Introduction

The Gospel of Luke is a Gospel with a particular focus on humanity. Luke spends most of his time discussing the human side of things by focusing on humanity’s struggle in this world. The focus can be seen in the birth narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus, placement of women, the poor, tax collectors, sinners, the outcasts, and the despised. The focus shows that the perfect man, Jesus, came to be the savior to all.  

The Gospel of Luke points to Jesus as the perfect man who came to be the savior for all people. One such instance is in what can be called the purpose statement for Christ. Jesus proclaimed, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).[1] This purpose statement is different than what Jesus said in the other Gospels.

In Matthew, Jesus said He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel only (Matt. 15:24). In Mark, He said the children are to be filled first, and their bread is not to go to the dogs (Mark 7:27). In each of these, Jesus is indicating that it is Israel that was primary above others. Luke takes a divergent route and focuses on all people rather than just Israel. His focus is on the immediate suffering and the salvation from that in this world. In contrast, John has a particular focus on eternal life and the divinity of Jesus.

John’s Gospel focuses on salvation for all people but focuses more on the divinity of Jesus and eternal life than salvation from sufferings. John begins by saying that Jesus was in the beginning, He was with God, and that everything created was created by Him (John 1:1-4). Not only does the Gospel begin this way, but belief in Jesus or some other variant of that word is used around one hundred times for people to receive eternal life. This seems to be a clear indication of the divinity of Jesus and that He is the giver of life, temporal and eternal.

On reading the other Gospels, one can see they have a different portrait of Jesus than Luke does. Matthew tends to focus on the kingly role of Jesus, a Jewish focus with “a royal, messianic understanding of Jesus.”[2] In comparison, Mark tends to focus on the “suffering Son of Man and servant”[3] Christ. Then John has a focus on the divinity of Christ “God taking on flesh.”[4] However, Luke focuses on and describes a plan designed for the “poor, oppressed, and those caught in Satan’s oppressive grip.”[5] These are the downtrodden and the sinners, which encompass all people. This paper will demonstrate that Luke presents Jesus as the perfect man who is the savior for all people.

Birth Narratives

There are many themes traced throughout the Gospel of Luke that point to the humanity of Christ. Trying and organizing the paper from beginning to end, looking at each theme, would require too much overlap confusion. This paper will defend the thesis by investigating each theme that points to the humanity of Christ in the Gospel of Luke, beginning with the birth narratives. After the birth narratives, the paper will focus on the oppressed, the outcasts, and the despised.

When reading the Gospels, Matthew and Luke are the only two that have the birth of Christ documented. Matthew begins the genealogy at Abraham then advances to Christ. Introducing his genealogy, Matthew starts by saying, “the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Then in the genealogy, Matthew emphasizes David as King (1:6) and then traces the genealogy through the kingly line. Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism, while John states that Jesus is God incarnate. Neither of them describes the birth or conception of Christ in any way. Their focus is on the servitude (Mark) and the deity of Christ (John).

In looking back at Matthew–focus on the kingly line, it seems clear that he emphasizes that Christ is the prophesied King of Israel. This is not the case with Luke and his genealogy. Luke takes Christ’s genealogy back to Adam to present the “universalistic perspective” where “Jesus is the fulfillment…of the hopes of all people, both Jew and Gentile.”[6] Adam is the father of all humanity, and Luke taking the genealogy back to Adam shows Jesus is the savior for all. Jimmy Agan agreed with this when he wrote, “Matthew’s major concern is to demonstrate that Jesus is “the Son of David” who fulfills God’s purposes for Israel. Luke agrees,” but in his genealogy demonstrates that “Jesus fulfills God’s purposes for…Jew and Gentile alike.”[7] Once again, there is this connection to Jesus being the perfect man who is the savior for all people.

Even before the genealogy, Luke spends a significant amount of time describing the conception of John the Baptist (1:5-25) and the miraculous conception of Jesus (1:26-38). These conceptions and births explained in detail demonstrate the human focus of this Gospel: the human predicament. It sets forth the necessity of a perfect man who can save all humanity. It seems that there is a continual focus in the first three chapters of Luke on humanity and the need for a perfect human to come to the aid of all humanity.

