Six Weekds with the Bible for Catholic Teens (Exploring God's Word Series): Luke; The Good News of God's Mercy


The book of Luke has been described as one of the most beautiful books ever written, and Luke: The Good News of God's Mercy brings this beauty to life for teens as they study the life of Jesus and what Jesus can mean for their lives. Luke’s Gospel deals with the issue of being open to God’s work through Jesus. Luke shows us that God has made salvation available through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. In many ways, God’s action through Jesus was unexpected, even for the Jewish people of the time. The ...

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The book of Luke has been described as one of the most beautiful books ever written, and Luke: The Good News of God's Mercy brings this beauty to life for teens as they study the life of Jesus and what Jesus can mean for their lives. Luke’s Gospel deals with the issue of being open to God’s work through Jesus. Luke shows us that God has made salvation available through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. In many ways, God’s action through Jesus was unexpected, even for the Jewish people of the time. The salvation Jesus brings goes far beyond what people were looking for. It also makes demands on those who accept it. So we meet people in Luke’s Gospel who are astonished by Jesus. They are struggling to understand what Jesus was offering them and how they should respond.
In the Gospel of Luke, we make contact with a will other than our own. God shows that he is not a spectator-god who made a DVD of the universe billions of years ago and now sits back to watch. God has a loving plan; God makes things happen. It is this active, involved God who comes to Mary and tells her about his plan for her in Luke’s Gospel. As we begin reading the Gospel of Luke, are we prepared to meet this God?

Designed as a guided discovery, Six Weeks with the Bible for Catholic Teens introduces high school students to books of the Bible by integrating the biblical text with insightful questions to help youth discern what Scripture means for their lives today. The series provides students with a clear explanation of Biblical text, opportunities for prayer, and a means to enter into conversation with God.

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Meet the Author

Kevin Perrotta is an award-winning Catholic journalist and a former editor of God’s Word Today. In addition to the Six Weeks with the Bible series, he is the author of Invitation to Scripture and Your One-Stop Guide to the Bible. Perrotta lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Gerald Darring is an adjunct instructor of theology at Spring Hill College. He has taught elementary, middle, and high school students and has been an instructor in adult ministry formation and certification programs for nearly twenty years.

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Read an Excerpt

How to Use This Guide

You might compare this booklet to a short visit to a national park. The park is so large that you could spend months, even years, getting to know it. But a brief visit, if carefully planned, can be worthwhile. In a few hours you can drive through the park and pull over at a handful of sites. At each stop you can get out of the car, take a short trail through the woods, listen to the wind blowing in the trees, and get a feel for the place.
In this booklet we’ll travel through the Gospel of Luke. We will take a leisurely walk through our targeted readings, which have been chosen to give a representative sample of Luke’s telling of the good news of Jesus Christ.
After each discussion we’ll get back in the car and take the highway to the next stop. The “Between Discussions” pages summarize the portions of Luke that we will pass along the way.
This guide provides everything you need to explore the Gospel of Luke in six discussions—or to do a six-part exploration on your own. The introduction will prepare you to get the most out of your reading. The weekly sections feature key passages from Luke, with explanations that highlight what his words mean for us today. Equally important, each section supplies questions that will launch you into fruitful discussion, helping you both to explore Luke for yourself and to learn from one another. If you’re using the booklet by yourself, the questions will spur your personal reflection.
Each discussion is meant to be a guided discovery.
Guided ~ None of us is equipped to read the Bible without help. We read the Bible for ourselves but not by ourselves. Scripture was written to be understood and applied in and with the Church. So each week “A Guide to the Reading,” drawing on the work of both modern biblical scholars and Christian writers of the past, supplies background and explanations. The guide will help you grasp Luke’s message. Think of it as a friendly park ranger who points out noteworthy details and explains what you’re looking at so you can appreciate things for yourself.
Discovery ~ The purpose is for you to interact with Luke’s Gospel—and with Jesus, whom Luke describes. “Questions for a Closer Look” is a tool to help you dig into the Gospel and examine it carefully. “Questions for Application” will help you discern what the Gospel means for your life here and now. Each week concludes with an “Approach to Prayer” section that helps you respond to God’s Word. Supplementary “Living Tradition” and “Saints in the Making” sections offer the thoughts and experiences of Christians past and present in order to show you what the Gospel has meant to others—so that you can consider what it might mean for you.
If you are using this booklet for individual study, pay special attention to the questions provided for each week (Warm-Up Questions, Questions for a Closer Look, Questions for Application). One advantage of individual study is that you can take all the time you need to consider all the questions. I also suggest that you read the Gospel of Luke in its entirety; you will find that the “Between Discussions” pages will help you understand the portions of the Gospel not covered in this booklet. And take your time making your way through the Gospel of Luke and this accompanying booklet: let your reading be an opportunity for this Gospel to become God’s words to you.
The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel—and How to Connect with It

