The Gospel of Luke: An Overview

The Jerusalem temple was overlaid with so much gold that persons who saw it described its blinding effects as it glistened in the sun. Herod the Great refurbished it. He surrounded it with a massive court, turning the Temple Mount into a sacred complex far larger than other temples of the ancient world. The project was ongoing when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple for purification (Luke 2:22–38). It was still going some 30 years later when Jesus cleansed the temple from the money-changers at the beginning of Holy Week. During those days, Jesus would prophesy the temple’s destruction and His own resurrection.

This blog post is adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 2: Intertestamental Era, New Testament, and Bible Dictionary.


The third Gospel is the most outspokenly “teaching” Gospel of them all. This is already obvious from the dedicatory preface (Luke 1:1–4), in which the author promises Theophilus a full and orderly account of things that Theophilus to some extent already knows, in order that he may have reliable information concerning the things that he has been taught. Luke is not proclaiming the Gospel for the first time to Theophilus and his Gentile readers generally; rather, he intends to expand and fill in the already familiar basic outline of the Gospel message with a full account of what Jesus did and taught (cf Acts 1:1). This is borne out by the fullness and completeness of his narrative; it is likewise confirmed by the fact that Luke extends his narrative in the Acts of the Apostles to include not only what Jesus “began to do and teach,” but also the continued activity of the exalted Lord through His messengers by the power of the Spirit. The words of the preface, “accomplished among us,” indicate that Luke had this extension of the account in mind from the very beginning; he is, like Mark, going to tell the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he is going to carry on the account of it to include that triumphant progress of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, the center of the western world. He is recording the mighty growth of the Word of the Lord that he and his readers have come to know as the power of God in their own experience. The Spirit of God led the mind of Luke to see that a man has not come to know the Christ fully until he has come to know also the Church that the exalted Christ by His Word and through His messengers creates.


Arthur Just summarizes Luke’s presentation of Jesus in the following ways: Jesus journeys to Jerusalem as the Prophet whose destiny is to fulfill the prophetic pattern of the Old Testament (Luke 13:31–35). As He makes His way to Jerusalem, a prophet Christology develops that stretches back to the Old Testament prophets, comes to fulfillment with Jesus, and continues with the New Testament apostles. Jesus reveals Himself as the antitype for whom the prophets prepared: as teacher and miracle worker He is rejected and killed. All the Old Testament prophets, corporately, prefigure Him, with various individuals representing various features: Moses as leader and teacher; Elijah and Elisha as miracle workers; Isaiah and Jeremiah as persecuted, suffering servants; the priest Ezekiel and Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi as prophets concerned with the temple and sacrificial atonement. The pattern of Luke’s Christology follows the prophetic categories that Jesus embraced and fulfilled: first teaching and miracles, then rejection.

First, Jesus’ teaching and miracles demonstrated that the new era of salvation was present in His messianic ministry. His teaching proclaimed that in Him the new aeon, the kingdom of God, had arrived; His miracles showed that this was true. Christ’s preaching and teaching “declared that God was doing among them today: This day is this scripture fulfilled” (Luke 4:21). At the same time, however, Jesus is rejected by many because of His teaching and miracles, i.e., for proclaiming that in Him the kingdom of God had come. This rejection led to suffering and the shameful death that became the ultimate expression of the essence of the kingdom in all its poverty and humility. This horrible rejection was overcome by the resurrection, which proclaimed to the world that God in Christ was making all things new. (pp. 25–26)

Summary Commentary

Luke 1:1–4 Luke introduces the Gospel as a well-written, researched, and historical record of Jesus’ life and teachings.

Luke 1:5–2:52 The theme of chapter 1 is fulfillment. Zechariah receives word that the Lord will bless him and Elizabeth with a son who has a special calling. The angel Gabriel announces Jesus’ birth to Mary, who responds in faith. Mary rejoices that the Lord delivers His people amid suffering and disappointment. Elizabeth gives birth to John; Zechariah confirms his son’s name.

Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born in humble circumstances. Angels reveal to shepherds the Good News of the Savior’s birth. The shepherds in turn announce the Good News to others. As confirmed by prophecy, Simeon, and Anna, Jesus is appointed as the Savior. Jesus matures as a normal child and also has the blessings of God’s wisdom and favor. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth and childhood repeatedly sets the ordinary beside the miraculous.

Luke 3:1–4:13 Luke’s account of John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ ancestry hints at the universal nature of the Messiah’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus and abides with Him through His temptation, affirming that Jesus truly is the Son of God.

