By Pastor Stephen Hess –
On Sunday mornings we are currently working through the Gospel of Luke and exploring the life of Jesus. I always tell people who are new to the Bible that one of the best places to begin is by reading one of the four Gospels. Reading the Gospels is exciting and fascinating because these four books are essentially biographies of Jesus that tell us about his true identity. They tell us everything we need to know in order to understand who he is and what it means to follow him. To have a single biography of an ancient historical figure is considered a treasure by historians. The fact that we have four in the case of Jesus is unprecedented and is a gift because each one gives us a unique window into his life.
One of the themes that is particularly emphasized in Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus often brings the good news of salvation to outsiders. So often during his ministry, Jesus did not first reach out to those who were “insiders” such as the scribes, the Pharisees, or the religious experts of the day. Instead, he reached out to those who would have been considered “outsiders” and brought them into the Kingdom of God. There are many examples of this that are unique to Luke’s Gospel.
At the beginning of the Gospel of Luke we read about a poor and lowly girl named Mary whom God chooses to be the bearer of his Son. In many ways, Mary was an outsider. She wasn’t wealthy, she wasn’t well-educated, and she wasn’t well known, but God chose her to be the mother of the Savior of the world, which reveals to us that God does not operate by human standards and expectations.
In chapter 10 we find the famous story of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were disliked and considered to be outsiders by Jews because of their mixed race and impure religious beliefs. Yet in this parable, Jesus skewers the priest and the Levite (who would have been considered insiders) and praises the Samaritan as an example of compassion and love!
In chapter 15 we read about the prodigal son, who in many ways was the ultimate outsider when he spurned his father and ran away to squander his fortune. It would seem that such a lifestyle of sin would put someone beyond the possibility of forgiveness, yet Jesus uses this parable as the ultimate illustration of God’s grace as the son is welcomed back into the father’s arms.
In chapter 19 we read about the tax collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors were despised by Jews in Jesus’ day, and therefore Zacchaeus’s profession would have consigned him to outsider status by default. Yet Jesus reaches out to Zacchaeus and reminds the people that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).
At the end of Luke’s Gospel we are told about yet another outsider – a criminal who hung on a nearby cross dying alongside Jesus. As he died this outsider cried out to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:42-43). The words of Jesus here show that there is no outsider who is beyond the bounds of grace so long as they place their faith in the one and only Savior.
There are many other examples I could list, but what I hope you see from this small sample is that Luke’s Gospel emphasizes an important truth about Jesus. He came to bring salvation not to the mighty, the righteous, and the holy, but to the lost, the broken, and the sinner. As Jesus says in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Have you ever felt like you were an outsider? Have you ever felt like your sins could never be forgiven? Have you ever felt like you could never be accepted by God? I’ve got good news for you: Jesus came for outsiders like you and me. His grace has no limits and every sinner who embraces him in faith and repentance will receive salvation. If you haven’t experienced this grace in your life, I encourage you to journey through the Gospel of Luke with us and discover the one who came to seek and save the lost.