Anyone reading the Bible will quickly notice that it gives few details about most of its characters or events. The Eyewitness Bible series adds historical and geographic context not detailed in the book of Luke.
The stories are true to scripture, while adding illustrative personalities and personal details to the people who lived these events.
The Luke Series is a set of narrations based on the Bible’s book of Luke. Luke said that in writing his book he investigated everything first. His investigation included examining written materials and talking to eyewitnesses. This series imitates some of the stories Luke might have heard, as well as explore their meaning and importance. This series is true to the Bible, but fills in story lines based on history, geography, and imagination, similar to a movie based on the book.
The author of Luke is Luke, a doctor who was a disciple of Jesus and a good friend and companion of Paul. That presumption sets the stage for Luke being able to correctly assess the veracity of the birth accounts of both John the Baptist and Jesus, and to understand their importance, both physically and spiritually.
Together with the videos we'll follow study notes that will guide us through an in-depth look of the book of Luke.
September 28 - Judas: In-person & Zoom
Jesus chose Judas to be an apostle. Apparently, Judas was taught the same things as the other apostles and had similar experiences. It seems likely that Jesus loved Judas and valued him as much as the other apostles, at least until near the end.
Luke never met Judas. What Luke knew of him likely came from the testimony of the other apostles and from the stories he heard. We don't read much about Judas before his betrayal of Jesus, so it's easy to assume the Gospel writers so detested his betrayal that they were not interested in saying anything good about him, but the Gospels also say very little about half of the apostles.
We are not told in the Bible when Judas started drifting away from Jesus. Perhaps he expected Jesus to overthrow Rome to establish an earthly kingdom and was disappointed when Jesus made it clear that his kingdom was spiritual. Or perhaps it happened when Jesus called for his disciples to be fully committed and Judas realized he did not want that. Or maybe it was some difficult teaching of Jesus or a time that Judas was embarrassed by Jesus' words or actions. We don't know why or when but we do know that the actions of Judas helped result in the death of Jesus.
Luke 14:15 references a feast in the kingdom of God. Since Jesus launches into one of his parables in reply, it is easy to overlook or misunderstand the reference. The statement was made after Jesus mentions the resurrection of the righteous. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the righteous, but they perceived they were the only righteous ones. Jesus' parable not only discounts their likelihood of attendance, but also opens up the resurrection door for all of the people that the Pharisees rejected - the Gentiles, the poor and the physically disabled and disfigured.
Luke 14:25 says that large crowds were with Jesus when he told them about the high cost of following him. Surely that kind of talk must have discouraged several in the crowd. John 6:66 records a time when Jesus clarified how hard it was going to be to follow him, and many of his disciples turned away and left for good. Unlike many modern leaders, Jesus did not make it easy or cheap to be his disciple.. He was interested in having only dedicated followers who were willing to count the cost... and to pay it.
September 21 - Martha, the Crippled Woman and a Gardener: In-person & Zoom
It would be easy to read the Gospels and conclude that Jesus spent all of his time with his apostles, infrequently mingling with other people while he taught or healed them. These stories are meant to convey a different picture.
Somehow Jesus met the family of Lazarus, Mary and Martha and spent enough time with them that they became close friends. It is likely that Jesus stayed in many homes as he traveled, making other close friends too.
At another point in time, Jesus raises from the dead. From the stories about this family, it appears they were well off financially. In this episode about Martha, it is likely she could have afforded servants to serve everyone instead of doing it herself. That fact says more about her personality than about her financial status.
In this video episode of Martha, the part of the story up to when Jesus chastises Martha is in the bible. After that, the story represents one possible reaction that Martha might have had. The bible does not say what Martha's reaction actually was.
In the modern world, celebrities surround themselves with armed body guards to keep away the crowds. There is some evidence to conclude that Jesus' followers did try to keep the crowds away from Jesus, but other stories lead to the conclusion that Jesus came to be in contact with many other people outside of his group.
The crippled woman fought through the crowds just to get near Jesus. It was obvious she had faith and was healed. It was good news that God cared about her. However, the chapter starts out with Pilot killing the Galileans. God cared about them, too, but did not choose to save them. The apostles must have struggled with those types of incongruities.
In the parable of the Narrow Door, Jesus makes it clear that many Jews who think they are righteous will not be saved, while many non-Jews will be saved. This must have come as quite a shock to the Jews who thought they had exclusive favour of God.
There is a subtle message in Jesus' reply to the Pharisees in Luke 13:32-33. Herod Antipas is probably in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilea and is threatening Jesus once again. Jesus knows his time for his death is near, so he no longer has to avoid Herod and his threats since he is leaving Galilea for the last time. He is going to Jerusalem.