Life does not always go as smoothly as we would like, and sometimes we go through very bad times. Even young people experience tragedy and misfortune, profoundly moving and sad events that may cause them to question themselves, their lives, and God. If that ever happens to you, it might make you especially well prepared to read the Gospel of Luke, because you will have insight into an issue we face as we read this Gospel.
The issue is this: will I be able to succeed in life by using my talents and resources? Or do I see within myself sources of both failure and success? For example, do I tend to use my talents selfishly for myself, caring only about what’s good for me and not caring about the needs of others? Do I think only about my achievements and ignore my failures to love? Is all my attention focused on what I can do in this world, or do I also reflect on my inevitable aging and death? In other words, do I see myself as a creature possessing both wonderful gifts and flaws and limitations?
None of us likes to face the things about ourselves that we can’t change—our weaknesses, our tendencies toward evil, the fact that we will die. But the Gospel of Luke tells us that God has done something to help us. In the language of the Bible, God has brought us salvation: he has come to heal us completely, to rescue us from the evils that threaten us—to rescue us even from death. To benefit from what God has done for us, we must first recognize that we need God’s help.
Luke’s Gospel deals with the issue of being open to God’s work through Jesus. Luke shows us that God has made salvation available through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. In many ways, God’s action through Jesus was unexpected, even for the Jewish people of the time. The salvation Jesus brings goes far beyond what people were looking for. It also makes demands on those who accept it. So we meet people in Luke’s Gospel who are astonished by Jesus. They are struggling to understand what Jesus was offering them and how they should respond.
The people described in Luke’s Gospel respond to Jesus in different ways, according to how much they recognize the need for God to intervene in their lives. Some people feel no need for what Jesus offers. They think they know where they stand with God, where they are going in life, and how they are going to get there. They think they know themselves.
Others who meet Jesus are not so sure they have it all together. They recognize that they need something from Jesus, although they are not sure what it is. So they are willing to let God intervene in their lives through Jesus, even if it means being challenged in surprising ways.
We will be reading about religious leaders who are satisfied with themselves even though they lack compassion and are spiritually malnourished (Weeks 2 and 3). Jesus says to them sharply, “If you’re so healthy, you don’t need my medical services.” If they had been more truthful with themselves, they might have approached Jesus with more of an open mind.
Then there are physically sick people who encounter Jesus (Week 2). They know they need something, and they hope that Jesus can provide it. They may not understand everything about their deepest needs and about Jesus, but at least they come.
The person we will meet who is most realistic about himself is a man who is executed on a cross next to Jesus (Week 5). He has no illusions about himself. He knows his crimes and sees his total need for God’s mercy. This criminal is the only person in the Gospel who reaches out to accept the whole rescue from sin and death that God offers us in Jesus.
This booklet is titled Luke: The Good News of God’s Mercy. All of us want to experience God’s mercy, so we take up the reading of Luke with some awareness of why we need God’s mercy. We know that something in ourselves and in our lives needs to be set right, forgiven, healed.
But are we ready to hear a different perspective on what is wrong with us, one that is less pleasant than our own? Can we put aside for a while our own ideas about who we are, where our lives should be going, and what our needs truly are? Are we willing to admit that perhaps we do not know ourselves all that well?
This is what we do when there is something wrong with us physically. We know where it hurts but we don’t know what is wrong or how it should be treated. So we go to a doctor, who can tell us what the problem is and what we need to do about it. What happens when our reading brings us in contact with Jesus, the physician par excellence?
Luke will show us that sometimes the thing that people need most is to have their eyes opened to what they really need. They may not recognize their lack of compassion or their unwillingness to serve others. In fact, their practice of religion may hide the problem from them. Do we see anything of this in ourselves?
God may give us not only a surprising diagnosis but also a surprising remedy. Jesus does not ignore what we feel is the problem. When a person with a skin disease comes to Jesus, Jesus heals his skin disease. When a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus, Jesus restores his ability to walk. Jesus shares our concerns about our problems, but he understands that we need to do more than just get favors from God. We need to put more effort into serving God and the people around us. God’s mercy comes to take hold of us and fit us into his plans, which may be different from the plans we have for ourselves. God has more in mind for us than we expect when he heals us. Are we willing to have our expectations exceeded?
