Luke’s Message of Forgiveness and Acceptance
Luke’s Gospel has much in common with Matthew’s. Both emphasised on the prophetic and teaching ministry of Jesus; both highlighted His ministry of healing, casting out demons and raising the dead; both recorded His birth, His death and His resurrection in greater detail than Mark.
However, compared to Matthew, Luke distinctively portrayed how Jesus was particularly merciful towards the needy and the sinful, without being any less harsh towards the self-righteous and hypocritical. The material that Luke chose seemed slanted in this direction: only Luke referred to the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (7:36-50); only Luke narrated the acceptance of Zacchaeus (19:1-10). In portraying the Father’s heart for the lost, Matthew recorded the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Mt 18:10-14); Luke recorded that and two more, culminating in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15). Matthew focused on how the righteousness of Christ fulfills the demands of the Law; Luke focused on how the mercy of Christ reaches even the most undeserving.
Thus for Matthew, the boundaries between the righteous and the unrighteous/self-righteous were clearly drawn; in Luke the same boundaries exist, but he went further to define: so who are the ‘righteous’? They are those who are penitent and broken for their sins — like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable who cried, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (18:13) They are those who loved much because they are forgiven much — like the sinful woman who anointed Jesus (7:47-49). They are none else but the outcasts and the unworthy — like the poor and crippled in the Parable of the Great Banquet (14:12-24).
It is this inclusiveness in Luke’s gospel that endears me. If Matthew majors in calling his readers to repentance, then Luke majors in doing the preliminary work: we can only truly repent when we are truly forgiven. Like Zacchaeus who declared his repentance after Christ’s magnanimous acceptance, Luke called us to encounter the generous forgiveness of God the Father through His compassionate Son. The Son not only has the authority to forgive sins (5:24, 48), but also the willingness to extend forgiveness to all who put their faith in Him.
And that includes me. My reading of Matthew left me with an uneasy conviction of my unworthiness, my propensity to sin and hypocrisy. But in Luke I can at least identify myself with the prodigal son, the tax collector, the sinful woman. It is not that I prefer Luke in order to console myself — indeed, Luke made no compromise on the demands of discipleship (14:25-27). But Luke presented the starting point for all discipleship — God’s initiative in receiving and forgiving us broken sinners. His unconditional acceptance not only warrants, but empowers our unreserved repentance. The twin truths beautifully merged in Luke’s concluding exhortation, “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name …” (24:47)
Lord, let me never cease to be amazed by Your grace.
Courses commencing in Term 2
Spiritual Retreat Experience: Nature, Purpose & Experience (ECF504, 3cr); Oct 20, 27, Nov 3, 10, 17; 7.15-10.15pm. #Residential Retreat Nov 27-29 (Additional Cost).
Lecturer: Mr John Chong Ser Choon
*Scripture Recitation & Storytelling (ECF514, 1.5cr); Oct 28, Nov 4, 11,18, 25 (Exam); 7.15-10.15pm
Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan
The Craft of Teaching (ECF511, 1.5cr);
Oct 29, Nov 5, 12, 19; 7.15-10.15pm Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng
Vocation, Work & Ministry (MM101; 3 cr) Nov 19, 23, 25, 30, (Weekdays, 7.15-10.15pm); Nov 21, 28 (Saturday, 9.30-4.30pm) Lecturers: Prof Paul Stevens & Mr Clive Lim (D. Min candidate, Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary)
Personal Ministry Skills, Nov 3, 10, 17 (Tue 7.20-10pm) Lecturer: Mr Toh Kai Hua
* Courses marked with an asterisk are not offered on audit basis. Registration is open for all courses. Visit www.bgst.edu.sg for course description and registration (under Course & Events/Course Schedules).
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