Luke 4:14–44 Jesus begins to teach publicly for the first time. With authoritative words, Jesus silences and sends away unclean spirits. Jesus heals many people by a word and a touch.

Luke 5:1–6:11 A miraculous catch of fish and other events show the disciples that Jesus is more than a great teacher—God is working mightily through Him. Jesus cleanses a leper by touching him and forgives sins by healing a paralyzed man.

Luke 6:12–49 Jesus chooses twelve men as His apostles, an office specifically appointed by Jesus for the early years of the Church. Jesus blesses the crowds and describes their estates in this life and the life to come. He condemns those who live for today, neglecting the ways of God and the care of His people.

Luke 7 Jesus reveals His authority over every threatening foe, even death, by healing a centurion’s servant. Out of compassion for a widow who lost her only son, Jesus raises the young man back to life. In response to doubt and criticism, Jesus affirms that He is indeed the Messiah announced by John.

Luke 8 Jesus breaks with rabbinic tradition and allows women to become disciples. Jesus warns that not everyone hearing God’s Word will have an enduring faith. Tragically, some hear the life-giving Gospel of Jesus but fail to produce the fruit of a Christian life, eventually dying in unbelief.

Luke 9:1–50 Jesus sends out the twelve apostles to preach the Gospel, heal diseases, and cast out evil spirits. Jesus feeds the multitude that have come out to the wilderness to hear Him. For the first time in the Gospel, Peter makes a clear confession of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus then challenges His disciples’ understanding of that role by revealing His impending suffering and death. Through the transfiguration, Jesus allows His disciples to catch a glimpse of the glory that will again be His after His resurrection. 

Luke 9:51–10:24 In three brief exchanges with would-be disciples, Jesus shows that the cost of discipleship is high. Having previously sent out the Twelve (9:1–6), Jesus expands the breadth of His Gospel outreach by sending out 72 more workers. He warns that whoever rejects Him will be in danger of eternal condemnation. 

Luke 10:25–11:54 Jesus tells the famous parable of the Good Samaritan to clarify that He expects His followers to do good to all people. However, His concluding exhortation, “Go , and do likewise,” reminds us just how far we are from the loving, self-sacrificing behaviors the Lord expects. In contrast with Jesus’ demand for great works (vv. 25–37), the story of Mary and Martha shows the importance of simple faith and rest in Jesus and His Word.

Jesus teaches that hearing His Word and faithfully putting it into practice heaps praise on Him. Jesus’ harshest criticisms are directed at those religious leaders and experts in Scripture who place their traditions above God’s Word and refuse God’s call to repentance.

Luke 12:1–13:21 Jesus warns His disciples about the pitfalls of religious hypocrisy and underlines the great danger of being rich in earthly things but poor toward God. Jesus warns that His audience needs to begin producing works consistent with the Gospel. Though His critics saw His miracle as a clear violation of the Sabbath, Jesus’ work, in fact, fulfilled the Sabbath Day’s purpose: to provide blessing for God’s people.

Luke 13:22–14:24 People can enter God’s kingdom only through Jesus Christ. Jesus repeats His determination to press toward Jerusalem and God’s will for Him there. Jesus exposes His enemies’ inconsistencies and cruelty. 

Luke 14:25–17:10 Jesus illustrates the unconditional nature of discipleship. Christ’s people are “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), purifying and seasoning it, because Christ is within them. In the first of three similar parables, Jesus uses the devotion of a shepherd to illustrate God’s willingness to find the wayward sinner. 

Marital fidelity is to be preserved, for marriage is the blessing of a lifelong partnership. Jesus challenges the belief that earthly blessings are a sign of God’s eternal favor. He teaches us to heed the Word of God now while faithful mercy can be shown, for this is God’s good and gracious will. 

Luke 17:11–18:34 Jesus commends the faith of a Samaritan leper who alone gives thanks for his healing. He includes children in His kingdom and teaches that we must be like them to enter the kingdom of heaven. Wealth, works, and personal sacrifice cannot save. 

Luke 18:35–19:27 A blind beggar overcomes the crowd and cries for sight. Jesus then saves Zacchaeus by visiting him with mercy. Followers of Jesus dare never begrudge the mercy others have received. Our returning King will abolish all opposition to His kingdom and will honor those who faithfully served Him.

