Get the Luke Binder

On August 3 we began our series studying the book of Luke. As a resource to help you and your LifeGroup follow along with the series, we worked with Reclaim Workshop to create beautiful handcrafted pinewood binders. Each binder is branded by hand and includes study material for each week of the series.

The binders include:

  • Information on background, important places and key people in Luke
  • Pages for sermon notes each week
  • Questions for personal study
  • LifeGroup discussion questions

The binders are available for free at any of our Gatherings, but if you're out-of-town or need one in the meantime, you can grab the digital version here:

Section IX: The King Returns 

Luke: The King Commissions

On Good Friday, as Jesus breathed His last and spoke the words “into Your hands I commit my spirit”, the Christian movement looked as good as dead. Jesus’ closest friends and disciples had betrayed and abandoned Him in His hour of darkest need. Most of them were hiding in cowardly fear, terrified of the possibility that they might undergo the same torture He endured. Jesus’ public ministry had gathered massive crowds with tens of thousands of adoring fans and interested spectators. Now the visionary leader was dead, the adoring fans had scattered and only a handful of terrified, confused followers were left.

And yet, two millennia later, Jesus is the most famous, loved, followed, worshipped man who has ever walked the planet.

This historical anomaly happened largely because without them fully comprehending it, Jesus was preparing His disciples for years in what they would do after He left. In Luke 8, we begin to see Jesus’ shift the focus of His time and effort on training His disciples instead of doing the work of ministry. We see Him equipping, sending out and coaching His closest, most bought-in disciples in how to spread the good news of His kingdom.

As we study these middle chapters of Luke (8-14) in the upcoming months, we will learn from Jesus Himself not only how He ministered, but how He trained regular humans like us to carry the torch when He left. In the process, we will receive invaluable encouragement and instruction in how to become the kind of people that God works through regularly.

Jesus desires to work in you.

And He desires to work through you…

…In the lives of those He’s placed you around.

Jesus equipped, trained and shaped some terrified, unskilled, unprepared disciples into the leaders of the greatest movement the world has ever seen.

And He’s still doing it.

He’s still using ordinary sinful humans who have been and are being radically changed by His grace to work in the lives of other ordinary sinful humans all around them.

We’re excited for you to join us as we study Luke 8-14 and look at how Jesus the King commissions His people.

Who Was Luke?

A physician by profession, Luke plays both the role of investigator and reporter as he searches out eyewitness reports and reconstructs “an orderly account” of the truth of Jesus’ life, teaching and ministry.

Written about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Luke carries out his investigation in a very precise historical window. Many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry are still alive but they won’t be for much longer. So Luke takes his opportunity to interview the eyewitnesses who are still alive and compiles both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Put together, Luke contributes more words, sentences and verses to the New Testament than any other author (although Paul wrote more books). Luke takes his time and uses lots of words, including many specific details and very helpful stories and illustrations.

Luke was a close friend of Paul, accompanying him on many of his travels. He was also an understudy and personal physician to Paul.

Luke’s Background

Luke himself was not a not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry but rather came to faith in Jesus as the early church preached the gospel of Jesus’ defeat of sin through His death and resurrection. He was also a Gentile from Antioch – not Jewish ethnically or religiously. He didn’t grow up in the temple and he wasn’t acquainted with the Old Testament scriptures or looking forward to a coming Messiah. Like many of you, Luke became a follower of Jesus as an adult and had lots of questions. This is very helpful because his inquisitive and skeptical mind seeks to answer many of those questions in his study and writing.

Along with coming to faith as an adult with a secular background, Luke is an extremely educated and intelligent man. As a doctor, he studied medicine and science. As a writer, his historical accuracy is sharp and his Greek is perfect. In a culture where less than one out of ten men were educated, Luke is highly educated and he uses all of his vast intellect to love Jesus, study Jesus and serve Jesus by writing books about Jesus.

Don't "Just Have Faith"

For those of you who are highly educated, skeptical and/or love science and medicine, Luke is a reminder that intellect is not an enemy of Jesus. Your mind, your questions and your education are all gifts given to you by God and they are intended to be used for Jesus as tools of mission to help others know and love Jesus.

Why Luke?

Everyone has to answer the big “meaning of life” questions: Who are we, and why are we here? What’s wrong with the world? What, if anything, can make it right? Who gets to define morality? Should I be moral? Why? Why should I be a good person? Why should anyone choose love instead of hate? How should I use and spend the short days I get to live on this planet?

Everyone has functional answers to these questions. And no matter what our answers are, they cannot be overtly proven or disproven. We all must thoughtfully investigate and draw our own conclusions.

Yet, we all tend to agree that better and worse answers to these questions exist. Most modern, secular Americans agree that it is better to work things out with your enemies as opposed to killing them. We tend to believe that it is good and right to care for the poor. Almost unanimously, we assume that all human beings have rights that should be fought for and protected. And all of these beliefs have to come from somewhere.

A Far Bigger Impact than We Think

Without even realizing it, many of our deepest held values come from the Christian movement started by Jesus.

Luc Ferry, French philosopher in his book A Brief History of Thought says, “The philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself [apart from Christianity].” In other words, if Christianity never became the dominant western worldview, our thoughts on human rights would not exist as we know them.

In pre-Christian Europe, when the monks were propagating Christianity, all of the elites thought that loving your enemies and taking care of the poor was crazy. They said society would fall apart, because that’s not the way the world works. The talented and strong prevail. The winner takes all. The strong prey on the weak. The poor are born to suffer. Isn’t that how it has always worked? But the teaching of Christianity revolutionized pagan Europe by stressing the dignity of the person, the primacy of love, including toward enemies, and the care of the poor and orphans.

– Tim Keller, Encounters with Jesus

Human Rights...Says Who?

We all believe in human rights – in liberty and freedom – but we often don’t ask ourselves “Why?” The basic premise is contrary to the rule of the natural world where the strong eat the weak. So if it’s natural for the strong to eat the weak…and if we all got here through the natural, unguided process of evolution…why do we think it is wrong for a strong nation to eat a weaker nation? On what basis can we say that genocide – a strong ethnic group “eating” a weaker one — is wrong? If there is no God, then our views of justice are nothing more than opinions. And we suddenly have no basis to denounce injustice.

Unless there is a God, we have no right to tell anyone that our feelings or ideas are more valid than their feelings and ideas. Unless there is a God who created us in His personal image, then many of the values we cherish and assume are actually imaginary – wishful thinking with no foundation.

Yet we are sure that these values are not imaginary, that things like genocide are absolutely wrong and that people have rights regardless of their talent, gender, age, wealth or race. Late Yale law professor, Arthur Leff captured this self-defeating tension in our thoughts perfectly:

In the absence of God… each ethical and legal system… will be differentiated by the answer it chooses to one key question: who among us… ought to be able to declare ‘law’ that ought to be obeyed?... Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place… As things are now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved. There is such a thing as evil… God help us.

– Arthur Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law”

Because we assume human rights are real and morality has a foundation, we owe it to ourselves to examine where these ideas came from. We owe it to ourselves to examine the school of thought where these beliefs originated – Christianity and its founder Jesus Christ.

Which Brings us to Luke

The gospel of Luke is a perfect opportunity to examine Jesus and the origins of His movement. In his opening lines, Luke declares his intention for compiling this biographical narrative about Jesus. He writes so that an educated and esteemed man, Theophilus (and all others privileged to read thereafter) would have “certainty” that Jesus not only spoke the true answers to life’s big questions, but that He was the answer.

Jesus doesn’t just have the answers. He is the answer to life’s biggest questions. In carefully looking at and considering Jesus, Luke says we can be certain we have found the truth. There is something about Jesus that sets Him apart from any other spiritual teacher, political leader, or revolutionary. There is something about Him that is different, significant and even otherworldly. His impact is so far reaching that many modern, secular minded Americans don’t even realize how many of the values we take for granted come from His teaching and His actions.

Part of this certainty comes from what theologians describe as Jesus’ “self-authenticating” truthfulness.

 Jesus, as He is revealed in the bible, has a glory – an excellence, a spiritual beauty – that can be seen as self-evidently true. It is like seeing the sun and knowing that it is light and not dark, or like tasting honey and knowing that it is sweet and not sour. There is no long chain of reasoning from premises to conclusions. There is a direct apprehension that this person is true and His glory is the glory of God.

– John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Our culture is growingly uncertain when it comes to the truth about Jesus. One of the biggest obstacles that people deal with is that they often think they already know all about Him. They often think they already know the answers that Jesus offers to the questions of life, and they have already deemed Jesus’ answers as unsatisfying, unworthy or wrong. Unfortunately it is quite common for these people to have a distorted or altogether false view of Jesus.

So we invite you to take an investigative look at the real Jesus. and join us as we study the good news according to Luke.

