Famously, contemporary scholarship likes to think that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) don’t teach that Jesus is Divine. Instead, so the story goes, the first three canonical Gospels preach a merely human Jesus; a Christ who is at best an anointed prophet and itinerant preacher.
Well, as I’ve shown before…
But just for fun, let’s do it again.
Here’s a subtle piece of evidence for a Divine Christ in the Gospel of Luke that blew my mind when I came across it. To be honest, I’d be surprised if many people have come across this before but let me know if this something you’ve come across too.
Anyway, what I discovered is a connection between a term used in Luke’s account of Christ’s ascension (Luke 24:2) and the earlier narrative of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:8).
After issuing the Great Commission to his disciples, Jesus lead his disciples to the city of Bethany. Lifting his hands to bless them, Jesus ascended into heaven while the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually giving Glory to God.” (Luke 24:50-52)
Now, here’s the interesting part: the word that Luke uses for “worship” is the Greek term “προσκυνήσαντες” (proskunesantes).
I know what you’re saying “John, this all Greek to me. Why is this important?” (Ha… I’m funny….right?)
Anyway, the root of the word for “worship” in Luke 24:52 is προσκυνέω (proskuneo) and unlike the other Gospels, Luke hardly uses this word at all.
In fact, he uses it in only one other passage in his whole Gospel.
The only other place that Luke employs this particular Greek term is in Luke 4:7-8 when Satan offer Christ every kingdom of the world under one condition:
“If you, then, will worship me (προσκυνήσῃς (proskynēsēs), it shall all be yours” and Jesus answered him ” it is written, ‘you shall worship (Προσκυνήσεις Proskynēseis) the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. (Deut. 4:5)”
Luke’s highly selective use of the term proskuneo in the early chapters of the Gospel give give it a definition so that it ought to be taken to say that God alone is worthy of proskuneo (Luke 4:8). But the disciples offer Jesus proskuneo and connects it with their worship in the Temple where they “glorify God.”
Given the singular and decisive directive of Christ’s words at 4:8, what are we to make of Luke’s chosen ending? There are only three possibilities:
1. The disciples worship of Jesus is a misguided act of idolatry.
2. Luke is deeply confused.
3. The disciples, and Luke, believed that Jesus is in fact the Lord God of Israel.
The first option seems unfeasible given there is no correction or reproach following the disciple’s worship of Christ in Luke or in Acts. Further, given Luke’s remarkable mastery over Greek and capacity to weave a narrative, which we will see in later posts, the second option hardly seems available.
For these and other reasons it is reasonable to conclude that in his creative genius, Luke has included a subtle and profound proclamation of Christ’s Divinity with in his Gospel.
Again, the earliest testimony is clear as to how the early Church understood their Christ: Jesus of Nazareth is none other than the Lord God of Israel in the flesh.
Jonathan L. Stute, M.A. MaPhil