The inaugural discourse at the Nazareth synagogue sees Jesus using the words of the prophet Isaiah to announce his identity and proclaim his mission. The Spirit of God, often symbolised by a breeze, accompanies Jesus as he approaches the synagogue of his native place to announce that the word of God fulfilled in their hearing. Will the seed of the word lodge in their hearts? Will it lodge in ours?
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
A brief word about the Gospels
The gospels themselves are inspired interpretations of the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ arising from the earliest experiences of believers in Jesus Christ. Through all ages of the Church they stand as documents which Christians will read, study, pray over and apply to their own lives and situations, and through which God will speak to them. As such they are rightly called ‘the Word of God’. As foundational documents of the Church they also stand as a reference point against which Christians may judge the authenticity of their lives as Christians and the extent to which the Church is fulfilling its call.
The Gospel Introductions in RESource
The visual introductions to the gospels on RESource are brief interpretations
(not inspired) of each gospel presented to get you started on a closer study of each particular gospel.
• First of all you might like to consider the advantages and disadvantages of trying represent the gospels in images at all? (While Christianity has generally been at ease with the use of sacred images, Judaism and Islam avoid the use of images in conveying holy truths.)
• How do you feel about the cartoon technique used by the artists in this particular introduction. What is helpful what is distracting? In what way are they presenting stereotypical images? Is this how you yourself imagine Jesus, the disciples, First Century Palestine? What influences how we imagine these things?
• Consider your own image of Jesus. Could you easily convey this visually or in other way? Why or why not?
• Do the gospel introductions in RESource tend to suggest or reinforce the idea of Jesus as a ‘fantasy’ figure rather than as a ‘real’ figure? How close can we get to the ‘real’ Jesus?
The RESource Introduction to the Gospel of Luke
The visual introduction to Luke’s gospel uses the reading from Isaiah ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me….’ that Jesus quotes during a service in the Synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of his public ministry ( Luke 4:16-21) as a key to the interpretation of this Gospel. More references to the Holy Spirit are found in Luke than in Matthew and Mark combined hence the choice of this scene as a key to the Gospel.
• The presentation opens with seeds being blown through the air. Look up the three references to seed in Luke’s Gospel. What do seeds represent in each of these readings? What about the wind on which they are blown? What is being suggested here?
• What is the effect of the images of Jesus’ footsteps among the grasses and of his steady movement through the town and towards the synagogue? Was Jesus simply a ‘blow in’ to the Nazareth synagogue or was his coming purposeful?
• How are the synagogue and those who gather there presented? What emotion is conveyed by the artwork? How does it sit with your own inner picture of this gospel reading?
• Do you find the face of Jesus attractive or sinister? Should Jesus always be portrayed in an ‘attractive’ way? Explain why or why not. As a comparison look at these faces of Christ or the ones on Beliefnet referred to above. Identify the understanding of Jesus conveyed in different one.
• How would you graphically represent:
1. good news for the poor,
2. liberty for captives,
3. sight for the blind,
4. release for the oppressed,
5. the year of the Lord’s favour
When you complete your study of Luke, suggest other themes for a visual introduction.
Exploring: History and Geography
The historical and geographical setting of the Gospel of Luke is the same as that of the other gospels; that is, Palestine in the time of the Roman occupation, specifically of the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. So a good place to begin would be to check the list of Resources on the front page of the Scripture module which includes a great Atlas of the Bible, as well other sites which provide additional background on the setting of the gospels.
A helpful background article entitled Romans, Greeks and Jews: the World of Jesus and the Disciples fills in a few details about the world of the first century. Judaism’s First Century Diversity, written by a Rabbi, briefly introduces the spectrum of Jewish thought in the first century. Livius, an ancient history site, gives some background on relationships between Rome and Judaea (the name by which the Jewish province of Syria was known in Roman times, roughly equal to Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan today).
Scholars have also detected in the Gospel of Luke, and in its companion volume, the Acts of the Apostles, a special ‘geography’ which reflects the gospel’s theological agenda and effort to show the significance of Jesus for the world. Jerusalem is especially significant in Luke’s gospel. It begins and ends in the Temple there and Jerusalem is the goal of a long teaching journey undertaken by Jesus as he moves towards his passion, death and glorification. The book of Acts shows the progress of the Good News from Jerusalem to Rome, and implicitly to the ends of the earth.