Context You Need to Know for Luke

In order to best understand Luke (and the Bible in general), we have to understand some of the cultural climate and factors of Luke’s world. His original audience would have read his words in context of these major cultural currents:

Family Matters

The Jewish people were a highly collectivist society. Unlike modern day America, their natural understanding was that the good of the group outweighed the good of the individual. They were very, very nationalistic and family oriented. Your family was where you received your identity. Your family determined where you lived. Your family determined what your occupation would be. And they even usually determined who you would marry. Nothing was more important than family loyalty. Jesus’ description of a new, more important spiritual family in Luke 8:19-21 and 14:25-27 was shocking. (About the equivalent of telling an American that the best way to be happy is to give up your independence and let someone else make all your decisions for you.)

Roman Occupation

The Israelites are at this time occupied and ruled by the Roman Empire. This means they are simultaneously not autonomous or self-governing because Rome has ultimate political jurisdiction, and also in some ways, they are left alone to do as they please. To fund their massive army, the Roman Empire levied heavy taxes on occupied nations including Israel. This is why the Jewish leaders of the Sanhedrin condemn Jesus to die according to their law, but still have to ask permission from Pilate (Luke 22:66-23:5).

Awaiting a Messiah

God’s people had been given promises throughout their history that someone was coming to make right what was wrong in the world (Isaiah 9:2-7, Zechariah 9:9-10). Their general understanding was that this Messiah would be a political king who would lead them to national prominence and power. Specifically, they were looking for someone who would overthrow Roman occupation. They also anticipated that he would be preceded by a voice who would come in the spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6). The events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist and his ministry filled many people with excitement that the Messiah – their hope of dignity, prosperity and freedom – was on his way.

The Herodian Influence

King Herod was a particularly terrible and corrupt King over Israel who represented Roman occupying power and oppression. Those who supported Herod were called Herodians. They were the cultural progressives of their time bringing unwanted change and significant moral shifts. They had a Greek perspective on sex, the body and truth. None of these things were welcomed by the Jewish ruling class. This could be roughly compared to the distaste conservatives had for MTV in the early 1990s.

Responses to Occupation

There were four primary responses to Roman occupation:

  1. Fight em’! Some Israelites believed they needed to stand up to the Romans like David stood up to Goliath. These were the zealots led by a group of assassins called the Sicarii. The most notable zealot in Luke is Peter, one of Jesus’ converted disciples, who still wants to fight at times (Luke 22:49-51).
  2. If you can’t beat em’, join em’! The Sadducees and other wealthy and prominent officials accepted much of the culture around them in a pragmatic play for power and prominence.
  3. Run away! Other groups including the Essenes and the Dead Sea groups removed themselves from society to go preserve their cultural purity and hang out with God in the woods.
  4. Bunker down! Responding to the Sadducees acceptance of culture and the perceived negative influence of the Herodians, many groups remained in Jerusalem but emphasized strict morality and piety. Most notably, this response is displayed consistently throughout Luke by the Pharisees.

Luke: Jesus & Suffering begins March 15

As we near the end of our What's Killing Me series Downtown and our Worthy series at Two Notch, we are preparing to resume our study of the book of Luke on March 15. Specifically, in the weeks leading up to Easter we'll be looking at the topic of suffering in Luke. We'll examine why suffering happens, the compassion of Jesus in our suffering, and the suffering in Jesus' own life.

Send us Your Questions

As always, we want this series to be as helpful as possible, and we know a lot of us have big questions when it comes to suffering. These questions may be intellectual (wrestling with the idea of why suffering happens), or personal (why specific suffering has occurred in your life and how to process it). Before and during the series, we'd love for you to send your questions about suffering to We'll take all these questions into consideration as we plan out the series, and maybe even have a week of live Q&A during the series.

Study with Your LifeGroup

We're also publishing pages to our Luke study binder to accompany the series. You can go ahead and grab the digital version of the pages now, and pick up the physical copy at our Gatherings beginning March 15.

Join us and Bring a Friend

This series has the potential to be immensely helpful for anyone wrestling with suffering or the idea of suffering. Don't miss a great opportunity to invite someone you're building relationship with to attend a Gathering with you from March 15-29.

Listen to Sermons

If you missed one of the sermons or want to send one to a friend, you can find the links below:

Downtown sermons

Two Notch sermons

Making the Luke Binder

As a part of our series on the book of Luke, we put together some binders to help study and apply the series. As a special touch, we decided we'd like the binders to be made of beautiful pine, and branded by hand. So we contacted our good friend Josh Cox of Reclaim Workshop, and he worked out a plan to handcraft 2,000 of these beautiful binders.

Our friends at Kickstand Studio put together a video documenting the binder's creation, and were gracious enough to share it with us: