Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Book Overview - Luke

The Preacher's Complete Homiletic



St. Luke


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The writer of the Gospel.—The author to whom the primitive Church ascribes the composition of the third Gospel was called Luke—a name which is an abbreviation of Lucanus or Lucilius, but has no connection with Lucius (Act ; Rom 16:21). In the well-known Muratorian fragment (c. A.D. 170) the fact that he was the author is distinctly asserted; and even Renan admits that there is no grave reason to question the truth of the statement. Though he is not mentioned either in the Gospel or in the Acts, his name occurs in three other passages of the New Testament (Col 4:14; Phm 1:24; 2Ti 4:11). In the first of these he is described as "the beloved physician," and appears as a friend and companion of the apostle Paul. Further, in the same passage he is distinguished from "those of the circumcision," as one of Gentile extraction. It is interesting to notice that, as far as known to us, he is the only Gentile who took part in the composition of any of the books of Holy Scripture. Eusebius (c. A.D. 315) says that he was a native of Antioch, the capital of Syria. As physicians then were very frequently slaves or freedmen, it is not at all improbable that Luke belonged to that class. It may be that he was a member of the household of the Theophilus to whom he dedicates his Gospel, that he had received his freedom, and practised independently as a physician. It has been pointed out by Mr. Smith, of Jordanhill, in his work on the voyage of St. Paul, that the historian's allusions to nautical matters are very accurate, and yet are unprofessional in tone. He suggests that Luke may have sometimes practised as a physician on board one of the merchantmen, which sailed from port to port on the Mediterranean Sea. These vessels were sometimes of great size, and carried a large number of passengers—as many as two hundred and seventy-six were in the ship which was wrecked at Melita (Act 27:37); and as voyages in those days were of uncertain length, it is not unreasonable to suppose that in some cases at any rate it was usual to have a medical attendant on board. From his intimate acquaintance with Jewish customs, it would seem that Luke had been a Jewish proselyte before he was converted to Christianity. If so, he was one who accepted the moral law and the Messianic hopes of Judaism without conforming to the ceremonial law or undergoing the rite of circumcision. In chap. Luk 1:2 he distinguishes himself from those who "from the beginning were eyewitnesses" of the life of Christ; but this does not necessarily preclude his having seen and heard the Saviour. There is no ground, however, for the conjectures that he was one of the seventy, or one of those Greeks who visited Jesus shortly before His crucifixion (Joh 12:20), or one of the two disciples of Emmaus. The fact that he was a Gentile is fatal to the first of these conjectures, while the Aramaic colouring of the narrative of the journey to Emmaus shows that the author is drawing his information from some foreign source rather than from his own reminiscences. It is interesting to trace Luke's connection with the labours and journeyings of the apostle Paul. He appears first in connection with that apostle at Troas (Act 16:10), for the most natural interpretation of the sudden use of the first person plural is that the author of the Acts is there beginning to take part in the history which he records. He journeys with the apostle as far as Philippi, and on the departure of St. Paul from that city he was apparently left behind. He takes no further part in the second missionary journey of that apostle, for in Luk 17:1 the third person is resumed. But he again joins St. Paul on the occasion of his second visit to Philippi, and journeys with him through Miletus, Tyre, and Cæsarea to Jerusalem (Luk 20:5 to Luk 21:18). Seven years had elapsed between these two visits (A.D. 51-A.D. 58), and during this time Luke probably preached the gospel in Philippi and its neighbourhood. An incidental notice of his activity during that period is probably given in 2Co 8:18, in the allusion to "the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the Churches." During St. Paul's three months' stay at Philippi he sent Titus and this "brother" on a mission to Corinth; and many critics hold that the unnamed emissary on this occasion was the Evangelist, as indicated in the subscription appended to 2 Corinthians. If so, the fame he had acquired was due to his activity as a preacher, and not, as Jerome supposed, in consequence of his having then already published his Gospel. As already said, he accompanied St. Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem (Act 21:17), and there would have many opportunities of personal intercourse with the first witnesses of the life and death and resurrection of Christ. During the apostle's two years' imprisonment in Cæsarea Luke probably remained in Palestine. He afterwards accompanied St. Paul to Rome, undergoing the perils of shipwreck and sharing his imprisonment. According to 2Ti 4:11, he remained faithful when others forsook the apostle; and no doubt this fidelity remained unshaken to the last. After the death of St. Paul, the life of his beloved companion is wrapped in hopeless obscurity. Epiphanius (c. A.D. 367) says that he preached the gospel in Dalmatia, Gallia, Italy, and Macedonia. Gregory Nazianzen (A.D. 361) is the first to rank him among the martyrs. Nicephorus (c. A.D. 1100) relates that whilst ministering in Greece he was condemned to death by the unbelievers without even the form of a trial, and was hanged upon an olive tree, in the eightieth or eighty-fourth year of his age. These traditions are, however, of but slight value. The last-named author states that Luke was also a painter of no mean skill, and painted portraits of our Lord, of the Virgin, and of the chief apostles; but probably he confused the Evangelist with some later Christian painter of the same name to whom works of the kind were ascribed.

