This program is a rebroadcast from October 22, 2016.
The Gospel of Luke
In the past couple weeks, we’ve seen Matthew’s Gospel preached to the Jewish people and Mark’s Gospel written to the Romans. Now we take a look at Luke, the third Gospel.
Luke was a Gentile. He wrote his Gospel at a time of severe racial tension. Many Gentile believers felt out of place in Christianity. But Luke’s Gospel assured his Gentile readers that they were a special part of God’s plan for redemption. Salvation isn’t offered only to some – it’s God’s free gift to the entire world! Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God had ended the division between Jewish people and Gentiles.
This Gospel was a powerful tool for unity in the body of Christ. As Paul would later echo in Romans and Galatians, there is no distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. May this truth give you joy as a child of God today!
Steve Conover: This is Steve Conover. Today you'll hear an episode from our archives, a popular series we're sure you'll enjoy. In it, Chris explores the Gospels and why there are four different accounts of Christ's life in your Bible.
Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you to visit foiradio.org for more resources and to listen to archive programming. Our host and teacher Chris Katulka is here. Chris, tell us what's on the program today.
Chris Katulka: Yes, Steve, we've got a great show lined up. So, first we're going to continue our series on The Gospels Speak to Everyone. We've already looked at Matthew and Mark, and this week we're going to look at Luke and who his audience was.
It's really important to know the audience of the gospel writers. And then second, we're going to be unpacking Simchat Torah, the last of this fall feasts that we've been going through, and it's a real great time of celebrating God's Word. So, you'll want to stick around for that. And then finally, Apples of Gold.
Steve Conover: We're so glad you chose to join us today. We've got a great show, and now the news.
Chris Katulka: The Israeli government has a plan to welcome more than 9,000 Ethiopian Jews to their country within the next five years, continuing decades of Ethiopian immigration to Israel. Emotions ran high at Ben Gurion Airport as the first 64 Ethiopians were welcomed by friends and family who waited years to hold their loved ones.
Jewish Agency chairman, Natan Sharansky, told the immigrants, "Everything is now in your hands. After 2,500 years of prayers, you can expect a big future." Israel, like America, is a country of immigrants. It's a melting pot. It's an extremely diverse culture with people that come from many different nations, languages, and backgrounds. The Ethiopian population plays a major role adding to the colorful tapestry that make up the people of Israel.
This is why Sharansky said to the new citizens of Israel, "You can expect great things."
Steve Conover: That's great, Chris, one of my favorite things about being in the land, especially in Jerusalem, is seeing the diversity of cultures that make up the city of Jerusalem.
Quickly, before we get to the message, I'd like to remind you that we're featuring a resource by our former executive director, Victor Buksbazen, The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel. We'll tell you more about that book later.
Chris Katulka: Today we're going to continue our series on the Gospels. Our series is called The Gospels Speak to Everyone. The beauty of the gospel of the Lord Jesus is that it transcends time, culture, race, nationality, and even the socioeconomic divide. The message of the gospel is for everybody.
But I also believe that God ordered the Gospels in such a way that they do speak to everyone. The Gospels are letters that were written for specific people and for a specific audience. I've been using this analogy that the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are like the four sides of a skyscraper.
I was just in downtown Philadelphia a few days ago with my family, and I saw the new Comcast skyscraper that they're building. My kids were with me, and as we stood at the base of that building, I told my daughter to look up. She stared, and she said, "How did they do that?" She was asking me, “Dad, how in the world did they build this building so high?”
See, each side of the skyscraper is different and presents a different angle of the building. Yet no matter which side of the building we were looking at, you're still looking at that same building. Like Olive, my daughter, sometimes it's almost impossible to stare without trying to wrack your mind on how they are building this and engineered this amazing thing.
You know, the Gospels, they work in the same way. To fully describe the nature of Jesus Christ in only one Gospel doesn't do justice to the majesty of who He is. Yet God gives us four Gospels to help us see different perspectives of who Christ is. Maybe it's different because of who the Gospel was written for, or maybe it's different because of the message the Gospel writers are trying to convey about Jesus or his followers to the readers.
As we were unpacking Matthew and Mark, we talked about how Matthew was written for Jewish believers in Jesus to communicate the story of Jesus the Jewish Messiah so that as Matthew is communicating this message to a Jewish audience, they can be confident to share their faith with their Jewish friends.
Second, Matthew was also written to encourage Jewish believers who were facing persecution from the Jewish legalists of Jesus' day. Remember those Jewish legalists of Jesus' day, they didn't just disappear. They continued to persecute the early church.
