Have you ever thought you knew someone only to find that there was much more to this person than you thought?
You think you know someone. Then something happens. Suddenly you realize there is much more to the person than you dreamt of. This person is much deeper than you thought.
In this Vincentian Mindwalk I would like to share with you the Luke I thought I knew. The Luke I have discovered, and what it has meant for me.
The Luke I thought I knew
A great storyteller
In many ways, I recognized Luke as a great storyteller. He told stories Jesus told. The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, and so many more. I personally have found much food for thought in each of these readings.
A non-Jewish background
I knew a little of his background. He was an educated man but not Jewish. He knew firsthand the experiences of so many who were not born Jewish and therefore did not understand all the fine points of Jewish law. The 10 commandments had become 613 laws, according to scholars
Evangelists as pastors
Any good pastor or counselor tells stories they think will help listeners with their current struggles.
I have begun to realize that each Evangelist was speaking to different audiences asking different questions.
Matthew and Mark were speaking primarily to Jewish audiences.
John spoke to another audience.
Each chose and shaped the stories and setting of Jesus’ words in a way that helped their hearers relate the Good News to their specific situation and concerns.
The Luke I have discovered
Luke wrote to people who were not born Jews,
He found himself in the midst of a major culture clash. (Luke’s Big Picture)
Two very different cultures, Jewish and Gentile, were struggling to put on the mind of Christ.
Was there a Jewish way of being Christian? The Jews thought there was. Could there be a Gentile or Greek way of being Christian?
The traditionists among the Jews certainly did not. (Perhaps today, it might help to think of the difference between ROMAN Catholics and EASTERN Catholics.)
Jews could not envision life without circumcision, dietary laws and life built around the temple, with its many forms of ritual and sacrifice.
The Gentiles, for their part, were bewildered by the Jewish claim that Jewish customs were part of Jesus’ message.
Luke’s message – finding common ground in Jesus
It amazed me to realize that Luke is writing to a culture as polarized as ours. ( See also Luke’s Story Within a Story_
As a highly educated Gentile, Luke stresses the universal scope of Jesus’ ministry as Savior of all humankind, not just the Jews. He frequently points out the differing ethnic and national backgrounds of persons.
First, although many Jews of Jesus’ day assumed that God was concerned only with their people and race, frequently only pious Jews. Jesus demonstrated salvation is universal. He associated with the common people, with publicans, prostitutes, and sinners (5:30-32 ; 7:34 ; 15:1 ).
The second feature of Jesus’ message is that salvation is not limited to a particular culture and is not to be earned by observing ethno-cultural religious rites and laws, even Jewish ones practiced for centuries.
The third factor of the universality of salvation is the responsibility to make it known throughout the world. This is the basic storyline of the sequel to his Gospel – the Acts of the Apostles.
In this light, I understand better Luke’s concern for the underprivileged: the poor, the downcast.
Questions I ask today
- How do I regard those born into different cultures than mine?
- What “Roman” or cultural presuppositions do I bring to my understanding of Jesus’ radical message to love my neighbor and my enemy?