Reading the first few chapter of the Gospel of Luke is quite interesting, especially when compared to the other Synoptic gospels.
Luke uniquely alternates between talking about the birth, upbringing, and life of John the Baptist to that of Jesus. As White describes, the author of Luke begins his Gospel by depicting what could be considered the miracle birth of John, which then ties into the miracle birth of Jesus.
The author then goes on to further weave the lives of John and Jesus together as their separate paths eventually lead to the coalition of the two powerful entities when Jesus is baptized by John in Luke Chapter 3. As discussed in earlier readings, in class, and even as mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, the time period of John and Jesus was riddled with Messianic expectation due to the apocalyptic mindset that had been instilled throughout the community.
With that being said, many people looked to John as being the possible Messiah and worshiped him as such. Luke 3:15 even admits, “… the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah.” Because of this, the author of Luke had high incentive to validate and utilize the supposed divinity of John in order to amplify that of Jesus.
You can see this in the way the two stories are pieced together. John’s conception (a miracle story in and of itself) is appropriated in such a way that points to the ultimate divinity of Jesus; even in the womb, John (already “great in the sight of the Lord”) leaps at the sound of Mary’s voice, calling the Holy Spirit into his mother and indicating to both Elizabeth and Mary that Jesus is Lord. By fashioning the two stories in this manner, and combining them in this way, the Lukan author does not negate the grandness of John and thus does not turn away his followers or admirers; instead, Luke’s author utilizes John’s divinity to magnify that of Jesus by consistently professing the the majesty of Christ.
Along the way, the Lukan author also consistently points back and alludes to various Hebrew Biblical references, further playing into the apocalyptic expectation he is already playing into by means of John’s reputation. In consistently referencing the Hebrew Bible —-
John reflecting Elijah’s role in Luke 1:16,
mentioning of David, “Son of Most High” pointing back to 2 Sam 7:13-16,
Zechariah’s “becoming mute” referencing back to Ezek 3:26, 24:27, and 33:22, etc.
the Lukan author further amplifies the authority of Jesus and the validity of his messianic status. Moreover, Luke’s author utilizes the Hebrew texts to again validate the authority of John, whom he at this point wants to be held in high authority by the reader so that John’s proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Savior is further heeded.
When Jesus and John officially collide in the Baptism of Jesus, the preluding backdrop of the relationship that had existed between Jesus and John before the two were even born primes the reader for such an encounter between the two, officially passing the power and authority of John accumulated over the years to Jesus since, though John came before Jesus, he professed inferiority to His divinity from the very beginning, and it was simply a matter of time and patience before the “true Messiah” would come to take his place.
Lastly, unlike that of Mark, Luke’s biography of Jesus includes all elements we discussed in class including Ancestry/birth, Early childhood/education, words/deeds, and death/afterlife. As White illustrates throughout his chapter, Luke’s Gospel tends to take the bare basic outline presented in Mark and elaborate/expand in such a way that the life of Jesus is presented as a heroic, divine man story full of a certain heart element that is different from the gospel of Mark. In adding this heart, Luke begins to reflect some of the biography’s of famous “divine men” known throughout that time such as Alexander the Great, thus further implying the divinity of Jesus by comparing him to the most powerful men of that time.