The third gospel was written by “Luke the physician” (Colossians 4:14). It is the first of two historical volumes he wrote to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-2), who was possibly a Roman official or even Luke’s publishing underwriter. Luke stated his goal was to provide a clear, well-researched (although not necessarily strictly chronological) account of Jesus ministry (and, later in Acts, the beginning of the Church).
Whether it was intentional or not, Luke’s account places a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ humanity. From the details of his birth and boyhood to the specific names, dates, and locations, Luke provides a unique view of the finiteness of the infinite, yet incarnate, Son of God. Several parables and miracles exclusive to Luke offer insight into Jesus’ humanity – especially his compassion toward fellow humans. The parables of the prodigal son and the good Samaritan, the raising of the widow’s dead son, and Jesus’ meal with Zacchaeus all show a man of great love and sympathy. In Luke, we are invited to embrace God in the flesh.
Chapter one introduces a series of pairs: two birth announcements, two mothers, two sons, two hymns of praise. Yet the differences are as important as the similarities: two adults long past child-bearing years and an unmarried, virgin teenage girl; one announcement received with skepticism, the other in pure faith.
In addition to Jesus’ humanity, Luke points to the purpose of his coming immediately – Jesus was to be Israel’s long-awaited Messiah-Deliverer. Gabriel told Zechariah that his son, John, would fulfill Malachi’s prophecy (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6) of Messiah’s predecessor, pointing people to Jesus. He told Mary that Jesus would fulfill God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:8-16) that his royal dynasty would never end. One day Jesus will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem forever (Luke 1:31-33). In their songs of praise, both Mary and Zechariah focused on the deliverance of Israel as promised throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Allusions to several psalms can be found throughout their songs.