Why a Sermon Series on the Gospel of Luke?
On Friday we will begin a new sermon series on The Gospel of Luke. I am sure that many of us, if not all of us have heard a sermon or two or three from Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps you have heard a sermon on the Prodigal Son, or messages of the birth stories of Jesus during Christmas. What I will be doing is preaching through the whole gospel. The subtitle of this series is ‘The Mission of Jesus’. Luke presents Jesus as both the king of Israel and the king of all creation who ascended to his Father’s throne, having defeated his enemies through his death and resurrection. Preaching through Luke will help us see how the story of Jesus fulfils the Mission of God to bring salvation to the whole world.
Additionally, preaching through Luke’s Gospel will help us as a church:
- Understand familiar passages in their larger context.
One of the common pitfalls of preaching a few sermons in any book is that we often miss the context. The Prodigal Son is a good example of how texts are better understood in context. Luke 15:1–3 provides crucial details about the setting of Jesus’ parable. Two sets of people had gathered around Jesus: welcomed sinners and angry Jewish leaders. We shouldn’t neglect these details—nor should we ignore the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. These three stories in Luke 15 function as a single parable about God’s great joy in receiving repentant sinners. In the final scene of the last story, the father entreats the older brother to come home. The older brother represents the nation of Israel and the younger brother represents the tax collectors and sinners. Zooming out and preaching the whole book helps us better understand familiar passages in their larger context.
- Observe God’s opposition to the proud and grace to the humble.
One of the key themes throughout Luke’s Gospel is the reversal of the world’s values. We will see this theme in Mary’s song, and in the details surrounding Jesus’ humble birth. We will hear it in Jesus’ first sermon as he declares good news to the poor from Isaiah’s scroll, and in the beatitudes found in his sermon on the plain. We will see it powerfully illustrated when Jesus heals the sick and invites “the outcasts” to join his new covenant community.
The long middle section of the book (Luke 9–19) is often called the “travel narrative.” In this section, Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem and teaches his disciples, often through parables, about the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom. Once Jesus finally arrives in Jerusalem, Luke records his climatic conclusion (Luke 20–24) as the ultimate demonstration of how God’s kingdom flips the world upside-down. Jesus fulfils the story of God and Israel not by killing the Jews and the Romans, but by being killed by the Jews and the Romans. Through Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God displays his fierce opposition to the proud and his amazing grace to exalt the most humble man to the most honourable position.
- Witness Jesus welcoming sinners to his table.
Robert Karris observes, “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” This begins in Luke 5 when Jesus eats with sinners at the home of Levi, and it ends in Luke 24 when the resurrected Christ eats fish with his disciples to prove he is not a ghost. In between these two stories are about a dozen references to Jesus eating meals or giving parables that include a great banquet (Luke 14) or a large party (Luke 15).
One of my prayers is that the Gospel of Luke will remind us of how hospitality can be a powerful tool to accomplish our church’s disciple-making mission. Luke invites us to witness Jesus welcoming sinners to his table so that we will welcome sinners to our tables.
- Depend upon the Spirit’s help through prayer.
Luke explains his purpose of writing is to present an orderly account of all that Jesus “fulfilled” or “accomplished” (1:1–4). How was he able to do this? He fulfilled the story of God and brought salvation to the whole world because of the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer.
Another prayer point is that we will encounter this reality at every major point. The presence of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit are seen in the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus. These themes show up over and over again: Jesus’ dedication at the temple, his baptism, the wilderness temptations, his first sermon, and the selection of the 12 disciples.
In Luke 11, he teaches his disciples to pray “your kingdom come,” even as Jesus himself prays “not my will, but yours be done,” as he sweats blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. God’s answer to this prayer leads to Christ’s death, which in turn brings salvation to the whole world. The gospel of Luke provides breathtaking portraits of Jesus depending on the Spirit’s power through his prayers.
The Gospel of Luke is volume one of a two-volume work. Luke wrote this Gospel and also the Acts of the Apostles. In the Gospel Luke “dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), and in Acts Luke wrote about what Jesus continued to do and teach in and through the Church. Eventually, I would like to preach through the Acts of the Apostles as well, more about that at a later time!
Pray with me that the Lord will use this series in The Gospel of Luke, that we will all come to a sure and certain knowledge about the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that we will be equipped and able to confidently communicate the gospel of Jesus, to those who have never met Jesus before.
Invite a friend and join us this Friday as we begin our study of Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost.
 These four points adapted from an article written by Phil Howell for 9marks.org