I’m a slow reader, so I don’t get to read everything I’d like to read. Some of the things that will often get pushed back to the probably-never-get-around-to-reading pile are biographies and history books. I truly love reading about the lives of famous people, organizations, places, and time periods. I’m still in the beginning chapters of William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a massive 1200+ page tome about post-WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler, and the Nazi Party. It’s a fascinating time in history. I’ve had the book for many years and I pick it up on occasion to get another couple of chapters read in it.
Another example is Eric Metaxes’ Bonhoeffer biography. I actually listened to that on audio during my commutes. It took quite a while as it is also a large book. My wife, who reads more than 100 books per year, calls books like these—books over 400 pages—chunksters.
As I come nowhere near 100 books per year, I have to be very picky about the books I take the time to read. I truly wish I had more time for biographies. Biographers usually write biographies with the goal of giving us a somewhat comprehensive look at the life of an individual or group. They usually pick a specific person or group because the biographer, himself, finds the person interesting. But a biographer worth his salt will seek to put aside any agenda or purpose in writing the biography besides the purpose of giving us as accurate a view as possible or the person or group about which he’s writing.
Do we have any biographies of Jesus of Nazareth? Yes, we do. Actually there have been thousands of such biographies written over the years since his death, resurrection, and ascension. But do we have any that are inspired? To that, I would answer, No.
“But what about the four gospels in the New Testament?” you may ask. They are indeed inspired, but I don’t believe they are biographies. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not interested in writing biographies of Jesus of Nazareth. They each had specific agendas and purposes in mind when they wrote, and it wasn’t just to give us a biography of Jesus. I believe they were all written as evangelistic writings aimed at specific people or groups. Had they been biographies, they would have included more information about the life of Jesus. Instead, they include specific information and events, and put those in a specific order to make a specific point.
Luke tells Theophilus in the very first sentence what his purpose was.
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
John tells his audience his purpose toward the end.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
So, let’s go back to the question in the title of this post: Are Jesus’ Words More Important Than Luke’s?
If you are doing a topical study of the commands and stories of Jesus in the Bible, then it’s easy to say that Jesus’ words are more important. But what if you’re doing a book study on the book of Luke, for example? Is the answer the same? Are Jesus’ words more important than Luke’s?
Let me stop for a moment and ask you not to get stuck on the fact (true as it is) that the writings we have from Luke are inspired and, therefore, are God’s words. That’s a true statement, and in light of that, all the words of Scripture are equally important. But when you’re studying Luke’s Gospel account and you’re in a section that is composed of a sermon delivered by Jesus (Luke 6, for example), does our question still have the same response? Are Jesus’ words more important than Luke’s? In this case, I would say that Luke’s words are more important than Jesus’.
Please allow me to explain. First of all, it’s important to understand the teachings of Jesus. I feel certain I’ll be getting emails from this asking why I’m elevating Luke above the Almighty. I’m not doing that at all. As Jesus’ ambassadors, we need to study and understand what Jesus had to say. But, when studying a book of the Bible, like Luke’s gospel, I believe it’s more important to understand Luke’s train of thought.
- Why did Luke put Jesus’ sermon where he did, after this passage and before that one?
- What is Luke trying to communicate to his audience with the placement of this dialog here?
After all, Luke is the author of the book. He included what he did for a purpose and that purpose was guided by the Holy Spirit. Don’t you think it’s important to figure out that purpose and how Jesus’ words in that passage fit into that purpose? While I think it’s very important to understand what Jesus was saying, I think it’s even more important to understand what Luke was saying.
And I believe the same can be applied to Matthew, Mark, John, and every book of the Bible.
If we misunderstand the author’s intent, we will very easily misapply Jesus’ words.