The pregnancy of Elizabeth, who was advanced in years (Luke 1:18), to the circumcision and dedication of Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:21-24) and Simeon and Anna praising and blessing Jesus (Luke 2:25-38) and Jesus’ growth in stature and wisdom among men and God (2:52) all focus on the humanity of Christ and the human predicament. This all demonstrates that “He is completely Man—born of a woman, He passes through the ordinary human development from child to adult (2:52), He needs food, rest, friendship, prayer.”[8] With Zacharias and Elizabeth, the human struggle of life and desire for a child is seen. The fact that they can have a child is an act of divine movement for people. Them having a child “signifies that the childlessness and insufficiency of the aged couple have been relieved not by their piety or merit, but by divine grace.”[9]

This point shows the need and struggle of humanity in this world and their need for God to move for them, which the birth narratives found in the Gospel of Luke demonstrate. The birth of Jesus that goes back to Adam shows Jesus is the perfect man who is part of all humanity who came to provide salvation for all people.

Focus on Downtrodden and Outcasts

In the salvation needed for all people, the Gospel of Luke has an intense focus on the downtrodden and outcasts of society. The downtrodden and outcasts are the poor, women, tax collectors, widows, Gentiles, and Samaritans. Each of these people groups has specific attention given to them in Luke’s Gospel. Each one receives more attention in this Gospel than any of the other three. Luke’s focus on this particular ministry of Jesus demonstrates the perfect man who came to save all people. The first of the downtrodden to be examined will be the poor.

The Poor

In each Gospel, there is mention made of the poor. In Matthew, the poor are mentioned five times (5:3; 11:5; 19:21; 26:9, 11). In each instance, there are only a couple of times where there is any assistance offered to the poor. Even these instances are not like those mentioned in Luke. The two in Matthew are in chapter five, verse three, and chapter eleven, verse five. The one in chapter five is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. In this section, Christ says the poor will receive the kingdom of heaven, and in chapter eleven, the poor have had the gospel preached to them. Even in these mentions, the focus is on the poor in spirit rather than the poor in general. This is speaking of their eternal hope rather than noticing their plight now as poor people in need.

Moving into Mark, the poor are found five times also (10:21; 12:42, 43; 14:5, 7). The only time the poor are seen receiving help is in chapter twelve, verses forty-two and forty-three. This is the story of the poor widow and the giving of her two mites. The widow receives nothing but praise because she gave all she had, which was much more than the Pharisees and the wealthy. Again, this is praise for her giving and not focusing on her status and situation. Then in John, the poor are found four times (12:5, 6, 8; 13;29). There is not one instance of the poor receiving anything. Each mention in John is in a dialogue of someone asking something or saying something that could have been given to the poor but not saying the poor needed to receive anything. This understanding is that the other three Gospels mention the poor, but they are not focusing on the poor.

When Luke is examined, the poor are found mentioned nine times (4:18; 6:20; 7:22; 14:13, 21; 18:22; 19:8; 21:2-3). In these Scriptures, it is seen that the poor receive something in seven of them, with one being a possible reception from the Lord. From these Scriptures, the poor receive the gospel and liberty (4:18; 7:22). They have the kingdom of God as theirs (6:20). They are to be invited to feasts over known associates (14:13). A tax collector gave half of his goods to the poor because he had done wrong by them, and he was praised by Jesus (19:8). Then the poor widow and her mites are praised again for her faithfulness and giving above others (21:2-3). It seems that Matthew and Luke are the two who have the most to say about the poor. Even so, Matthew’s Jesus “blesses the poor in spirit” while “Luke’s blesses “you who are poor.”[10] Luke has a deeper focus on the poor receiving something from Jesus than any of the other Gospels.

Jesus’ focus on the poor receiving is what is essential in this. It is not what is told and how it is told so much as the concept of what is told and shown. That message is to “Extend hospitality to those who cannot reciprocate. Give without expectation of return.”[11] From this, it can be deduced that Jesus was the perfect man for humanity because He saw them with compassion and not disdain. He knew their suffering and plight and had a genuine concern for them rather than a false passion for His gain. He came for them as much as He came for any other group of people. This same idea is seen in the following groups of outcasts and downtrodden people.

Women

In Luke, there is more of a focus on women than either of the three other Gospels. When looking back to the birth narratives and announcements, a strong emphasis from the perspective of Elizabeth and Mary is seen (Luke 1-2). Women having an influential role is seen in their placing alongside men, which was not typical in that culture.[12] There are quite a few narratives in Luke that pair women alongside men, each set women as equal to and as valuable as men above the other Gospels. These are the prophetess Anna and Simeon (2:25-38), the parable of the mustard seed and leaven (13:8-21), the parables of the lost sheep, and lost coin (15:3-10) Matthew speaks of the man and the lost sheep but not the woman and the coin (Matt.18:12-14), then the healing of a man and a woman on different sabbaths whom both had crippling diseases (13:10-17; 14:1-6).

