I recently finished reading through the gospel of Luke again. Luke really intrigues me. I’ve mentioned before how the unique characteristics of Luke made him a perfect channel for presenting Christ’s aromatic human living. Luke’s emphasis on the humanity of Jesus really stands out in the passages unique to his gospel.
Here are a few of them:
1) Jesus’ Birth and Youth
Verses to compare: Luke chapter 1-2, Matt. chapter 2
This is the most obvious example, but least interesting to me. In the gospel of Luke there are at least 75 verses on the background of Jesus’ birth and youth (not including the genealogy).
Only Luke records something about Jesus’ youth as a 12 year old and His human growth, thus strengthening the argument that Luke’s intent is to portray Jesus as a normal and real man. In Matthew there are 31 verses on Jesus’ birth, but the whole description lends to evidence of His kingly status. In Mark and John there is no record of His birth or childhood.
“And the little child grew and became strong, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” -Luke 2:40
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star at its rising and have come to worship Him.” –Matt. 2:2
Verses to compare: Luke 22:39-46, Matt. 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42
In this prayer, the Lord’s omniscience of His death on the cross (He had foretold it 3 times) and the horror of its reality must have merged in a traumatically sudden human experience. The certainty and finality of everything was nearly impossible to bear as a man. This was the point of no return. Any theoretical alternatives at this point dissolved. In His prayer, the Father’s will and ‘the cup’ merged.
…Jesus’ fear and horror are explicitly described, in a way quite unlike Jewish and Christian stories of martyrdom. The sufferer here is not an aloof Stoic, still less a superman. He is a man in the fullest sense, tempted and tried, but not understood at all by his closest friends, who even went to sleep during his agony.
Although here the synoptic Gospels are fairly similar, only Luke mentions an angel strengthening Jesus, His being in agony, praying more earnestly, and sweat becoming like great drops of blood.
“And an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” -Luke 22:43-44
3) The Lord’s Arrest
Verses to compare: Luke 22:49-51, Matt. 26:51-53, Mark 14:47, John 18:10-11
Just the fact of being arrested is enough to push human dignity to its limits. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure the experience shakes you at the core. Alexander Solzhenitsyn describes his experience in the first few pages of his piercing book, The Gulag Archipelago.
Arrest! Need it be said that it is a breaking point in your life, a bolt of lightning which has scored a direct hit on you? That it is an unassimilable spiritual earthquake not every person can cope with, as a result of which people often slip into insanity? The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: “You are under arrest.”
That’s what arrest is: it’s a blinding flash and a blow which shifts the present instantly into the past and the impossible into omnipotent actuality.
-Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
It’s easy to forget (or not fully realize) that Jesus was a man (albeit a God-man) in all of this. When He was arrested, every gospel mentions that Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave, but only Luke mentions that Christ healed him. What a man! No righteous gloating or secret satisfaction that at least they got a little taste of their own medicine. He actually healed him! What did those arresting Him think?
The manner of the healing is also moving. It wasn’t barked out as a disinterested and slightly annoyed royal command. I can’t imagine the tension, rage, confusion, and chaos of that scene. I don’t think Peter took off that ear like a fencer with an expert flick of the wrist. Surely he was swinging for the head. And right in the middle of that scene was Jesus, the Son of Man who had not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9:56). Jesus rendered His healing power by human touch, not by merely speaking it forth. Although the healing was certainly a divine miracle, it was performed with the warmth and affection that only the human touch communicates.
Also, only in Luke’s account does the Lord here, as He does in so many other places in this Gospel, refer to Himself as the Son of Man.
Matthew’s version emphasizes Christ’s Kingly status and authority in verse 53. In Mark’s record, Jesus is hardly visible in the arrest scene. His submission to the fulfillment of the Scriptures and his silence toward those arresting Him and leading Him away are seen in verses 49 and 53. John’s account strongly emphasizes Christ’s divinity in verses 4-6, 8, 9, and 11. “Knowing all the things” shows His omniscience; “I am” is His claim of absolute deity.
“Jesus answered and said, Let them go this far. And touching his ear, He healed him.” –Luke 22:51
“Or do you think that I cannot beseech My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than twelve legions of angels?” –Matt. 26:53
“But may the Scriptures be fulfilled.” -Mark 14:49
” Whom do you seek? They answered Him, Jesus the Nazarene. He said to them, I am. And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said to them, I am, they drew back and fell to the ground.” -John 18:4-6
4) On the Cross
Verses to compare: Luke 23:33-49, Matt. 27:33-56, Mark 15:22-41, John 19:17-37
The Lord only spoke seven sentences on the cross. Three of the things He said were out of His care for man. While He was dying, He was concerned, not for Himself, but for His fellow man- for their forgiveness, salvation, and relationships after His departure.
Only Luke records Jesus’ prayer to the Father for His murderers’ forgiveness in verse 34 and His conversation with the robber resulting in his salvation in verses 40-43.
“And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…” –Luke 23:34
“And He said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” –Luke 23:43
If you want to know what a man is, look at his beginning and end. From the manger to the cross, the two defining and most significant moments in Jesus’ life, Luke furnishes a poignant and compelling testimony to this man.