Good News to the poor – Luke

luke oxLuke, symbolised in medieval times as a winged ox, more than any of the other Gospel writers does not bother too much with chronology. That is not the purpose of his writing, it is not an ordered biograph, despite him saying it was an ordered account at the beginning of his account. The way he says, “at another time Jesus …” shows that the order of events is not the most important thing.

Like Matthew he has a lot of Jesus teachings, but not so well ordered.

But before I continue, there’s the question of the ox.

The ox was one of the animals most commonly used as a temple sacrifice, and signifies the sacrificial death of Jesus which is so important in his narrative. But my reading of Luke would put something as greater importance.

Let us look at what Luke says first about Jesus ministry.

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Luke 4:16-20 ESV

It looks like this is the first thing that Jesus does after his baptism and time in the desert. The other Gospel writers put Jesus being rejected in his home synagogue in the middle of the Galilean ministry. So has Luke got it wrong? Or is there a purpose in this placement?

I’d go with the latter.

Luke has Jesus saying what his ministry is about by putting the story of Jesus saying what he is about right at the beginning. It is prioritising by function, something he can later fit things to. Jesus came to proclaim good new to the poor and liberty.

Luke’s emphasis on the poor is shown from the early chapters. This is from Mary’s song of praise:

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
Luke 1:52-53

In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, from the Sermon on the plain, he says, “Blessed are the poor,” rather than Matthew’s poor in spirit.

That God favours those who are oppressed is a reflection of the prophets. The Huddersfield motto, found on its coat of arms, Juvat Impigros Deus, God Defends the diligent, a Latinisation of God helps those who help themselves, is wrong. God is a defender of the powerless, those capable of defending themselves do not need defending.

God cares for mankind in a fallen condition and for the poor and oppressed and came to do something about it by coming, identifying with them and taking the pain of their condition on himself.


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