The Gospel of Luke: Theological Implications

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An edited excerpt from Leon Morris's Commentary on Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) 

4. LUKE THE THEOLOGIAN

People used to write books and articles with titles like Luke the Historian. Discussion centred round the question of whether Luke was a good or a bad historian, but that he did intend to write history was normally accepted. In recent times, however, many scholars have given attention to the deep theological purpose that plainly underlies Luke-Acts. Luke is now commonly monly regarded as one of the theologians of the New Testament and he is seen as more interested in conveying religious and theological truth than he is in writing a history. Indeed, so far has the pendulum swung that many suggest that Luke's interest in theology was so great that he allowed it to sway his historical judgment. In other words they see Luke as prepared to alter his history a little if that would bring out his theological points.

Luke has not left us in the dark about what he is trying to do. He tells us that he has followed 'all things' closely for some time and that he now writes to Theophilus 'that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed' (1:4). 'This', F. C. Grant writes, 'is as clear and straightforward as the codicil in John 20.30f.... his business was to clear up points of misunderstanding or misrepresentation which had (presumably) arisen in the pagan world and even (perhaps) in the courts of Roman magistrates.'

But not all have seen his role in this way. Some of the form critics, for example, have seen Luke as little more than a compiler, piler, an editor who wrote down a series of unconnected incidents and sayings (they see Matthew and Mark the same way).

Form criticism was called by Vincent Taylor 'the child of disappointment'. It arose after critics felt they had taken the two-document hypothesis4 as far as they could. It was a serious attempt to go behind the written sources to the time when information about Jesus circulated only in oral tradition. Parts only of the information about Jesus and his teaching were preserved served out of the very large mass of material at first available. As stories and sayings were told and retold they assumed certain fixed forms (the study of which gives form criticism its name). Some stories, for example, culminate in a striking saying and appear to be told for the sake of the saying. The details of the story are not important, but the saying is (the purpose was to proclaim Jesus, not tell us what happened). R. Bultmann calls these 'Apophthegmata' and Vincent Taylor, 'Pronouncement Stories'. Such stories are manifestly different in form from miracle stories. Other 'forms' are also detected.

The study of the forms in which the original oral tradition circulated is obviously of value. But most form critics go further than that. They assume that the purveyors of oral tradition were so interested in the needs of their own day that they saw Jesus not as he was,' but as he spoke to their own contemporary needs. In other words they read back into the teaching of Jesus what they saw was needed in their own situation.

This is' clearly going beyond a study of the forms. A further assumption of these critics is that the tradition was transmitted in isolated units: there was no connected narrative. The form critics speak of the destruction of the framework of the life of Jesus. When the Evangelists began to write their Gospels, on this understanding, they were confronted with a series of unconnected units which they perforce put together like beads on a string. This took away all possibility of seeing movement and development in the story of Jesus. The form critics are usually somewhat sceptical. They are so sure that what we have in oral tradition is Jesus as the early church saw him that they often conclude we have no means at all of knowing what the historical Jesus really was like.

These critics have rendered the church a service by drawing attention to the importance of the oral stage in the transmission of the life and teaching of Jesus. There is also much that can be learnt by the study of the forms in which the narratives are cast.

But the form critics seem to have made some serious errors. For example, their insistence that the church read back its own concerns into the teaching of Jesus overlooks the fact that the topics of the Gospels are not the topics that occupied the early church, topics such as the place of the Gentiles in the Christian church, what to do in persecutions, the place of ministers, the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit and the like. Again, these critics ascribe to the community the power to create the memorable sayings of the Gospels, quite ignoring the fact that in history it is great individuals, not committees, that produce striking language. Moreover Paul at any rate was careful to distinguish between his own teaching and that of the Lord (i Cor. 7:10, 25), a fact that creates the presumption that the early church did not indiscriminately read back its own teaching ing on to the lips of Jesus. The form critics took little account of the way first-century Palestinian teachers went to work. The rabbis used to cast their teaching into forms suitable for memorization orization and insist that their pupils learn it by heart. It is accordingly relevant that much of Jesus' teaching has a poetic form suitable for this purpose.

