration, “You are my Son” does not tell the reader new information but rather reaffirms what Luke has been saying about Jesus thus far.
2. 3:23-38 The genealogy of Jesus.
verse 23 Thirty years of age may have been considered the age of maturity. Also there were notable persons in the Old Testament who began their careers at thirty. (Joseph, Gen41:46; the sons of Kohath, Num 4:3; David, 2 Sam 5:4; Ezekiel, Ezek 1:1).
“Modern readers have no sense of how to read a genealogy, so they usually skip them and go on to more interesting parts of the Gospels. The frequency of genealogies in the OT- where there are about twenty-five genealogies- shows that they fulfilled an important social function and suggests that there were established conventions for written genealogies. Documentation of ancestry was especially common among royal and priestly families. Succession and kinship conferred power and privilege. Genealogies established lines of relationship among families and tribes, but they could also describe the character of an individual. In order to fulfill such purposes, genealogies were often oral and marked by fluidity. First Timothy 1:4 warns against those who are preoccupied with “myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations.”…
Each evangelist exercised considerable freedom in constructing the genealogy, therefore, and each genealogy, by its selection and arrangement of the names, serves as a comment on the identity of Jesus. …
In Luke, as in Matthew, the genealogy appears to feature sequences of sevens. In all, there are seventy-seven generations, and these seem to have been divided into sequences of seven….
The real emphasis, however, is not on Adam but on the last link of the chain:”Son of God”. Luke seems not to be so concerned with a “second Adam” Christology but with the affirmation that Jesus was ‘”son of God”. The final position of this title ties the genealogy to its context. …[S]o the genealogy offers another indication of how Jesus is the Son of God. (Culpepper 93,94,95)
3. 4:1-13 The Temptation of Jesus: Notice in Luke’s telling, that the climactic scene occurs at the Temple, where Luke’s gospel begins and ends. Luke’s readers know that Jesus is God’s son. But what does that mean? In first century Israel, people expected the Messiah to come but there were a variety of opinions about what the Messiah would do. Some expected the Messiah to revive the Davidic monarchy and re establish the kingdom of Israel. Some expected a military campaign to overthrow the Roman Empire. Some expected a Messiah who would purify worship, some expected a prophet. Luke, in the temptation story gives us some clues about what sort of Messiah Jesus will be.
IV. The Ministry of Jesus in Galilee 4:14-9:50 The first scene in this section sets the stage and tells the reader how to understand Jesus’ ministry.
A. 4:14-44 Jesus proclaims the Good News in Synagogues:
Verses 16-30 notice the links back to the infancy narrative, Nazareth, the presence of the Spirit, the fulfillment of scripture/prophecy. The OT quotation is from Isaiah 61:1 and 58:6. What the people in synagogue thought these verses meant and what Jesus meant by them, appear to have been different.
Verses 31-44 Demons know who Jesus is and this demon challenges Jesus. Verses 38-39 The healing of Simon’s mother is presented with similar language as was used in the exorcism. In ancient times the causes of fevers and illness were not known. Verses 40-41 the word “rebuke” is used for the third time in these three stories. Verses 42-44 Notice how this references v16-30. What is Jesus’ good news?
B. 5:1-6:11 Mission and Controversy:
Until now Jesus has been alone, next he calls his disciples. Presumably, in Luke’s telling of the story, the disciples have heard of Jesus- his teaching and healing- and they respond to Jesus’ call. Should the reader also be ready to respond?
Fish were a staple food and there was a significant fishing industry on the Sea of Galilee. Scholars think first century fishing boats were 26-27 feet long, 7 feet wide and 4-5 feet deep. Verse 7 is talking about a lot of fish! Perhaps a frightening amount, thus Peter’s statement in verse 8?
Verses 12-16 “Leprosy” is used to describe a variety of skin diseases. See Lev 13-14 for the Torah prescriptions for leprosy. That Jesus touched the leper is significant. Normally lepers experienced social and religious isolation. What does this story say about Jesus and his relationship to Torah? Verse 16 notice the reference to prayer.
Verses 17-26 verse 20, we expect Jesus to heal the man but he forgives his sins. In the ancient world people thought physical problems were punishment for sin. But Jesus does not describe sin as the cause of the man’ paralysis but uses healing as proof of his authority to forgive sin. The forgiveness of sin is God’s to do, so the scribes and Pharisees are concerned about blasphemy. Verses 23 and 24 raise interesting and difficult questions.
