Daily Meditations

The Good News according to the Gospels of Mark and Luke

Mark’s is primarily a gospel of action. Of the four gospels, his includes the least verbal teaching. Jesus is constantly on the move from place to place preaching and healing, preaching and healing, but it is mostly action and narrative. Jesus is the invasion of God’s Big Picture into our small worlds, and he does this much more than he talks about it. We have to look at Jesus’ actions, and how his physical healings consistently rearranged faulty relationships—with our own self-image, with others, with society as a whole, and with a God who was henceforth seen as on their side.

There is not much profit in just thinking, “Wow, Jesus worked another miracle!” But there is much profit in noting the changed status, self-image, courage, and relationship to family or community that the cure invariably entails. This is the real transformative message. I am never denying that Jesus could and undoubtedly did physical healing. It still happens, and I have seen it, but the healings and exorcisms in Mark’s Gospel are primarily to make statements about power, abuse, relationships, class, addiction, money, exclusion, the state of women and the poor, and the connections between soul and body—the exact same issues that we face today.

Further, Jesus doesn’t heal as a reward for good behavior (usually there is no mention of any prerequisites whatsoever, and often it is others who have the faith, not the one cured). Neither is there any primary concern about a later “life in heaven” in Mark’s Gospel. We projected that onto the text. All of the healing stories are present-tense concerns for human suffering in this world. They tell us that God cares deeply about the tragic human condition now. How could we miss this? In general, you should see all rewards and punishments as inherent and today (sin is its own punishment and virtue is its own reward now!) And surely what God does today, God will do forever! What is true now is true forever. That is our promise of any life and our warning against any eternal death.

~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Four Gospels (CD)


Luke’s Gospel is the most broad-minded and the most forgiving. Every chance he gets, Luke has Jesus forgiving people, right up to the good thief on the cross. Luke is quite ready to see God as generous, gratuitous, and merciful. Mercy and inclusivity—Jesus’ ministry to outcasts, to Gentiles, to the poor—are emphasized a great deal in Luke. Luke’s Gospel is also called the gospel of women. Far more than any other evangelist, Luke brings women into Jesus’ life and shows Jesus’ very positive way of relating to women, especially for his time and culture.

Luke’s has also been called the gospel of absolute renunciation. For Luke, to be a disciple one has to let go of everything—not just money or other external idols, but inner idols and ego concerns as well. Luke advocates radically new social patterns of relationship. His is an upside-down gospel: “The first will be last and the last will be first” (Luke 13:30). Luke uses every story he can to show that what impresses people does not impress God, that people who think they are at the top are often, in God’s eyes, at the bottom, and that people who think they are at the bottom are, in God’s eyes, often at the top.

~ Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke:  Spiritual Reflections


The Bible can be summed up as interplay between fear and faith. In general, people are obsessed and overpowered by fears; they fear what they cannot control. God is one of our primary fears because God is totally beyond us. The good news, the Gospel, according to Luke, is that God has breached that fear and become one of us in Jesus. God says, in effect, “It’s okay. You don’t have to live in fear of me.” God not only takes away all human shame, but even identifies with that shame by changing sides from all cultures, religious and secular, and identifying with the sinner, the rejected, the prostitute, the foreigner, and the leper.

This change of sides is absolutely consistent in Luke’s Gospel, starting with Mary herself who calls herself “lowly” in two places (1:48, 52) and a recipient of God’s “mercy” in three places (1:50, 54, 58). It starts to be culpable blindness when Christians have spent so much time trying to prove they are worthy and not in need of such mercy. Tell me, who is worthy?

~ Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke:  Spiritual Reflections