Luke and Genesis
The book of Genesis opens with the words, “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth”. The combination of heaven and earth was often used in stories surrounding the inauguration of temples where the gods dwelt with humans. Likely, the original recipients thought of the world as a cosmic temple in which the God of Israel dwelt with His people. The human being was intended to be a micro-temple having a soul corresponding to heaven and a body corresponding to earth by which he was to be a mediator between God and the rest of creation.
The account of creation ends with the Sabbath as God rests in creation. However, other creation accounts end with a celebratory meal with a pantheon of gods. The God of Israel, however, makes the Sabbath holy and invites His people to celebrate it weekly as a liturgical and familial feast where families come together to break bread and drink the cup of blessing. This connection between temple and a shared meal inspires Luke to shape the ministry of Jesus around these motifs.
The Gospel begins in the temple where the angel announces the birth of Jesus’ forerunner, John, to Zechariah the priest. Later, the angel announces the birth of Jesus to Mary. He says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). This echoes the words of Genesis about the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters before life came to be (Genesis 1:2). Just as the Spirit hovered over creation bringing it biological life as the cosmic temple, likewise the Spirit hovers over Mary, the new temple that becomes wider than the heavens, as she contains the Uncontainable Word and Life of everyone.
Luke and Jesus’ Ministry
Further emphasizing the theme of the temple, Luke has Jesus lost in the temple asking and answering questions prior to His public ministry. Jesus’ first act of public ministry was in a synagogue where He reveals Himself as the Messiah though no one believes Him with some attempting to throw Him off the brow of the hill. Jesus’ last public act before His execution was the cleansing of the temple. The Gospel of Luke highlights Jesus’ public ministry as a teaching/cleansing ministry surrounding the temple/synagogue.
Another important motif in the Gospel of Luke is Jesus sharing meals with His disciples, pharisees, and tax collectors. The last private act of Jesus’ ministry prior to His execution is sharing a Passover meal with His disciples that ends with Judas betraying Him. The first private act after His resurrection involves Jesus tying teaching his disciples with sharing a meal once again. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus reveals what had to happen to the Messiah from the Torah and Prophets. However, the disciples fail to recognize Him until He breaks bread with them. Finally, the Gospel that began in the temple with the preaching of the angel to Zechariah ends in same the temple with the disciples praising God after the ascension of Jesus.
The Incarnate Word accommodates Himself in the words of the gospels and the bread of the eucharist. One cannot fully encounter Him apart from the meeting place of the written word and the eucharistic Word in the liturgy.
If you wish to find the Messiah with Luke, you will find Him either in the temple of your heart or in the Eucharistic meal shared with members of His Kingdom and Church, that is the new temple groaning to fill the cosmic temple He inaugurated in Genesis.
O Lord and Master of my life, grant me to be a temple of Your dwelling spiritually as you made Mary, our mother, a temple of Your dwelling bodily. Take from me the desire to eat my brethren’s flesh with gossip. But give rather the desire to unite my body with Yours by eating Your body and drinking Your blood. Take from me divisiveness and hardheartedness. But give rather the desire to grow in the learning of Your knowledge. And just as I share the eucharistic meal in the company of Your disciples and saints now, grant me to eat from the tree of life around the heavenly banquet in the coming kingdom.