STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE
Good morning. Today we begin the Gospel of Luke. Let the fun begin. Yes, this will be a more in-depth look at some of the things we have seemingly skipped or hurried over. Let's get right to work.
"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:1-4)
The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is unique. He begins his gospel much differently than the other three. He begins with a dedication. He dedicates his work to a person named Theophilus. We discover this same person mentioned at the beginning of the Book of Acts. *Note: Acts and Luke were written as a two volume set by the same author. But, who was Theophilus? The name itself means either "lover of God" or "beloved of God." It is very likely, since this person was mentioned in both Luke and Acts that Theophilus was a patron of Luke and most likely very wealthy. In ancient times it was normal for a writer to dedicate his work to a patron. Just like today. So, Theophilus most likely funded Luke's work.
In this dedication Luke tells Theophilus that the story he is telling has been told before. *Remember, Mark's Gospel was the first gospel written, regardless of its location in the Bible. Also, in this dedication Luke is not claiming to have been an eye-witness. He says that eye-witnesses were first responsible for handing the story down, and that others took part in telling the story who were not there. Their role was to preserve tradition. Notice verse four: "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Clearly Theophilus has been instructed in the faith. In ancient times a new believer would be instructed for a period of three years before being baptized. (In early church) Now, when Luke writes: "it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account..." what is he suggesting? He is suggesting that his is the best. He has worked and researched in order to put together the most accurate account. (I'm not saying it is the most accurate account, but Luke is convinced that it is, as any author would)
So, where might he have gathered his information? Well, first let's ask the question: Who was Luke? Well, we are told in Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a doctor. Early Church tradition holds that Luke was a companion of the Apostle Paul. In fact, Paul writes in II Timothy the words: "Only Luke is with me." (Luke 4:11) Well, we do know that Luke had a very good education and his work was very sophisticated for its time.
So, where did Luke get his information? Did he get it from Paul? My answer: No! After all, Paul gave us no information about the birth of Jesus at all. Luke gives more detail about the birth of Jesus than anyone. The Gospel of Luke was written later than Matthew and is the longest of the Gospels. Luke also knows more about Mary than any other writer. How is this? Well, according to Eusebias who was an early historian Mary spent her last days in Ephesus with John the disciple of Jesus. Many believe that Ephesus was where Luke wrote his gospel. It may very well have been that Luke got to know Mary and had an audience with her. Wow! How would it have been to sit down with the mother of Jesus and hear her tell the story?
Well, I'm sure you are already familiar with the four gospels. You probably are already aware that all four begin in their own unique way. Luke begins (after the dedication) with, not the birth narrative of Jesus, but the birth narrative of John the Baptist. O.K., before I go further let me point out that Luke is doing something here that he continues throughout his gospel. Luke pairs Males and Females all throughout. If a story is told regarding a male character, then a similar story will be told regarding a female. For example:
*Zechariah (father of John) and Mary (mother of Jesus)
*Simeon the prophet and Anna the prophetess (2:25-38)
*The widow's son raised from the dead and Jairus' daughter raised from the dead.
*Woman cured on the Sabbath and Man cured on Sabbath
These are just four of many examples. Well, the birth narratives of John and Jesus collectively begin and end in the temple. *The Gospel of Luke ends in the temple. *Hint, there must be something important about the temple for Luke. Luke also uses what is called parallelism for his writing. He parallels John with Jesus and Mary with Elizabeth. When Luke does this, especially with the pairing of males and females he is usually comparing and contrasting. Notice, both the birth of John and the birth of Jesus are foretold by the angel.
"Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Zechariah)...When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid...Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall give him the name John." (Luke 1:11-13) Of course, you are most likely familiar with the foretelling of the birth of Jesus. The angel appeared to Mary and said: "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." (Luke 1:30-31) Wow! Zechariah was in the temple, he was a priest. Mary, according to many sources was simply a twelve year old girl, and a poor girl at that.
Well, did you notice that while Zechariah was to name his son, Mary was to name hers? That's how Luke writes. Remember, according to Matthew, Joseph named the boy. Also, you may recall that in Matthew Mary never spoke a word. Here, in Luke, Joseph doesn't speak, but Mary speaks a lot. Well, we are told that Zechariah and Elizabeth were "upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elisabeth was barren, and they were both well along in years." (Luke 1:6-7) In other words, they were told old to have babies. Who do they remind you of? Well, several couples from the Old Testament. However, Mary was young, and probably a pre-teen.
Luke tells us the response of both Zechariah and Mary. Zechariah looks at the angel and says: "You're crazy!" (Not really) He replied "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." (Luke 1:18) However, Mary answered: "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) The Greek wording for Mary's response is "Oh, that it might be." Well, anyhow there were two different responses. It is interesting that Zechariah was made to be silent until the Baby was born because he did not believe the angel. However, Mary broke out in song. (Luke 1:46-55) This is what we refer to as Mary's Magnificat.
Well, that is enough for today. Tomorrow we will continue looking at these birth narratives. You will not want to miss our work together. Have a blessed day! -Pastor Rick