Dear Church Family
Happy February to you all! January has been a busy month in the life of our church, focussing on vision, prayer and fasting. As we've focussed on the call to be a church of overflow, spent time praying and fasting and renewed our financial giving, so I hope our hearts have been stirred by the Holy Spirit and we're excited by all that lies ahead this year. Please keep praying. You may also like to build a regular fast-day into your week or month, and particularly use the upcoming season of Lent for this. Also, if you forgot to bring to church last week your financial pledge form for the coming year, it's not too late to bring it church this week and put in the offering bag, or else drop it into the Parish Centre.
Now we're in February we're looking forward to starting our next Alpha course, and also restarting on Sundays our series in Luke.
You'll be hearing more about Alpha in the coming weeks, but essentially this will be a short course - held over four weeks - in Bar 1331, just round the corner from St Michael le Belfrey Church on Grape Lane. It's a great venue, particularly for anyone who may find coming into a church building a bit intimidating. Alpha begins on Wednesday 21st February at 7.30pm. Please be praying now for the course, that many who are searching for hope will find it in Jesus Christ, and also do think who you might invite to come. Thousands of people every year come to faith in Jesus Christ through Alpha, so it's great that we have the opportunity to run the course soon.
We're also this Sunday restarting our series on Luke. We've been working through Luke's gospel (with a few breaks) for some time now and will reach the end, with the resurrection stories, in a few weeks time at Easter. It's been quite a journey, as we've taken time to work through a whole gospel and look in some detail at the teaching of Jesus and at what it means to follow him. Please do pray that as we make this final push to the end of Luke's gospel that the Spirit of God would continue to speak, teach, transform and equip us as disciples, and that any who hear the messages who are not yet following Jesus will begin this greatest of adventures.
At the end of this message you can read a short Introduction to Luke's Gospel, written by Brian Simmons, the man behind the Passion translation. If you have time, do read this Introduction. It will prepare us well, and give us some background, as we pick up Luke again. In particular you will see it points to some of the major themes in Luke's gospel, which are, I believe, things the Lord is especially speaking to us about it our day. That's one of the reasons why Luke was the gospel we chose to cover, when we began this gospel journey back in 2016.
May February be a good month for you, for your family and loved ones, and for us as a church.
LUKE - Introduction (Dr Brian Simmons)
At a Glance
Author: Luke, beloved physician, friend and companion to Paul
Audience: Theophilus and all ‘lovers of God’
Date: Late AD 60s, though possibly 70-85
Type of Literature: Ancient historical biography
Major Themes: Jesus’ person, Jesus’ works, the kingdom realm, the Christian life, social dimensions and the Holy Spirit
Luke’s preface 1:1-4
Jesus’ birth and childhood 1:5-2:52
Jesus’ ministry preparation 3:1-4:13
Jesus’ Galilean ministry 4:14-9:50
Jesus heads to Jerusalem 9:51-19:44
Jesus teaches in Jerusalem 19:45-21:38
Jesus’ suffering and death 22:1- 23:56
Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation 24:1-24:53
You are about to read the biography of the wonderful Man Jesus Christ. This glorious Gospel was penned by one of his early followers, a physician named Luke. All four Gospels in our New Testament are inspired by God, but Luke’s is unique. I believe that this could be described as the loveliest book ever written.
Luke’s pen was anointed by the Holy Spirit and his book is still read today by the lovers of God, because it is the mercy Gospel. It is a book for everybody, for we all need mercy. Luke writes clearly of the humanity of Jesus - as the servant of all and the sacrifice for all. Every barrier is broken down in Luke’s Gospel: between Jew and Gentile, men and women, rich and poor. In Luke we see Jesus as the Saviour of all who come to him.
Luke, being a physician, learned the need to exhibit compassion and mercy toward others. It comes through every chapter. Luke’s Gospel is perhaps the most compassionate and love-filled account of Jesus’ life ever written.
Luke shares Jesus’ teachings on prayer, forgiveness and our obligation to demonstrate mercy and grace in dealings with others. Luke provides us with rich details of Jesus’ love of children and the forsaken. Luke writes more about Jesus’ ministry to women than the other Gospel authors. This was somewhat controversial in the culture of his day. In fact, Luke uses an alternating narrative of one story about a man and the next story about a woman. Luke begins with the story of Zechariah, then moves to Mary. A focus on Simeon, then on Anna. The Roman centurion, then the widow of Nain. The good Samaritan, then Mary and Martha. This pattern continues throughout his Gospel.