Likewise, an introduction to Luke pays attention to the historical dimension so much to the fore in Luke’s gospel. It helps readers to understand more clearly the conventions of writing ‘history’ in the first century, and to appreciate Luke’s gospel as an effort to locate the life and work of Jesus in actual time and space as well as to reflect on the meaning of his life.
- Invite students to form groups of five. Each group works together to produce a ‘documentary’ on Palestine in the period 70BCE–70CE which is then presented to the whole class. Criteria for evaluation could be altered depending on class-levels. Tasks might be divided thus:
- Roman influences: The students working on this section would prepare an annotated timeline of Emperors and their appointees in Palestine and find out as much as they could about the impact of the Romans on everyday life in the province.
- Geography of Palestine: Students looking at this section would prepare a relief map with regions and main towns and roads marked in. They need to be able to explain the main features of the land, its agriculture and why it was important to the Romans.
- Town and village life: Students need to find out some basic facts about the lives and status of tax collectors, fishermen, merchants, money changers and workers, shepherds, farmers and outcasts, and know who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’ in first century Palestine.
- Key Jewish religious groups: Students must find out who were the Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducces, Levites, Scribes and Zealots and what part they played in first-century society.
- Jerusalem: Students prepare an annotated map of the city in the first century and a timeline from BCE63–CE70. They need to understand why Jerusalem was of such imporatance to the Jews and also why it was of such interest to Rome.
- Responses might be via PowerPoint presentation, models, posters, skits or a combination of these as well as in the more usual essay format.
- Students might read some of the recommended sites and produce crosswords of first century Palestine. These could be exchanged and solved by other students.
Examining: Genre and Author
“The first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is—what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used,” says C.S. Lewis in his Preface to Paradise Lost. A useful first question when beginning a study of a gospel is therefore ‘What is a gospel?’ Click on the question ‘What is a Gospel?’ in the Scripture module’s Core Resources for a short introduction to the type of literature a gospel is.
Three introductory sites could help you get a feel for the scope and purpose of this particular gospel. The Introduction to the Gospel of Luke in the New American Bible is very useful. Another introductory site considers the internal and external evidence as to the author of this Gospel while a further one sets out some of the features that make Luke’s Gospel unique. The Narrow Gate has a point form introduction.
- Which of the online definitions of the word ‘gospel’ best matches your understanding of the meaning of the word? Explain your choice.
- Explain in your own words the difference between a gospel and a biography or a history.
- Who was ‘Luke’?
- According to legend Luke was both a physician and a painter. Look at several depictions of the evangelist on a page which also discusses the symbols of the four evangelists. (Scroll through the page to the section on Luke).
- What animal is often present in paintings of Luke? Can you find out why this is so? Why do you think Luke is quite often represented painting Mary, the Mother of Christ?
- Taking into account what you have discovered about Luke’s gospel and using any medium make your own image of Luke the Evangelist.
- Imagine you are the gospel writer. Having heard several surprising ‘explanations’ of who you are, you decide to write a brief ‘author’s note’ as a prelude to your gospel.
Note: This task requires you to have read reasonably widely so that you are aware of the efforts of scholars to locate Luke in time and place, but also gives you some imaginative scope. Remember, the best evidence as to the personality of the gospel writer is the gospel itself. What is Luke passionate about? What are his deepest values? What does he want to convey? What would he want to be remembered for?
Examining: Time and Place
Some issues concerning the dating and possible provenance of Luke’s Gospel are explored in An Introduction to the Gospel of Luke. This article also discusses theories about the dating of the gospel. You might be interested in a brief summary of the tradition of the early church concerning the Gospel of Luke which includes a reasoned estimate of its date. Religion Online’s discussion of the origins of the gospel is also worth a look.
As you read about the sources of the Gospel of Luke you are very likely to encounter references to the ‘Q source’. A simple explanation of the hypothetical Q source which many see as the origin of some of the material in the gospels of both Luke and Matthew should be helpful but be aware that some scholars have challenged the theory. Detailed discussion of the sources of the gospel would not arise until senior levels of study.
An interesting though fairly lengthy article on the Public Broadcasting Service site The Gospel of Rome versus the Gospel of Jesus Christ contends that Luke-Acts, directed especially at Gentile Christians, was a Christian response to the ‘gospel of Rome’, the worldview promulgated by the Roman Empire.