For such reasons many recent scholars, while thankfully acknowledging the contribution made by form critics, feel they have gone too far. The evidence does not sustain their sceptical conclusions.

More recently redaction criticism (or editorial criticism) has insisted that the Evangelists must be seen as real authors, not simply scissors-and-paste men who did no more than take material from their sources and string it together. The Evangelists gelists had their reasons for the way they arranged their material and for the particular way in which they worded their incidents and reports of teaching.

As far as Luke is concerned the great name is Hans Conzelmann. mann. He argues that Luke is concerned to write about the story of salvation and he sees this in three stages:

  1. The period of Israel (16:16).
  2. The period of Jesus' ministry (4:16ff.; Acts 10:38).
  3. The period since the ascension, i.e. the period of the church.

The German title of Conzelmann's book, Die Mitte der Zeit ('The Middle of Time'), sums up the author's position admirably. He holds that Luke sees Jesus as absolutely central and that he writes his Gospel out of that conviction. Conzelmann mann sees it as a work dominated by theology. Luke's geography, phy, for example, is not to be taken seriously. Conzelmann doubts whether Luke knew Palestine at first hand, but in any case he sees his use of geographical terms as symbolic and theological. Thus the Jordan is simply the sphere of John the Baptist. Again, it is 'pointless to attempt to locate' the desert in which the temptation took place, since this is only a symbol of the separation between Jordan and Galilee. This approach to geography is a major emphasis of Conzelmann's and he develops it throughout Part One of his book.

This approach is open to legitimate criticism. Many feel, for example, that Conzelmann's structure is an artificial one which Luke would never have recognized. It is further objected that he builds far too confidently and far too much on his exegesis of a particularly difficult verse in Luke 16:16.

Again, Conzelmann's strictures on Luke's geography are made without reference to Acts. Here we find that the Mount of Olives is a sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12) and that the field where Judas perished bore the name Akel-dama dama (Acts 1:19). The author knows of the Beautiful Gate of the Temple and of Solomon's colonnade (Acts 3:10-11). He refers to an official called 'the captain of the temple' (Acts 4:1), and again to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza which he knows is a desert road (Acts 8:26). His description of the prison from which Peter escaped seems to presuppose local knowledge (Acts 12:10), as does his awareness of the meeting-place of the local group of Christians (Acts 12:12). He knows that the seat of Roman government was Caesarea (Acts 12:19; 23:23-26) and that there was a cohort stationed in Jerusalem (Acts 21:31). He speaks quite naturally of the steps leading up to the tower of Antonia (Acts 21:40). He can locate Caesarea as two days' journey from Jerusalem (Acts 23:23, 31-32; the distance is 62 miles). There are not as many references in the Gospel that can be checked, but Luke does write consistently as though he knows where the places of which he is writing are located (see 1:26, 39; 4:31; 7:11; 8:26; 9:10; 19:29, 37). It is perhaps worth noting that Bultmann discerned no such geographical scheme as Conzelmann postulates, lates, for he says 'Luke's geography for the Galilean ministry is throughout the same as Mark's.

But when full allowance has been made for just criticism, the new approach is to be welcomed in so far as it takes seriously the work done by the Evangelists. It can help us to look for those dominant theological considerations that swayed the Gospel writers and induced them to write. It is surely important that we see with them what God has done, as well as what happened on that day so long ago.

But the new movement can be as sceptical as the old. It is possible to argue that, whereas the form critics hid Jesus behind the community, the redaction critics have hidden him behind the authors. In other words, the Gospels can now be approached with the assumption that we cannot see Jesus as he was, but only as Matthew or Mark or Luke or John saw him.