Time and place of writing.—According to Act, the Gospel was written before the Acts of the Apostles; so that if the date of the latter can be fixed, a reasonable conjecture as to that of the former may be hazarded. The latest time mentioned in the Acts is the end of the second year of the apostle's imprisonment (Act 28:30-31), i.e. about A.D. 63. The most probable explanation of the abrupt conclusion of the Acts is that the historian had no more to tell at the time when he published his work; in other words, that the date to which the history is brought down is that of the publication of the book. How much earlier "the former treatise" was written is of course uncertain; but there is strong probability that it dates from the period of St. Paul's imprisonment at Cæsarea, A.D. 58-60, when the Evangelist was, as we can almost with certainty conclude, in Palestine. This date would allow abundant time for the growth of that voluminous literature to which the Evangelist alludes in chap. Act 1:1. There are other suppositions as to the place where the Gospel was written. Jerome says that it was written in Achaia and the region of Bœotia; the Syriac Version of the Gospel contains a note to the effect that it was written in Alexandria. In later times Rome, Achaia, Macedonia, and Asia Minor have been named as the place of composition. But there are no definite grounds for coming to a decision on this point.

The object with which the Gospel was written.—The Evangelist himself in the preface to the Gospel (Luk ) states the aim he had in view in writing it—viz. that his friend (or patron) Theophilus, and it is to be presumed others who were like him converts to Christianity, might know the certainty of those things in which they had received oral instruction as catechumens. "He tells us that many had already attempted a written history of the life of Jesus. They had endeavoured to take for their guidance the statements made by the first witnesses for Jesus, the apostles, from whom Luke distinguishes both himself and them. It seems very improbable that he is here alluding to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. He seems rather to have in view certain literary efforts of Christian antiquity, of which some might be better than others, but among which not one was, in his opinion, quite satisfactory. He at least considers them inadequate for the ‘certainty' of the faith of Theophilus; and having weighed and examined the various documents to which he had access, he felt himself powerfully impelled to undertake such a work also, and, as far as in him lay, to improve upon the accounts of his predecessors" (Van Oosterzee).

The style and character of the third Gospel.—The style of the third Evangelist is marked by a striking peculiarity. The prologue of the Gospel is written in pure classical Greek, but is succeeded by a long section, extending down to the close of the second chapter, in which there is a large number of Aramaic idioms. This plainly indicates that the author in the one case writes in his own person, and in the other translates somewhat literally from Aramaic documents before him. The same phenomenon is noticeable in other parts of the Gospel, though nowhere else in it is the contrast so marked. At times the Evangelist writes freely in the elegant Greek of which he was a master, and at other times he translates or paraphrases the material, either written or oral, which had come to him in an Aramaic form.

