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The Gospel According to St. Luke

Luke Gospel Readings, Season of Pentecost,2019

If the final count of New Testament Gospels had not added Luke’s edition, many of the most well-known parables and stories of the Holy Scriptures would be lost. These stories include the infancy narratives of Jesus and John, Mary and Martha, and Zacchaeus, and the parables of the Good Samaritan, the friend at midnight, the rich fool, the Prodigal Son, the unjust steward, the rich man and Lazarus, the unrighteous judge, the Pharisee and tax collector. In a three-year lectionary Luke is the Gospel reading for year C. In the ELCA, the Revised Common Lectionary for July 7-November 24 offer the reader sequential passages from Luke’s narrative each Sunday. Lutheran worship typically includes readings from the Old and New Testament, the Psalms, along with the Gospel passage. This study begins with the commissioning of seventy (or seventy-two) evangelists in Luke 10 that follows Jesus “setting his face to go to Jerusalem (9.51).” After a general overview of the Gospel, the study begins with Luke’s travelogue to Jerusalem and beyond.


Overview of Luke

Luke is one of four Gospel narratives that proclaims Jesus as Lord, the writer presenting an “orderly and accurate account,” having studied from the beginning the eye-witness testimonies of those servants of the word. Even though many have undertaken such a study, the writer announces that his writing is the full truth of what has taken place after carefully evaluating these handed-down accounts.


The Gospel begins with the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus, paralleling OT themes and stories of Abraham and Sarah, how God has entered the human situation, answering impossible promises. The faith story continues with Elizabeth and Zechariah and finds final fulfillment in the promise to Mary and the birth of Jesus.


For the writer, the reality of this promise given to Jesus, the beloved Son of God, is the same relationship linked to Adam, the final person of Luke’s genealogy. This promise finds direction and focus in Jesus as he is led in the power of the Spirit. He enters the synagogue on the sabbath and stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus not only gives witness to these promises through his own person but exposes the full dimension of this fulfillment in proclaiming good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom to the prisoner, giving recovery of sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free, and by proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord.


Jesus sets sail on his mission, but this takes a decided turn in 9.51 when he sets his face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus then embarks on a ten-chapter excursion of healing and teaching that frames these mission stops “along the way.” There is no turning back and no sideways glances or deflections as Jesus points to the divine necessity of his suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus remains focused on a journey to Jerusalem. Those rest stops along the way illustrate the impact of what the atoning work of Christ means in the lives of his followers and for the church with the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God (the second chapter of Luke’s story is the Book of Acts). We now turn our attention to those Sunday readings from Luke.


July 7, 2019, Luke 10.1-11, 16-20, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

What begins as a mission for the first disciples evolves in a much more dramatic call to action with the mission of the seventy, following Jesus’ turn to Jerusalem as he sets his face to go there. After all, the faithful church is not comprised of pastors and church leaders only but a body of believers who claim Jesus as Lord and come to be fed and then are turned loose into the world, very often with staggering results. Remember the outdoor service and neighborhood picnic hosted. No one knows what goes beyond closed doors unless someone reaches out and invites them.



July 14, 2019, Luke 10.25-37, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The keeper of the law knew many things, so he brought his question to Jesus with his pat answer. You just love God with everything you got, and, oh yes, your neighbor as yourself. Jesus affirms the answer with a promise, “Do this and you will live!” However, the lawyer goes farther, and Jesus responds with one of the most well-known parables of the Scriptures. The star of the show isn’t one of them. The most likely have passed by, not wanting to help or lend a hand, but the Samaritan who have already treated Jesus with some disrespect is the one who stops, binds the man up and pays for his stay and promises to take care of any extra charges. The Good Samaritan becomes the “ambulance of Grace.” Jesus is heading for the Cross. It is the least we can do. Go and do likewise.


July 21, 209, Luke 10.38-42, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Martha is busy; Mary is faithful. The Seventy carry nothing with them on their journey. The most unlikely person takes the time to help the man alongside the road to Jericho. Where do you fit on that continuum? Busy often means hectic with no sense of direction. Few people tell me that they are bored with their lives. Many people continue to tell me that they have lost direction for their lives. Mary chose the greater portion, and it will not be taken away from her. She realizes that the road to Jerusalem is very short, and Jesus is on that walk. When he comes to their house, he is not simply a dinner guest. Jesus is Lord!