In the Gospel of Luke, we make contact with a will other than our own. God shows that he is not a spectator-god who made a DVD of the universe billions of years ago and now sits back to watch. God has a loving plan; God makes things happen. It is this active, involved God who comes to Mary and tells her about his plan for her in Luke’s Gospel. As we begin reading the Gospel of Luke, are we prepared to meet this God?
So far, we have been looking at Luke’s Gospel from the perspective of a tourist, accompanied by a tour guide who suggests the best position from which to look at a site: “Stand over here to get the best view!” But let us also take a few minutes to focus on Luke’s Gospel itself. Now that we are in an appropriate position from which to view Luke’s Gospel, what do we see?
Luke’s Gospel is an account in eight parts. Luke has not marked the sections with subheads or chapter titles. All of the headings (and even the chapter and verse numbers) have been added by translators and editors to help us find our way through the text. Ancient authors used other headings, but this is the order that scholars now think we should note in the text:
1. Prologue (1:1–4) ~ Luke tells us briefly why he is writing. We won’t discuss the prologue, but it takes just a few seconds to read.
2. Birth (1:5—2:52) ~ Luke tells two stories, the coming of Jesus and the coming of John the Baptist, who played an important role in introducing Jesus’ ministry. By telling us the stories of their births side by side, Luke makes it easy for us to see how they are alike and how they are different. One way they are alike is that the angel Gabriel announced the conception of both boys. This makes it clear that they both are part of God’s plan to rescue and restore us. One way they are different is that the angel makes the announcement to John’s father, but to Jesus’ mother. Jesus, after all, does not have a human father. God is Jesus’ Father, so Jesus is God’s Son. The text for Week 1 comes from this section.
3. Preparation (3:1—4:13) ~ John calls the people to repentance, and this sets the scene for Jesus to appear. John baptizes Jesus, who, filled with God’s Spirit, undergoes a test of his trust and obedience toward God. In its own way this section also presents Jesus as God’s Son. We won’t be discussing anything from this section, but the “Between Discussions” pages will say more about it.
4. Ministry in Galilee (4:14—9:50) ~ Jesus walks from village to village, announcing the fulfillment of God’s plan for meeting our deepest needs. He heals people to show that his message is true and that God’s plan is all about giving us life. His wonderful deeds also point to the central role Jesus played in doing God’s work.
Jesus teaches people how to respond to what God is doing, gathers a group of followers, and makes some enemies. The reading for Week 2 helps us understand this period of Jesus’ life—a time when his words and works make people wonder, “Who is this man?” The section ends in a double climax. Jesus’ followers recognize that he is indeed the one who will bring God’s salvation. Then they see a vision in which God himself says of Jesus, “This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to him!”
5. A long trip (9:50—19:27) ~ Once Jesus’ followers recognize who he is, he begins a long journey to Jerusalem. He knows that in Jerusalem he will enter into glory and authority with God, but he will do so in a way that seems unimaginable to his followers—death on a cross. On his way toward this suffering, Jesus spends his time teaching people about God’s mercy and about how God wants them to be merciful. Weeks 3 and 4 offer samples of this teaching.
It is significant that Jesus teaches as he travels. Jesus gives his instructions as he walks along the road to show that he is not just interested in our following directions. He wants us to follow him personally, just as his disciples followed him on the road to Jerusalem.
6. Ministry in Jerusalem (19:28—21:38) ~ Jesus enters the city like a king and takes his stand as a teacher in the Temple. Luke helps us see that everything Jesus does and teaches shows him to be God’s Son, the one who will bring salvation.
7. Death (22:1—23:56) ~ Jesus has come to Jerusalem expecting to die, so he allows a plot to develop against him. On the night his enemies have chosen, he deliberately waits for them to come and seize him. He is convinced that his death must happen; it is the way designated by God for him to enter into eternal kingship and thus to bring God’s salvation into the world. Before his death, he and his followers eat a meal that is heavy with meaning. As he dies, he makes it clear in a conversation with a fellow dying man why he is dying. We will read about these moving and profound episodes in Week 5.
8. Resurrection (23:56—24:53) ~ Three days after Jesus’ death, his friends discover that his tomb is empty. Then, from his new position of eternal kingship and glory, Jesus appears to his followers. He helps them understand how he will continue to be among them (Week 6). In a final appearance, Jesus guides his followers toward the next stage of God’s plan for them, which Luke discusses in his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.
So much for introduction. After the tour bus has arrived at a historical site, and the guide has suggested a suitable vantage point, and we have heard an explanation of the place’s significance, comes the reason why we made the journey: we get to see for ourselves. Let us begin to read Luke carefully and attentively, asking the Holy Spirit to bring Luke’s words alive as God’s words to us.
Week 1
Surprised by God

