Skip to comments."The Chronicle of Luke: 'That You May Have Certainty'" (Sermon on Luke 1:1-4)
Posted on 12/05/2012 10:00:34 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
The Chronicle of Luke: That You May Have Certainty (Luke 1:1-4)
This past Sunday was the First Sunday in Advent, and thus it was the beginning of a whole new church year. In our congregation, and in thousands of churches all around the world, this is known as The Year of St. Luke. You see, in the three-year lectionary, the system of appointed readings that we use, Series A is the Year of St. Matthew--his gospel is the one predominately read throughout that church year. Series B is the Year of St. Mark. And now, starting this week, Series C is the Year of St. Luke. In case youre wondering what happened to St. John, his gospel is spread out over all three years, with a greater amount read in Year B, since Mark is the shortest gospel, and thus there is more room to fit in John there.
But this is the Year of St. Luke. For the 52 Sundays that just started this week, over 40 of them--that is, over 80%--will feature as the appointed Holy Gospel a reading from St. Luke. So this year we are really going to dive into this gospel in particular. Most of our sermons will be based on Luke, and, just today, we are beginning an in-depth study of the Gospel of Luke for our weekly Bible class.
Besides being the main gospel used for this whole church year, Luke is especially helpful for this current time of Advent and Christmas. Of the four gospels, Luke is the one that gives us the most information about the events leading up to the birth of Christ, the birth itself, and the events immediately following the birth. The first two chapters of this gospel therefore are known as Lukes Infancy Narrative. Youll be hearing a lot from Luke 1 and 2 throughout this month of December.
So in view of Lukes special Advent and Christmas emphasis, as well as our entering into a whole year of readings from this gospel, it seemed good to me that we take a closer look at what were getting ourselves into. Well start by finding out a little bit about who this guy Luke was. Then well consider the content and purpose of Lukes gospel--because in his prologue to the book, in the opening verses, Luke himself tells us what hes going to cover and why. And so now: who Luke is, what hes going to tell us, and why that is so important for you. Thus our theme today: The Chronicle of Luke: That You May Have Certainty.
First of all, though, who is this fellow Luke? We learn several things about Luke from the rest of the New Testament. St. Paul refers to Luke as the beloved physician, that is, he was a medical doctor by profession. But Paul also refers to Luke several times in his epistles as one of his fellow workers. In other words, Luke had joined Pauls missionary band at a certain point and then traveled with Paul all around the Mediterranean world, helping to spread the gospel. As best as we can piece it together, it appears that Luke was a Gentile, a non-Jew, that Luke became a Christian somewhere along the line, and that he joined Pauls team on Pauls second missionary journey--when Paul was in Troas, in western Asia Minor--and then traveled with him from there for probably the last fifteen years of Pauls life. On the occasions when Paul was in prison, Luke would have had some down time--maybe a couple years in Caesarea, a couple years in Rome--during which time Luke could have gotten to work on writing his books, first this volume we call the Gospel of Luke, and then Lukes second volume, the Book of Acts.
Which brings us to the prologue of Lukes gospel, the first four verses, in which he tells us what hes going to write about and why. Well take it a verse at a time.
Verse 1: Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us. . . . Keep in mind, Luke is writing this gospel probably around the year 60, and hes relating events that took place some 30 years earlier or before. During those intervening years, the apostles of Christ had been busy, very busy, preaching and teaching the good news of Christ. They were doing their work in person, by speaking in front of crowds and congregations. They were passing on their oral accounts of what took place in the ministry of Jesus. But after some years, it must have become clear that it was necessary to put this stuff down in writing. Some had apparently begun to do that. Luke refers to those who have undertaken to compile a narrative. Is he referring to Matthew or Mark, for example? Perhaps. Maybe hes referring to just some partial written accounts, written down by those who had heard the apostles preach. In any case, its not that hes necessarily criticizing those written accounts, as though they were in error. Hes just saying that some have started to write accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.
And he calls these events the things that have been accomplished among us. That is noteworthy. The word here for accomplished could also be translated fulfilled: the things that have been fulfilled among us. What Luke is going to tell us is that what God had promised from long ago--those things have now been fulfilled.
And whats more, they have been fulfilled, accomplished, among us! Dear friends, that is significant for us, too. We are in that us. God has come through on his promises, and they have come to fulfillment in the coming of the Christ. And by the good news of Christ coming in our midst, we get included in the action! This is what Luke is getting at.
