Gospel According to Luke
Focus of Jesus’ Ministry
Many ministries struggle to keep their ministerial balance. Some churches are consumed with humanitarian aids (to feed the hungry, to protect the weak, to educate the unlearned, etc.) and dilute the Gospel message under the motto, “Doctrine Divides; Love Unites!” Others focus so much on personal and doctrinal purity and come short on showing love in tangible ways to those who are in real need. As a faithful researcher and expositor of Jesus’ person and works, Luke faithfully presents Jesus’ multifaceted Gospel ministry: on one hand, the all-inclusive, compassionate ministry (“the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” [19:10]) and on the other, the exclusive, commitment-required discipleship (“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” [9:23]).
More than any other Gospel writer, Luke highlights Jesus’ far-reaching ministry of compassion to the poor and the social outcasts (4:18): to children (18:16), shepherds (2:8f), and tax-collectors (5:27f); to the sick (8:42f), the handicapped (14:13), and lepers (17:11f); to Samaritans (17:16) and Gentiles (7:2f). We truly have a High Priest who is able to sympathize with us, as the writer of the Hebrews also testifies (“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” [4:15]).
Of course, Jesus’ ministry for the oppressed was not the end to itself. After all, there is no virtue in being poor and outcast per se. Rather, as Luke shows throughout the Gospel, Jesus’ Kingdom is for those who cry out to God for mercy in true humility and repentance; and the poor and the oppressed are much more likely to fully rely on God’s mercy than the rich and powerful. The parable of the prodigal son and the healing of the ten lepers (15:11-32; 17:11-18; both are unique to Luke’s Gospel) exemplify the former and beautifully show how God’s heart is quick to move with compassion by a desperate cry of help and of true repentance.
Luke not only sheds light on Jesus’ ministry to the poor, but he also upholds that Jesus demands an exclusive, radical commitment for His followers to become His disciples. The stories of the repentant son and the grateful leper above at once eradicate any room for pride and self-righteousness and establish deep love and gratitude for His grace as the sole foundation to be accepted into Jesus’ Kingdom.
In their pride and greed for authorities, the Pharisees and the religious authority of the day hated Jesus and His teachings. How about you? Will you recognize your desperate need for God’s mercy and renounce your pride? Will you then take up your cross daily and follow Him?