Summary: Luke presents Jesus as a man, yet with a miraculous birth. Chapter 1 brings us a transition from Old to New Covenants, and two ways of receiving God’s Word - which way do you respond?
As many of you know, I worked for many years in the television industry as a reporter. It was a fun job for a while - you got to do things and meet people that you normally wouldn’t. I met presidents and famous actors, rode in helicopters perched on the sides of snow covered mountains, stood in flood waters, ran from forest fires, got shot at - hey - maybe it wasn’t so fun after all!
Many times I’m asked what it was like as a Christian reporter - if I had to compromise to tell a story. In some ways it was difficult - there are very few Christians in that business. I had the blessing to work with two Christian photographers towards the end of my time in TV. I had a motto, though, that helped me tremendously. It comes from John 8:32 "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I always strove to tell the truth in any story - what people really said and did from both sides. This served me well. I never had to compromise who I was as a reporter or a Christian.
The reason I bring this up is that the book we are about to study is what I call "The Reporters Gospel" - the gospel of Luke. I can identify with Luke. In many ways he is a reporter or historian - striving to tell the truth by interviewing primary sources, reading first hand accounts, sifting and sorting, until he can write down what happened.
Luke was a doctor by trade - but he didn’t walk around with a stethoscope and a white robe making lots of money and playing golf on Wednesdays. In fact, Luke was considered a slave. That’s right, a slave. But he was not a slave in the way we Americans think of - in fact, most of the population of the Roman Empire in the days of Jesus were slaves. All it meant was that Luke was owned by someone else. That person evidently felt highly enough of Luke to allow him freedom to serve Paul and to write both his gospel and the book of Acts.
Luke was also a Gentile Christian, and traveled with Paul the Apostle (Acts 16, 20, 21 & 27). Luke was not an original disciple - and his is the only gospel written by someone other than a disciple (or an Apostles representative - like John-Mark writing Mark for Peter - Peter’s words written down by Mark). Luke was with Paul when he started the church at Philippi, and went with him to Jerusalem where he no doubt met with the apostles. He also traveled with Paul to Rome. Many people feel that Luke must have interviewed Mary because the accounts of her visit by Gabriel, to Elizabeth, and the birth of Christ and His boyhood are so detailed.
Luke’s gospel was probably written around 60AD from Caesarea or Rome. This was also around the same time as Mark and Matthew were written. Luke was written to a Gentile (Theophulus - lover of God) and to a Gentile audience (many Jewish terms put in Greek understanding). Around a third of this gospel is completely unique, although Luke probably had read Mark.
Each of the gospels present a different view on Jesus: Matthew - Jesus the King, Mark - Jesus the servant, Luke - Jesus the son of man, John - Jesus the Son of God. Luke is also the most complete gospel - on par for a reporter. So remember as we go though the gospel - it portrays that Jesus was a human.
Verses 1 - 4a
At the time at least two other gospels had been written. Luke had given his life for the gospel and had traveled extensively with Paul. It was thought at the time that as the disciples grew older and were martyred, that what Jesus did and said needed to be recorded. Luke takes these eyewitness accounts and puts them down for a man who was likely a Gentile convert to Judaism who became a Christian but who now might have doubted his faith ("that you might have certainty")
Chapter 1 has three themes that we’re going to cover:
1. The Bridge from Old Covenant to New
2. The Messenger Gabriel
3. The Reception of the message (Mary vs Zechariah)
First let’s walk through the chapter, then we’ll come back and look at these themes in more detail.
Verses 4b - 10
This is presented much like the stories of barren couples in the Old Testament like Abram and Sarai, Jacob and Rachael, etc. Herod was confirmed by the Roman senate as king of the Jews but was only half Jewish and never accepted by the people.
The priests kept up the Temple, taught the Scriptures and directed worship. There were 20,000 priests at this time - broken up into 24 groups of 1,000 each. Each priest ministered for twice a year for one week.