Warm-Up Questions

1 Reflect for a moment on which of these describes best the way you feel right now:
 I like the way things are going in my life.
 My life is fine, except for this one thing.
 I would love to change a lot of things in my life.
2 Do you like surprises in your life, or would you prefer for things to proceed as expected?
3 Can you think of a time when something unexpected happened, and it turned out to be a blessing from God?
4 Where do you need God’s help most right now: at school? at home? with friends? in your personal life?
Opening the Bible
What’s Happened

In the Gospel’s first episode (1:5–25), Luke relates an incident involving an elderly priest named Zechariah who worked at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. God sent an angel to Zechariah to tell him that his wife, Elizabeth, who was also no longer young, would soon bear a child—her first. When this child grows up, he will become known as John the Baptist and will prepare people to follow Jesus.
The Reading
Luke 1:26–55
A Very Unexpected Announcement
1:26 The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
A Joyful Visit
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary Declares God’s Greatness
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
  47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
  and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
  from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
  and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
  in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
  to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Questions for a Closer Look

1 If Mary is told in verse 30 not to be afraid, why does she talk about fear in verse 50?
2 Look at verses 35 and 41 and reflect on how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
3 According to Mary’s prayer, what will God do for
 those who fear him?
 the lowly?
 the hungry?
 his servant Israel?
4 Look at the different things that God is said to have done in verses 51–53. What do they tell you about the kind of God we believe in?
5 In a sentence or two, how would you sum up the central message of this week’s reading?
A Guide to the Reading