- Make a summary in point form of the arguments for an early dating of the Gospel of Luke and a similar summary for a later dating. Which are you most convinced by? Explain your reasons briefly.
- Most commentators think that Luke wrote his gospel with Gentile hearers in mind. Philippi, Achaia and Ephesus are possible locations for the emergence of the gospel. What do the ruins and artefacts of these cities tell us about the culture and populace of a first century city in the Mediterranean world? What would have been the biggest challenge confronting those announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ in these places?
- What comparisons does Marianne Bonz make between ‘the Gospel of Rome’ and ‘the Gospel of Jesus’? Do you agree with her that it was such a ‘rivalry that could only end in complete victory or unconditional surrender’?
Encountering: Reading the Text
The New American Bible, a translation commissioned by the US bishops, is clearly set out and easy to read online.
An interesting arrangement of the gospel colour codes the text according to its sources; i.e., an orange font denotes material original to Luke, a blue font denotes material from the Q source, a red font denotes the parts of the gospel which depend on the Gospel of Mark.
A pdf format version of Luke that can be downloaded and printed off for student use, annotation, comparison with other translations, etc. could be usefulfor class and/or home use.
- Read Luke through at two or three sittings. Try to forget that you have read many extracts from this book before. What are your impressions of the story?
- How does it hang together?
- What are your favourite parts?
- What kind of a person is Jesus?
- Imagine his appeal to people on the outer.
- Imagine the disquiet he might have caused to people more settled in their ways or in authority.
- What might ‘his excellence Theophilus’ have thought of it?
- Explain why various regimes throughout history might have tried to suppress this short book (and others like it).
Encountering: Studying the Text
For a ‘one-stop’ introduction to the Gospel of Luke, Dom Henry Wansborough’s Luke—the Gospel of the Spirit is a good choice. It is a 60 page online course which examines the gospel in some detail and with some sophistication. Each chapter ends with an idea for some written reflection. It does presuppose some familiarity with biblical studies though, and you might prefer to look at a selection of more compact introductory sites, especially if you are working with Years 7 to 10. A perfect example of such an introduction is the Lukan section of Richard Martin’s The Narrow Gate site.
An introductory site to explore is the part of the PBS site ‘From Jesus to Christ’ devoted to Luke’s Gospel. Another useful ‘point form’ introduction (scroll down to the blue section on Luke) provides a compact overview of the gospel as a whole.
The Gospel of Luke contains a great deal that is unique to this gospel. Imagine Christmas without the manger, angels and shepherds; or the prayer of the church without the texts of the Hail Mary, the Benedictus, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Or imagine preaching or teaching about the mercy of God without the parables of the prodigal son or the good Samaritan! Looking at a chart which details material unique to each of the synoptic gospels will help you appreciate more fully Luke’s distinctive contribution to our knowledge of Christ and his teaching—scroll through the chart to the section on Luke.
The Structure of the Gospel
A simple structure suggested for the gospel is as follows:
I. Prologue (1:1–4)
II. The Infancy Narrative (1:5–2:52)
III. The Preparation for Public Ministry (3:1–4:13)
IV. The Galilean Ministry (4:14–9:50)
V. The Journey to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27)
VI. The Jerusalem Ministry (19:28–21:38)
VII. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus (22:1–24:53)
Scroll through an article from Grace Institute for a diagram of a suggested complementary structure for two books—the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles—helps an understanding of the relationship between Luke and Acts. A brisk introduction to the purpose, structure and themes of the gospel is provided in an article entitled Salvation For the Least: Reading Luke’s Two-Volume Work.
‘Most Excellent Theophilus
Many students of Luke’s gospel have wondered about the identity or function of ‘most excellent Theophilus’. Some think that the name is a literary device – Theophilus means literally ‘beloved of God’, this article explores other possibilities It also contains questions to help students ‘unpack’ these important opening verses of the gospel.
The Infancy Narrative
People are sometimes surprised to see the differences of emphasis in the accounts of the birth of Jesus in Matthew and Luke respectively. A site from Boston College provides a good introduction to both infancy narratives, comparing their differences and showing their similarities. This site contains an audio presentation as well.