So, last week we looked at the Gospel of Mark, which was written for a Roman audience. It was written in a way to convince Romans that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of the world, and that being a disciple of Jesus could come at a cost. Much of the Gospel of Mark is focused on the concept of discipleship and how a true disciple of Jesus should live as He lived, a sacrificial life.
Now, this week we're going to move to the third Gospel, the last of a set of Gospels that are called the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of Luke. Luke's background is going to play a major role in who he chooses to write his Gospel to.
See, Matthew and Mark and John, these are all Jewish believers in Jesus. But, see, Luke is a little different. He's a Gentile. We know that Luke was a Gentile, because in Paul's letters to the Colossians, in Colossians chapter four, 10 through 14, Paul lists Luke as a non Jewish follower of Jesus who supports his ministry.
Luke probably came from Antioch of Syria, and even though he was a Gentile, he probably had some significant contact with Judaism before he believed in Jesus. Scholars believe Luke was a God fearing Gentile, which means as a non Jew, he believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, much like Cornelius in the book of Acts.
Scholars believe this, because Luke shows a real sense of understanding of the Jewish culture and customs of his time, even though he wasn't Jewish. So, being Gentile and understanding Judaism, Luke stands in an interesting place as a Gospel writer. Luke's Gospel seeks to tell a full and complete story of Jesus Christ... here it is, everybody... to the entire gentile world.
Matthew, very focused on the Jewish culture. Mark, very focused on speaking to Romans. But Luke stands in an interesting place with an understanding of Judaism and an understanding of what it means to be a gentile. He seeks to share the message of the Jewish Messiah to a gentile world. You can really see this all throughout his Gospel.
Remember, the Gospel of Luke is only part one of a series. Luke also wrote the book of Acts, which is the history of the early church. In the book of Acts, you can see Luke's desire to communicate the message of Jesus Christ to the entire gentile world. He shares the stories of Paul's missionary journeys.
Paul eventually makes his way... I love this as Luke is unpacking Paul's story... to the center of the gentile world, Rome, to speak to the leader of the gentile world, the emperor of Rome. When Luke writes his Gospel, he's actually writing... this is so fascinating... he's actually writing to just one particular man. Even though he's communicating this message to the entire gentile world, he's actually just writing to one man, which is very unique in the four Gospels that Luke just writes to one man.
In Luke 1:3, Luke explains that he's writing this detailed account of the life of Christ for Theophilus, and Theophilus was probably another God fearing gentile like Luke who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. This is what's interesting. Luke was writing to Theophilus, because Theophilus probably didn't feel welcomed within the church.
Remember the early church was predominantly Jewish, and there was definitely a tension within the early church. Remember much of Paul's letters are devoted to the unity of the church that we're one in Christ. Why? Because there was racial tension between Jews and Gentiles during the days of Luke and Paul.
The Gospel of Luke is speaking to Gentile Christians like Theophilus who are working through issues of being included in the story of God's redemptive plan. You can really see this come across in Luke's genealogy of Jesus. Luke's genealogy of Jesus stands apart from Matthew's. Luke retraces the family line of Jesus, and Luke does something much different. Luke traces Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man, to show that Jesus' life and death and resurrection were meant for everyone, Jew and Gentile.
Matthew, he stops at Abraham, of course the figurehead of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac his son, and Jacob. But Luke takes us all the way back to Adam. What's amazing about Luke's Gospel is that even though it was written to only one man, Theophilus, the message of Luke's Gospel relates the story of Jesus to the contemporary world and culture of his day, and continues even today to be a source of understanding and revelation about Jesus.
Luke wanted to show the gentile world that God has torn down that dividing wall between Jews and gentiles. All mankind can come to the Father through faith in Jesus His son. It could only be done because of the grace of God.
I hope you're beginning to see the beauty on how God arranged the Gospels so that they communicate a message specifically to everybody, Jew, Roman, gentile. It's even speaking to us. This is the amazing thing. It transcends time. It's even speaking to us in this very moment. God used Luke to stand between the great divide. The great divide that was between the Jewish community and the gentile community.
Luke, the God fearing gentile who placed his faith in Jesus, understood some of the complex issues of what it meant to be a gentile believer in Jesus during his day. He wanted to encourage Theophilus and any other gentile believer who felt out of place that they were welcomed in the story of God's redemptive plan because of what Jesus has done.
