How to Read Luke

Part 1: Luke 1–19


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

The book of Luke shows how the story of Jesus fulfills the story of God, Israel, and the whole world. In this third Gospel, we are introduced to the upside-down Kingdom of God. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the book of Luke, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this first video about Luke 1–19. 




Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the book at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: The heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove after He was baptized.


Observe: As you watched the video, what observations did you make about Luke 1–19? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters.)
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Where an observation determines what the book says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the book means. We’ve asked what the book says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) The heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove after He was baptized. (Interpretation) When Jesus was baptized as an act of fulfillment, the Holy Spirit came like a dove, and the Father’s voice spoke about His beloved Son. Jesus’s identity as the Son of God is confirmed, as all three persons of the Trinity are present.


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Luke 1–19? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes.)
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Contextualization looks at how the book fits into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: Israel has been awaiting a Messiah—a rescuer—for generations. God promised a descendent who would redeem mankind after the fall in the garden. Prophets tell of a Savior to be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem. Jesus is born to Mary and grows in grace and truth. John baptizes Jesus to fulfill all righteousness. A voice from heaven speaks about Jesus as His “beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” The Holy Spirit descends as a dove, confirming Jesus’s identity as the Son of God and promised Savior. Jesus ushers in His Kingdom. Jesus is crucified and rises again, and the promised Holy Spirit comes to His followers, empowering them to minister and spread the news of the Kingdom. New believers are baptized, following the pattern Jesus laid down as the mark of entrance into the Kingdom family for those who have confessed and believe Him. His Kingdom continues to spread and grow.


Contextualize: What themes does Luke 1–19 seem to establish? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to Genesis?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this book applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: With the presence of God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (Jesus), we see the Trinity confirming Jesus’s identity as the promised Messiah. As Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and lay down a pattern of a mark of a believer, believers today get to proclaim their commitment to Jesus, and identify with Jesus by being baptized, a sign of faith and repentance. Today, I can take joy in the reality of my citizenship in the Kingdom of God, and in the perfect, merciful Messiah who came for us and is coming again.


Apply: How does the truth from this section of Luke affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in chapters 1–19 this week?
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As you finish this first section on Luke, thank God for how He’s speaking to you so far. Ask Him to continue to teach you as you dive into the next part of Luke.


 
Part 2: Luke 19–24


The previous section of this post focused on Luke 1–19. This final session covers the second half of Luke, chapters 19–24. As with the last section, the goal of this post is to help you navigate Luke, see what it teaches us and how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and, finally, to apply it to our lives. 




Now that you have an overview of the second half of Luke in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Luke. Read Luke 24. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Luke 24. 


Luke 24:1-53 (ESV)

The Resurrection

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.2And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,3but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.4While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.5And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?6He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”8And they remembered his words,9and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.10Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,11but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.12But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.17And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”19And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther,29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,34saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”42They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43and he took it and ate before them.

44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.49And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension

50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.51While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.52And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,53and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Remember that observation asks the basic who, what, where, and when questions. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. 

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Luke 24? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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We've asked what these verses say about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What do they mean? What is the main message of Luke 24? How does it connect with the main message of Luke? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 


Contextualize: What themes does Luke 24 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Luke? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible?
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Application considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.


Apply: How does the truth from this passage affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some practical ways you can live out the truths found in these verses this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video. 


Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Luke, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Luke this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.



To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.