July 28, 2018, Luke 11.1-13, Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

The disciples ask Jesus how to pray. Be careful what you wish for! Of course, God’s name is holy, the holy of holies. When God is holy, everything else seems to make better sense. What’s more, God’s Kingdom comes without our praying for it, but, as Luther stated, “we ask that it may also come to us.” Yes, God knows that we need daily bread but filet? Oh, and there is the part about asking God to forgive us. Now don’t be so tight and forget that this forgiveness only extends as far as our forgiveness with our neighbor. It doesn’t seem to matter when that takes place. Just as it is when we ask God to visit, it doesn’t make any difference what time it is. In fact, the late hours are often great times to entertain God.



August 4, 2019, Luke 12.13-21, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Every time we make a move, we count the cost. At least, we tell ourselves that we need to lighten the load. I need to save this, but I can throw this away or at least put it on the “I’ll look at this later shelf.” How about when Jesus invites us to move forward from where we are to another point “along the way.” There’s not nearly as much in your new space, because you are being asked to travel light. This is nothing more than “death wisdom,” where we discard or let die that which we treasure and move beyond death. The parable allows us to consider what we need to take on this final trip. The man builds more barns to store his stuff, but fails to recognize the “U-Haul” that will take him to his final home has much smaller dimensions. Fool! Jesus tells his disciples to travel light, ”no phone,

no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury.” We have more than enough, and it is our Lord’s cry from the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” that helps to put this into perspective. Could we be just as foolish?




August 11, 2019, Luke 12.32-40, Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

If we are on a journey and we are carrying a heavy load, it would make sense to lighten the load. We have been blessed with so much. In fact, it seems like a kid turned loose in a candy store. We know that too much sugar is not a good thing. We are once again reminded not to store up treasures on earth, especially those things that ultimately of no value. Why is all this so alluring? Look what it does. It reorders our priorities. They become “ends” in themselves. It changes the way we value life. It changes our dependence on God. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Our center of being and all that it takes to preserve and protect that lifestyle move God off-center. The exhortation to keep alert because of the nearness of the kingdom of God is lost in our greed. It must look very silly to see us traveling to the Cross, trying to carry all our stuff. So, what’s in your wallet?



August 18, 2019, Luke 12.49-56, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

We are reminded not be anxious about our lives, about food or clothing. We are told not to be fearful, because God has given us the Kingdom. Therefore, we able to give up what we have and to provide for the poor. We will not be deterred. We now keep alert for signs of this now-dawning Kingdom. We are to get things in proper order for this day. Jesus then reminds his followers that their journey is not a cakewalk but certainly not the destination, because the journey now turns very serious. Jesus again reminds those who come after him that this walk of faith has consequences, especially when it comes to family. I always thought that God is against family division. He sharpens the argument by saying that those aligned with the Kingdom maintain a unique relationship to God, one that may put them at odds with even family. That’s how important the good news is! Even family. Could there be anything that important?



August 25, 2019, Luke 13.10-17, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

She had been bent over for eighteen years. All she could do is look down. Jesus touched her and she was able to look up. That’s what happens when Jesus passes by. He stops and heals. He heals someone who has been overlooked and taken for granted for a long time. Wouldn’t that kind of event draw tremendous community response? Perhaps to those who are staying and are not following Jesus in his travels to Jerusalem, such a healing is just too disruptive to the comfort box they have created. In the end, that understanding faces public humiliation, as the Jesus travelers delight in the response.



September 1, 2019, Luke 14.1, 7-14, Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

On the way, Jesus is stirring up quite a little reaction. In fact, the “religious folk” are watching him carefully. Maybe it’s because they feel their position of power and authority are slipping or at least are being challenged. I had a friend who told me often to fly low, the fall is less. Jesus likens this to a wedding feast invitation. Take one of the cheap seats; there is always someone who will want your seat. The humble will be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled. So, when you host a party, don’t settle for an invitation to someone who will simply repay you. Kingdom talk includes an invitation to the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. The satisfaction will be realized when we get to Jerusalem and beyond.



