The primary sources we have for understanding Jesus’s life, teaching, and ministry – along with his death and resurrection – are the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are the first four books of the New Testament. This year we will be focusing on the Gospel of Luke, probably my favorite gospel.
Eugene Peterson, in his popular Bible paraphrase The Message, calls Luke “the gospel for misfits.” Maybe that’s why I like it so much! Throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is continually reaching out to the last, the least, the lonely, the forgotten, the overlooked, the marginalized.
Who were some of these folks in Jesus’s day? Lepers, for one – and all who were physically disfigured or differently abled. And Samaritans – and others who were ethnically and religiously different. And women, who in Jesus’s day – and still in ours in some places around the world – were treated like second-class citizens. Add to the mix Gentiles and non-practicing Jews. These are the folks who were shunned and marginalized by the dominant culture. Yet these are the very ones Jesus reaches out to and embraces and shares a message of God’s all-inclusive love throughout the Gospel of Luke.
Mercy and inclusivity are major emphases in Luke. These find expression in another main theme: forgiveness. As Richard Rohr writes in The Good News According to Luke:
Luke’s Gospel is the most broad-minded and the most forgiving. Every chance he gets, Luke has Jesus forgiving people, right up to the good thief on the cross. Luke presents Jesus as a totally forgiving person, because he wants to broaden the notion of Jesus and the faith communities who follow his Way. Already in these first decades of the church, many have begun to depict Jesus as a narrowing, provincial kind of Messiah available only to Jews who want to convert, and Luke wants to counteract that.
Misfits all are we, loved and forgiven, and bidden to follow the one who perfectly manifested God’s love and forgiveness in the world! I hope you’ll join us Sunday mornings in person or online as we explore the Gospel for Misfits. Furthermore, I hope you’ll consider joining Rev. Bob Mitchell via Zoom on Wednesday mornings starting February 23 at 10:00, for a midweek Bible Study on the book The Story Luke Tells (learn more).