He is careful to give chronological notices which connect the Gospel facts with ancient history in general; but he does not adhere strictly to the order of time in the events he records. E.g. the visit of Jesus to Nazareth related in chap. 4 is made to follow immediately upon the temptation in the wilderness, while ver. 23 of the same chapter clearly states that it had been preceded by a ministry in Capernaum, in the course of which several miracles had been wrought. The great section also (Luk to Luk 18:14) contains a large number of separate incidents which the Evangelist himself does not profess to give in anything like a direct chronological order. The connecting words in many parts of it seem to disclaim any attempt at such order (see Luk 9:57, Luk 10:1; Luk 10:25; Luk 10:38, etc.).

In the matter of completeness St. Luke surpasses the other synoptical writers: his Gospel contains three-fourths of all the recorded events in the life of Christ, and fully one-fourth of the whole is peculiar to him. Thus we may divide all the matter contained in the first three Gospels into one hundred and sixty-nine sections. Of these, fifty-eight are common to the three, twenty are peculiar to St. Matthew, five to St. Mark, and forty-five to St. Luke. Of the rest, twenty are common to St. Luke and St. Matthew, six to St. Luke and St. Mark, and fifteen to St. Matthew and St. Mark.

The miracles peculiar to St. Luke are:

(1) The miraculous draught of fishes, Luk ;

(2) the raising of the widow's son at Nain, Luk ;

(3) the woman with the spirit of infirmity, Luk ;

(4) the man with the dropsy, Luk ;

(5) the ten lepers, Luk ;

(6) the healing of Malchus, Luk .

The parables peculiar to St. Luke are:

(1) The two debtors, Luk ;

(2) the good Samaritan, Luk ;

(3) the importunate friend, Luk ;

(4) the rich fool, Luk ;

(5) the barren fig tree, Luk ;

(6) the lost piece of silver, Luk ;

(7) the prodigal son, Luk ;

(8) the unjust steward, Luk ;

(9) Dives and Lazarus, Luk ;

(10) the unjust judge, Luk ;

(11) the Pharisee and the publican, Luk .

Other remarkable incidents which are only recorded by him are: John the Baptist's answers to the people (Luk ); the story of the penitent woman in the house of Simon (Luk 7:36-50); the conversation with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luk 9:31); the visit to the house of Martha and Mary (Luk 10:38-42); the weeping over Jerusalem (Luk 19:41-44); the bloody sweat (Luk 22:44); the sending of Jesus to Herod (Luk 23:6-12); the address to the daughters of Jerusalem (ibid. 27-31); the prayer, "Father, forgive them" (ibid. 34); the penitent thief (ibid. 40-43); the journey to Emmaus (Luk 24:13-35); and the particulars connected with the Ascension (ibid. 50-53). He seems to have special pleasure in relating instances of our Lord's tender mercy and compassion; and his Gospel brings into full prominence the great fact that Christ offers salvation to all men as a free gift. The tradition was early current that St. Luke's Gospel contained the substance of the teaching of the apostle Paul; but perhaps too great stress has been laid upon the analogies between the third Gospel and the Pauline Epistles, which seem to prove this. The note of universality, which is undoubtedly to be found in them both, is not wanting in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John.

Analysis of the Gospel.



(1) The annunciation of the birth of the forerunner, Luk ;

(2) the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, Luk ;

(3) the visit of Mary to Elisabeth, Luk ;

(4) the birth of John the Baptist, Luk ;

(5) the birth of Jesus, Luk ;

(6) the circumcision of Jesus and the presentation in the Temple, Luk ;

(7) the first journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, Luk .


(1) The ministry of John the Baptist, Luk ;

(2) the baptism of Jesus, Luk ;

(3) His genealogy, Luk ;

(4) the temptation in the wilderness, Luk .