September 14 - Pharisee: In-person & Zoom
The Pharisees were a Jewish sect that started 200 years before Jesus. At times their identity shifted between a political party, a social movement, or a school of thought. They believed in the authority of virtually all of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and had built an oral tradition of a vast number of interpretations. After the destruction of the Temple in 70AD their beliefs became foundational in Rabbinic Judaism.
The Sadducees were another Jewish sect who recognized only the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and rejected the rest as well as oral traditions and beliefs, such as the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees and Pharisees comprised most of the Jewish leadership in the time of Jesus.
Both sects opposed Jesus and his teachings. Jesus interpreted the Scriptures differently than either of them, and was intent on serving God, not the letter of their laws. He wanted to free the people from the religious rules that the leader had inflicted on them. Jesus spoke with authority and the religious leaders feared the people would follow Jesus and reject them. This fueled their jealousy and hatred.
In these chapters, Jesus is headed toward Jerusalem and his death, and Luke seems to be choosing among his many teachings and actions during that period. One of Jesus' best know teaching is found in Luke 11:1-4, the Lord's Prayer. A little longer form of this prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. In Matthew, the Lord's Prayer is given in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, while Luke places it in response to the request of Jesus' disciples to be taught to pray, just as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. This is not an unusual question by his disciples, since it was the responsibility for every rabbi to teach all things to his followers.
As Jesus is heading toward his final week of life, it is sometimes a little difficult to tell how popular he still was with the people. A hint of an answer is found in Luke 12:1 where thousands of people had gathered. The verse isn't clear how many of these were followers and how many were there just to see Jesus, but either way, the Pharisees would not have been happy.
September 7 - John the Apostle: Zoom only
John the Apostle was part of Jesus' inner circle. He was also the author of five New Testament books, and yet, the authors of Matthew, Mark and Luke rarely quote him.
John called himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved". That probably wasn't an overstatement, because Jesus entrusted His mother, Mary, to John on the cross.
As Luke describes the middle part of Jesus' ministry, he starts relating more stories about the seriousness of committing to follow Jesus. Jesus was running out of time to train his apostles and certainly had less time to spend with disciples who weren't fully committed to him. When Jesus sent out the seventy disciples, it was an opportunity for them to learn the rewards of full commitment. One reward was that Jesus saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
As you read Luke 10, notice how Jesus stresses the importance of full commitment in both his actions and his stories. Even in his confrontation with the Pharisees, he makes it clear that being close to a commitment isn't enough. He says we have to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbours as ourselves. Those are surely high bars of commitment.
Luke is the only Gospel source for the parable of the Good Samaritan. Notice that Jesus tells the parable in response to the question, "Who qualifies for me to love them as much as I love myself?" It is ironic that the expert in the law asked that question of Jesus, since Jesus surely asked himself that on many occasions. Think of the parable in that context and you may think of Jesus in a new way.
August 31 - James the Apostle: (In person & Zoom)
Luke builds his Gospel by showing how Jesus calls his twelve apostles and then trains them. This training takes the form of spending time with Jesus, watching him do miracles and healing, and listening to his teaching. By Luke 9, the basic training is over and advanced training has started. Jesus empowers the apostles and gives them authority to drive out demons and cure people, and to teach about the Kingdom of God.
Luke tamps down their success by saying they returned to Jesus and reported the results, but Jesus just took them and withdrew to the small town of Bethsaida. Luke follows this with the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The apostles should have learned that they had the power to feed the people, but they did not understand this even after Jesus encouraged them. They must have been very confused about what power they did and didn't have.
On another occasion, Jesus takes an opportunity to set the record straight. He puts Peter in the position of having to state who Jesus is. When Peter correctly names Jesus as the Christ, the apostles eyes were open as to who they were serving. Rather than extol all the good things that are going to happen, Jesus explains how much they will have to suffer. In another instance, Jesus takes three of them up on the Mount of Transfiguration and confirms their belief in Him. He had to keep their expectations in check.
Have you ever thought how confused the disciples must have been? One moment they learn about the benefits of following Jesus, and the next they learn the cost of that following will be suffering. One moment Jesus shows his divinity by healing the sick and raising the dead, and the next he is talking about his own death.
To add to the apostles' bewilderment, Jesus' often spoke in parables and in ways that confused them. In this chapter He says "it is the least among you who is the greatest", "whoever is not against you is for you", and "whoever wants to save their life will lost it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it". After 2000 years of history, studying the life of Jesus it may be easy to envision how awesome it would have been to be with him, but perhaps it didn't feel that way to the apostles at that time.