But this kind of scepticism is not necessary. It is possible to see the Evangelists as theologians and still as men with a profound found respect for history. I have elsewhere argued that in the Fourth Gospel John the Baptist is beyond all doubt depicted from one point of view only, that of a witness to Jesus. The Evangelist is certainly making a theological point in his references ences to the Baptist. But one consequence of the study of the Dead Sea scrolls has been to show that there is some parallel there to practically every piece of teaching ascribed to John in the Fourth Gospel. This has convinced some hard-headed critics that that Gospel must now be regarded as a valuable historical source for John the Baptist. The same I suggest is true elsewhere.

Specifically it is the case with Luke. His writings, and more particularly Acts, have been subjected to a very close scrutiny. They have been compared with those of other early writers and the results of archaeological research have been taken into account. While it would not be true to say that all the problems have been solved, there is widespread recognition that Luke is a reliable historian. His theological purpose is real. We should not miss it. But his theology does not run away with his history. Even Bultmann can say, 'he does not permit his dogmatic conceptions ceptions to exercise any essential influence on his work. It is well known that Sir William Ramsay began his researches convinced vinced that Luke was a poor historian, but was led by the facts to see him as first rate. These words of his should not be overlooked: 'No writer is correct by mere chance, or accurate sporadically. He is accurate by virtue of a certain habit of mind. Some men are accurate by nature: some are by nature loose and inaccurate. It is not a permissible view that a writer is accurate occasionally, and inaccurate in other parts of his work. Each has his own standard and measure of work, which is produced by his moral and intellectual character. As Luke can be demonstrated strated to be accurate often (as in the tricky nomenclature of officials in Acts), we should see him as one of Ramsay's accurate writers.

Some find valuable a distinction between different kinds of historian. Thus C. K. Barrett sees Luke as not a historian 'of the modern scientific kind ... but a historian of the Hellenistic age'. This appears to mean that he was interested in things other than facts. But Barrett goes on to say that this 'does not mean that Luke is not to be taken seriously as a writer of history; the distinction between fact and fiction was understood long before he wrote'. Thompson brings out this point by emphasizing that Luke does conform to the accepted canons for history writing. He points out that Lucian wrote an essay entitled 'How to Write History', and that, while he is later than Luke (c. AD 170), he does show us the kind of thing educated people would have looked for in New Testament times. It is therefore important that his criteria include truth and impartiality. Thompson sums up, 'Judged by the criteria for historical writing that Lucian lays down, Luke would in his contemporary world be thought to attain a high standard as a historian, and would compare favourably with other literary men of his day. Luke then was a good historian, though it is helpful to bear in mind that he was not trying to write the kind of history our modern scientific historians try to write. As Barrett further says, he was 'one of the biblical writers who confront us with a more than human testimony to Jesus Christ. This does not mean carelessness about fact, but it does mean that the facts are recorded not for their own sake, but in fulfilment of a religious and theological purpose. pose. We may see something of that purpose from the following points.

1. Salvation history. It is usual to see Luke as the theologian of what the Germans call Heilsgeschichte. He sets his narrative in the context of secular history more firmly than does any of the other Evangelists (2:1f.; 3:1), and he sees God's action in Christ as the great, central intervention of God in human affairs whereby salvation is worked out (Acts 2:36; 4:10-12; 17:30f.). Jesus Christ is the focus of all history (cf. the title of Conzelmann's mann's work, Der Mitte der Zeit, 'The Middle of Time'). Luke emphasizes that salvation has become present in Christ with a frequent use of the adverbs 'now' and 'today'. He uses 'now' fourteen times (Matthew four times, Mark three times) and 'today' eleven times (Matthew eight times, Mark once). In Jesus the time of salvation has come.

Luke's view of salvation history does not stop at the ascension. sion. He sees God's act as continuing in the proclamation of the gospel and in the life of the church. The Jews have a special place in the divine economy and to the end it is 'the hope of Israel' that the gospel preachers proclaim (Acts 28:20). But the Jews rejected their Messiah. This did not mean that God was defeated. Indeed, it was the occasion for an enlargement of his triumph in the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles. But the gospel had first to be offered to the Jews. It was their refusal of God's good gift which meant that the church became predominantly dominantly Gentile (Acts 13:46ff.). James specifically includes Gentiles in 'a people for his name' (Acts 15:14).

