Luke 1:1-4

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. Luke 1:1-4

Ironically, as people around the United States continue to do diligent work in providing an “orderly account” of the recent election, we begin our walk through the Gospel according to Luke. He too seeks to provide an “orderly account” of the ministry of Jesus for the sake of “most excellent Theophilus.” We have a few things to think about before digging into Luke.

First, while the tradition has long assumed that Luke the gospel writer was the same Luke that traveled with the Apostle Paul, there are very good reasons to question that. (Click here to read more about such questions.) Given that Luke wrote with a copy of Mark in front of him, and that Mark was written in the early 70’s, and that the Apostle Paul never mentions any of the Jesus stories included in Luke’s gospel, it doesn’t seem possible that Luke the writer was also Luke the traveling companion.

Does it matter? To some people, especially to those who take a very literalistic approach to scripture, yes it does. It gives Luke/Acts an aura of authenticity in the same way as the assumptions – none of which I accept – that Mark was the young man who followed Paul, that Matthew was the tax collector who followed Jesus, and that the writer of John was the unnamed beloved disciple in John’s gospel. We don’t need baseless assumptions about authorship to discover the truth of what Luke writes; we can let the text itself do that.

Second, it is highly unlikely that “Theophilus” – to whom both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are dedicated – is a real human being. The name means “friend of God” or “one who loves God.” As far as I’m concerned, Luke wrote for you and me and every other person who reads what he wrote.

Third, Luke’s intention in writing is clearly laid out in these opening verses. He wants us to know the truth about Jesus. Luke emphasizes the importance of learning as a key to Christian discipleship. Luke wants us to follow the true Jesus, not the Jesus we want Jesus to be, or the Jesus we make up in our own heads. Luke would appreciate what John would write a decade or more later – “If you continue in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

And finally, I believe each of the gospels were written, like everything else that has ever been written, with a specific audience in mind, seeking to address specific issues. In short, Mark was written to address the question, “What do we do with a Messiah who dies?” Matthew, “How do we practice the faith without access to Torah or Temple?” John, “What about the Jews?” The big question for Luke is “What about the Gentiles?”

Let that question linger in the back of our minds as we slowly walk through Luke. Because Luke’s big question is addressed to us.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for the faithfulness of all of the writers who have captured, commented on, and shared the good news of your love with all those who would follow. Help us see, through the words of your servant Luke, how faith in you looks in our daily lives, and how you would our own discipleship impact the world around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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