We begin this week reading the Gospel of Luke. Luke is known as the companion of Paul on most of His missionary journeys. The capacity with which Luke traveled with Paul is often one of conjecture. Did Paul need a medical doctor with him because of his “thorn in the flesh” or because of the many beatings and physical injuries? Either way, the good doctor has left us with two exquisite books in the New Testament. While Luke is a doctor, we also find that he is also an accomplished historian. The preamble of both is books tells the reader his purpose for writing; to explain and affirm what “most excellent Theophilus” has been taught. While we may not know if Theophilus is a real person or a pseudo character for Luke’s writings; we do find that Luke takes great pains in making sure of the factual information.
Luke is known as one of the synoptic gospels. Much of what is found in Luke is also contained in both Matthew and Mark; with Mark believed to be the source for much of the other two gospels.
Luke also begins his Gospel “at the beginning” – only Matthew gives us any other insight into the birth narratives of John the Baptist ans Jesus. The reason for Luke beginning at the birth, brings in specific dates and personalities of the time. One such question of Luke’s accuracy was the “first census” of Quirinius as governor. It was thought for centuries that Luke was mistaken, however, historical records show that Luke the historian is right.
The birth narratives provide Christianity with the humble beginning of our Savior. The point of the narratives, that God was at work in History bringing salvation to the world. The incarnation of Jesus, the Christ is essential to all that follows in His ministry and sacrificial death and resurrection. If Jesus is but a mere man, birth like anyone else, much of our Gospel becomes myth and folklore.
The Son of God became a man; He [the creator] “Put on humanity.” While the virgin conception is paramount for Jesus to be the incarnate Christ, it is also imperative that we know that Jesus is completely flesh and blood like you and I. Jesus was tempted in all points like you and I, but without sin. Jesus is more that a symbol, he the exact representation of the Father to us. Jesus could say – “he who has seen me has seen the Father; I and the Father are one.”
This may seem like a very boring subject; however the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, met for settling the issue whether Jesus was God. The Council affirmed that Jesus was “of like substance” as the Father; co-equal with God.
Luke uses a transition word of “Now” all throughout his Gospel. It notes a change, or an event that occurs. His Gospel is a chronologically formatted writing, in other words sequenced on how things actually happened time wise.
Beginning with the Forerunner, John the Baptist; Luke gives us the background of how the birth of both the “one like Elijah” and the Messiah came to be. Jesus and John are cousins, which in itself is quite interesting; for we learn that John started his own ministry, as if He didn’t know that Jesus was the Messiah. Anyway – John the voice crying in the wilderness after 400 years of silence captures the notice of the people.
The nativity narratives bring angels, shepherds and ordinary – yet favored people to life. The prophecies of the Old Testament are included to bring coherence to the scriptures. God is at work in time and people to bring about His salvation plan. The characters of the “Christmas story” are well-known. The story doesn’t end really until we get to the Temple scene where we meet Simeon and Anna; two godly people advanced in years waiting for the “consolation of Israel.”
The Christmas story of Luke is much more joy filled than that of Matthew with the cruel King Herod and the infanticide tragedy. The joy is captured for us by the songs of Mary and Zacharias and Simeon. The Angels sing, the people sing, the historical coming of Jesus in real-time and place cannot be denied and is readily confirmed by Luke for us. This baby, miraculous as His birth was clearly establishes that “God has visited earth is His beloved Son.” The promised Messiah, announced and affirmed by Luke establishes the “Now” ministry of Jesus.