A study of Luke 3:1–18 is an example of an informed, thoughtful reflection on a text and concludes with some helpful questions. You might also find interesting some lecture notes by Gil Bailie on the infancy narrative in Luke, which understands this introductory section of the gospel as suggesting the way in which the whole book may be interpreted and appreciated.
Several general sites introduce various themes and characteristics of Luke.
A succinct general statement of themes – eg. Christology, soteriology (salvation), glory, doxology, Holy Spirit, prayer, discipleship, eschatology – is made in an article headed Theology of Luke.
Writing about the theme of Jubilee, Albert Vanhoye explores the very significant inaugural sermon of Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue.
The Lutheran ‘Crossmarks’ site makes some notes on the travel narrative unique to Luke which covers Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, beginning at Luke 9:51 and continuing through almost ten chapters until his entry into the city Luke 19:28.
Many scholars since the time of the Venerable Bede have noted how the gospel begins and concludes in the Temple. A paper explores the Lukan interest in the Temple and the function it plays the whole narrative of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Other themes of the Gospel explored on various sites are:
Possessions and poverty
The relationship of the Christian to the material world and possessions is explored most significantly in the Gospel of Luke and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles. Read an article entitled The Tension between Poverty and Possessions in the Gospel of Luke for a discussion of this topic, or look at Private Property and the Gospel of Luke for another comment on this theme in the gospel.
Luke contains many parables, of which a dozen or more are unique to this gospel. Among them are many stories which express the mercy and compassion of God. The parables of Chapter 15 are often referred to as ‘the Gospel within the Gospel’. Read a study of the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man to see how careful study of a parable can open up its meaning.
It is interesting to note that in Luke’s gospel Jesus, as well as eating with ‘sinners’, is often at table with lawyers and Pharisees, i.e., those who are often represented as opposing him. Jerome Neyrey explores the broad theme of food, meals and table fellowship in the New Testament while Fr Tommy Lane’s article discusses the inclusiveness of Jesus (a theme that he considers characteristic of Luke) which is often expressed in his participation in meals. Finally a short article on the Last Supper points out how some of the key ideas of Luke are reiterated in the gospel’s presentation of Jesus’ final meal with his disciples.
Women in Luke’s Gospel
Many commentators note Luke’s special sensitivity to women. References to women in the gospel are listed on a page prepared by Michael Morrison. An Anglican article critiques the the role of women in the gospel showing how sometimes what is not said is quite critical to an understanding of the Gospel.
Luke’s Passion Narrative
Peter Scaer has an essay on the death of Jesus entitled The Gospel of Luke and the Christology of Martyrdom which studies the passion narrative in terms of the Greco-Roman idea of the noble death. He also makes the point that Jesus dies extending salvation to others as he has lived inviting them to salvation. In fact Luke’s account of the passion of Jesus is in complete harmony with Luke’s portrait of Jesus. To see this clearly, reread the three ‘words’ of Christ on the cross in this gospel. The first word is a plea to God for forgiveness of his tormentors, the second assures the repentant thief of a place in Paradise; the thirdcommending his spirit to God is a prayer of utter faith and trust. Forgiveness, hospitality and faithfulness are the key characteristics of Luke’s portrait of Jesus.
- Present in point form the evidence that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were written by the same person. Refer to themes, theology, style and structure in your response.
- Is Luke ‘a gospel for Gentiles’?
- Make a diorama of one of these parts of the gospel:
the Visitation (Lk 1:39ff)
the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:9–14)
Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1–10)
- Does the inaugural sermon in Luke 4:14–22 summarise the themes of Luke’s gospel adequately? Explain your response.
- Small groups of students might choose one or two of the following parables, all unique to Luke, and express its meaning and its message in freeze frames or mime.
The Two Debtors (Luke 7:41–43)
The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37)
The Importunate Friend (Luke 11:5–8)
The Rich Fool (Luke 12:16–21)
The Barren Fig-tree (Luke 13:6–9)
The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8–10)
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32)
The Unrighteous Manager (Luke 16:1–9)
The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31)
The Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1–8)
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9–14)
- Take the names of 20 (or the number of students in your class) characters from the Gospel of Luke and put them in a hat. Have the students choose one each and then write a series of ‘Who am I?’ questions around this character, grading the clues from hardest to easiest, e.g.:
‘Who am I?’
I am mentioned in Chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel.
I live in Galilee.
My father is a synagogue official.
When I was ill they sent for Jesus.
