I am beginning Luke at chapter 3 so that we will be reading about the birth of Jesus on Christmas eve and day.
Here is the introduction to Luke that I wrote for my Ugandan friends:
Luke has the distinction of being the only clearly identifiable non-Jewish writer in the entire Bible and is also the author of the Book of Acts. Luke was a Greek physician and companion of St. Paul. His education and training are shown in his use of classical Greek and his extensive use of medical terms to describe diseases and injuries throughout the Gospel according to Luke and The Book of Acts. He quotes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (rather than the Hebrew.) He writes to show that Jesus is the Savior of all humanity (not just the Jews) and that his coming is a world event. An example of this view can be seen in that while Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham, the first Hebrew (Matthew 1:1-17); Luke traces it back to Adam, the first human. (Luke 3:23-37.) For Luke, Jesus’ life is seen as a procession that begins in Galilee and moves to Jerusalem where the true nature of the Son of God is revealed in Jesus’ death and resurrection. This story of salvation continues in Acts where it begins in Jerusalem and moves out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8’) Luke was written between AD 70 and AD 90. Luke was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. However, he claims to have done the work of an historian, gathered his information, and set out to present an orderly account of the coming of the Christ (Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-2). Key Learning: Jesus came to bring salvation to the whole world.
John the Baptist is the feature of Luke 3. John is the precursor, he is the forerunner, he is the voice calling "prepare the way! the Lord is coming!". Notice that Luke sets the date of these events as accurately as possible for the time -- 15th year of Tiberius, Pilate is governor in Judea, Herod is ruler of Galilee, Philip is ruler in Ituraea and Lysanias is ruler of Abilene. It is the time when Annas and Caiaphas were High Priest. This method of dating tells us that the events of John's preaching happened sometime in the year AD 26/27. John meets an untimely end because he chose to challenge the seat of power. One of Herod's sons (named Herod) had taken the wife (Herodias) of another of Herod's sons (named Philip). This was against Jewish law and John condemned both Herod and Herodias for this behavior. The end result was John being beheaded. Sometimes we are called to challenge the seat of power in a particular time and place: it would be in error to assume that the challenge comes without consequence. All prophets, including John, have unpopular messages to present and the prophets usually suffer dire consequences for their actions.
The word "repent" does not mean to feel sorry. It means to change. The call is to change our thinking, to change our understanding, and to change how we are living our lives. The reason for this change is the core message of the gospel: The Kingdom of Heaven (or God) has arrived. This call to change is seen in the exchanges between John and the crowds, the tax collectors and the soldiers.
The chapter ends with the listing of the ancestors of Jesus and, as I said before, the primary feature is that it does not go back to the first Hebrew (Abraham) but to the first human (Adam).