Verse 2: just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us. Remember, Luke himself was not an apostle. He had not been one of the Twelve, the disciples who had been with Jesus for the events recorded in the gospel. So where did Luke get his material from? From the eyewitnesses themselves. They delivered those accounts to Luke; they handed them down. In fact, it appears that Luke actually interviewed the eyewitnesses and got the accounts straight from them as he was compiling his gospel. This could have happened during one of those extended down times I spoke of, when Paul was in prison. Luke heard from the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus do these things some thirty years earlier--the apostles, certainly. But also it appears very likely that Luke spoke to Mary, the mother of our Lord, particularly about the events surrounding Jesus birth. Yes, Mary would have still been around at the time when Luke was writing his gospel. She was an older woman by then, maybe in her 70s, but she would have been very able to recall the astonishing events when she gave birth to the Savior of the world. It says a couple of times in the infancy narrative that Mary pondered these things and treasured them up in her heart. And we get Marys treasure in the first two chapters of Luke.
Verse 3, Luke continues: 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. It seemed good to Luke. And it seemed good to the Holy Spirit also and most importantly. Luke did his interviewing and his research and his writing, in his own distinctive style. But at the same time, this was all under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We have the inspired Word of God here in the Gospel according to St. Luke. The Word of God in the words of men--thats what we have in the Bible. Holy Scripture has both a divine nature and a human nature, similar to what we have in our God-man Savior himself, Jesus Christ.
So in Lukes gospel we have an accurate, orderly account of the things fulfilled among us, namely, of--as Luke says at the beginning of Acts--of all that Jesus began to do and teach, up until the day of his ascension. The deeds of Christ and the teachings of Christ. Jesus, as he goes about doing the will of his Father: bringing in the blessings of Gods end-time kingdom; restoring creation; healing the sick; delivering people from the power of the devil; calling sinners to repentance and faith. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost, as Jesus says in what might be called the theme verse of Lukes gospel.
And Jesus does this by taking a journey to Jerusalem, where he will suffer and die to bring us out of the bondage of our slavery to sin and death. Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem, to be handed over to unjust crucifixion, that is how determined he is to accomplish his rescue mission. Jesus is determined to do whatever is necessary to accomplish your salvation, my friend. And that is what it took: Gods own Son, the Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffering and dying for you; and then rising from the dead and sending out his apostles with the saving, life-giving message. This is the great good news that Luke has to tell us in his gospel.
Verse 4: that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Here is the purpose statement for Lukes gospel. This is why he is writing this book. That you may have certainty. That you may have faith, and that your faith would have a firm foundation. God doesnt want you floundering about, not sure of what you believe. He doesnt want you to have a shaky, weak, blown-about faith. No, he wants you to be sure of your salvation. He wants to be certain of what you believe.
But believing what? Faith concerning what? Concerning the things you have been taught. You have been catechized. You have been given the basics, the ABCs of the Christian faith. And now God wants you to go deeper. To get a very firm foothold on the truth. The truth of Christ Jesus, your Savior and the Savior of the world. This is what Lukes gospel is all about.
So dive in! The water is fine. Whether your name is Theophilus or Theodore or Phil or Phyllis, in this gospel of his, St. Luke has some good news for you. Youll be hearing much more of it during this Advent, this Christmas, and for this whole year coming up. Yes, its the Year of St. Luke, which means it is, above all, the Year of Christ Jesus our Savior.
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.
This is history, though the report itself and the Good News are central, we tend to forget that the account is very much in the tradition, even at the time, of faithful accounts, a more accurate history than that of Herodotus, centuries earlier.
Luke really serves that purpose grandly, as a studious account based on what were clearly eye-witness accounts and a deliberate effort to maintain accuracy.
Like the Transfiguration account, it is rooted in human experience, verite., with the sunset, a walk up the mountain at a certain place and time, followed by the account of an event totally unique, and about which great books and sermons have been exhausted, followed in sequence with a return down from the mountain, and a determination on the part of Jesus to focus on that work ahead of Him in Jerusalem.
It's a very human account, unique as history from the late ancient Near East.
Thank God in Christ that work He accomplished in Jerusalem is a Finished Work, to which nothing can be added or taken away.
That's another school of thought regarding what is called "history" today, one largely lost or tossed aside, particularly by those who have all their Map of the World constructed on their inner animal's here and now, "whose God is their belly." They say "history is bunk," but when they say it, they are thinking that the accounts, the written record, written by the winners of wars, is all that history is, though it is much more.
History can also be thought of as everything that has happened, in time and space, before the present moment, regardless whether any written account exists or ever did exist. When we consider history in this way, the past is "safe" from being rewritten, the character of historic figures and especially the persons, themselves, most of whom were born, lived and died unheralded, cannot be revised, except by the God of Abraham.
It can be badly written, or lied about, but the facts, the truth, of all things that have happened up until this moment are unchanging.
That's not a bad attitude to apply to the Word, through whom and by whom we all have our existence, and the worlds were formed.
Thank you for posting this! I’ve shared this with my husband.
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