All this springs from the love and the grace of God. Luke delights to bring out the way God's love is shown to a variety of people. As noted in the opening section, it is possibly this which makes the Third Gospel such an attractive piece of writing. God's salvation is not rootless. It springs from his great love for the whole race.

2. Universality of salvation. God's love is for all people and his salvation reaches far and wide. The very word 'salvation' is absent from Matthew and Mark and occurs but once in John. Luke, however, uses soteria four times and soterion twice (another seven examples of the two words occur in Acts, a total of thirteen). He also uses the word 'Saviour' twice (and twice more in Acts), and he employs the verb 'to save' more often than does any other Evangelist. Marshall sees this interest in salvation as critically important: 'It is our thesis that the idea of salvation supplies the key to the theology of Luke.

Luke tells us that the message of the angel concerned people in general, not specially Israel (2:14). He takes the genealogy of Jesus right back to Adam (3:38), the progenitor of mankind, and does not stop at Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation (as Matthew does). He tells us about Samaritans, for example when the disciples wanted to call down fire on them (9:51-54), or in the parable of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37), or in the information tion that the grateful leper was of this race (17:16). He refers to Gentiles in the song of Simeon (2:32) and tells us that Jesus spoke approvingly of non-Israelites such as the widow of Zarephath phath and Naaman the Syrian (4:25-27). He tells us about the healing of a centurion's slave (7:2-10). He records words about people coming from all the directions of the compass to sit in God's kingdom (13:29) and the great commission that the gospel be preached to all nations (24:47). It is generally held that his story of the mission of the seventy (10:1-20) has relevance for the Gentiles. It is clear that Luke has a deep interest in God's concern for all people.

We should not, however, understand this as though he meant that all will be saved. He sees the church as existing in a hostile world. He distinguishes 'the sons of this world' from 'the sons of light' (16:8; cf. 12:29f., 51ff.). The gospel is freely offered to all, but people have a responsibility to repent and they will be judged in due course (Acts 17:30f.). Judgment is a not infrequent theme in this Gospel (cf. 12:13ff.; 17:26ff.).

Nor should we understand it as though it meant a playing down of the importance of Israel in God's purpose. One of the fascinating things about Luke is the way this Gentile emphasizes izes the importance of the Temple and of Jerusalem. He begins and ends his Gospel with people in the Temple at Jerusalem in contrast with the 'Jewish' Gospel of Matthew where the opening stresses the place of the Gentile magi and the end a commission in Galilee to go into all the world. He speaks of Jesus as presented in the Temple as a baby and visiting it as a boy. It recurs as the climax of Luke's temptation narrative and as the place of Jesus' activity as his ministry draws to its close. In between, a considerable section of the Gospel is taken up with a journey to Jerusalem (9:51 - 19:45; there is emphasis on Jerusalem salem as the destination, 9:51, 53; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:28; cf. 13:33f.). All told he refers to Jerusalem thirty-one times (and fifty-nine times more in Acts) as against thirteen times in Matthew, ten times in Mark and twelve times in John. The universalism of Luke is real, but we should not let it hide from us a very real 'jewishness'.

3. Peace. Luke emphasizes peace as the other Evangelists do not. He has the word thirteen times (with another seven in Acts) whereas Matthew has it four times, Mark once and John six times. In fact peace occurs in Luke more often than in any other book in the New Testament (next is Romans with ten). He can connect it closely with salvation (7:50; cf. 2:14), though it is not identical with it. Luke seems to have taken up the richness of the content of the Old Testament sdlom, the positive blessing of God in all its many aspects.

4. Eschatology. Luke writes of a great salvation and a salvation that avails through eternity as well as through time. Some scholars, it is true, hold that he plays down the eschatological motif.3 The other Gospels, they hold, are written in the expectation tion that Christ would return soon and set up the kingdom of God, an expectation shared by Paul and others. But Luke writes when the vivid expectation has died down. For him the return of Christ is no longer imminent. 'You do not write the history of the Church, if you are expecting the end of the world to come any day.

This whole thesis should, however, be looked at more critically cally than it often is. In the first place it is not clear that the thought of the near return of Christ did in fact dominate the thinking of the first Christians. No doubt they looked for the Lord's coming, but we must always bear in mind the point made so neatly by W. C. van Unnik, 'The faith of the early Christians did not rest on a date but on the work of Christ. The church certainly looked for an interval before the return of Christ, as is shown, for example, by the fact that no Christian ever advocated that the preaching of the gospel should cease when Christ died. On any showing the church expected an interval, and its duration is nowhere specified. While the delay of the parousia was a problem, it seems to have been less so to the members of the early church than to some modern expositors.

Then, in the second place, it is not at all clear that Luke was not interested in eschatology. The contrary is demonstrated by passages such as 12:35ff.; 17:22ff.; 21:25ff., etc. He has the thought of imminent judgment (3:9, 17; 18:7f.) and of the nearness ness of the kingdom (10:9, ii; in the latter verse Luke includes the words 'the kingdom of God has come near' which are not in the Matthean parallel, Mt. 10:14) .3 Luke may not have quite the same emphasis as some other New Testament writers, but the point must not be overstated. Bo Reicke will not concede even so much. He can say, 'It is a mystery how Luke can be accused of "de-eschatologizing" in his Gospel'; and again, 'it is not at all true that Luke represents Jesus and the kingdom of God in a lesser eschatological light than the other Synoptists.' He develops the point that Luke stresses the idea of joy at the closeness of salvation and he finds in this genuine eschatology. C. H. Talbert is another who insists that Luke is interested in eschatology. He finds 'two dominant eschatological emphases in Luke-Acts. One is the proclamation that the End is near ... the other ... is the attempt to prevent a misinterpretation of the Jesus-tradition ... to the effect that the eschaton had been and could be fully experienced in the present'.

It thus seems a misreading of the evidence to see Luke as uninterested in eschatology. On the contrary, he looks for the coming of the End when the salvation of which he writes will reach its consummation.

It thus seemsi a misreading of the evidence to see Luke as uninterested in eschatology. On the contrary, he looks for the coming of the End when the salvation of which he writes will reach its consummation.

5. Early Catholicism. Some miss the thrust of what Luke is saying by holding that he has institutionalized Christianity, or at least that he writes as a representative of institutional religion. In the course of time the church did, of course, settle down as an institution. It lost the first fine flush of enthusiastic proclamation of the gospel and eager expectation of the Lord's return. It became interested in questions of order and sacramental practice, tice, and generally in all that makes for the institutional side of Christianity. The result is called 'early Catholicism' by many scholars and they see Luke as one of its first exponents. Unfortunately tunately not all are agreed as to what the term means, which makes it very difficult to see whether this is a feature of Luke's treatment or not. What can be said is that many competent critics have come to the conclusion that Luke is very faithful to his sources, so that he is carefully depicting what the sources say rather than what happened in his own day. Talbert sees Luke as crystallizing the apostolic tradition in his two volumes and as writing in careful order with a view to refuting certain heretical views.

We may agree that Luke was writing to meet the needs of his day without drawing the conclusion that he reflects only the church of his day. As Talbert reminds us, we must not be so busy asking why Luke added Acts to his Gospel that we forget to ask why he prefixed his Gospel to Acts. Clearly he was interested in Christianity's historical base. It will not do simply to see Luke as setting out a conventional account of the institutional tional religion of his own day. He saw God's plan in the church around him, but he saw it also in the Old Testament and in the coming of Jesus. He was not so much an institution man as a man who included the institution in the overarching purpose of God. His emphasis on the Holy Spirit is also important. It is not easy to reconcile Luke's insistence on the lively presence of the Spirit in the church with a determination to propagate the institution.