September 8, 2019, Luke 14.25-33, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

It is quite a scene! Large crowds are following Jesus on is journey to Jerusalem. Do they really know what they are doing? Do we? On the way to the Cross, Jesus gives his followers the opportunity to carry this cross as well. This following supersedes allegiance to even family if we are to be truly his disciples. We need to count the cost. Otherwise, saltless salt is not worth even the manure pile. Smell something?


                        RALLY SUNDAY


September 15, 2019 Luke 15.1-10, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

We have all lost something valuable, so valuable that we would risk everything to recover it. Then we find it, and we can’t wait to tell everyone the good news, even if they could care less. Jesus is amassing quite a following on his way. He doesn’t take low-hanging fruit but risks the whole tree in search of the fruit that is beyond society’s reach.


September 22, 2019, Luke 16.1-13, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sometimes shrewd does not mean dishonest. Jesus describes it as being ‘wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” On this side of the Cross, the followers of Jesus can appear naïve. The children of the dark are often shrewder in dealing with life than the children of the light. Can we be trusted with the investment that God has given us? In the end, we cannot serve two masters We will either hate the one, or we love the other. We cannot serve God and mammon. Perhaps that Is why the road to Jerusalem is so long and winding.


September 29, 2019, Luke 16.19-31, Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The cost of serving God and not mammon has implications far beyond day-to-day decisions we make. They have eternal dimensions in the reversal of fortunes with the rich man and Lazarus. More than that, the final chasm is so wide that there can be no relationship between the two. The final judgment is both a warning and a promise. God’s grace is not to be taken advantage of. Material wealth does not give a person a privileged place in the Kingdom of God. Likewise, suffering and pain, even to death, is not the final answer but simply points to the saving work of Christ on the Cross. He died so that we may live. How does that living give us hope and a way of life in our journey?


October 6, 2019, Luke 17.5-10, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Our journey to Jerusalem has taken its toll. At times the trust required seems impossible, because the cost is so high.  We cry out for God to increase our faith. Christ answers by assuring us that the quantity of faith is not the issue. Even faith the size of a mustard seed can do incredible things. You already know about the mustard seed and the shade that it offers the birds of the air. It can uproot long-established realities. Still, following Jesus doesn’t put us on easy street. It only allows us to do what we have been called to do. We have done our duty.


October 13,2019, Luke 17.11-19, Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus meets ten lepers meet him who have been ostracized from both groups. Theirs is a faint cry, but Jesus hears their plea nonetheless. They want mercy; Jesus gives them healing. The significance of this healing cannot be underestimated. Leprosy was a death sentence, a slow, lonely death. Still, Jesus is amazed at their responses. Embracing that new life is natural, but isn’t there a sense of gratitude that goes with it? To live with no hope and then to graciously receive life out of death. Is this no different with confession and forgiveness? Remember how it feels when Christ looks from the Cross and says, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”


October 20, 2019, Luke 18.1-8, Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The ten lepers have no position of power from which they can negotiate mercy from Jesus. The parable of the unjust judge or the persistent widow moves to the level of this cry. A long journey has a way of wearing on a person. It takes the edge off. It curbs our zeal. The widow stays on task, even though the judge she is appealing to has no regard for her or her cries. It, however, begins to wear on him. Her consistent and pointed pleas begin to make a difference. Answers to prayer do not always happen on our time. They often take place over a long continuum of vigilance and perseverance. The question remains, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


October 27,2019, Luke 18.9-14, Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

There are so many instances in life where performance is graded. Whether it is grades in school or titles we hold in a business, our performance is measured. However, performance does not have a direct correlation to worth. We set up false standards and weigh importance accordingly. Final accountability belongs to God and not to us. Th Pharisee and the tax collector speak to this specifically. Our Lutheran theology reaffirms this. Like the tax collector, all we can do is say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Justification takes place at the foot of the Cross, and not with our own self-justification. Thank God!!