I want to end with this quote from Luke 5:30 through 32. Just listen to what Jesus says. "But the Pharisees and their experts in the law complain to his disciples saying, why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? And Jesus answered them, those who are well don't need a physician, but those who are sick, do. I have come not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance." Do you see what Luke did? Luke welcomes everybody. All are welcome to the table of fellowship in the name of Jesus. Why? Because we are all sinners who have heard the call of Jesus to turn to Him.
Steve Conover: Chris, October is full of Jewish feasts. We've looked, on the program, at Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Feast of Tabernacles. We've mentioned a book a couple times over the last few weeks by Bruce Scott, our director of program ministries, The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah. Is there another resource that you would recommend to our audience if they would like to study the Jewish feasts?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. Actually, our very first executive director, Dr. Victor Buksbazen wrote a book called The Gospels in the Feasts of Israel. This is a 1954 classic, but it still has a relevant message for today. Dr. Buksbazen unpacks the Biblical feasts of Israel and also shows how they apply to the life of Christ and the message of the Gospel.
So, if you're interested in The Gospels in the Feasts of Israel, you can pick up your copy at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org.
Welcome back, my friends. I cannot believe how fast we flew right through these Jewish Fall feasts. Over the past couple of weeks we've looked at Rosh Hashanah. We examined a unique Egyptian spy who helped the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War. We saw the value of the Feast of Tabernacles for those who believe in Jesus.
Today, we're going to end our Fall feasts with a bang. Have you ever heard of the Jewish celebration of Simchat Torah? It's quite a party in the Jewish community, and it's a party with a great purpose. Every year the Jewish communities all around the world read through the Torah. That's the first five books of Moses. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Simchat Torah is the celebration of the ending of the year of Torah reading, and it ends in Deuteronomy chapter 34. Then again it starts the next year in Genesis chapter one.
Simchat Torah literally means this, rejoicing in the law. Rejoicing in the instructions that the Jewish people received from God. Now, Simchat Torah is not in the Bible. Of course we see verses over and over again that encourage believers to rejoice in God's Word, but there's no specific celebration of the Jewish people that we're supposed to honor this celebration called Simchat Torah.
It actually, Simchat Torah, comes from the ninth and tenth century AD, and it follows immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles. And during this celebration, the Jewish people, they march the Torah scrolls around the synagogue. They take them out of the bema, and they march them around. Everybody celebrates the Torah.
The person who does the last reading in Deuteronomy chapter 34 is called the Chatan Torah, which means the bridegroom of the Torah. The one who reads from Genesis to introduce the next year of the Torah reading is called the Chatan Bereshit, which means the bridegroom of the beginning.
There's this real honoring and celebration of all that the law of God means for the Jewish people. There are many holidays on the Jewish calendar, but only Purim and Simchat Torah rival one another for being such a joyful celebration. Isn't that awesome that within the Jewish community people value God's law every year, that they take time to celebrate and honor the law with dancing and rejoicing, because the law was something that God gave to them to communicate to others.
Simchat Torah, this amazing celebration, made me pause for a moment to ask if I rejoice or I get excited or I find even delight in God's Word. The psalmist of Psalm 119 verses 162 says this, "I rejoice in your Word like the one who finds great spoils." God's Word is like a treasure that is constantly producing new riches. It's like an endless well that's always satisfying the thirst of those who turn to it.
As Christians, we should get excited about God's Word. God's Word is His revelation about Himself to us. If you want to know God, then you must how His Son, Jesus, and His Word, the Bible, communicates the truth about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Another reason to be excited about God's Word is that it communicates the character and nature of God to us. Think about it. Before God's Word, mankind didn't know who God was and what God expected of us. Yet God's Word clears any confusion on the character and nature of who He is.
I just love my favorite passage, Exodus chapter 34, verses six and seven. And it says this, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who by no means clears the guilty."
God gives us in His Word, His character and His nature and who He is. He demands us... I love this... to be like him. God's Word desires for us to be like him. It communicates to us the plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, and that by the work of the Spirit in our lives interacting with God's Word, those who have placed their faith in Christ can be transformed as we yield ourselves to His Spirit that's within us and remain in His Word.
This year Simchat Torah has really challenged me to celebrate God's Word. It's challenged me to get excited when I open the scriptures. I want to challenge you. Next time you open God's Word, think of this song that's sung during Simchat Torah. Listen to this.
All the world is dancing, singing, on this joyous holiday. Hearts are merry, voices ringing. See how the Torah leads the way. On, on, march along. All our voices join in song. Hear the melody, lively, gay. This is Simchat Torah day.