This focus from Luke indicates that Jesus had compassion for women and was just as important as men. In contrast, the other Gospels do not do this. Other instances in Luke not found in the other Gospels demonstrate Jesus’ compassion and focus towards women. These include healing a widow’s only son (7:12-15), affirming a sinful woman before a pharisaical man (7:36-50). This narrative is seen in the other Gospels, but the pharisaical man was not mentioned (Matt. 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:3). Then there was the healing of a woman with a blood disease (8:43-48). Each of these demonstrates compassion and love towards those seen as least in the culture. Luke also is the only Gospel writer who speaks of Jesus’ ministry being funded by women (8:1-3). Mark Strauss stated that Luke’s Gospel sees Jesus placing more value on women as ministry partners than any of the other three Gospels.[13]

It is correct to see the other Gospels involving women in their accounts. This is certain and correct to observe this. Even though they do, the other Gospel writers do not have the amount of material that Luke does in his Gospel that places as much value on the women. John has more involvement with women than Matthew or Mark, but even John’s account is limited to the involvement of the women. Most of John’s occurrences with women relate to their sorrow of the death of a brother (John 11:1-32). The other instance is the sinful woman, described as Mary, then the women who stayed with Him at the cross and the resurrection (John 12:3; 19:17-20:18; c.f. Matt.27:32-28:8; Mark 15:21-16:8). The focus on women and the poor demonstrates that the Christology in Luke shows that Jesus was here for all people, as will the following people groups.

Outcasts and Despised

The next people group that demonstrate Jesus was the savior for all people are the outcasts and despised. The people falling into these groups are the tax collectors, Gentiles, and Samaritans. Luke portrays Jesus as dining with or comparing others against tax collectors and sinners more than the other Gospels. There is overlap between Matthew, Mark, and Luke with a few instances, but Luke has tax collectors, Samaritans, and Gentiles as heroes and those to be loved much more than the other Gospels do.

Jesus was grumbled against for His eating with tax collectors, accused of being friends with tax collectors, and was looked at with disdain for allowing them to come to Him (Luke 5;29-32; 7:34; 15:1-2). These instances are not unique to Luke as they are found in Matthew (9:10-13; 11:16-19; 18;12-14), and one is in Mark (2:15-17); John does not mention tax collectors in his Gospel. Even though they are not unique to Luke, they, along with the unique sections, add up to demonstrate that Jesus was intimately involved with and had a passion for the outcasts.

Luke has several instances that demonstrate Jesus was the savior for all people besides the few incidents mentioned above with tax collectors. Luke has two specific stories about tax collectors receiving honor above others around. One is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). In this parable, the Pharisee expresses that he is thankful he is not like other men and specifically condemns the tax collector. Jesus turns this culturally accepted condemnation around when He tells of the tax collector’s humility. Jesus does this by saying the tax collector was “justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14). By doing this, Jesus placed the tax collector on the same plane as everyone else.

The other incident is with Zaccheus and his conversion (Luke 19:1-10). In this story, Jesus makes it a point to speak to and say that He was to eat with Zaccheus rather than any other person in the crowd (19:5). Undoubtedly Jesus made a point to all around that even though Zaccheus was considered evil and had been evil; he was just as valuable to God as others. Jesus’ eating with Zaccheus caused all to grumble and complain that Jesus would do such (19:7). This story climaxes with the mission verse of Luke’s Gospel: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). By this statement, Jesus demonstrated that the tax collectors were just as important and needed salvation like everyone else. The tax collectors have a prominent role in Luke’s portrait of Jesus, but the Samaritans are very much involved also.

There are certain narratives about Samaritans only found in Luke’s Gospel. One of these instances is John and James’s wanting to call down fire on a Samaritan village for rejecting Jesus (Luke 9:51-56). Jesus rebukes them for this and tells them that He had not come to destroy but save lives (9:56). The Samaritans rejected Him, but He would not allow harm or destruction against them because that would go against His purpose, which is that He “has come not to judge and punish…but to save the lost (Luke 19:10).”[14] Even though most Bibles do not include the extended section found in the New King James that says Jesus said He did not come to destroy but save, the emphasis in the rebuke of the disciples shows that Jesus came to save and not destroy is emphatic.[15] The essential point is that Jesus came to save the lost, not destroy them.

