The Luke Challenge

The Luke Challenge

Every year ends the same: I scramble to finish my yearly projects. This year is no different, and several weeks ago I realized that I needed to do extra Scripture reading. At my current rate, I wasn’t going to complete my Bible reading goal for the year.

I looked at my schedule, cleared some time out, and sat down to read. The Gospel of Luke was one book that I needed to complete, and so I found myself reading Luke for hours on end. To be honest, I sat down to read mostly because I knew that I needed to complete the book. I wish my aims were more spiritual, but that was one of my primary motivations.

Yet as I worked my way through this Gospel, I became lost in the journey. No longer was I reading because I needed to. Now I was reading because there was something fascinating about this man, Jesus of Nazareth. His words were wise. His works were miraculous. He was more than a man.

The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is written in the style of a Greek history. The cultured citizens of Greece and Rome enjoyed sitting down with a good book, and one particularly popular type was the biography. A good biography narrated the famous words and deeds of celebrated leaders – whether patriots, governors, or generals.

The Gospel of Luke is written in the same style. It recounts in eloquent language the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It begins with a flowery dedication (to Theophilus – literally ‘the God-lover’) and proceeds to describe, in picturesque language, the remarkable life of the Rabbi from Galilee.

The Gospel of Luke, however, is significantly different from most of the biographies written for cultured Greek and Roman audiences. To begin with, it does not trace the life of a powerful, wealthy man. Instead, it chooses an odd subject: a peasant Preacher from a fringe province of the Roman Empire. Then, rather than recounting His triumphs and successes that lead Him to glory, it describes His humble ministry amid growing opposition. Finally, it doesn’t climax in a remarkable battle or a glorious promotion. It climaxes when the Subject is captured, condemned, and crucified like a common slave.

Reading This Gospel

As I read the Gospel of Luke, I was carried away by the profound wisdom of the Christ. The narrative flowed forward, in its dark but necessary journey toward the cross. I began to think like a Roman – ‘this Jesus is wonderful! Surely, even as He is approaching death, He will find some stunning way to avoid it!’ When Jesus is finally crucified, I began to understand how the Greek would think – ‘this is a tragedy! A biography isn’t supposed to end this way!’

While the life of Jesus recounted by Luke is different from the lives of the famous Greeks and Romans, the reader comes away with the same thinking that Luke had: though Jesus was not respected by the world, there was something supernatural about Him. His life was far more valuable than the lives of the typical generals and governors that most biographies covered. Here was a man who was living in a different realm – not the realm of the flesh, but the spirit.

Take the Challenge

Reading through this short biography of Jesus was a powerful spiritual activity for me. You also might benefit from doing the same. I want to challenge you to think about reading through Luke as I did – to really experience the life of Jesus of Nazareth, to lose yourself in the wonder of this supernatural narrative. If you do take me up on this challenge, here are a few pointers:

  1. Devote between 3-5 days to reading the Gospel of Luke. You don’t want to spread this reading out over a long time, because then you will lose the flow of thought.
  2. Don’t set a goal for several chapters, but instead set aside several hours each day. Read as much as you can during those hours, without regard to how many chapters you get through.
  3. Make your time distraction-free, if at all possible. You want to lose yourself in the narrative.
  4. Don’t attempt to speed-read. Your goal is not to get through as much text as possible, but to get into the account, to read, to ponder, to imagine yourself being there.
  5. Read with a notepad nearby. Write down your thoughts, and consider how Jesus’ words impact your own life. What is He teaching you?
  6. You might think about doing this with a family member or friend. If you can both set up to take this journey together, you will build your relationship on the most valuable foundation: the Word of God!

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