(1) The visit to Nazareth, Luk ;

(2) a short sojourn at Capernaum, Luk ;

(3) the calling of the four disciples, Luk ;

(4) the healing of the leper and of the paralytic, Luk ;

(5) the calling of Levi, with attendant circumstances, Luk ;

(6) two controversies relative to Sabbath-keeping, Luk ;

(7) the choice of the twelve apostles, Luk ;

(8) the Sermon on the Mount, Luk ;

(9) the healing of the centurion's servant, Luk ;

(10) the widow's son raised from the dead, Luk ;

(11) the message from the Baptist, Luk ;

(12) the testimony of Jesus to the Baptist, Luk ;

(13) the penitent woman in the house of Simon, Luk ;

(14) the women who ministered to Jesus, Luk ;

(15) the parable of the sower, Luk ;

(16) the visit of His mother and brethren, Luk ;

(17) the stilling of the tempest, Luk ;

(18) the healing of the demoniac, Luk ;

(19) the raising of Jairus' daughter, and the healing of the woman with an issue of blood, Luk ;

(20) the mission of the twelve, Luk ;

(21) the alarm of Herod, Luk ;

(22) the feeding of the five thousand, Luk ;

(23) the first announcement of the Passion, Luk ;

(24) the Transfiguration, Luk ;

(25) the healing of the epileptic boy, Luk a;

(26) the second announcement of the Passion, Luk b-45;

(27) the close of the Galilæan ministry—counsels to the apostles, Luk .


(1) The inhospitality of the Samaritans, Luk ;

(2) the three disciples, Luk ;

(3) the mission of the seventy, Luk ;

(4) the parable of the good Samaritan, Luk ;

(5) Martha and Mary, Luk ;

(6) lessons concerning prayer, Luk ;

(7) the blasphemous charges of the Pharisees, Luk ;

(8) open rupture with the Pharisees, Luk to Luk 12:12;

(9) teaching concerning the relations between the believer and the world, Luk ;

(10) words of warning, parable of the barren fig tree, Luk ;

(11) the healing of the impotent woman, Luk ;

(12) the parables of the mustard seed and leaven, Luk ;

(13) the answer to the question, "Are there few that be saved?" Luk ;

(14) the message to Herod Antipas, Luk ;

(15) Jesus in the Pharisee's house, healing of the man with the dropsy, conversation with guests and host, parable of the great supper, Luk ;

(16) warnings against unwise enthusiasm, Luk ;

(17) parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son, 15;

(18) two parables on the use to be made of earthly goods, the unjust steward, Dives and Lazarus, 16;

(19) teaching concerning offences, forgiveness, faith and service, Luk ;

(20) the healing of the ten lepers, Luk ;

(21) teaching concerning the coming of the kingdom of God, Luk ;

(22) parable of the unjust judge, Luk ;

(23) parable of the Pharisee and the publican, Luk ;

(24) children brought to Jesus, Luk ;

(25) the interview with the young ruler, Luk ;

(26) the third announcement of the Passion, Luk ;

(27) the healing of Bartimus, Luk ;

(28) Jesus in the house of Zacchus, Luk ;

(29) the parable of the pounds, Luk .


(1) The triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Luk ;

(2) the cleansing of the Temple, Luk ;

(3) the question of authority, Luk ;

(4) the parable of the vineyard, Luk ;

(5) the question about tribute-money, Luk ;

(6) the question of the Sadducees, Luk ;

(7) the question of Jesus, Luk ;

(8) Jesus denounces the scribes, Luk ;

(9) the widow's mite, Luk ;

(10) the great discourse concerning the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end, Luk .


(1) The treachery of Judas, Luk ;

(2) the last supper, Luk ;

(3) the agony in the garden, Luk ;

(4) the betrayal, Luk ;

(5) the arrest, Luk ;

(6) the trial before the Sanhedrim, the denials of Peter, Luk ;

(7) the trial before Pilate, Jesus sent to Herod, fruitless expedients of Pilate to secure the release of Jesus, the sentence of death, Luk ;

(8) the journey to Calvary, Luk ;

(9) the crucifixion, Luk ;

(10) the penitent thief, Luk ;

(11) the Saviour's death, Luk ;

(12) the burial, Luk .