In Luke 9:51 Luke states that Jesus set out for Jerusalem. From this point on, Jesus is irrevocably committed to the events that led to the cross.
August 24 - Mary Magdelene: (In person & Zoom)
Over the centuries many people have observed that Jesus was one of the first world leaders concerned with women's rights. When it came to women, Jesus wasn't as concerned with the day-to-day societal norms as he was with their worth. In many ancient societies including the time when Jesus was on earth, women were considered property, with worth far below that of men - the Roman Empire even codified this in their laws. It was only during the following decades that women started receiving more legal rights.
Jesus cared for women as much as men. He healed them, he talked to them, he taught them, he loved them, and in doing so he made it clear that God loves women as much as he loves men. That is one reason why so many women followed Jesus and cared for his needs and the needs of the apostles, as well as rising to positions of leadership in the early Church.
One of the challenging things about Gospel stories is that there are so many women named Mary. It isn't always clear which is which. Jesus' mother is named Mary, so is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. A woman who was healed of seven demons was name Mary, and sometimes referred to as Mary Magdelene. The mother of John Mark is named Mary. There is a woman married to Clopas called Mary, who was the mother of James and Joseph, and even that information is not perfectly clear.
This episode is narrated by Mary Magdalene. Many people associate things with her that are not necessarily verified in the Bible. This narrative may clear up some misunderstandings.
With the Parable of the Sower, Luke shows Jesus starting to teach in parables, which is essentially a short story with spiritual meaning. One of the interesting things about the Parable of the Sower is that Jesus explained its meaning to his close disciples. The Gospel writers didn't record that happening often.
According to Luke, the story of the demoniac living in the country of the Gerasenes is true, not a parable. The end of that story is very intriguing in that the healed man wanted to follow Jesus but was commanded to return home and tell people what Jesus had done for him. He went through the whole city telling and showing people what Jesus had done!
August 17 - Centurion: (In person & Zoom)
Think of centurions as being the toughest of the tough. In terms of rank, they would be somewhat equivalent to a captain in the US army. The typical centurion led a dangerous life because he led his soldiers in battle, and if he survived, he typically received Roman citizenship and a grant of land upon retirement. Like many soldiers of the time, they sought a calm, peaceful assignment as they approached retirement.
Very little is known about the centurion located in Capernaum. He was likely there to protect the Vian Maris trade route, and possibly act as an implicit threat to Herod's nearby town of Tiberius. However, he treated the Jews and their religion with respect, which was unusual for a Roman. Possibly he had become follower of God, a person who believed in God but was not willing to become a Jew.
Since he was responsible for keeping peace, you can be sure the centurion knew of all the local leaders and kept abreast of all gossip and social news. He would have been familiar with Jesus and his healings and teachings, so he would have thought of Jesus when his favourite servant was on the verge of death.
The healings, miracles and resurrections of Jesus caused such a stir that he began to spend too much time doing those things rather than teaching. Desperately ill people preferred healings over spiritual teaching, but Jesus was intent on healing people spiritually, too.
In the book of Luke, this is the time when the attention turns from John the Baptist to Jesus. It is challenging for modern Christians to understand the importance of John the Baptist. It seems Luke spends a lot of time on someone who announces Jesus and then gets killed.
Jesus shows the immense importance of John in preparing the way for Jesus. He invokes Old Testament prophesies to show the validity of John's message. This was and is important to Jews as they turn from the Law of Moses to a new way of thinking. When Jesus gives John validity, he also validates his own messages and claims.
August 10 - Right-hand Man: Zoom
The Pharisees start confronting Jesus early in His ministry. They were religious leaders intent on obeying their strict interpretation of the laws of Moses. In fact, they created hundreds of rules in an attempt to ensure that nobody would ever come close to breaking the laws. Unfortunately, in their efforts to obey the rules, they often forgot the reasons behind them, frequently neglecting the fact that God loves people and wants them to be healed, both physically and spiritually.
In the opening scene of this episode, a man with a deformity is in need of healing. This man had a withered right hand, which meant that he could not do hard physical labour, be a full member of the synagogue, and had a hard time finding a good wife. He would surely have had to live with people pitying him, or looking on him with disdain. So when Jesus heals him, far more than just his hand was changed.
The Pharisees concluded that healing someone was "working", and since it was prohibited to work on the Sabbath, Jesus violated their interpretation of the law. No matter how much it helped the man, it was not appropriate to do on the Sabbath, in their eyes.
