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The books of Luke and Acts are two volumes of a single work (see the Invitation to Acts for a more detailed introduction to Acts). Together they tell the story of how God first invited the people of Israel, and then all nations, to follow Jesus. In the first volume, the movement is toward Jerusalem, the center of Jewish national life. In the second, the movement is from Jerusalem to other nations, closing with Paul proclaiming the kingdom of God in Rome, the capital of the empire.
Luke addresses his history to most excellent Theophilus, most likely a Roman official. His volumes are stocked with details from sources Luke had available: letters, speeches, songs, travel accounts, trial transcripts and biographical anecdotes. Luke’s purpose is to show the fulfillment of God’s plan to bring his light to the world through Israel. The earliest Jesus-followers take up this calling by announcing Jesus’ victory over sin and death to all the nations.
The first volume, Luke’s telling of the story of Jesus, has three main sections:
- First, Jesus ministers in Galilee, the northern area of the land of Israel.
- Next, he takes a long journey to Jerusalem, during which he welcomes people into the way of God’s reign and challenges Israel’s current understanding of the kingdom.
- Third, Luke tells how Jesus gives his life in Jerusalem and then rises from the dead to be revealed as Israel’s King and the world’s true Lord.
Luke 1 English Standard Version (ESV)
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificent
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
- Mary praises and glorifies God, through her prayer-song, for He will accomplish what He has planned for the world through her. It describes that God lifts up the poor, comforts the oppressed, and cares for the despised. Mary’s prayer reminds us that we are participating in what God has been doing and is yet to do.
- Prayer is our way of being attentive to God, who is present to us in the Holy Spirit. Our prayer is always the second sentence. First God speaks; we respond by prayer. Just like Mary in this prayer, God spoke first through the angel, Mary heard and received, believed and submitted to the Word that conceived Christ in her.
- Have you ever had an experience of being an active participant in carrying out God’s plan? How has this experience impacted you?
- Are you aware that you are present to God in prayer just as God is ever present to you? What will this awareness change you in your attitude and actions in everyday life?