November 3, 2019, Luke 19.1-10, Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

The imagery for this All Saints Sunday is graphic. Zacchaeus, small in stature, of small significance in his community, wants to see Jesus but fears not being seen. He climbs into a tree for a better view. He sees Jesus, but Jesus recognizes him and gives him startling news. Not only does he ask Zacchaeus to come down but tells him that he is going to his house. Zacchaeus is so taken by this, he makes a surprising offer. Could Jesus, spotting us and making a home visit, change us so that we would be willing to give half of what we have to the poor? How about four times what has been defrauded? Our journey to the Cross allows us to bring hope to the lost!



November 10, 2019, Luke 20.27-40, Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Authority still weighs heavily in our decision-making process. We might say, “What gives you the right” or “Where does it say.” We make decisions based upon the hold that authority has over us, especially when it challenges how we act or the impact on our life. The way to the Cross certainly confronts us with similar claims of authority, as it did for the religious leaders of Jesus day. Heavenly origins of authority challenge the way we invest in life, the influence of God on our political system, and much more. We should not trivialize this with mundane questions about marriage and ultimate spouse. As children of the resurrection, we take authority from the god not of the dead but of the living. Now that’s an authority to follow beyond death to life. Any questions?


November 17,2019, Luke 21.5-10, Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

The in-breaking of the Kingdom of God tears away traditional footing and places us on higher ground. It is a time for testing the voices that are vying for authority in our lives. Regardless, the solution is a process not an event. Final judgment is found in the ongoing work of the church.

That is why the Gospel of Luke is a part of a two-volume set, a journey that extends beyond resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem to the far-reaching impact of the Spirit from Jerusalem, into Asia Minor, and finally to Rome.


November 24, 2019, Luke 23.33-43, Christ the King Sunday

The weekly lectionary was revised (the Revised Common Lectionary) so that there would be an extended emphasis on the Second Coming. This Sunday interrupts this sequence by revisiting the passion of our Lord in Luke. The passion of Jesus closes the loop in his travelogue, although the final leg of that journey is repeated more in Luke than any other Gospel, along with Acts. The story builds on itself, adding a finality to each episode of the passion. There is no turning back; there is no easy out. The cries for help go unheeded. You are the Messiah, aren’t you? Save yourself and us. The divine necessity of it all is apparent, and so is saving grace. The response to the criminal takes the story to another level. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” The journey has reached its conclusion. The Lord is at hand.



The Pentecost readings from the Gospel of Luke from July through November take us on an exciting “road trip” with Jesus and his disciples. The map of this journey unfolds well before this with the promise given to Mary as she and Joseph travel to their hometown for their enrollment in the census. It is here that God enters humanity in one small entry to this census. Against all odds, this Jesus points to God’s journey into the human family.  It is a road that is fraught with “lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” travel that is of divine necessity for God to rescue humanity. Unique to Luke, these ten chapters offer a perspective of Luke’s gospel that helps to shape the theological and Christological understanding of what it means to claim Jesus as Lord. During this journey, Jesus never takes his eyes off his final victory lap in Jerusalem and his passion, yet it is through these stops along the way that we begin to understand more fully the cost of discipleship and Jesus mission to the world.


It turns out that this Is only one leg of the journey. Luke ends his accurate and orderly account of the things that eye-witnesses have seen with an incredible account of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus on the road to Emaeus. He seemed to be going farther but the disciples bid him stay and break bread with him. Their hearts burn as he opened to them the Scriptures. And then he vanished from their sight. He ascends to the Father, but there is always that sneaking suspicion that we might see him along the way. Not to disappoint, the next edition of that journey in Acts, begins with a reference to Theophilus, the gift of the Spirit to the disciples and the question as to whether God will restore the Kingdom. What follows is the travel of the Gospel, beginning in Jerusalem with the Spirit falling upon the disciples. To the ends of the earth and finally reaching Rome, the center of civilization, culture, and life. The story of Jesus and his journey to the Cross is also Peter and Paul’s missionary journeys, beginning in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth. The story of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus our Lord is the story of the Church, which exists in the “already, but not yet” time of the Kingdom. Now where is this Good News in Christ taking us?