The Gospel of Luke

Portrait Of A Perfect Man

"The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."—I Corinthians 15:47

By Michael Nekora

An average Caucasian American might describe a perfect man as being rich, six feet tall, weighing 160 pounds, with dark hair and blue eyes.

If this man were totally self-centered, manifesting no interest in anyone else, he would not really be perfect.

Luke’s Portrait

The four gospel writers describe Jesus from different perspectives. Matthew describes him as King of Israel, and tells of wise men and expensive gifts, but not shepherds. Mark sees Jesus as the perfect servant of God, who acts quickly, saying little. John describes Jesus as the Son of God. His is a theological account, not a biological one, largely consisting of Jesus’ words.

Luke presents Jesus as a perfect man. His comprehensive account includes a prologue, Jesus’ boyhood, and the ascension. He traces his genealogy back to Adam, the first perfect man. Luke does NOT tell us of Jesus’ appearance. Money? This perfect man and his family don’t have any:

At the circumcision of Jesus, Mary offers a pair of turtledoves (Luke 2:24). She is too poor to bring a lamb (Lev. 12:8).

Luke’s portrait of Jesus emphasizes his relationships with others, including his heavenly Father. We study this portrait to see how we can conform to his image. It was Paul who wrote: "Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:29).

Relationships with Others

Luke portrays Jesus as sympathetic to the poor, the despised, children, women, even the hated Samaritans. He occasionally associates with the rich, the powerful, and those of high social status, but he finds few that interest him. We have an insight into his reasoning:

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. When a sinful townswoman learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.—Luke 7:36-38

When Simon, his host, criticizes Jesus in his heart for permitting this to happen, Jesus gives a parable: "Two men owed money to a moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back so he canceled the debts of both. Which of them will love him more? Simon replied, The one who had the bigger debt canceled. You have judged correctly, .. . Therefore I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he loves little who has been forgiven little" (vs. 41-47)..

Two thousand years ago women were almost non-persons. They were rarely educated, and had virtually no rights. Prostitutes were loathed sinners (although their patrons were not condemned). Leaders associated with men. In contrast, Jesus is as comfortable with women as with men: "Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said" (Luke 10:38, 39).

He is also comfortable with publicans: "When Levi made him a feast, at which publicans were present, scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?" (Luke 5:29)

From McClintock and Strong's Encyclopedia [Vol. VIII, p. 769]: "The publicans were hated as the instruments by which the subjection of the Jews to the Roman emperor was perpetuated . . . publicans were regarded as traitors and apostates, defiled by their frequent intercourse with the heathen, and willing tools of the oppressor . . . scribes and the people hated them." Jesus did not!

Even worse to the Jewish eyes were the Samaritans. McClintock and Strong [Vol. IX, p. 286]: "The Samaritan was publicly cursed in their synagogues; could not be adduced as a witness in the Jewish courts; could not be admitted to any sort of proselytism; and was thus, so far as the Jew could affect his position, excluded from hope of eternal life."

Jesus refuses to accept the prejudices of those around him. He praises Samaritans. In Luke 10:33, he gives that loving parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 17:16, only the Samaritan leper returns to give thanks.

It is easy to copy those around us. That’s not the way a perfect man behaves. Jesus considers all human beings as valuable, worth his time and attention. He willingly spends time with women, children, tax collectors, prostitutes, and even non-Jews (Samaritans).

How do you and I live today? Do we indulge prejudice? Do we think our time is best spent with others like ourselves? Do we follow our Master’s example and witness to the poor, to children, women, and even those who are openly sinful or might be considered unacceptable to the convenience of society? God has predestinated that we should be conformed to the image of his Son.

Relationship to God

We might think a perfect man would have no need for support, that he would have inexhaustible energy and could tap his own source of inner strength at any time. But that’s NOT Luke’s portrait of Jesus: From Jordan to the cross, Luke shows Jesus in prayer on many occasions, several of which were not mentioned by anyone else: "Jesus being baptized, and praying" (Luke 3:21).

The baptism of Jesus is described by others, but the fact that he is praying is mentioned only by Luke. At the start of his walk as a New Creature, he prays to his heavenly Father: "And he withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed" (Luke 5:15, 16).

Time passes. Jesus has great success. He knows that the credit belongs to his Father, and so he continues in prayer: "He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12, 13).

Selecting the twelve is a big decision. He does not presume to make that decision without guidance from his Father. After an entire night in prayer, he takes action.

Luke 9:18—"After the preaching and healing success of the twelve disciples—He was praying."

The success is of others, not himself. He comes to his Father in prayer, we presume in thankfulness that their ministry has been blessed. "He prayed, the fashion of his countenance. . . altered . . .his raiment . . .white and glistering" (Luke 9:29).

Matthew and Mark both mention the transfiguration scene, but neither says anything about his praying. "As he was of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray’" (Luke 11:1).

His disciples are aware of his constant communication with his Father. They ask to be taught how to pray.

At the close of his earthly ministry, Jesus again comes to the Father in prayer. He draws his strength not from within himself, but from his Father.

"He was withdrawn from [his disciples] about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."—Luke 22:41, 42


Luke believes there is no better test of a man than to note his use of money. We observed the poverty of Mary and Joseph. Jesus himself, who was once rich beyond imagining, became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). Luke is the only one who records a parable that contrasts false riches with true: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, `I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry.’ God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores things up for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).

A few verses later Jesus speaks to his followers, building on this lesson: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:32-34) [NIV].

Where is your treasure? It is where your heart is. It could be your business, your investments, your career, your home, or any place where moth destroys and thieves come near. To the degree that we are interested in treasure on earth, to that degree we will have no treasure in heaven.

The Good Samaritan unhesitatingly gives of his time and his money to help another person, one he does not know and who is not of his nationality. In Luke’s recounting of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we see the insensitivity of a rich man who will not do anything to help someone in great need who has been "laid at his gate" (Luke 16:20).

Those with much of this world’s goods have a problem. No matter what any of us sacrifice it can’t compare to what Jesus sacrificed when he gave up what he had in heaven and came to earth to die for us: "In humility esteeming others as excelling yourselves; not each one regarding his own interests, but each one also those of others" (Phil. 2:3-8 Diaglott).

God’s Love for All

The lasting image of Luke’s portrait of a perfect man is God’s love for all. The purpose of Jesus’ ministry was summarized in: Luke 19:10: "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Throughout Luke’s account he emphasizes those events that prove God’s love is not limited. "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations" (Luke 24:47).

Why does Luke emphasize these points? Because he is a Gentile, an outsider despised by the Jews. He’s a convert to Christianity, who accompanies Paul in bringing the gospel to others. Like Luke, you and I are here because someone has been faithful to the commission to preach the name of Jesus among all nations. Since we are to be conformed to the image of our Master, let us:

1. Not draw arbitrary distinctions based on age, sex, wealth, or social standing. "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith" (James 2:5)..

2. Come to the Father when he grants us success in his service, when he grants success to others, when we must make important decisions, and when we must endure some special trial.

3. Use our money soberly. The rich young ruler thought he had been reasonably successful following the commandments. But it was too hard to sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor.

"Jesus looked at him and said, `How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ . . . Peter said to him, `We have left all we had to follow you!’ Jesus said, `No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.’"—Luke 18:24, 28