by Frank Luke
All four of the Gospel writers give us a different picture of Jesus. It is the same savior, but each presents him differently. For Matthew, he is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the fulfillment of prophecy. Mark shows him as the suffering servant of Isaiah. John makes sure we understand that Jesus is the Son of God. Finally, Luke insists that we remember the Messiah came for all the world.
That fact was very important to Luke. Of all writers of Scripture, Luke was the only non-Israelite. From Moses through all the Old Testament prophets, to the gospel writers, Apostles, and early believers who wrote the New Testament, from both of those groups, only Luke was a gentile.
More than the other three evangelists, Luke shows Jesus interacting with gentiles and blessing them. Luke writes not to argue with Matthew and Mark, but to add to their pictures of Jesus. For Luke, making sure that Christians understood the mission of Jesus to all the world was paramount.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, the Jews were very particular about who could enter the Lord’s house. A sign divided the court of the gentiles from the rest of the Temple. It read, “Gentiles beyond this point have only themselves to blame for their death.” No gentile dared go past that. Paul writes about this dividing wall.
For the Apostles, a mission to the gentiles was hard to grasp. Okay, if they first become Jews, they can become Christians. Converts to Judaism were common in those days, but once completed, the convert was no longer a gentile. They were Jewish, and children born after the conversion were considered Jewish.
Some potential converts did not want to go all the way into Judaism. The last ceremony was circumcision. Those who stopped before the last ceremony were called “God Fearers.”
Luke writes to say salvation does not stop at the borders of Judea and Galilee.
Back to Adam
The first place I want to look at for Luke showing us Jesus is for all the world is Luke 3:23 and 38. However, the first place Luke mentions salvation beyond Israel comes from the prophet Simeon in Luke 2:32.
Luke 3:23 23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,
Skip to verse 38 and we read:
Luke 3:38 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Matthew had written first and given the line of Christ back to Abraham, because Abraham was the father of the Israelite line. While it is true that Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise to Abraham, “in your seed all families of the earth will be blessed.” Paul reminds us that the promised seed is one, Jesus.
Luke would connect with Adam at other times. When Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus is correcting two wrongs. First, the 40 days reminds us of how the Israelites wondered in the wilderness for 40 years. Secondly, the first temptation and overcoming of it relates to food. Who else in Scripture faced a temptation of food and failed it?
Yes, Adam. Jesus would succeed where both Adam and Israel failed. Paul will compare Jesus to Adam twice in 1 Corinthians 15.
Adam failed and took the fruit when tempted. We do not know how many times Adam and Eve walked past the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It doesn’t matter how many times they succeeded. What matters is the time they failed. The consequences continue on to humanity to this day and will continue until the Lord returns.
If Luke, too, had stopped at Abraham, some might argue that salvation could only be found in the children of Abraham. That was not to be so. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke emphasized it was for all people.
Very quickly, I want to go to a passage that impacts our understanding of salvation for the gentiles greatly. Prophets like Isaiah foretold that salvation would be available to all. The question remained as to how this would be accomplished.
In the book of Acts (also written by Luke the Evangelist), gentiles begin to enter the kingdom in great numbers. Before Peter preached to Cornelius, only Jews had come to faith. Once the ceiling is broken, gentiles respond. The question comes before the early church like this, “how much of the Law are gentiles bound to?” Peter and Paul both speak on the issue, arguing that gentiles are not bound to all the law. The council decides, moved by the Holy Spirit, that gentiles are not bound to all the Law but are to refrain from food offered to idols, murder, fornication, and things strangled. That was it. Gentiles did not have to be circumcised or keep kosher as Christians, but they did have to avoid idolatry (obviously), sexual immortality, murder, and food from strangled animals. Good Christian living will entail more ethics than this, but never less.
Salvation as Celebration
Luke 14:15-24 15 When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ 19 “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20 “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ 21 “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 “And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 ‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'”
Joy comes upon those who interact with Jesus and they burst out in praise. Mary sings a song of praise when she visits Elizabeth, recounting how God exalts the humble. Zechariah praises God for salvation from the line of David and the prophet who will make His way clear. The angles praise God for the birth of mankind’s savior. And Simeon praises God that salvation will come to Israel and the whole world.
Similarly, when people receive a blessing, they praise God. The paralytic in 5:25f. The witnesses to Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son in 7:16. The woman healed of being bent double in 13:13. The cleansed leper in17:15, 18. A blind beggar granted his sight in 18:43.
God is to be praised for the joyful time of redemption has arrived.
Luke shows more joy in the number of banquet scenes he details—more than any other gospel writer. You never ate with enemies; only with friends. From Revelation, we often speak of the wedding supper of the Lamb. This comes from Isaiah 25:6-8 which says, “the Lord almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples.” All peoples. All nations. Salvation available to all.
In Luke, Jesus dines with all kinds of people. On one side of the table, sinners and tax collectors. On the other, Pharisees. No one is beyond God’s offer of salvation.
However, in the parable of the Great Banquet, the religious leaders refuse Jesus’ call to the feast. Outsiders respond with joy and are saved.
Another one of Luke’s themes is how the self-righteous refuse to heed God’s call. In this parable, the invited who refuse to come are the self-righteous. They are close to the master, already invited—already called in the original language, yet don’t want to come. In Jesus’ day, such a refusal was a major insult to the host. That’s why the host becomes so angry at the end.
The excuses given range from buying oxen, buying land, to taking a wife. In all of the situations, the reasons fall apart. These had been invited already. They knew the final call was coming but made excuses. Jesus shows humor in the excuses. A man can’t come because he has just taken a wife? This one has some validity. A wedding feast took a whole week from start to finish.
But who buys land without looking at it first? That man was a terrible businessman. The farmers who heard Jesus tell the tale would look at one another with incredulity. Similarly, who buys oxen without testing them together. Oxen must be paired so that they walk at the same time. You can’t just yoke any two oxen together and expect the field to be plowed.
To refuse an invitation that has already been accepted is a terrible insult. It was fighting words in those days. To refuse at this point was shaming the host. In their culture, honor and shame were as important as guilt and innocence. They shamed the rich man who called them to the banquet.
This is important. A banquet of the size described by Luke was an RSVP affair. The servants had already talked to those invited to see if they could come. The wine and food had been bought based on the number of acceptances given. An estimated time was known when they accepted. By accepting the invitation, they became obligated to attend.
Most of the time, those invited waited with eagerness. Some would even watch the host’s estate from outside to see the bustle of activity as servants made the final arrangements. The smell of roasting meats would drift across the village and town. Banquets were festive affairs. Everyone looked forward to going to a banquet.
So the servants are sent to find those who were not invited first. Irony. The shunned are welcomed by the master who has himself been shunned.
Many have been invited. Much food has been prepared. After the first round of new guests are brought, there is still plenty of food. The host sends his servants out to “compel” them to come in that my “house” may be full.
Finally, the parable ends with a dire warning. Those who have rejected the call will be excluded.
Rejoice! Salvation has come and is available to the gentiles! The work of Christ cleanses all who ask. We do not need to become Jewish to embrace the savior!
Some here may not be Christians. I urge you at this time to listen for the Holy Spirit and join. The forgiveness of Christ is available to all. We have all fallen short of God’s desire for us, and He made a way to reconcile.
Please visit Frank Luke’s blog where this article is also posted.