He was delayed getting to my house.
They thought I was dead.
Jesus took my hand and said ‘Child get up’.
- Explain why you think that Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke is sometimes called ‘the gospel within the gospel’.
- Collect and play some different settings of the Magnificat, traditional and modern. As a class/group learn to play and/or sing one of these settings.
- Chapter 15 contains the parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son. Explain the literary form of a parable. Why do you think Luke has placed these three parables together in chapter 15? Comment on the significance of these parables for the Lucan community.
- What if Luke’s gospel had been lost to the Church? What would we have missed out on?
- Prepare a pie graph showing the meals attended by Jesus and indicating with whom he ate on these occasions.
- If Jesus were to tell a parable in our time to express the meaning of Luke 15:11–32 what images and situations might he use? Write such a story yourself.
- Why do you think some people refer to Luke Chapter 15 as ‘the gospel within the gospel’?
- Prepare a collage reflecting the ‘blessings and woes’ according to Luke’s account of ‘the sermon on the plain’.
- Luke’s gospel is the most complete account of the life of Jesus. As a class project prepare a scrap-book of the life of Jesus according to Luke. You could use images of Jesus and his mother, friends and disciples derived from the Textweek site (scroll down to Luke), maps from the Online Bible Atlas site, photographs of Galilee and Judaea from the Bible Places site or any other resources you might have access to.
- What does the account of the passion and death of Jesus in Luke tell us about the identity and agenda of Jesus?
Encountering: Biblical Exegesis
A very helpful site for teachers of older students who want to familiarise themselves with the aim and method of biblical exegesis is Richard Ascough’s A Guide to Biblical Exegesis. You will find a good simple definition of biblical exegesis and a straightforward three-step method proposed.
- What does the author say?
- What did the author mean?
- What does it mean for me?
Ascough suggests a particular way of going about answering these three questions. The first tasks in each section are well within the capabilities of middle-school students. Later tasks and terminology are more appropriate to senior and tertiary students. Hyperlinks within the text of the article direct teachers to a helpful guide to different translations of the Bible and recommendations about various exegetical tools (concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, etc.) in print.
- Read either:
- Write a commentary on the passage, discussing its context within the gospel, any cultural and historical features, and its meaning for Luke’s community, as well as its meaning for the Christian community now.
Encountering: Praying with the Text
A Meditative Commentary on the whole gospel might model for you a way of praying with individual excerpts of the gospel. Two articles prepared by Elizabeth Harrington of the Brisbane Liturgical Commission provide a very simple introduction to the Gospel and some of its special features.
A short study of the parables of Chapter 15 precedes a discussion of how the parables connect with life and how they lead to personal prayer. A book review of Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son which is an extended reflection on this parable, also might lead into prayer in relation to this famous painting.
Nouwen writes: “An apparently meaningless encounter with a reproduction representing a detail of Rembrandt’s sent me off on a long spiritual adventure that led me to understand my vocation better and gain new strength to live it. The actors in this adventure are a picture of the seventeenth century and its author (Rembrandt), a parable of the first century and its author (Saint Luke 15:11-32) and a man of the twentieth century in search of meaning in his life.”
“I saw a man dressed in an enormous red cloak tenderly touching the shoulders of an unkempt boy kneeling in front of him. I could not look away. I was attracted by the intimacy of the man, the warm red of the man’s cloak, the golden yellow of the boy’s tunic, and the mysterious light surrounding the scene. But above all it was the hands, the hands of an old man and the manner in which they touched the boy’s shoulders which transported me to a place where I had never been before…I drew close to Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son, as if it were my own: a picture that contained not only the essential story that God wanted me to tell others, but also the one I myself wanted to tell to men and women of God. This picture became a mysterious window through which I stepped into God’s kingdom.”
Present on Earth is a print collection of worship resources based on the life of Jesus from the Iona Community in Scotland. These resources have proved very popular with young people and are also useful as models for adapting texts for active prayer and reflection. Clicking on the link will take you to a pdf document which shows you examples of the readings/dialogues/prayers. The book is readily available from Australian religious book sellers or through Willow Connection. Two others, Cloth for the Cradle(Advent/Christmas) and Stages on the Way (Lent/Easter), are also available.
