Scripture: Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, we concluded Mark’s Gospel with its questionable ending of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, two from his larger circle of followers, and the Eleven. The first appearance partially aligns with Matthew and John’s accounts, but Matthew indicates that Mary, the mother of James, was also present. The encounter with the two in the countryside truncates Luke’s Road to Emmaus story. And the last two paragraphs present the editor’s version of the Great Commission and the ascension. Unlike Matthew, he places the first event at a table rather than a mountainside in Galilee. And similar to Luke, he adds that Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief. However, John says that Jesus admonished Thomas for his unbelief but not the other ten. And while all the Gospels close with a commissioning of sorts, none, except this questionable addition to Mark, claim Jesus promised miraculous signs of speaking in tongues, handling serpents, and drinking deadly poison without harm to authenticate true believers.
Today’s reading begins our review of Luke’s Gospel, of which approximately 30% is unique—most of which covers his birth, travelogue, and resurrection appearances. Here, we start with a prologue that tells us the physician, Luke, carefully researched and compiled his narrative, interviewing eyewitnesses and closely following the reports about Jesus.
Luke’s target audience is one person, the “most excellent Theophilus, and Luke’s purpose is to instill confidence regarding all instruction given to Theophilus. So he follows the classical Greco-Roman writing style of his day, where notable authors introduced their work with assurances of accuracy. That said, while he directs it to Theophilus (which means “friend of God” or “beloved by God”), the name likely is a circumlocution directed to all who profess to be followers of Christ and thus friends of God and beloved by him.
Takeaway: As theologian Darrell Bock aptly summarizes (NIV Application Commentary: Luke, p.42), Luke’s meticulous research entails four elements:
- He investigated the story closely.
- He went back to the beginning.
- He thoroughly studied all the material (accounting for the 30% of his findings omitted by Matthew and Mark).
- He took great care to develop his orderly (logical) account that brings clarity to his Gospel.
And whether Theophilus is an individual or a pseudonym for Christians, Luke’s audience likely is/are Gentile God-fearers initially indoctrinated into the Jewish faith who have learned of its fulfillment in Christ. So Luke seeks to reassure Theophilus that he/they are heading in the right direction toward the gracious Triune God who has redeemed his people and will ensure his/their place in his glorious eternity kingdom.
Our takeaway? For those still unsure of the reliability of the Gospel story, Luke invites us to join him on his journey, trusting that he has spent many years researching, reflecting, and living out what he has come to know as life-giving Truth worth risking it all to embrace wholeheartedly. And for those new to the faith and trying to make sense of the big picture, Luke has painted Christ with the most careful and dignified brushstrokes that reveal the Son of God’s vibrant hues of humility, gentleness, power, compassion, love, and glory that only the Savior of the world could possess.
So as we read excerpts of this Gospel unique to Luke, let’s keep reminding ourselves that Luke had us in mind, that we might receive and live out his gift of The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the faithful writers of our Gospels and of the epistles that provide their commentary. In particular, we thank you for Luke, a physician who set aside his career to follow the trail of your Son and conscientiously share his findings with us. So would you please help us likewise go all in and continue on our path of discovery, deepening and applying our knowledge of The Greatest Story Ever Told? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling