“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
That verse comes from one of the most well-known and beloved stories in all literature, sacred or mundane. Astonishingly enough, we would never have heard it but for a simple missionary doctor who embedded that precious gem in a letter he wrote to his learned friend Theophilus.
The doctor’s name is Luke, a Gentile convert, and the letter is The Gospel According to Luke. In addition to the Gospel, Luke also wrote the book of Acts.
In addressing the letter to his friend Theophilus, Luke was especially conscious of directing his Gospel to the Greek and Gentile members of the community of faith. Matthew wrote primarily to the Jews, and Mark to the Romans. John was a deep thinker, and in his Gospel emerges Jesus the Word, the Creator, the Son of God. But Luke writes with an eye on the Gentiles. To them he presents Jesus, the Son of man, as the Savior of the world and Friend of humanity. The universality of salvation is the underlying theme of his Gospel; so, his genealogy traces Jesus all the way to Adam and links him to God, while Matthew’s genealogy stops with Abraham, the father of the Jews (Luke 3:23–38; compare with Matt. 1:1–17).
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke claims to have surveyed the historical materials, interviewed the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2), and then with “perfect understanding of all things” written “an orderly account” that the reader(s) “may know the certainty” of Jesus and His good news (vss. 3, 4, NKJV).
When asked if he would recommend a good biography of Jesus, the great theologian James Denney replied, “Have you tried the one that Luke wrote?”
Good idea. Let’s try it together, as a world church, this quarter.