(1) The visit of the women and of Peter to the tomb, Luk ;

(2) the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at Emmaus, Luk ;

(3) the appearance to the assembled apostles, Luk ;

(4) the last instructions of the risen Saviour, Luk ;

(5) the ascension, Luk .


Church Seasons: Advent, ch. Luk ; Luk 12:35-38; Luk 12:41-49. Christmas, ch. Luk 1:78-79; Luk 2:1-20; Luk 2:8-20; Luk 2:10; Luk 2:10-11; Luk 2:10-15; Luk 2:14; Luk 2:16. Feast of Circumcision, ch. Luk 2:21. Lent, ch. Luk 3:2-3; Luk 4:1-13. Feast of Annunciation, ch. Luk 1:26-38. Palm Sunday, ch. Luk 19:28-48; Luk 19:37-44; Luk 19:38; Luk 19:41. Passion-tide, ch. Luk 20:9-18; Luk 20:13; Luk 22:1-6; Luk 22:39-48; Luk 22:42; Luk 22:48; Luk 22:54-71. Good Friday, ch. Luk 23:1-25; Luk 23:3; Luk 23:25; Luk 23:32-49; Luk 23:33-34; Luk 23:42-43; Luk 23:46. Easter, ch. Luk 24:1-12; Luk 24:5; Luk 24:13-32; Luk 24:13-43; Luk 24:36. Ascension Day, ch. Luk 24:50-53; Luk 24:50-51. John Baptist's Day, ch. Luk 1:66; Luk 3:1-17; Luk 3:19-20; Luk 7:18-35. St. Peter's Day, ch. Luk 5:1-11; Luk 22:54-60. St. Matthew's Day, ch. Luk 5:27-32. St. Luke's Day, ch. Luk 1:1-4.

Holy Communion: ch. Luk ; Luk 22:10; Luk 22:17-20; Luk 22:19-20; Luk 24:32.

Missions to Heathen: ch. Luk ; Luk 8:39; Luk 10:1-16; Luk 10:25-37. Bible Society, ch. Luk 1:1-4; Luk 4:4; Luk 8:5.

Evangelistic Services: ch. Luk ; Luk 3:1-14; Luk 4:18-19; Luk 5:8; Luk 5:12; Luk 5:17-26; Luk 5:31; Luk 6:47-49; Luk 7:47; Luk 8:5; Luk 9:18-25, Luk 9:57-62; Luk 11:14-36; Luk 11:23-26; Luk 12:13-21; Luk 12:15; Luk 13:1-9; Luk 13:24-25; Luk 13:34; Luk 14:15-24; Luk 15:1-10; Luk 15:4-10; Luk 15:8-32; Luk 15:15-17; Luk 15:17-19; Luk 15:18; Luk 15:20-24; Luk 17:22; Luk 17:31-36; Luk 19:10.

Special: Ordination, ch. Luk . Workers, ch. Luk 4:16; Luk 6:41-42; Luk 8:39; Luk 9:57-62; Luk 10:3-9; Luk 11:37-54; Luk 17:7-10; Luk 19:11-27; Luke 13. Baptism, ch. Luk 1:66; Luk 18:15-17. Confirmation, etc., ch. Luk 9:23; Luk 11:37-54. Quiet Day, ch. Luk 2:19; Luk 9:10; Luk 24:15. To aged, ch. Luk 2:29-30; Luk 24:29. To parents, ch. Luk 1:66; Luk 2:48. Young men, ch. Luk 18:18-30. Children, ch. Luk 2:49. Hospital Sunday, ch. Luk 4:31-44; Luk 5:12; Luk 5:31; Luk 8:43; Luk 10:25-37; Luk 13:10-17. Friendly Society, ch. Luk 5:18; Luk 16:11-12. G.F.S., ch. Luk 8:1-3; Luk 10:38-42; Luk 13:11; Luk 23:49. Trade Unions, etc., ch. Luk 7:2; Luk 16:10-12. Almsgiving, ch. Luk 21:1-6; Luk 22:12.