Along with Jesus’ rebuking the disciples for wanting to destroy the Samaritans, He tells a parable of a good Samaritan (10:25-37). In this parable, everyone considered good and decent passed by the injured traveler. The priest passed the victimized traveler by (10:31), then the Levite passed him by (10:32), only the one who is despised and hated stopped and rendered aid to the traveler (10:33). The Samaritan showed mercy and was the one that Jesus said all should imitate (10:36-37). Jesus placed righteous actions on the one who was hated and despised. He flipped the narrative and had the outcast of society as the one to imitate.

Next is the story of the ten lepers and how only the Samaritan returned to Jesus to thank Him for the healing He granted (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus healed all ten but only the despised and hated of society came and thanked Him (17:16). This is the one whom Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well” (17:19). Jesus did not say the faith of the others made them well, only the faith of the Samaritan. Jesus placed the Samaritan as equal or maybe even more righteous than the others because He came back to Him with thanksgiving. The holy and righteous of the culture did not, only the outcast.

The final demonstration to be examined is the repentant thief on the cross beside Jesus. Luke’s Gospel is the only one that describes the thief and his conversion on the cross. The other three Gospels state that others were crucified beside Him (Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18), but only Luke covers the thief’s conversion (23:39-43). Up until the end, Jesus is seen to be the savior for all, regardless of the situation or who they were. Luke presents Jesus as the perfect man who came to be the savior of all.

Conclusion

This paper sought to demonstrate that Luke portrayed Jesus as the perfect Son of Man who came to be the savior for all people. The paper moved through the birth narratives to demonstrate Jesus’ humanity and His divine conception. The genealogies demonstrated how Jesus was both the Davidic king and the perfect man for all people in the narratives.

Next, the paper covered Jesus’ concern for and His focus on the downtrodden and rejected. This section covered the themes of His view of women and the poor. Jesus had a unique ministry for the poor that demonstrated His concern and compassion for them. Luke makes a good case for Jesus being committed to seeing the downtrodden lifted. Jesus did this with the poor and with the women of the time. Luke demonstrates that women funded Jesus’ ministry and that women were equals with men. The way Jesus handled and cared for women and told parables in tandem with men demonstrates equality.

Finally, the paper looked into Jesus’ ministry for the outcasts and despised. In this section, Jesus ate with and placed many of the outcasts of society above the elites of society. He made pointed remarks about the religion and wickedness of the elites compared to those considered less than desirable. In the work that Jesus did amongst the outcasts, Luke demonstrates that Jesus is the savior for everyone and not only the righteous elites.

This paper looked into many different themes found throughout the Gospel of Luke to build the paper’s thesis. In these themes, Jesus is the perfect man who came to be the savior for all people. He did not come only for a specific group but every type of person. Therefore, it has been shown that Luke’s Christology is that Jesus is the perfect man who is the savior for all people.


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982).

[2] Darrell L. Bock. Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 26-27.

[3] Ibid., 32.

[4] Ibid., 39.

[5] Ibid., 36

[6] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 142.

[7] C. D. Agan, The Imitation of Christ in the Gospel of Luke: Growing in Christlike Love for God and Neighbor, (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2014), 27.

[8] Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952), 45.

[9] James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015), 36.

[10] Craig L. Blomberg. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, 2nd ed., (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 164.

[11] Joel B. Green. The Gospel of Luke: The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Gordon Fee, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 1997), 24, Kindle.

[12] Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough, Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 89.

[13] Mark L. Strauss. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of the Gospels. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 287.

[14] Craig A. Evans. Luke: New International Biblical Commentary. vol. 3. edited by, W. Ward Gasque. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990), 162.

[15] Evans, Luke, 162.

Bibliography

Agan, C. D. The Imitation of Christ in the Gospel of Luke: Growing in Christlike Love for God and Neighbor. Philipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2014.

Blomberg, Craig L. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, 2nd ed., Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009.

Bock, Darrell L. Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.

Edwards, James R. The Gospel according to Luke, edited by, D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2015.

Elwell, Walter A. and Robert W. Yarbrough. Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Evans, Craig A. Luke: New International Biblical Commentary. vol. 3. edited by W. Ward Gasque. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990.

Geldenhuys, Norval. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1952.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke: The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Gordon Fee. Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 1997.

Stein, Robert H. Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of the Gospels. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.