It’s the longest book in the New Testament, written by the only Gentile contributor to that sacred collection. Some would say it is also the most beautiful literary work found there.
Luke, a long-time companion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:10-11), is its author, and he is a first century doctor by profession (Colossians 4:.10-11.14).
But in our skeptical times, critics question the trustworthiness of Luke’s claims. Are they real history? Confidence in his message has loosened its hold even on some believers.
Luke almost seems to anticipate our skepticism. And so, he begins his message with the longest sentence in the New Testament, carefully crafted to lay the groundwork for everything he wants to say.
To help you feel the seriousness of what he claims I’m going to break down that original sentence into several even shorter sentences as follows:
(To Theophilus, to whom he is writing): Remarkable things have happened among us. Many have believed and attempted to draw up an account of these events. Their accounts were handed down to us by people who were first-hand witnesses. They were people who gave themselves to spreading the word. Not just they but I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning. I feel compelled to write an orderly account of it all. This is for you, most excellent Theophilus. You have already had basic teaching of the faith. But my purpose is to be sure you feel the certainty of what you have been taught.
Theophilus may have been a Roman government official and a relatively new convert to the faith. Here, in his Gospel account, Luke goes to great lengths to enrich his faith by giving him a fuller grounding in the historical facts and claims of Our Lord Jesus Christ as his diligent investigation has uncovered them.
Here, I want to point out the first and last miracles Luke reports.
The first miracle, recorded nowhere else in the New Testament, has to do with an elderly priest named Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, both of them from Israel’s priestly line. They were childless and while Zechariah was ministering in the temple the angel Gabriel came to him and announced that, in spite of their great age, he and Elizabeth would have a son, to be named John.
In spite of Zechariah’s great piety, he did not believe Gabriel’s message, and for that disbelief he was rendered speechless for several months until after the promised miracle was fulfilled. The son born to them became none other than John the Baptist.
The second miracle is the one with which Luke closes his Gospel (Luke 22-24). It is the greatest miracle ever — Jesus’ resurrection! Although he suffered disfiguring brutality brought about by Israel’s religious rulers and carried out by his Roman executioners, nevertheless, on the third day he was raised from death as promised in the freshness and vigor of resurrected life.
In the telling of these two miracles after careful investigation — the miraculous conception of the herald of Jesus’ coming, John the Baptist, and the astonishing resurrection of Jesus — Luke is faithful to his declared purpose. He has done his research.
To be blessed by his account it remains for us to read his report with eyes of faith, embrace it, rejoice over it, and sing again the song of personal resurrection promised every believer.
Photo credit: Luz Adriana Villa (via flickr.com)