Nazareth is today a sprawling working-class town of some 70,000 residents. In Mary’s day, it was a mere cluster of stone houses, home to perhaps a couple of hundred people. A young woman is indoors, apparently alone, when suddenly an angel appears and addresses her (1:26–28). They have a short but important conversation. By the time the angel leaves, the most important event in history is under way. It has been launched in a village so obscure that it is not mentioned in any records of the time. It has been launched through a seemingly insignificant young woman who was probably still in her early teens.
The angel does not tell Mary exactly what God has in store for her son. But clearly this Jesus will play a decisive part in God’s plan. God will use Jesus to change for good the way he relates to us, for Jesus will reign “forever” (1:33). Up until then God had helped people in various, somewhat indirect, ways (see Hebrews 1:1). Now he is sending a “special agent” to deal face-to-face with our ills. The angel uses the language of kingship to show that Jesus will receive authority (1:32–33). Jesus is God’s Son, conceived by the Spirit, so he will be God’s personal representative. Indeed, in Jesus, God is coming in person.
The child is the center of attention, but we cannot help noticing the mother also. What a difference between God’s magnificent plan and the humble young girl living in Nazareth!
Yet God does not overwhelm her. Gabriel’s words show how highly God respects her. She is the only person in the entire Bible to be greeted as “favored one.” This simple greeting—in 1:28—marked the person most favored by God, and it was reserved for Mary alone. On other occasions when an angel announced the birth of a child, the dialogue would end after the heavenly messenger gave a final reassurance (for example, 1:20). In Mary’s case, the messenger waits for her to say yes (1:38).
All this demonstrates that God is not using Mary; he is commissioning her for the important task of raising his Son. He has chosen her for this responsibility (preserving her from sin from her conception, as the Church believes), and he seeks her cooperation. Mary thinks, questions, and then gives herself freely to God’s plan. She acknowledges that she is God’s servant—literally, in the Greek, his slave—a person who belongs to him fully.
The angel tells Mary that her older relative Elizabeth has unexpectedly become pregnant, so Mary goes to visit her. Elizabeth will be someone with whom Mary can share her extraordinary experience.
Elizabeth lived roughly 90 miles south of Nazareth, and the trip would have taken Mary four days or more. When Mary arrives, God inspires Elizabeth to recognize the child that Mary is now carrying (1:41–43). Notice that Elizabeth congratulates Mary not only for being chosen to bear the Savior (1:42) but also for cooperating with God’s plan (1: 45). In response, Mary sings God’s praises (1:46–55).
These events give us, like they did Mary (1:29), plenty to think about. She experienced God as having a surprising plan for her life, who intervened at the moment of his choosing, who valued her immensely. It is true that God’s plan for Mary was unique, but we too are in a relationship with this God of surprises. What does this mean for us? To Mary, God revealed his intention to make himself present in the midst of ordinary human circumstances. Do we see God’s presence in the simple and ordinary events of our lives?
Elizabeth and Mary rejoice (1:41–55). All of us would like to have more joy in our lives, but where can we find it? This reading suggests that the source of joy is experiencing God’s loving action toward us. The question we need to ask ourselves, then, is whether we understand that these events in Luke’s Gospel are God’s actions for us.
Questions for Application

1 Mary takes a risk when she says yes to God’s plan. Think of the risks that teenagers often take. Which of those risks are productive in their lives? Which are counter-productive, even destructive?
2 Mary talks about God, but she also talks about the great things God has done for her. How do you feel when people talk about themselves? Do you think people should be honest about their strengths as well as their weaknesses?
3 Think of something that did not go the way you expected. What did you learn from the experience?
4 What does today’s reading teach us about what is important to God? about what God wants to accomplish? about how God relates to people? Does this sound like the kind of God you would like to know and talk with? How might this picture of God help you at this point in your life?
5 God calls on Mary to play a servant role in his plans. What service to others do you think God has in mind for you? How will it affect your life if you say yes to God’s challenge?
6 How do people show mercy to each other? Is there someone in your family or your circle of friends who is a good example of a merciful person? What can you learn from that person?
Approach to Prayer

The first two joyful mysteries of the Rosary are the Annunciation (Gabriel’s announcement to Mary) and the Visitation (Mary’s visit to Elizabeth). Pray these two decades of the Rosary aloud with the group.
Then, if you wish, share with the group a blessing for which you are especially grateful.
Supplement for Individual Reading
A Living Tradition
Hail, Mary