Responding: Lived Responses, Then and Now
According to legend Luke was a physician, and certainly the gospel which bears his name is characterised its portrayal of the compassion of Christ. Hence this section of this module directs you to lives of Christians who have expressed compassion in their life and work, principally in care of the poor and sick.
The name of St Vincent de Paul is synonymous with hands-on outreach to any member of society in practically any kind of need. Founded by Frederic Ozanam the society, which bears the name of Vincent de Paul, is active in almost every nation throughout the world.
Dorothy Day, an American woman of the 20th Century, was outstanding in her efforts for peace and justice in the US, and Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed for proclaiming good news to the poor (cf. Luke 4:18) and oppressed of El Salvador.
An American article reflects on how the story of the Good Samaritan is the inspiration for the whole system of Catholic health and hospital care. Hospitals as we know them emerged from the efforts of medieval monks and nuns to relieve the suffering of the sick and dying, a Christian vocation which originated in the healing work of Christ himself.
The patron saint of hospitals is actually Camillus de Lellis. The Red Cross insignia now associated worldwide with aid to those in medical need originated with him. Camillus was a wild youth of the 16th century who learned compassion the hard way. John of God was another man deeply scarred by life who, having had an experience of the love and acceptance of Christ, devoted the rest of his life to those in need.
Women have always played a vital part in the practical expression of Christian compassion and mercy. The direct inspiration for the work of Mary Aikenhead, an Irish girl in the 19th Century, was the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke’s gospel. She set up the Order of the Sisters of Charity, who are responsible for the large St Vincent’s hospitals in both Melbourne and Sydney, and whose work in society is multifaceted. Australia’s own Good Samaritan order of sisters are named for the compassionate stranger in Jesus’ parable In Luke. Florence Nightingale, the legendary nurse and hospital reformer of the 19th century, also saw her vocation as a result of a call from God.
Seek Justice – Come to the Edge is the text of an address by Mark Raper SJ to Catholic Health Care workers at the 2005 Conference which emphasises the special claim those in need have on every Christian.
- Invite members of a local St Vincent DePaul conference, members of Vinnies (young St Vincent de Paul members) or members of an active parish social justice group to speak to your class about how they go about their work.
- Choose a project that supports people in need in another country. Find out about these people. Make contact with them and think of ways that your class can provide support to them through letters, exchange of photos, etc.
- Look at the life of one of the saints or good men and women in the sites listed above (or another Christian acting in response to the gospel). What caused him or her to take up the work of caring for others? What personal gifts were brought to the work? What life experiences were crucial and what were the results and effects both then and now of this person’s efforts. Present your work in PowerPoint or in poster form.
Responding: Responses in Art and Music
Some ancient manuscripts of the gospel held in the British Museum are worth viewing because they show the great value in which the gospels were held in the days when books were few and far between.
The Textweek site (scroll down to Luke) contains many images of artwork related to the Gospel of Luke (there are 40 depictions of the parable of the Prodigal Son alone) which are not only worth looking at carefully as art but which can also provide a great jumping off point for reflection on the message of the gospel.
An extract from Henri Nouwen’s contemplation of Rembrandt’s great painting of The Return of the Prodigal Son shows how looking carefully at just one small aspect of the painting helped him to a broader appreciation of the nature of God.
- Choose an artwork related to your study of Luke.
- Describe the painting. What is its setting and atmosphere? What initial feeling does it convey to you? Is it dramatic/serene/challenging?
- Describe what is happening. Who is depicted and what are they doing? Who is the central character, how is that person relating to the others?
- Imagine yourself in this picture, involved in what the others are experiencing. How do you find yourself responding? Who are you empathising with? Describe your emotions and convictions as a result of looking at this picture.
- Choose two or three depictions of a single event or story from Luke’s gospel to compare. Describe how each artist has gone about conveying the essential truth of the gospel event. Describe how each has managed to bring out different aspects of the story. What particular insight into the gospel does each painting give to you?
Responding: A Personal Response
The introduction to this study of Luke showed Jesus, anointed and sent by the Spirit of the Lord, announcing his mission in the synagogue of his own town. The gospel records both the initially positive response to him and the almost as immediate questioning of his credentials and abilities and his eventual hustling out of town.
Having become familiar with the person and program of Jesus as depicted in Luke’s gospel, express a personal response to the proclamation in the synagogue in either words, art, music or by undertaking specific action for the relief or well-being of others.