6. The plan of God. Luke saw God as working out a great plan in human affairs. We have already noted his frequent use of words that mean 'purpose' to bring out the thought of a divine necessity operative in Jesus' ministry.' The purpose was seen supremely in the cross (Acts 2:23; 3:13; 5:30f., etc.). Luke also brings it out with his many references to the fulfilment of prophecy ecy (Lk. 4:21; 24:44, etc.). He was clear that people do not defeat God. He was clear also that God is not some remote Olympian, aloof from the human race and careless about its fate. The God Luke knows is interested in our salvation and constantly at work in human affairs to bring to pass his redemptive tive purpose.

7. Individuals. As God worked out that great redemptive purpose pose Luke saw him as concerned with individual people. He did not see the divine purpose as appearing only in great movements ments of nations and peoples: it operated in the lives of humble men and women, for even the little people matter to God. So he has much to say about individuals, often people not mentioned elsewhere. He tells us of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of Mary and Martha, of Zacchaeus, of Cleopas and his companion. He tells of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet in the home of Simon the Pharisee, and of others. And whereas in Matthew the parables centre on the kingdom, those Luke records tend to stress persons. sons. Luke is interested in people.

8. The importance of women. An important part of God's concern cern for people is that it is manifested towards groups not highly esteemed in first-century society: women, children, the poor, the disreputable. He gives a significant place to women. In the first century women were kept very much in their place, but Luke sees them as the objects of God's love and he writes about many of them. In the infancy stories he tells of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and of Elizabeth and Anna. Later he writes of Martha and her sister Mary (10:38-42), of Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna (8:2f.). He refers to women whom he does not name, such as the widow of Nain (7:11f.), the sinner who anointed Jesus' feet (7:37ff.), the bent woman (13:11), the widow who gave all she had to God (21:1-4) and the 'Daughters of Jerusalem' who lamented for Jesus as he went to the cross (23:27ff.). Sometimes women turn up also in the parables, as in those of the lost coin (15:8ff.) and the unjust judge (18:1ff.).

9. Children. The most obvious example of Luke's concern for children is in the infancy stories. Of course, an interest in children dren is not the only reason for these stories. Luke is concerned to emphasize that God's plan was being fulfilled in the birth and early life of John and of Jesus. He reminds us of the fulfilment of prophecy in connection with these events. But it is interesting that he finds God's plan in events that concern children. Matthew tells us something of the birth of Jesus and he alone relates the visit of the wise men, but Luke gives us most of our information about those early days. He also tells us something of the circumstances of the birth of John the Baptist. He gives us the only story we have of Jesus' boyhood, and he tells us from time to time about the 'only son' or 'only daughter' of people of whom he writes (7:12; 8:42; 9:38).

10. The poor. Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor (4:18),and Luke reports a blessing on the poor (6:20; by contrast there is a woe for the rich, 6:24), whereas Matthew speaks of 'the poor in spirit' (Mt. 5:3). Preaching good news to the poor is characteristic of Jesus' ministry (7:22). The shepherds to whom the angels came (2:8ff.) were from a poor class. Indeed the family of Jesus himself seems to have been poor, for the offering made at the birth of the child was that of the poor (2:24; cf. Lv. 12:8). In general Luke concerns himself with the interests of the poor (1:53; 6:30; 14:11-13, 21; 16:19ff.).

The other side of this coin is an emphasis on the dangers of riches. Luke has a 'Woe' for the rich (6:24), and he tells us that God sends rich people away empty (1:53). There are parables warning the wealthy, such as the rich fool (12:16ff.), the unjust steward (16:1ff.), Dives and Lazarus (16:19-31). There are warnings ings for the rich in the stories of the rich young ruler (18:18-27), of Zaccheus (19:1-10), and of the widow's mite (21:1-4).

