Summary: a look at Luke’s gospel and his emphasis on Jesus as a lover of outsiders, cultural, gender and moral outsiders, and his healing work
INTRO: LUKE UNDER THE GUN
The holidays always seem to bring out the obligatory religious articles in news magazines. This week, Time has an article on the birth of Jesus*. The ironic thing about these articles, is that they sell a lot of magazines to Christians…. But the starting assumption is always that Christianity is more myth than reality.
- It’s like this is our yearly anti-indoctrination in how we’ve been indoctrinated by the Bible.
- It’s our yearly programming to deprogram us from what our lying churches are telling us.
Especially under the gun in this year’s attack is Luke, the writer of the third biography of Jesus in the New Testament – and that’s who we’re talking about today. Whereas Mark starts with Jesus all grown up, Luke adds early background info which has become the source of our Christmas traditions:
- Mary and Joseph
- Bethlehem, donkey
- Stable, manger
WHO WAS LUKE?
So who was Luke? Do we know anything about the man? Can we know when he wrote, why he wrote, and what kind of guy he was?
- Was he a myth maker, a tale spinner?
- Was he totally removed from the events or close to them?
- Did he care about accuracy?
Well, to understand LUKE you need to understand it’s ties to another book called ACTS. Acts is the sequel to Luke. LUKE is about Jesus, ACTS is about the church that started after his death and resurrection. They were written by the same guy! How do we know?
- They have the same style and themes
- They have the same opening, addressed to the same man. “Dear Theophilus.”
- The second book refers to the first… Acts 1:1 “Dear Theophilus: In my first book I told you about everything Jesus began to do and teach.”
But the most interesting thing is that the guy who wrote Acts puts himself INTO the story. In Acts 16 the author starts using the person pronoun “WE”. “WE did this, and we did that…” so he joins his own narrative and therefore, it’s at this point in the story that he becomes an eye witness as the companion of Paul.
That’s pretty amazing! In fact, Paul mentions Luke by name in several letters. So though Luke never saw Jesus, as a companion of Paul, he would have met Jesus first disciples, Peter, James, John even Mary. Luke was in a unique position of access to Jesus’ story.
Here’s ONE other detail about Luke. He was a physician. So Luke was a professional, highly skilled and educated person. His Greek is the most polished in the New Testament and kind of verifies this. And doctors would be the closest thing in the first century to a scientist. So Luke would be accustomed to the fact that in medicine, you need evidence, and verification and investigation to find cures that actually work.
This makes him a first rate historian. Why is he interested in history? Because Luke is writing directly to a friend, who needs historical proof before he can be certain about Jesus Christ. Luke mentions his friend by name…
Theophilus was probably a seeker investigating the message of Jesus Christ. Now, what we do every week in this service is to provide a place to investigate the claims of Christ, and some of you in this room may be in Theophius’ shoes in this very moment.
You see, what Theophilus needed was verification. He needed facts. He needed background information so he could make up his own mind; he needed to have his questions answered. Just listen to Luke’s introduction:
Luke 1:1-4 Most honorable Theophilus: Many people have written accounts about the events that took place among us. They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises. Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you, to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught.
So note this, friends: Luke is not making this stuff up, he gets it from eyewitness sources. Later he says to Theophilus, this stuff wasn’t done in a corner – check it out! One of the hallmarks of Judeo Christian religion is that it is built primarily on historical events marked by multiple attestation.
What does that mean?
- it’s not one guy getting visions from an angel in a cave
- It’s not one guy getting special glasses to read secret heavenly scrolls that magically disappear.
- It’s not one guy taking dictation from heaven
- there’s multiple independent witnesses, five if you include Paul, and they reference hundreds of others…