Friday, April 13, 2012

Gospeling the Kingdom in Luke

While Mark speaks of the gospel itself (euaggelion, the evangel), Luke speaks of the act of preaching the gospel (euaggelizo, evangelizing).

The Gospel of Luke begins with a statement about fulfillment: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us …” (Luke 1:1). The gospel is the fulfillment of what God promised Israel in the Old Testament. Concerning the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel spoke to Zechariah and said,
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17-18)
There is fulfillment here concerning what was prophesied at the very end of the book of Malachi, about Elijah coming to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. There is also fulfillment here of passages such as Isaiah 40, about “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the LORD’” (v. 3). This fulfillment is about the gospel, as we can see in what the angel said next:
And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings [euaggelizo].” (Luke 1:19)
Likewise, the birth of Jesus is gospel fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. The same angel that appeared to Zechariah also came to Mary and said,
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:30-33)
As we saw in Matthew and Mark, so we find also in Luke the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to David about an heir who would reign on his throne forever. There is also an echo of the promise of Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder … Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Mary, in her praise song to the Lord, recognizes the fulfillment that God was now bringing about. “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his seed forever” (Luke 1:54-55). The promise God made to Abraham, to David and to Israel all find fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. The is the good news of the gospel.

Zechariah also, in his praise song to the Lord after the birth of John, sees the fulfillment of God’s great promise to His people:
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. (Luke 1:68-75)
Here again, the promises to Abraham, David and Israel find fulfillment in the gospel. So, when Jesus is born, the angels come to announce the good news to shepherds nearby:
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings [euaggelizo] of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
When Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple to present Him before the Lord, old Simeon observes and sings, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Once again, we see that the good news of Jesus’ birth brings fulfillment to God’s promise to Israel. There is also indication here that this good news is not just for Israel but also for the Gentiles (the nations). This echoes Old Testament promises such as Isaiah 60:3, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

In Luke 3, John the Baptist begins his ministry as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way of the Lord” (v. 4). Luke comments about John’s gospel ministry: “And with many other exhortations he preached [euaggelizo]to the people" (Luke 3:18).

When Jesus came to the synagogue at Nazareth, He preached the promise God made in Isaiah:
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel [euaggelizo] to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:17-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)
Then Jesus sat down to teach and declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Though He was not well received at Nazareth, He went down to Capernaum, where He astonished many with the authority of His teaching. After healing many diseases and expelling many demons, He said, “I must preach [euaggelizo]the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Here we see that His gospel was explicitly about the kingdom of God, and is what He preached in the synagogues throughout Galilee (Luke 4:43-44). “Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings [euaggelizo] of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him” (Luke 8:1).

Not only were the twelve disciples with Jesus as He gospeled the kingdom but He also sent them out to do the same. “He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). The word for “preach” here is not euaggelizo but kerusso, to herald or proclaim. However, the content is the same, the kingdom of God. A few verses later, we see that the disciples were actually evangelizing: “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel [euaggelizo] and healing everywhere” (Luke 9:6). Jesus’ ministry of preaching and teaching and healing was always about the kingdom of God.
And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11)
To one who wished to become a disciple but first wanted to wait until he could rebury his father’s bones, Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). The word for “preach” here is not euaggelizo, but a related one, diaggelizo, which means to announce the message thoroughly and everywhere.

When Jesus sent the seventy disciples out as laborers into His harvest, the message was the kingdom: “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10:8-9).

The Pharisees supposedly valued the law and the prophets, but they did not recognize the fulfillment of what was promised in them, so they derided Jesus. But Jesus answered, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached [euaggelizo], and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16).

The message of the kingdom of God is pervasive throughout the Gospel According to Luke. There are at least 43 explicit references to it from beginning to end. These include (in addition to the ones we have already seen):
  • For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:28)
  • To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:10)
  • But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)
  • But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. (Luke 12:31)
  • Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
  • They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29)
  • The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)
  • Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30)
  • And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29:30)
There are also references to the kingdom that are similar to what we have seen in Matthew and in Mark. The preaching of the gospel that we find in the Gospel According to Luke is about the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament, which are summed up in the kingdom of God.