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Eight Months in Luke: Uplifting News with a Vision of God’s Kingdom

My G3:Y (God’s Good News for Gay Young Adults) ministry is wrapping up its study of Luke’s Gospel this week, culminating a months-long journey through Luke that began around Advent. Our lessons emphasized Christ’s political message in which Jesus distinguished his spiritual kingdom from earthly kingdoms and called his followers to live out the culture and values of heaven. In light of this, we touched on the concept of realized eschatology, the theological position that one can begin to experience salvation and heavenly paradise now by adopting the values and Law of Christ today. Moreover, we observed how Christ often uplifted the marginalized in his ministry and reflected on God’s relationship with them. After studying Luke each week, we left feeling more enriched, empowered, valued, and with more hope in the love of Christ.

The political nature of Luke’s Gospel, or rather the rivalry of Christ’s kingdom with the world’s, was a theme that set the foundation for many of our discussions. Of course, Rome was often the focus and served as an example of an earthly power competing with God for recognition and submission. For example, Emperor Augustus was also referred to as the “Son of God”, and this divine title was even minted on Roman coins. So claiming Jesus to be the Son of God was quite subversive. And it likely caused alarm among the Romans ruling over a people waiting for their savior. But Jesus did not come to meet expectations. He came to offer the Jews a different kind of salvation—a spiritual salvation. And Christ’s Messianic ministry included non-Jews, especially those whom society and corrupt Jewish leaders took advantage of. He overturned the tables of the money changers and called out corrupt temple merchants selling sacrificial pigeons, intended to accommodate the poor, at excessively high rates. Most importantly, Christ rejected the earthly values of strength and violence and submitted to his death on the cross. But Jesus was not defeated on the cross—he was victorious and rose from the dead. From Christ’s “politics”, we learn that salvation comes from naturalizing into God’s kingdom and adopting Christ’s culture and logic. And when we recognize Jesus as our King, we radiate Christ’s love and illuminate heavenly logic for the world to see.

Another major theme that we observed in our study of Luke is how Jesus uplifted the marginalized. This is observable from the beginning of the Gospel when lowly shepherds were among the first to encounter the Christ child, the savior. “The Good Shepherd” would even become a metaphor for who God is in Jesus. Later when Jesus is grown up and active in his ministry, he touches and heals lepers, a major group of outcasts whom no one else would touch. Jesus healed many others and told of a good Samaritan to illustrate righteous behavior. Although Jews saw Samaritans as their enemies, Jesus made the Samaritan a hero in his parable and portrayed a Levite and priest as antiheroes. And women, whose testimony would be inadmissible in courts and who were viewed as inferiors to men, became the first to evangelize the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus frequently challenged the perspectives and assumptions of those around him and in doing so sought to bring justice and restoration to the victims of these views.

I think it’s accurate to say that Luke’s Jesus brought peace, relief, empowerment, acceptance, and, overall, salvation to participants in G3:Y. When applying the Gospel lessons to our lives, we recognize the contemporary earthly values that keep us from seeing Christ’s kingdom, loving ourselves, and others. We realize that when and how quickly one achieves a career and financial milestone is a worldly concern, not a heavenly one. How soon one marries and has a family is another worldly concern, not one of God’s. We find relief in knowing that God does not value us based on our body image, productivity, efficiency, wealth, physical fitness, and health like society does. God gives us the gifts and skills to share with the world to fulfill his beautiful vocation for us. These gifts and skills aren’t for the wold to appraise based on its systems of demand. Jesus brings salvation from sin and undoes the harm it does. Luke’s Gospel sends us on our way “renewed and strong”.

Author: Richard Burck