Do You Hear What I Hear? Luke’s Gospel Amps the Unheard!

As that profound preacher Rev. Charles points out, “If you read the Bible, in Luke, you would know that Luke is not from New Jersey.”

Luke is widely believed to have been the only Gentile (non-Jewish) writer in the New Testament. As an outsider, Luke emphasizes episodes in the life and teachings of Jesus that embrace and empower societal outcasts.

Luke’s subversion starts with amplifying the voices of women – and simultaneously muting the men (Luke 1:19-20):

I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you [Zachariah, future father of John the Baptist] and to bring you this good news. And now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will be silent, unable to speak, until the day these things take place.

It wasn’t until over 9 months and 40 verses later that Zachariah could talk again! Yet between the announcement of him having a son and when the son was born, Elizabeth and Mary did a whole lot of talking.

The mothers of John the Baptist and Jesus talked about their babies kicking. They talked about the unusual circumstances of their conceptions. You know they had to talk about cravings, right? Can you imagine Mary offering Elizabeth a pickle to go with her ice cream? Elizabeth wants to indulge, but she’s like, “Nah, vinegar’s too close to wine (Luke 1:15)! You see what Gabriel did to my husband? I’m not messing around!”

This is one of the few and longest recorded dialogues between women in the entire Bible. They weren’t answering to, trying to impress, or protect themselves from men. They were simply being themselves without interruption. They hung out for three months together, in Zachariah’s silence, and long before Luke introduces Joseph in chapter two. A rare biblical interval of men playing the supporting cast.

It was as if Luke anticipated Sojourner Truth’s challenge: “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it; the men better let them.”

Perhaps Luke was asking Kat Armas’s question 2000 years ago: What if the greatest theologians the world has ever known are those whom the world wouldn’t consider theologians at all?

Or was Luke simply responding to Mary’s poetic and prophetic challenge (Luke 1:46-47; 51-53, The Voice)?

My soul lifts up the Lord!

My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!

For though I’m God’s humble servant,

God has noticed me. . .

God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.

The proud in mind and heart,

God has sent away in disarray.

The rulers from their high positions of power,

God has brought down low.

And those who were humble and lowly,

God has elevated with dignity.

The hungry—God has filled with fine food.

The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

Fast forward to chapter three of the outsider’s gospel for another counternarrative move. Luke opens by naming the circuit of palatial power conductors from to Palestine that God bypassed in order to broadcast his word from a hot spot in the wilderness. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, was more practical than poetic Mary. (What do you expect from a wilderness man, eating locusts and wearing camel-skin?) Yet he echoed the same ethos of her Magnificat when answering people’s questions about what the fruit of repentance should look like in Luke 3:10-14, The Voice:

People: What shall we do to perform works from changed lives?

John the Baptist: The person who has two shirts must share with the person who has none. And the person with food must share with the one in need.

Some tax collectors were among those in the crowd seeking baptism.

Tax Collectors: Teacher, what kind of fruit is God looking for from us?

John the Baptist: Stop overcharging people. Only collect what you must turn over to the Romans.

Soldiers: What about us? What should we do to show true change?

John the Baptist: Don’t extort money from people by throwing around your power or making false accusations, and be content with your pay.

While Matthew’s nativity reports the prosperous Magi following a star, Luke shows us the lowly shepherds being the exclusive audience of an angelic choir. It is also Luke’s telling of the gospel that has Jesus announcing his anointing to minister to the poor (4:18-21, The Voice):

The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me. Why?

Because the Eternal designated Me to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them. He sent Me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free, and to tell the blind that they can now see. He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression.

In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time; this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace. . .

He told them that these words from the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled then and there, in their hearing.

While Matthew recorded the famous Sermon on the Mount, Luke cataloged Jesus’ revolutionary “B-side,” Sermon on the Plain. Compare Matthew’s Beatitudes with Luke’s and we again see this focus on Jesus’ uplift of the downpressed that inspired theopoets like Peter Tosh (Luke 6:20-21; 24-25, The Voice):

All you who are poor, you are blessed

for the kingdom of God belongs to you.

All you who are hungry now, you are blessed

for your hunger will be satisfied.

All you who weep now, you are blessed

for you shall laugh! . .

All you who are rich now, you are in danger

for you have received your comfort in full

All you who are full now, you are in danger

for you shall be hungry.

All you who laugh now, you are in danger

for you shall grieve and cry.

These are just a few samples of why it’s often said, if the gospel you’re preaching isn’t good news to the poor, then it’s not the Gospel.

As long as our Godtalk sustains rather than subverts systems of small yet powerful upper classes lording it over the masses of underclasses, then the Gospel isn’t being preached.

As long as the usual suspects are the arbiters of orthodoxy, the gospel isn’t being preached.

As long as the dominant culture’s dogma denigrates the theological insights of the melanated masses, the gospel isn’t being preached.

Until the membership of the global church is represented in Christian art and authorship by Christian publishers, then the Gospel still isn’t being preached.

Until the voices of the unheard are heard, the gospel isn’t being preached.

When the Gospel is preached, we won’t seek truce and reconciliation as a substitute for truth and reparations.

When the Gospel is preached, we won’t urgently call for unity that’s really baptized hegemony.

When the Gospel is preached, the privileged leverage their advantages for the disadvantaged.

When the Gospel is preached, prophecy is pronounced against those who pay starvation wages.

When the Gospel is preached, those with large platforms shine the light on those who are overlooked.

When the Gospel is preached, there’s affirmation of women’s ministerial gifts.

When the Gospel is preached, those impacted by disparities are empowered to become agents of equity.

When the Gospel is preached, we recognize that people’s differences don’t equate to deficiencies.

When the Gospel is preached, Jesus is glorified as we boost the self-image of his image-bearers.

When the Gospel is preached, even children’s voices are heard and celebrated.

Do you hear what I hear?

Do you hear the Gospel of Jesus being preached?

By Carl McRoy

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