With the summer, we begin the Gospel according to Luke.  Luke begins, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

A key here is “Theophilus,” a Greek name which means “Lover of God.”  Luke was writing about Jesus to a Greek audience, far from Judea, not only geographically but also culturally.  Greek Christians had “been taught” about Jesus.  They had questions.  Luke intended his Gospel to give the Greek Christians certainty that what Jesus accomplished was for them.

A big question for Greek believers was likely why so many of Jesus’ own countrymen did not believe Him.  Imagine it.  You live in Corinth, learn about Jesus, come to believe in Him.  Then you find out that a lot of the Jews in the synagogue in Corinth don’t believe Jesus.  This makes you a little uncomfortable.  You’re just starting to learn the Hebrew Scriptures.  Why wouldn’t the people who know those Scriptures best believe?  If Jesus really rose from the dead, why didn’t the people of Jerusalem believe?

Luke answers these questions not only in the Gospel that bears his name, but also in the book of Acts, the second volume to the Gospel which accounts for the growth of the Word from Jerusalem to Rome.  The Gospel of Jesus is as the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19), which starts small but grows so large as to house foreign birds.

Starting small, Luke spends more time on Jesus’ infancy than any other Gospel.  This allows him to set the scene for Gentiles.  Not only do Gentile readers get to see a picture of Jerusalem and the Temple before Jesus, they see a priest, Zechariah, unprepared for the new things God is doing among His people.  Zechariah does not believe when he first hears about his baby John.

But just as there are Jewish leaders who are not prepared to believe, there are also everyday Jewish believers, from shepherds in their fields at night to Simeon and Anna in the Temple, waiting patiently for the light of Israel.  For Luke, it’s not that Jews don’t believe and Gentiles do.  Rather, Luke paints a picture of the powerful not believing and the lowly being blessed.  Mary puts it beautifully in her song to Elizabeth:  “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:51-53).  It’s the powerful who weren’t believing.

In your life, does your faith ebb and flow with respect to the kind of control you feel?  When we feel comfortably in control of our lives, do we forget about God and sometimes even begin to resist or reject His direction?  Only when we are in great need, then, do we run back to God, asking for His help?

The parable of the prodigal sons teach us that even if this is our way, God loves us.  He comes running to us when we do find we need Him (Luke 15).  But it would be better for us to be faithful like Simeon in the temple.  To find this constancy, we see Luke’s example in the early church, how those joyful believers regularly met together to receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament (Acts 2:42-47). Receiving daily bread through prayers and Bible readings and Christian fellowship and receiving the Lord’s body and blood gives us strength for following Jesus regularly.

In particular, when we hear God’s Word say things that make us feel lowly, things that strike our pride and our conscience, we don’t give up listening.  We know that when we are humbled, the God described in Luke promises to lift us up, to bless us, to give us a greater strength than we could ever have on our own.  Blessed, indeed, are those who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied (Luke 6:21)!