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Witnessing in Luke

Witnessing in Luke

Jesus Christ
Oral and written tradition
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
The meaning for today

From ‘Notes on the Formation of the Gospels’, by John Wijngaards;
published in Background to the Gospels (Bangalore & Ann Arbor 1981)
and Together in My Name (London 1991).

The Gospel of Luke was written to stimulate a deeper commitment to Christ and a more active participation in the community. People must not think that preaching the Kingdom of God was only entrusted to the twelve apostles and their successors. To refute such a misunderstanding Luke narrates that, after sending the twelve, Jesus sent another seventy disciples, two by two. Does it not tie in with the journey of the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus?

Luke is here thinking of all Christians, men and women, who go out to serve the community as teachers, catechists, deacons and deaconesses, prophets and prophetesses, healers, organisers, carers of the young, of the old and the sick. All of them are witnesses to Jesus.

  • “People will arrest you and hand you over to synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. That will be an opportunity for you to bear witness” (Luke 21,12-13)
  • “It is written in Scripture that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You will be witnesses of all these things!” (Luke 24,46-48)
  • “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in the whole of Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth!’’ (Acts 1,8; see also Acts 2,32; 3.15; 5,32; 10,39; 13,31)

Luke’s Gospel gives us a vision of men and women walking into the world in all directions to bring the love and peace which Jesus preached. “He sent them on ahead of himself, two by two, into every town and village which he was about to visit” (Luke 10,1-20).

Connection with the theme of ‘travelling’

Jesus did make a final journey to Jerusalem. But in Luke’s Gospel it has also become a narrative device. Luke enlarges the journey and makes it the setting for many traditions which actually happened on other occasions (see Luke's Journey to Jerusalem).

Why did Luke stress the journey? The image of ‘travelling’ was in itself important for Luke. He saw our Christian life as a journey with Jesus, a living with him through suffering to glory. That is why the Gospel ends with the beautiful account of the two disciples who walk on their way to Emmaus. Jesus is with them all the time, explaining Scripture to them so that they understand what God is doing in their lives. Luke tells us through this that the Risen Jesus is with us in the people he gives us as companions on the road.

But there is more to the theme of travelling. It also denotes commitment to the apostolate.

John Wijngaards

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