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Luke 1:1-4 ESV
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke is my favorite Gospel. One of the reasons I love it is that it is such an orderly account. Even though Luke was not present during the earthly ministry of Jesus, he gave a detailed and historically accurate biography of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, based on the testimony of those who were present.
Luke’s gospel was early, probably written prior to 63 A.D. At most, that is just a little over 30 years after Jesus Christ was crucified. Compare that to that to the teachings of Buddha, which were written down 400-500 years after he died.
Luke’s gospel was based on eyewitness testimony. He said at the very beginning of his account that his writings were based on the testimony of eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, in other words the Apostles. Many facts mentioned in Luke’s gospel could only have been known by people who were there. These were the days before the internet and even newspapers, and Luke could not simply have looked these things up.
Check out this example from Luke 3:1-2 ESV: In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. In just two verses, Luke mentioned 9 people who have been confirmed by historians and archaeologists to have actually existed.
In Luke’s own time, other eyewitnesses besides the 12 Apostles might have spoken up and said Luke got it all wrong. We do not have any record that anyone did. Luke was really risking it to include so many historical figures. If he had gotten it wrong, it would have cast doubt on the whole gospel. Clearly Luke was fully persuaded that the things he wrote were true! Otherwise, he would not have included so many historically testable facts and figures in his gospel.
Luke’s gospel, based on the testimony of the Apostles, contained embarrassing testimony about… the Apostles!
It is unlikely that Jesus’s closest disciples would include so many embarrassing stories about themselves if they had made everything up.
Like a group of 8th grader boys, they argued amongst themselves which one was the greatest (Luke 9:46-48). They portrayed themselves as dim-witted; whenever Jesus told them He would die and rise again they did not understand what He was talking about (Luke 9:44-45, 18:31-34). Peter, the leader of the Apostles, denied Him three times (Luke 22:54-62). Joseph of Armathea, a member of the Sanhedrin–the council of elders that had sentenced Jesus to death–took care of Jesus’s burial rather than the disciples (Luke 23:50-53). On the morning of the Resurrection, when the women found His tomb empty and met with angels who proclaimed Jesus had risen, the Apostles did not believe their report (Luke 24:12). When Jesus appeared to them, they thought it was a ghost and continued to disbelieve until He explained what had happened from the Scriptures (Luke 24:36-49). If they had made the Gospel up, they would not have included such self-deprecating details.
In fact, they believed in the Gospel so strongly that they willingly endured torture and death to defend it. Their testimony was excruciating. They were often given the choice to deny Christ and live or hold fast to their testimony and die. They chose to die. And one does not die for a fairy tale. Every one of Jesus’s Apostles died in defense of the Faith, except John. They attempted to kill John by boiling him in oil, but he would not die. He was eventually exiled to the island of Patmos, where he received a vision that inspired the book of Revelation.
According to some accounts, Luke was hanged from an olive tree by Greek Pagan priests.
Luke’s orderly account is a compelling and accurate picture of the life and teachings of Jesus. Let’s study His life and get to know Him together.