The Hail Mary that we recite in the Rosary comes from today’s reading.
“Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you!” comes from Gabriel’s greeting in 1:28 (as it was rendered in an old Latin translation).
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” comes from Elizabeth’s congratulations to Mary in 1:42. With Elizabeth, we congratulate Mary not only for her motherhood, but also for her response to God (1:45). Our congratulations imply a willingness on our part to imitate her.
Christians in the Middle Ages combined these passages and added the name “Jesus” as the fruit of Mary’s womb.
When we go on to say, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners,” we are seeking the grace to be able to respond in our lives through Jesus: “Let it be with me according to your word” (1:38).
Eventually the practice developed of linking 50 Hail Marys into a rosarium, or rose garden, the rose being a symbol of joy, and the prayer being a celebration of Mary’s joy.
Today’s reading also helps explain Catholic devotion to Mary and why we continue to greet and congratulate Mary in our prayers. Mary declares, “From now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me” (1:48–49). In effect, Mary was saying, “From now on people will remark about me, ‘The Lord made her truly happy!’”
When we “hail” Mary and declare her truly happy, we remind ourselves where true happiness lies. Mary’s happiness, and ours, lies in the God who revealed himself to her—the God who takes the initiative to intervene in human lives and save us.
Between Discussions
Mary leaves Elizabeth after a lengthy visit, and Elizabeth has her baby. Zechariah offers a prophetic prayer over their infant son (1:57–80).
Six months later, Mary again travels south, this time with Joseph, to the district where Zechariah and Elizabeth live. They are complying with a government census requirement. Mary and Joseph arrive in the town of Bethlehem (today a 20-minute drive from Jerusalem) in time for Mary to give birth. A prophetic song is also prayed over this child, but not by Joseph. At Jesus’ birth, it is not an earthly father but angels who sing (2:8–14), reminding us that Jesus’ Father is in heaven.
Luke only tells one story from the years between Jesus’ infancy and his public life (2:41–52). By now it will come as no surprise that this boyhood episode underlines Jesus’ relationship with God. Jesus’ first recorded words affirm that he must be busy with his Father’s business (or in his Father’s house—the Greek text can be read either way).
Except for that incident, Luke passes over Jesus’ life until Jesus is 30. We know only that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, presumably in a small house built on the dry hillside overlooking the green Jezreel Valley.
Suddenly, in the wilderness along the Jordan River, John the Baptist begins to preach. His preaching attracts large crowds (3:1–18). John announces that Israel’s history is approaching its climax. God’s people have gone astray in sin and are shortly headed toward a final showdown with God’s justice. The only way for them to avoid the sentence God is about to pass on their lives is by turning their minds and hearts around. The Judge is already on the way!
Jesus seems to have taken John’s preaching as the signal to leave Nazareth. He sets out southward to the place where John is preaching and is baptized by John (3:21). Afterward as Jesus prays, God confirms his special relationship with the Father: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (3:22).
A period of prayer, fasting, and testing in the wilderness follow this event (4:1–13). The testing revolves around the question of whether Jesus will continue to act as God’s Son, trusting and obeying his Father. Jesus passes the test and returns to Galilee.
By accepting John’s baptism, Jesus showed that he agreed with John’s message. Yet Jesus will now give his own twist to the message. John proclaimed that God’s Kingdom was about to arrive; Jesus will proclaim that it is arriving.
In his very first homily, Jesus quotes an Old Testament prophecy about the coming of God’s Kingdom and judgment. But if you compare Isaiah 61:2 and Luke 4:19, you will notice that Jesus omits the line about judgment. Jesus agrees with John that God’s judgment is coming. But at present, Jesus declares, God’s Kingdom is breaking into the world with mercy. To show that God’s mercy is near, Jesus accompanies his preaching with healing.
Jesus and John both realize that sin cuts people off from God. But Jesus’ approach to the problem is different from John’s. John called people to repent so that they would be ready for God’s coming Kingdom. Jesus brings God’s Kingdom in order to lead people to repentance. The difference is seen in the way John and Jesus conduct themselves. John remains in the wilderness; those who repent go out to him to be baptized. Jesus comes to the towns and homes of people who have not yet repented, demonstrating God’s love for them in order to lead them to repentance.
Mary had experienced God’s intervention in her life when he blessed her with the gift of bearing and raising his Son. In the same way, the people who live in the small towns of Galilee will now experience God’s initiative through Jesus.

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Table of Contents


How to Use This Guide 4

The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel—and How to Connect with I
t   6

WEEK 1 Surprised by God

              Luke 1:26–55   12
WEEK 2 An Argument About Dinner
              Luke 5:12–32     24
WEEK 3 A Man Had Two Sons
              Luke 15:1–3, 11–32      36
WEEK 4 No Servant Can Serve Two Masters
             Luke 16:13–15, 19–31       48
WEEK?5 You Will Be with Me in Paradise
             Luke 22:14–20, 24–30; 23:32–43      60
WEEK 6 The Lord Has Risen Indeed
              Luke 24:13–35      72

After Words    82

Mercy and More Mercy   84

A Young Person’s Gospel    88

Listening When God Speaks    92

Resources    95

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