LUKE DISAPPOINTED ME. Yeah, I’m talking about the Gospel of Luke.
Lately, I’ve been reading it more carefully than I have in a long time.
I hit a news flash. I discovered that a lot of well-respected Bible experts say that the angel wasn’t talking about me when he told the shepherds he had Good News for “all people” (Luke 2:10).
I’m not included in “all people.”
Neither are you, unless you’re Jewish.
Here’s what the angel said.
“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:10-11).
Bible experts say that when Luke wrote the word that is translated “all people,” he used a Greek term that we associate with a Southeast Asian country: laos. It means “people.”
Which is a cool name for a country. People.
But scholars say that whenever Luke uses that word, he’s talking about Jewish people.
Luke set that Jewish context early on in the book he wrote, when he reported Zechariah’s happy song after little John the Baptist got born.
“The God of Israel… redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior… remembering his sacred covenant – the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham” (Luke 1:68-73).
There’s not a lot of Gentile going on there. Just a lot of Jew.
That surprised me. It bothered me, too. Now, every time I hear the Christmas story, I’m going to remember that the angel was talking to Jews about Jews.
But then, Jesus was a Jew. All of his disciples were Jews. The first members of the Jesus Movement initially called “The Way” and later called “Christianity” were Jews.
Christianity had to start somewhere I guess.
In time, the Jesus Movement grew to include non-Jews. In fact, the man traditionally credited with writing the Gospel of Luke was not a Jew. He was a physician who traveled in the apostle Paul’s entourage.
In the beginning of Luke’s story, I may not have been there. But I’m there now.
So – I hope with Luke’s blessing – I’m going to go ahead and read myself into “all people,” just like I did before I knew any better.
Christmas may have started with Jews.
But somewhere along the way the rest of us got invited to the party:
“Go and make disciples of all nations.”
—Jesus to his Jewish disciples, Matthew 28:19
For more about Jesus
- Understanding Jesus
- Who’s Who and Where’s Where in the Bible, pages 243-252
- Jesus, a fake human?
- Is Jesus enough for Christmas?
- What Romans said about crucifixion
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