The healing of the man with a withered hand was just the start of how Jesus would show people that their world views were often contrary to God's desires, that they could follow the Law to the letter while completely missing the spirit behind it. It was not long before the people around Jesus began to understand the words of an ancient prophet who said "God desires mercy, not sacrifice".
Sometimes it appears as if Jesus chose His apostles almost at random. It might be better seen that Jesus wanted everyone to follow him, but concentrated on certain people. His apostles were chosen from among many followers. How did Jesus choose them? After spending night praying to God!
August 3 - Matthew: (Zoom)
We know next to nothing about Matthew's life before or after he became a follower of Jesus. He was a tax collector from Capernaum when Jesus called him as a follower. He had a tax collecting booth, a house and his friends included other tax collectors and people considered to be "sinners". Mark and Luke called him "Levi" and he was an apostle. Most importantly, we know that when Matthew heard Jesus' call, he left his booth immediately to follow Him.
That is all we know about Matthew. We don't even know his hometown or education. We don't know how long he knew Jesus before hearing and acting on his call, how he got along with the other apostles or what he did after Jesus' death.
From his writing of the book of Matthew, we can surmise that he had an excellent knowledge of the Scriptures and that he was focused on the Jews knowing that Jesus was the Son of God. Matthew likely joined Jesus early in his ministry and wrote as an eyewitness to much of what Jesus said and did. It appears that he knew several of the other apostles before Jesus came to the area.
In Chapters 4 and 5, Luke indicates that Jesus knew Simon Peter before calling him to follow. It is possible Jesus would have also known some of the other apostles before they were called.
In Chapter 5, Luke brings the Pharisees into the picture and shows how they begin to oppose Jesus. They were not quite sure what to do with someone who was performing miracles and healing people while differing from their own notion of "righteousness". Jesus and his followers didn't even fast "appropriately" according to the rules of the Pharisees.
The healing of the man with leprosy and the paralyzed man have many facets. Jesus was the first to ever heal such maladies. Faith was a part of the healings. The healings led to the conclusion that Jesus could forgive sins, which meant He was God incarnate. No wonder the Pharisees were upset and puzzled about what to do with Jesus.
July 27 - James: (In person & Zoom)
Luke introduces Jesus' brother, James, into this story when Jesus taught in his home town of Nazareth. The unbelieving people of Nazareth used the existence of Jesus' family to dispel the notion that Jesus was anything special. Luke thought it was important to point out that Jesus was rejected in his home town. Apparently, Luke wanted us to know that familiarity does breed contempt, so we must guard against that in our own lives.
When Jesus made it clear that non-Jews will receive salvation, the people became enraged and tried to kill him. the Jews of the time were very jealous of their special relationship with God.
There is no proof that James believed Jesus to be the Son of God while Jesus was alive. In fact, there are some verses that indicate Jesus' brothers opposed his ministry. However, the book of Acts says that James later became the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
This episode portrays James as following Jesus for several days during his early ministry. There is nothing in the New Testament that says he did or did not do such a thing. This episode's story line does allow an understanding of why Jesus chose Capernaum as his headquarters instead of his hometown of Nazareth. We also get a glimpse of the early days of Jesus' ministry when he spent much time healing people, casting out demons, and teaching. He did this not only in Capernaum, but also throughout the region of Judea.
Luke 4:31 is a hint of things to come. . It says that the people were amazed because Jesus' words had authority. The people were not just impressed, but absolutely amazed. Why? Probably because they were use to hearing religious leader quote other religious leader who quoted other religious leaders. The words they were hearing from their religious leaders may have been correct, but the certainly lacked true authority and authenticity.
Of the many religious leader of the time, the Pharisees were most stung by the reaction of the people. They knew the Scriptures, studied all the time, and were devoted to following the rules they had made so they could better satisfy God, so the authority of Jesus was a serous thread to their leadership positions.
1 Matthew 13:53-58
July 20 - Satan
In the Old Testament, Satan is only discussed by name these three times:
1. the testing of Job,
2. the counting of David’s fighting men, and
3. the matter of Joshua the high priest.
In the New Testament, Satan is referred to by name quite often. It appears that much of the insight about spiritual beings happened in the period between the Old Testament and New Testament, and through Jesus himself.
In the New Testament, the ministry of Jesus starts when he is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. There are few places on Earth as desolate as the wilderness just a few miles east of Jerusalem. It is a light beige, desert-dry landscape of rocks, canyons and mountains. When you stand in the midst of it, you feel as if you are a million miles away from the nearest human being or body of water. It is no wonder Satan chose to spiritually attack Jesus in the wilderness after he had fasted for forty days.