11. The disreputable. Luke tells us that on one occasion 'the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear' Jesus (15:1). This is not an isolated incident, for Luke finds occasion to mention many who were scarcely respectable. Thus he tells us of Zaccheus (dismissed by the bystanders as 'a sinner', 19:7), and of the feast Levi made for a crowd described by the Pharisees isees as 'tax collectors and sinners' (5:30). In the same strain he recounts the story of the sinful woman who wept over Jesus' feet and anointed them and of whom Jesus said that her many sins were forgiven and that 'she loved much' (7:37-50). The prodigal son was not exactly a model of rectitude and the unrighteous have a way of turning up in the parables in this Gospel (7:41f.; 12:13-21; 16:1-12, 19-31; 18:1-8, 9-14).

12. The passion of Christ. Supremely is God's purpose worked out in the passion of our Lord. Luke writes from the conviction that God has acted in Christ to bring salvation.' Sometimes commentators have reacted too hastily to the fact that Luke has omitted some important Marcan statements about the cross (e.g. Mk. 10:45) and have affirmed that he has no theology of the cross.3 But in fact the cross dominates the whole. Quite early Luke refers to 'the days ... for him to be received up' (9:51), and he adds that Jesus 'set his face to go up to Jerusalem'. Jesus refers to his death as a baptism and adds, 'how I am constrained until it is accomplished!' (12:50). He sends a message to Herod, 'I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course' (13:32; he goes on to speak of perishing in Jerusalem). In one of the Q passages Luke has a prediction of the passion which is absent from Matthew (17:25). Similarly he tells us in his transfiguration narrative, as the others do not, that Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus' death (9:31). And, of course, the passion narrative occupies a large space at the end of the Gospel. Luke has a number of references to the fulfilment of Scripture in connection with the passion which gives his account a special flavour (see 18:31; 20:17; 22:37; 24:26f., 44, 46; probably also 9:22;13:33; 17:25; 24:7). In the passion God's will is done.

It is true that Luke does not stress the connection of the cross with salvation in the manner of Paul or John. This makes it possible to understand his references to the cross, as a reader of this book in manuscript holds, as though he saw it as 'the divinely ordained path on the road to resurrection and exaltation tion as a Prince and Saviour'. This may be possible, but it is not at all obvious.There is no hint at ultimate triumph in most of the Lucan references and where the triumph does come in it tends to be without emphasis (cf. 'on the third day he will rise', 18:33; there is no more, not one word about triumph or exaltation). In any case the reader gave his case away in his final word. It is that that is important. Luke sees Jesus as our Saviour and that by way of the cross. If the atoning significance of Christ's suffering fering is not stressed at least it is there, and Luke does not hint at any other significance. In view of his clear interest in salvation the question may well be asked, Why does Luke so stress the cross unless because of its saving significance?

Nor should we allow our thoughts to stop at the Gospel. In his second volume Luke continues to emphasize the importance of the cross. He brings out the fact that the early church concentrated trated on what Jesus had done for our salvation and specifically on the cross and resurrection. Here we find that the death of Jesus took place in accordance with 'the definite plan and foreknowledge knowledge of God' (Acts 2:23). There is much more.' The death of Jesus was central.

13. The Holy Spirit. God's purpose does not stop at the cross. It continues in the work of the Holy Spirit which meant so much in the church of Luke's day. But Luke's interest in the Spirit does not start at Pentecost; it goes back to early days. The Spirit is prominent in this Gospel from the beginning. There is a prophecy that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (1:15), while both Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to have been filled with the Spirit (1:41, 67). The same Spirit was 'upon' Simeon, revealed to him that he would see the Christ, and led him into the Temple at the appropriate priate time (2:25-27).

13. The Holy Spirit. God's purpose does not stop at the cross. It continues in the work of the Holy Spirit which meant so much in the church of Luke's day. But Luke's interest in the Spirit does not start at Pentecost; it goes back to early days. The Spirit is prominent in this Gospel from the beginning. There is a prophecy that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (1:15), while both Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to have been filled with the Spirit (1:41, 67). The same Spirit was 'upon' Simeon, revealed to him that he would see the Christ, and led him into the Temple at the appropriate priate time (2:25-27).