May we always celebrate, honor, and lift up the Word of God.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: I have a 60 year old uncle who lives in Haifa. When he learned that I had received the Lord as my Savior, he wanted nothing more to do with me. He said, "I do not want to hear anymore about you. You no longer belong to our family." This was 20 years ago, and all this time he has been very hostile to me.
One time, I went to Haifa to visit my uncle, but when he saw me he closed the door and said, "Go away. I do not know you." I told him, "I have come to see you. How are you feeling? Even after you mock me, I do not hate you, because the Lord gives me much love, and I'm able to give it to others."
But he refused to listen to me. So, I left. I was very sad. Not because he had rejected me, but because he was in darkness. I knew there was nothing I could do to bring him to the Lord, but I continually remembered him in prayer. Now after 20 years, the Lord is answering my prayers.
Imagine my surprise just recently when upon answering a knock at my door, I found my uncle and aunt standing there. My aunt was even more against me than my uncle after I became a believer. When I visited them in Haifa, she wanted to call the police on me.
I received them into my home as best friends, forgetting what had been between us. My children played special songs from the Psalms on their instruments for them. This made them very sad, and they cried. They have no children, and my uncle began to tell me he could not understand why God had given him so many troubles. He said, "You are happy, because you have nice children. I have nothing. Now I am sick, and I do not know how long I will be in this world."
I said to him and his wife, "Do you want to be happy and have a good life?"
"Yes," he replied, "even if I have to give away all my money."
I said to him, "The Lord said you were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without money."
"How do you know this?" He asked.
"Please take the Bible and read it for yourself."
"What? Do you also, as a Christian, believe in the Bible? How can this be?"
I told him, "We have the same God, the same redeemer. If you will believe, you will see the salvation of our Lord. What we believe is all written in the Bible." I then read him many chapters of the Bible, all showing that the coming again of the Lord is drawing very near. I said, "Now is the time to receive Him as Savior. Shall we pray in the name of our Savior?"
After our prayers, my uncle and aunt said amen for the first time. My wife then brought supper to the table, and we ate. After supper, my uncle wanted to know how I had come to my faith in the Lord. This was a big surprise to me, and with much joy I gave them a witness for the Lord. They listened quietly, but I do not know their hearts. Only the Lord can save them, and now they're on their way.
Steve Conover: Next week, we conclude our series, The Gospels Speak to Everyone. Join us as Chris looks at the fourth and final Gospel, the Gospel of John. Don't forget to order your copy of The Gospel and the Feasts of Israel by Victor Buksbazen. Call our listener line at 888-343-6940. Again, that's 888-343-6940.
You can write to us as FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Or simply visit us on the web at foiradio.org. That's foiradio dot O-R-G.
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The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel
by Dr. Victor Buksbazen
We are in the middle of the fall Jewish holiday season and what better book to pair with what Chris is teaching in our series on the gospels than The Gospel in the Feasts of Israel. Learn how the ancient feasts interact with and illuminate the teachings of Jesus, the writings of the New Testament, and the message of the gospel. The author, former executive director of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Dr. Victor Buksbazen was a brilliant scholar who easily communicated his intimate understanding of the Holy Scriptures, Judaic studies, and the original languages of the biblical text.
God’s Word is a gift worth celebrating! The Jewish people recognize this fact each fall as they celebrate Simchat Torah. This special feast includes exactly what its name means: “rejoicing in the law.” Jewish communities gather to dance, sing, and praise the Lord during this joyful time. Christians can learn a lot from this display. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself, and it should be our joy to learn about Him through His Word!
If you want to learn more about Simchat Torah or other Jewish feasts you can purchase The Feasts of Israel by Bruce Scott here.
Apples of Gold: We Have the Same Redeemer
It’s heartbreaking to know that your loved ones reject Jesus. It gets even harder when they reject you for loving Him. That’s the heartache that Zvi dealt with as his uncle and aunt rejected him, showed him hostility, and threatened to have him arrested after he was saved. But God wasn’t finished with them. Hear how He brought about the reunion between Zvi and his family that he had been waiting 20 years for.
There are more stories like this from Zvi Kalisher! Purchase The Best of Zvi from our online store.
For more on the life of Zvi Kalisher, visit our online store to find his biography, Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph Over the Holocaust.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Also heard on this week’s show:
»Jesus Paid it all (Jeremy Strong)
»Just a Blip (Andy G. Cohen)