A large amount of Luke’s Gospel is not found in any other Gospel narrative. If we did not have the book of Luke, we wouldn’t know about the stories of the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the wedding banquet and other amazing teachings. Only in the book of Luke do we find the stories of the shepherds at Bethlehem, the ten lepers who were healed, the young man from Nain who was raised from the dead and the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus. How thankful I am for the Gospel of Luke!
My heart overflows with the joy of seeing the Word of God being translated with all its passion and fire into contemporary English. Unveiled before your eyes will be the glorious Man, Jesus Christ, and the revelation of his undying love for you.
I present to you, and to every other lover of God, the Gospel of Luke.
This world is a far better place because of the revelation Luke shares with us in his Gospel. He gives us a full picture of Jesus’ life and ministry, applying scrupulous accuracy to all he wrote to ensure that what we read is factual. In fact, Luke uses the Greek word for "autopsy" (1:2) for investigating with firsthand knowledge those who had seen what Jesus did and heard what Jesus taught.
Dr Luke performed an "autopsy" on the facts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, tracing them all back to their source to make sure what he compiled was of the highest degree of accuracy. He takes "Theophilus" through Jesus’ entire ministry career to reveal how God worked to show Jesus to be true and the hope of the world. He also shows how God has been faithful to Israel and the promises he’s given her, while inviting the nations to the table of Christ’s love and hope.
Author and Audience
We know little about Luke, the human author of this Gospel. He was a companion of the apostle Paul for some of his missionary journeys and was possibly one of Paul’s early converts. Luke was a literary genius and writes with powerful prose. Some believe Luke was possibly the only non-Jewish writer of the New Testament. Others believe that he was a Syrian Jew who took upon himself a gentile name. It is obvious the he knew firsthand many of the early followers of Jesus, even the apostles who were chosen to preach his name throughout the nations. Near the end of the apostle Paul’s life, when he was facing martyrdom, Paul wrote of his trusted friend "only Luke [is] with me" (2 Tim 4:11).
The opening line of the Gospel indicates Luke wrote to the "most excellent Theophilus". The name Theophilus means ‘friend of God’ or ‘lover of God’. The Greek word means ‘most honourable’ or ‘mightiest’. Some scholars suggest there was no individual named Theophilus mentioned in Luke’s writings. Regardless, Luke’s Gospel is a greeting to all the lovers of God. He especially wrote it to non-Jewish lovers of God who may have felt out of place in the originally Jewish movement.
The Person and Work of Jesus. As you can imagine, a historical biography of Jesus will feature him and his work, front and centre! In Luke’s Gospel, he is the sent one who is both Lord and Messiah. He is uniquely and intimately connected to God, transcending any portrait of him as simply a human figure and agent. He is also the one who acts, as the promised Messiah anointed by the Spirit to bring in the new era – God’s heavenly kingdom realm to earth. His ultimate act was on behalf of every person on the planet, bearing the sins of the world as he hung on the Roman cross. And in the end, this Lord Messiah was vindicated by the Father through the resurrection and exalted to his right hand through the ascension.
The Promised Kingdom Realm. In Jesus Christ, all of God’s promises are fulfilled. Chief among them is God’s promised kingdom realm. God’s kingdom realm is both present and coming. Jesus commands his disciples to proclaim that it has "come near" and is within people’s reach in the present. The promises of the last days have started to be fulfilled and yet those promises haven’t been ultimately fulfilled. The full manifestation of the kingdom realm is still anticipated, when all the hoped-for prophecies of restoration will be realised.
Women and the poor. Women are a crucial part of Jesus’ story - now and then. In Luke’s Gospel they provide examples of deep poetry and devotion. They are both of humble means and wealthy. At every turn women are part of Jesus’ ministry. Elizabeth, Anna and of course Mary play important roles in his infancy; women are healed, comforted and forgiven in Galilee; on the way to Jerusalem we meet Mary and Martha; and during Christ’s most desperate hours, women weep at his feet, stand with him faithfully; finally they receive the first revelation of Jesus’ resurrection. Then there are the poor. Throughout Luke, the poor receive special attention too, showing that God deliberately reaches out to those whom society casts away. He makes clear the good news of Jesus and his love for people like them, which means the gospel truly is for everybody!
The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a major role in Luke’s Gospel, where he is referenced nearly twenty times. The Spirit is the driving force in the picture Luke paints of God’s coming salvation. He is the architect, the maestro guiding and energising the events that transpire throughout the life of Jesus. We find him present from the very beginning with his conception and birth on to Christ’s baptism in the Spirit and through to his powerful miracle ministry. One of the most important texts in all the Gospels is Luke 3:15-16, where John says one "mightier" than he would come baptising "with the Spirit of holiness and …fire". This Spirit of fire is the sign and seal of the new era of the Messiah, come to rescue and re-create the world!