Well, we’ve done the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, so there’s only one left by my count. Full disclosure: After John, this is my favorite of the Four. Let’s talk a little background for a bit, shall we? Before we do, let me just submit an apology to anyone reading this if this is old news for you.
Luke was a “doctor,” and a close companion of Paul’s. He went on Paul’s journeys and mission trips. Starting around Acts chapter 16, you might notice that the narrative goes from third person plural (“they”) to first person plural (“we”) which we take to mean Luke joined Paul’s party at that point.
But this is the unique thing about Luke: He’s a Gentile. Paul in one of his letters distinguished Luke from the Jewish people accompanying him (Paul). On a (partial) side-note, the word unique does not mean “unusual.” It means “one of a kind.” Luke’s the only Gentile among two-dozen authors of the Bible who’s not Jewish. So if you have a problem with Jews, you’ve got a problem with your Bible.
His background really shines throughout both of his works (this Gospel and the book of Acts). His Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ care for and ministry towards the Gentiles, along with others often regarded as outcasts in Israel, such as Samaritans, women, children, tax collectors, and “sinners.” And of course his second book takes this emphasis and kicks it into overdrive.
The Gospel (and Acts) are both dedicated to “Theophilus.” Who’s this? Literally the name means “lover of God.” Most scholars think it’s a Roman official (“most excellent”) who was a believer but who didn’t want to “come out” as a Christian just yet. So Luke used this pseudonym for him.
Today’s passage is a great study in “tension” regarding the inspiration of Scripture. Who wrote the Bible, God or men? Peter gives us the most complete answer when talking about the prophets: “though human, [they] spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The word “carried along” was used to describe what wind does to a sail.
So men wrote it down, but they were led and guided to do so--from beginning to end-- unerringly by the Holy Spirit. But today’s verses add something interesting to the mix. Without detracting at all from the authority of Scripture, Luke makes it clear that he used human means to accomplish what he set out to do. He didn’t just sit up in a room somewhere in a trance and have all this transmitted into his head. Just like a journalist, he went out and interviewed witnesses, collected what they said, and arranged it in an orderly fashion for us to read. The fact that he was highly educated likely aided in making this "an orderly account.'
None of this subtracts one iota from what we believe about the inspiration of Scripture. In fact, if anything, it adds to the credibility. If Luke (or some other author) was making this up, wouldn’t he claim to be an eyewitness himself? But Luke makes no such assertion.
Here’s one other thing that you might not have known. It’s pretty obvious that Luke presents a lot more material about the Nativity than any of the others. Assuming that this is based on eye-witness accounts, that would mean that one of his primary witnesses was Mary, the mother of our Lord.
Why did he write this? Yes, he wrote it to teach us about Jesus. A lot of his material is unique to his Gospel. But the main purpose for his work is stated in the last verse: “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” You’ve heard some things about Jesus, and now we’re going to differentiate fact from fiction. And the things which you’ve already heard about the Savior which were true, we’re going to reinforce them. Come to think of it, that’s a good purpose for this blog. I sure hope I succeed.
Lord Jesus, in everything I do and say, I want to draw others to you. Either closer to you as believers, or into your presence for the first time. Could I have that, please?