The one who heals is also the one who forgives. Faith consists not in affirming a particular tradition’s theological creeds but in the conviction that Jesus is able to mediate God’s power. Because of the determination of friends, a man who could not come to Jesus on his own is forgiven and healed. Faith is not found in the assembly of scribes and Pharisees from all the surrounding region, but in four unnamed neighbors. The mystery of the relationship between sin and human bondage or affliction is approached. While the mystery is not resolved, the solution is revealed: Jesus came to free us from all that cripples, binds, and enslaves.(Culpepper 125)
Verses 27-32 The tax collectors were more likely toll collectors. Toll collectors paid in advance for the right to collect tolls and the system was often abused and corrupt. Toll collectors were often not from the area where they collected the tolls and were not well liked- both because of their wealth and the fact that they collaborated with Rome. The stage is set in these few verses with the upright and devout Pharisees and the corrupt tax collectors. What does the call of Levi say about discipleship?
That Levi could host a great feast means he had wealth so what does verse 28 mean when it says Levi “left everything”? Feasts were public events and people who were not invited would watch the event.
verses 33-39 John and Jesus contrasted again
Verse 6:1-11 Now two controversies about the sabbath. In verse 1, the issue is not that the disciples are stealing grain. Torah allowed one to do this. But it was doing this action on the sabbath which is the problem. Both stories raise conflict between values and responsibilities which are in tension.
C. 6:12-49 Jesus Instructs His Disciples
Verse 6:12-16 Notice prayer, again. Now Jesus calls the apostles. This section began with the call of the fishermen, had the call of Levi in the middle and now closes with the apostles.
Verse 17-19 A summary of Jesus’ work which sets the stage for the Sermon on the Plain. Notice Jesus speaks to a”great crowd of his disciples”. Also note that Jesus healed and cured large numbers of people.
Verses 20-26 Blessings and woes, Luke’s telling of the sermon is specific and concrete and resists spiritualization. Recall how these ideas have been present in Luke’s gospel since the beginning- from the infancy narrative to the Isaiah reading in the synagogue to now.
Verses 27-38 Again, Jesus’ instructions are specific, concrete and resist spiritualization. The standard of behavior for Jesus’ disciples is radical and difficult.
Verses 39-49 Four parables on the meaning of discipleship:Often these parables are studied individually. Does reading them as a group add to or change your understanding of them? Does reading them as part of the Sermon on the Plain alter your understanding of them?
D. 7:1-50 The Compassionate Ministry of Jesus
Verses 7:1-10. The centurion is a gentile but notice his close and good relationship with the elders of the synagogue. In this healing, Jesus does not touch the person, in fact he doesn’t go near him. (In contrast to the healing of the leper.) The centurion is a role model for gentiles in that he is concerned for the Jewish community around him as well as his slaves well being. At the same time, the centurion is a powerful person, but Jesus is more powerful. Interestingly, the centurion never meets or speaks with Jesus. His “encounter” is mediated by others.
Verse 7:11-17 In the previous story, Jesus heals at a distance, now Jesus raises the dead. Again a large crowd witnesses Jesus’ actions. Read 1 Kings 17:10,17-24 and notice the parallels. Remember how Luke has referenced Elijah and Elisha earlier in the gospel. Jesus both is a prophet and is greater than a prophet.
Verses 7:18-23 What is the relationship between John and Jesus? And, who is Jesus? Why does John ask this question? In Luke’s gospel, (3:16) John says one more powerful will come, but doesn’t say that one is Jesus. Luke also doesn’t overtly say John baptized Jesus. Is John unsure and troubled? Is John surprised because Jesus doesn’t do what John thought he would? Or is John hopeful that Jesus is the one? Or does he wish Jesus to make a clear public declaration? Jesus’ response lists six activities where Jesus fulfills acts from the Elijah/Elisha stories and the prophet Isaiah. .
Verses 7:24-30 Jesus clarifies John’s role. Once again Luke has compared Jesus and John (v18-30) v 24 something weak, v 25 someone powerful,v26 a prophet? John is the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah.
Verses 7:31-35 The response to John and Jesus, people reacted differently to them but never the less rejected both.
Verses 36-50 Now Jesus eats, not with tax collectors but with a Pharisee. Is Jesus a prophet? Yes but also more than a prophet since he forgives sin. Remember that dinners were more public affairs in Jesus’ time. People who were not invited would have been present ( although not eating). The woman comes with the jar of ointment, so she planned this action. But the action was scandalous, touching feet and letting down hair both could have sexual overtones in society. It was common at banquets for riddles to be asked. This is an easy riddle, but one that traps Simon. The actions that Simon did not do, were not required acts but they were hospitable acts. Recall the last time Jesus forgave sins (5:17-26)
Read More About It:
Craddock, Fred B., “Luke”, in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Culpepper, R. Alan, “The Gospel of Luke Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)1995.
Green, Joel B., The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans) 1997.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 9 “Luke-Acts”.
Tilden, Elwyn E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Luke” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.