Throughout the New Testament, Satan is portrayed as a living personality who relentlessly attacks humans physically and spiritually. Modern society has effectively destroyed fear of Satan by portraying him as a comic character or rendering him harmless, if not non-existent. In contrast, the New Testament writers consistently warned of Satan’s power to destroy.
July 13 - John the Baptist
Twenty-five miles from Jerusalem lies the Jordan River - a place where people went to be baptized by John. The road from Jerusalem was dangerous (as Jesus illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan) so John and his message must have been powerful forces to entice people to come to him from Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Luke says John exhorted the people and that his message was good news.
The gospel writers took special care to portray that John was like the Old Testament prophets in both his look and in his message. One reason for that: the prophet Malachi prophesied that Elijah would return before the Day of the Lord. The gospel writers wanted their reads to associate John the Baptist with that prophecy.
Though he had a sizable following, John took great care not to be confused with the Messiah, always showing himself as the one preparing the way for someone greater.
Although John was quite clear about his criticisms, he was also clear and practical on the answers of how someone can change, endearing him to the general populace that fell short of meeting the requirements of their religious leaders.
John was not worried about currying favor with the ruling elite—when Herod Antipas married his brother’s former wife, John criticized him publicly. This eventually resulted in John’s death.
With John’s immense popularity, it would have been easy for him to resent the rising influence and popularity of Jesus. But instead, John supported Jesus in every way possible. John portrayed great humility when he said about Jesus, “He must become more; I must become less".
The baptism of Jesus by John was the beginning of the end for John. Jesus’ ministry took off like a rocket, while John’s disciples left him for Jesus, which John knew was the ultimate plan.
July 6 - Mary (Luke 2)
Luke writes many details about the birth and early childhood of both Jesus and John the Baptist. It is likely that Luke had the opportunity to meet Mary in person and learn about their early lives. As a doctor, Luke would likely have been fascinated with the many unusual aspects of their stories only Mary could provide.
In the gospel of Matthew, it is recorded that the wise men came to the baby Jesus in a house. Although some traditions indicate Jesus was born in a cave or a barn, it is equally as likely that he was born in a guest house that had an interior manger. That might fit better with the idea that Joseph was of David’s family and would have deserved hospitality in the small village of Bethlehem.
Luke stresses that Jesus’ parents followed the Laws of Moses precisely when they offered a sacrifice for him. While at the Temple, two reliable prophets, Simeon and Anna, foretold many things about Jesus. From that point on, surely his parents must have been aware they had a special baby who would change the future of Israel.
Luke had the benefit of hindsight as he wrote about the birth and early life of Jesus. He also knew his target audience needed to be convinced of the legitimacy of Luke’s rather outlandish story, and he chose his material accordingly. In the classic thinking, it was as important to note what was not said, as much as what was said!
June 29 - Theophilus and Luke (Luke 1)
Luke said he made a careful investigation of everything before writing. His three primary sources of information were: his own experiences, written sources, and listening to the stories of those who were personally involved. Luke had to be very careful writing his book because he was writing it to Theophilus in order to convince him of the truth of the life of Jesus. Theophilus was very likely a patron or influential person.
Luke’s target audience was also anybody else who would read his account, which would likely include people who believed in—and probably worshiped—Roman or Greek gods. Luke was trying to convince everyone that all other gods are false, worthless, and harmful, so he was extremely detailed about the births of John and Jesus. Although miraculous, the births of both John and Jesus really did happen, as opposed to the made-up origins and existence of the gods of Rome and Greece.
Luke spends a lot of time on the birth and life of John the Baptist. He might have done that to prove to his Jewish audience that John had priestly lineage, which would have helped qualify him for a special place as a forerunner of Jesus. It is likely that, at the time of the writing of Luke, the Jews still held John the Baptist to be a prophet. Supporting John’s authority would have the benefit of enhancing Jesus’ public reputation.
This episode explains how Luke felt about the birth story of Jesus. Can you imagine how a doctor like Luke would deal with a virgin giving birth? Luke’s account of Mary’s conception of Jesus is so detailed that at least part of the Bible story surely came straight from Mary. As a doctor, Luke would have asked the most obvious question to Mary, “How can we all be assured that you were a virgin?” Apparently, the question was resolved to satisfaction.
October 5 - Lazarus the Beggar
October 12 - Tenth Leper and Young Ruler
October 19 - Zacchaeus
October 26 - Andrew
November 3 - Peter and Pilate
November 10 - Luke