“Marginalized himself since his birth, Jesus makes sure that everybody is included in his kingdom, everybody invited to the party. This is especially evident on the last day of his life.”
The Glorious Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke is the only one of the 4 gospels in the Bible to have a sequel. This gospel, along with its companion, The Book of Acts, takes up roughly one quarter of what we call the New Testament. As you read Luke with children, here are 5 teaching points to keep in mind.
Luke is a work awash with reversals: Those who should recognize and appreciate Jesus often don’t, but those who are normally thought to be misfits or social cast-offs and not religiously up-to-snuff, recognize and welcome him. Like the early Hebrew prophets, Luke knew a God who delighted in turning expectations upside down. See Mary’s “Magnificat” [Lk 1.46-55] or the Annunciation to a nobody in a nowhere town, –and a girl at that – that she was to be the mother of God [1.26-38].
Hospitality is prominent in Luke from beginning to end. A pregnant couple and their newborn are denied a place to sleep, only to welcome shepherds (not kings or high religious mucky-mucks) to be the first to hear the great good news. At meals [see below], it’s often difficult to know whether Jesus is guest or host.
Even during the suffering & death sequence, Jesus takes the time to comfort women on the way to the cross and to converse with his cross-bound companions. He forgives everybody, including his condemners, his executioners and the duh-sciples who deserted him in his hour of need.
This is the book of parables par excellence. Matthew and Mark offer a few and John has none, but Luke’s Jesus revels in them. Luke is the only gospel to offer the most famous parables: The Good Samaritan [10.25-37] and the Prodigal Son [15.11-32], with reversals and hospitality abounding.
Although Jesus is accused of being a drunkard and wine-bibber elsewhere [Matt.11.19], it is Luke’s gospel that describes Jesus as a party animal of sorts(!) There are 10 luncheon/dinner stories here, more than in any of the other gospels. Luke uses each of them as the locus for teaching more hospitality and reversals and other lessons in discipleship. For example, Zacchaeus [19.1-10], and also the unnamed woman who anoints Jesus [7.36-50].
5. Jesus Cares
Jesus is unfailingly thoughtful in each of the gospels. We witness his healing the ill and nurturing those uncared for by others. He also feeds those hungry for food or a kind word. But in Luke especially, Jesus is at his altruistic best.
In Luke Jesus goes out of his way to put others first. Marginalized himself since his birth, he makes sure that everybody is included in his kingdom, everybody invited to the party. This is especially evident on the last day of his life [see above], but is apparent elsewhere, in his interactions with all sorts of people. Note for instance his care in conversation with the hapless pair on the way to Emmaus [24.13-35].
But Wait, There’s More!
All this, and Luke is also the only gospel to tease us with a bit more about Jesus’ childhood [2.41-52]. It’s also unique in its openness to the world dominated by the Roman Empire. Luke wanted to get the word out and the Empire wasn’t the only game in town – Amen!
Victoria Garvey has a passion for learning, teaching, and the Church. She has taught at nearly every level from 2nd graders through graduate school. Recently the bishop’s Associate for Lifelong Christian Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, she also serves as a faculty member for the Forma certificate programs. Vicki continues to speak around the country, facilitate workshops, and lead retreats.
Photo by Congerdesign, shared via Pixabay.