Luke 19:28–21:4 Entering Jerusalem, Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecy and is acclaimed the messianic King. He goes directly to the temple to cleanse it for proper services: the hearing of God’s Word. Jesus would not allow detractors to take away His right to teach in the temple. By parable and psalm, Jesus warns against rejecting the Messiah. He also warns His disciples not to be impressed by the scribes’ display; do not practice the faith simply to impress others. He then highlights a widow’s offering in order to teach what God values.

Luke 21:5–38 Jesus prepares His disciples for the temple’s destruction and the final judgment. The disciples will endure various persecutions along with Jerusalem’s fall. He also points ahead to the judgment of all the world and to signs preceding His return.

Luke 22:1–62 The Jewish leaders seek Jesus’ death. Prompted by Satan, Judas negotiates the price for Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus directs His disciples in preparing the Passover meal and transforms the meal into the Sacrament of His body and blood, by which He brings forgiveness to His people. He warns a self-confident Peter that he will deny his Lord, but also assures him of His intercession. Jesus then warns all His disciples about the hostile times they will face, similar to His own rejection. While the disciples sleep, Jesus, in prayerful agony, shrinks from His coming ordeal and yet submits to His Father’s will. Judas then betrays Jesus with a kiss. During Jesus’ interrogation, Peter denies Jesus three times. But Jesus’ word and look bring Peter to tears and finally to repentance.

Luke 22:63–23:25 Previously accused of blasphemy, Jesus, the Son of God, is now blasphemed. Jesus, before the Council, points to His exaltation. He acknowledges that He is the Son of God and is condemned. The Jewish leaders then bring Jesus before Pilate, seeking a death penalty. Pilate and Herod declare Jesus innocent but do not believe in Him. Pilate, frightened of the crowd and blind to Jesus’ identity, releases Barabbas and hands Jesus over to be crucified.

Luke 23:26–56 Jesus was crucified so that we may be spared the coming judgment, hear His word of absolution, and enter into paradise with Him. In the darkness, when the temple curtain is torn, Jesus commits His spirit into His Father’s hands. The centurion praises God, the crowds become remorseful, and Jesus’ followers observe from a distance. Joseph of Arimathea secures the body of Jesus and places it in a newly hewn tomb. The women make preparations for a final burial after the Sabbath.

Luke 24 On the third day, the women find the stone has been rolled away from the tomb. They discover not the body of Jesus but two angels who say that Jesus is alive. Jesus later joins two disciples discussing what happened in Jerusalem. He interprets His death and resurrection through the Old Testament before revealing Himself in the breaking of the bread. Jesus then dispels all doubt when He offers absolute proof of His resurrection. Jesus leads His disciples to Bethany, where He blesses them and is taken up into heaven.

Gerhard on Luke

“Irenaeus, bk. 3, c. 14, p. 198: ‘Luke was inseparable from Paul and was his co-worker in the Gospel.’ Chapter 11, p. 181: ‘Luke was a follower and disciple of the apostles.’ Tertullian (Adv. Marcion., bk. 4, p. 224) likewise calls him ‘a follower of Paul,’ from which it is by no means incorrect to believe that he wrote his Gospel account at the command of the apostle Paul. As a result, some think that Paul calls this ‘his Gospel’ (Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 2:8). Eusebius testifies (Hist. eccles., bk. 3, c. 21): ‘The Gospel of Luke, no less than those of Matthew and Mark, was approved by John.’ This Luke is mentioned in Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24; and especially, according to the opinion of some, in 2 Cor. 8:18: ‘With him we have sent the brother whose praise is in the Gospel among all the churches.’ From this, one gathers that the Gospel of Luke was known and approved in the Church already at the time when, under Claudius, Paul was going from Macedonia to Jerusalem. Irenaeus (bk. 3, c. 14, p. 198) mentions everything that Luke recorded as compared with the rest of the evangelists.”

Blog post adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 2: Intertestamental Era, New Testament, and Bible Dictionary © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Arthur A. Just Jr., Luke 1:1–9:50, Concordia Commentary © 1996 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture: ESV®.

012293Read more fascinating commentary on God's Word, including the Gospel of Luke, in Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 2: Intertestamental Era, New Testament, and Bible Dictionary.

Order the Lutheran Bible Companion


Previous Article
Digging Deeper into Scripture: Melchizedek
Digging Deeper into Scripture: Melchizedek

My wife and I are blessed with a large group of nieces and nephews. Our oldest nephew, who is now ...

Next Article
Digging Deeper into Scripture: The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–21)
Digging Deeper into Scripture: The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–21)

Upon finishing my teaching degree at what is now Concordia University Chicago, I was recruited to ...

Browse Books for Pastors

Learn More