Luke 1 - EyeWitness Accounts

Many have undertaken to draw up an account
of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
2 just as they were handed down to us...
by those who from the first were eyewitnesses
and servants of the word.
3 With this in mind, since I myself have
carefully investigated everything from the beginning,

I too decided to write an orderly account for you,
most excellent Theophilus,
4 so that you may know the certainty
of the things you have been taught.

Most of us know that Luke is part of what we call
the synoptic gospels.
Matthew - Mark - and Luke.

"Synoptic" comes from the word synopsis - a general summary.

These three gospels present a basic summary of the life of Jesus.

Each is different in certain ways, but they all follow the basic summary outline.

Luke opens his gospel,
Many have undertaken to draw up an account
of the things that have been fulfilled among us

It is almost certain that Luke has a copy of Mark's gospel in front of him as he is writing his account.

How do we know this?
There are numerous passages that are almost word for word...from Mark's text.

Verses in the Synoptic Gospels:
1,068 - Matthew
661 - Mark
1,149 - Luke

Verses in Mark that were used:
500 - in Matthew: 47%
380 - in Luke: 33%

So Luke has the greatest amount of unique content and he includes more information not found in Mark.
And in some places, he adds additional details about events recorded in Mark.

The tradition is that Mark takes notes from Peter while Peter was in prison, waiting to be executed.

It appears that Mark gets his gospel material from the eyewitness account of Peter.

Luke on the other hand, was a Gentile...a Roman...a very educated man - and a doctor.

From everything we see, Luke comes to faith during Paul's ministry around 15 years AFTER the resurrection.

Look at verse 2:
[I am going to give an account of the things that happened...]
2 ...just as they were handed down to us...
by those, who from the first, were eyewitnesses

THIS is a very interesting phrase at the beginning of Luke's account.

Luke uses the phrase "just as they were handed down to us..."

This is the language of oral tradition.
This language indicates that he was probably "told" these things by
"those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning."

This is the same language Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15 when he is speaking about the resurrection.

In that passage Paul mentions that AFTER the resurrection,
AFTER Jesus had appeared to His disciples...
Jesus was seen by 500 one time.

And Paul says that some of these people had already died, but that "most" of them were still alive when he was writing to the Corinthians in around 50 AD.

It appears that Paul KNOWS some of these people!

Luke is in Paul's close knit group of men...and it appears that he probably knows some of these 500 witnesses.

So when he says he learned these things from eyewitnesses....

He is probably talking about some of the twelve, and some of the 500.
These 500 witnesses were probably at the Mount as Ascension in Acts 1.

As far as we can tell, 1 Corinthians was probably written around 20 years after the resurrection.
Luke's gospel may have been written around 15 years after Corinthians.

Right around the time when eyewitnesses would have started getting older...and dying.

This past December 7th I saw a program on NewsMax of several navy sailors interviewed about Pearl Harbor.

They were there.
And they gave eyewitness testimony.
Well, this group of Pearl Harbor survivors is quite important for the history of the event.

People did not live as long in the first century, AND some of them were probably in their 40's when Jesus was crucified...

So some of them are in their 60's or 70's when the gospels started being written.

Some of the scholars I read believe...and it makes total sense to me...that the more eyewitnesses that died,
the more urgent it became to write down their testimonies.

So in the gospels...
We get some differences in the details between one gospel to the other. Don't be afraid of this.
Don't let it bother you.

Sometimes you get different details in one gospel that help the story make MORE sense as it is told in another gospel.

This happens, for example,
When you read Kings and Chronicles, in the OT.
The details of one account helps the other account make better sense.

And this is what can happen with the gospels.

Critics of the faith will try to use these differences to attack the gospels.

Don't let that bother you.

In his excellent work on the witness aspect of the gospels, Richard Bauckham rightly states that from the time of the ascension of the time when the gospels were written,

the "presence and testimony of the eyewitnesses...remained the authoritative sources of traditions until their deaths..." p.6

And then the texts...the written accounts, took over.

How many of you like to hear people give their testimony?
I do.
I love to hear how God reached down into somebody's life.

When we hear somebody giving us a personal experience...say with a famous person...
We listen carefully...
and we often ask questions.