But, important as this Gospel's teaching about the Spirit is, it is in Acts that we receive the full thrust of Luke's emphasis. That book is full of the Spirit and it has well been called 'The Acts of the Holy Spirit'. The Spirit is constantly at work from the Day of Pentecost on.

It is abundantly clear, then, that one of Luke's great emphases is the Holy Spirit. He does not think of God as leaving people to serve him as best they can out of their own resources. God's love is seen in the Spirit who enters and empowers and guides the followers of Jesus.

Some hold that Luke's emphasis on the Holy Spirit is a substitute stitute for the eschatology that means so much to the other Evangelists. Helmut Flender notes the contention of Conzelmann mann and Schweizer that redemptive history and eschatology are mutually exclusive. Against this he holds, in my judgment rightly, that this is not a true understanding of the work of the Spirit. Flender sees the exaltation of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit as genuine eschatological events, but he denies that this makes the church 'equally eschatological'. He goes on: 'To understand redemptive history in this way would be to confound found divine with human activity, which would be intolerable. When we speak of the Spirit as eschatological we mean that it is eschatology made present.' What ensures the genuine sense of imminence, of continuous expectation, is that the gift of the Spirit is not something institutional, as though the church had the Spirit in its control and could produce the gifts of the Spirit any time it chose. The Spirit might be given at Pentecost, but he could fill the same people again a little later in response to prayer (Acts 4:31). The presence of the Spirit 'is still a superhuman human gift, for which the faithful must wait, and which they must be ready to receive'.' The Spirit may not be presumed on. The church may not say, 'We have the Spirit safely in our keeping. We need not look for the coming of our Lord.'

The lordship of the Spirit over the historical process is amply brought out in Acts. And as we noted in an earlier section, Luke has more to say about the Spirit in his Gospel than does any of the other Evangelists. This forms a bond of continuity.' Both in the ministry of Jesus and in the life of the early church the Spirit of God is at work.

14. Prayer. Luke shows us that God effects his purpose (see 6. above), which demands a right attitude on the part of the people of God. It accords with this that Lukes stresses the importance of prayer. He has two principal ways of doing this: (a) He records prayers of Jesus (3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28f.; 1o:21f.; 11:1; 22:41ff.; 23:46; seven of these are in Luke alone and they show Jesus at prayer before each great crisis of his life). This Gospel alone records that Jesus prayed for Peter (22:31f.). Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for his enemies (23:34) and for himself (22:41f.). (b) He includes parables which teach so much about prayer, the friend at midnight (11:5ff.), the unjust judge (18:1ff.), the Pharisee and the tax-collector (18:1off.). In addition Luke records some exhortations to the disciples to pray (6:28; 11:2; 22:40, 46), and he has a warning against the wrong kind of prayer (20:47).

15. Praise. Luke's is a singing Gospel. Here are some of the great hymns of the Christian faith: the glory song of the angels (2:14), the Magnificat, the Benedictus and the Nunc Dimittis (1:46ff., 68ff.; 2:29ff.). Quite often people who receive benefits praise God or glorify God or the like (2:20; 5:25f.; 7:16; 13:13; 17:15; 18:43). The verb 'rejoice' occurs more often in Luke than in any other New Testament book and the noun 'joy' also occurs often (e.g. 1:14, 44, 47; 10:21). There is laughter in this Gospel (6:21) and merry-making (15:23, 32). There is joy in Zacchaeus' reception of Jesus (19:6). There is joy on earth over the finding of the lost sheep and the lost coin and there is joy in heaven over the finding of lost sinners (15:6f., 9f.). And this Gospel finishes, as it had begun, with rejoicing (24:52; cf. 1:14).

From all this it is clear that Luke has written with a profoundly theological purpose. He sees God as at work bringing salvation and he enjoys bringing out a variety of aspects of this saving work.

LukePhillip Santillan