In Luke: The Gospel of Amazement Michael Card is a scholar. I have known him for years as a singer/songwriter, and more recently as an author, but more than ever this book shows how learned he is in the Scriptures.
Luke continually writes that people were amazed and in awe of Jesus. Card amazes by making the text come alive. Thanks in part goes to his late mentor, William Lane, who told him, “I am going to teach you how I read Scripture.” Lane’s approach is to read with “informed imagination.” It’s engaging the Bible with both heart and mind. It’s asking the right questions to find out what the text means.
Card starts with an astute introduction to Luke the person, which I immediately recognized as Card’s most insightful analysis and best writing. He moves on to major themes before making each chapter of Luke a chapter in the book.
Card describes one of Luke’s themes as “when those who should don’t, and those who shouldn’t do.” The least expected get the message while those who should understand reject it.
Reversal is a key concept in Luke. The blind see. The lame walk. The poor become rich through the gospel. The first are last, and the last first.
Card’s love affair with words, namely untranslatable ones like hesed, becomes apparent. It’s a word that God uses to describe himself. The best translation Card has found takes an entire line: “When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.” The New Testament equivalent is normally translated “grace” or “mercy.” Card continually draws the reader’s attention to examples of its use.
Luke’s interest and eye for detail enables us to see more of the prayer life of Jesus. I also love how Luke shows Jesus’ concern and care for the marginalized, particularly his tender treatment and elevation of women, some of whom were his closest followers.
That is something this commentary is geared toward producing: faithful followers. Card is excellent at providing a clear, concise sense of the meaning of a passage, which is essential for personal application. He gives us a highly readable, imaginative and informed account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Even though the commentary is brief, the depth of it becomes even more apparent when he gives his reasons for occasionally departing from conventional wisdom. Plus, he does an excellent job in showing how the other gospel accounts differ and harmonize with Luke.
Aesthetically, the book is pleasing to the eye from the cover to the layout on each page. It clearly surpasses the ordinary fonts and styles found in most commentaries. The entire text of Luke is included and italicized to distinguish it from the commentary. Imaginative but simple outlines precede each chapter.
Aside from exceptions, the Scripture text is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
The chapters are short enough to be read in 15-20 minutes. Reading a chapter a day from Luke while following along in the commentary makes for a great devotional exercise.
This is the first of four books (one a year beginning this year) from Card that will cover each of the four gospels. A collection of songs based on each gospel will be released with the publication of each book and available separately (see Luke CD review).
If you are a fan of Michael Card’s music, Luke: A World Turned Upside Down is what you would expect: thoughtful reflections from Luke with acoustic guitar and piano led music. His special guests include Matthew Ward (2ndChapter of Acts).
I enjoyed this book even more than some of his others that I have read. The scholarship is impressive, the meaning is clear, and it is well-written. It does not go into as much depth as more traditional commentaries, but it makes a great supplement to that kind of volume.
Many people rightly think of a commentary as a reference book to be used as a resource. This is meant to be read from cover to cover. It’s not written for the academic, which makes the content accessible to anyone who wants to know more about the life of Christ as seen through the gospel of Luke.
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About the reviewer
Michael Dalton (mdalton)
I live in Eureka on the coast of Northern California. I am about 250 miles north of San Francisco. Our redwood trees are some of the tallest in the world. I like books, music, movies, … more
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"Many know Michael Card as a celebrated songwriter. I know Michael as an inspiring theologian who loves the Word of God! I am thus so thrilled that he is writing The Biblical Imagination Series starting with the Gospel of Luke. Luke and Michael Card have much in common, not the least of which is that they both love stories and songs. But most significantly, they both love Jesus. We're in for a most wonderful treat!" (Reverend Edmund Chan, senior pastor, Covenant Evangelical Free Church, Singapore )