When I worked in the software company the IT Director, who became a good friend to me, had returned to the office from a business trip...
and with great excitement told me of how Muhammad Ali had been on his flight.

It was great.
Sean told me all that happened...and I kept asking questions.
"Did you get to shake his hand?" - Yes.
"How big was his hand?" - HUGE!

This is what we do when we get a chance to hear an eyewitness of something we are keenly interested in.

When we read the gospels, we are hearing eyewitness testimony.
And we should question the text...
Why does it say this?
Why did that person react this or that way?

That is how you get BEHIND the gain a better understanding of what happened. [21 min]


I am going to skip to a few interesting passages this morning as I continue to give my introduction.

Remember how I always urge you to see the "meta-message" of a biblical book?

Well, each gospel writer has a meta-message that is slightly different as well.

THIS is a big part of WHY the gospels are different in their presentation...

But even among the synoptic gospels...they differ slightly in HOW they focus on the story.

The core story is about Jesus: His miracles, His claims...
His death...and most importantly, His resurrection.

But Luke has a reason for WHY he is offering a different presentation.
Otherwise, he would be fine with the text he has in front of him -- Mark's account.

The Greek of Mark's gospel is abbreviated and fairly simple.
Mark moves very quickly through the story...almost like he was in a hurry to just get the facts written down.

Luke is writing to the "most excellent Theophilus."
This is a Roman...a Gentile. And his use of "most excellent" is the way someone would address a Roman official.

Some think this is just a fictitious name.
It literally means "lover of God."
But it could be a Christian who happens to be a Roman official.

It appears that Luke is writing down an account with a Roman audience in mind. A better educated audience.

Luke's Greek...because he is a well-educated man, is the best Greek in the NT. The only Greek better is the Letter to the Hebrews.

He opens his gospel with a very long section on John the Baptist.
This is my I am going to save this section for next week.

But I want to point out two important things that help us immediately see Luke's "meta-message."

Towards the end of chapter Two, Luke tells us about when Jesus is presented in the Temple...

A man named Simeon comes up and prays to God in thanks.
29 Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of
all people:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles [ethnos],
and the glory of your people Israel.

So we note that Simeon says that God is shining His light on ALL nations.

In the next chapter Luke is explaining WHY John the Baptist came and preached,

Luke quotes from Isaiah 40:
v4 A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
"Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him...

I am skipping a bit here...

v6 And all people ["sarx" - all flesh, ALL mankind] will see God's salvation.

So here is another reference to ALL nations...ALL the Gentiles.

Matthew and Mark BOTH quote the text from Isaiah the prophet, but ONLY Luke uses the more full quotation that says,
"ALL people will see God's salvation."

This is another reference to Gentiles being part of God's purpose in sending His Son.

Mark and Matthew both quote from Isaiah 40, but they do not use v5
that ALL flesh will see God's salvation.

If you look up Isaiah 40 in your Bible you will not see "God's salvation."

Why not?

Translation from Hebrew:
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.

The LXX - the Greek OT:
5 And the glory of the Lord shall appear,
and all flesh shall see the
salvation of God...

The NT writers almost always use the Greek OT - LXX
when they quote from the OT.

It is keenly interesting that Mark and Matthew do not cite v5.

I have shown you three places in the first three chapters where Luke
makes the effort to show that God's movement through His Son Jesus
was for ALL people....including the Gentiles.

THIS is Luke's meta-message...
and we will see it pop up consistently in his gospel.

Luke wants his educated Roman friend,
his Roman audience to KNOW that Jesus came,
not just for the Jews...
But also for the Gentiles!


God has come as a man to give Himself for ALL people...
Jew and Gentile.

If you think about it,
Luke is close to the apostle Paul...
and this is why God selected Paul.

That he (Paul) would be a light to the Gentiles.

So we see the more complete gospel impact of Paul reflected
in Luke's gospel.

God loves ALL the people in the world!

That is our call.
To love ALL people.

I have problems with the nation of China...
but I can love Chinese people.

I have problems with the nation of Russia...
but I can love Russian people.

I have problems with how America has killed millions of babies
during my lifetime...but I can love the people.

Luke's meta-message is that God has reached out to ALL people to show His love.

And this is what we are called to do.

Let's PRAY.

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Christian Fellowship
1300 Henderson Highway
Troy, AL 36079