A Journey with Jesus: Know
Dominant Thought: This good news gives us confidence to know Jesus better.
I want my listeners to see the gospel of Luke as a story about the life of Jesus Christ.
I want my listeners to know with confidence the lessons they have learned about Jesus.
I want my listeners to share a Jesus story with someone this week.
If you choose one of the gospel writers as your pastor, who would you choose? A friend asked me that question a few months ago. After a few moments of reflection, I chose Luke. At the outset, we make some assumptions to who wrote the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four gospels were not signed. The writers may have chosen to leave their works unsigned to keep the focus on the main character of the story, Jesus Christ. The titles of the gospels were added later with a simple preposition and a name, “According to Matthew, According to Mark, According to Luke, According to John.”
I chose Luke because I feel I connect with his heart most. I love all the gospels, but Luke’s story or in his words, “his orderly account” resonates with me. Over the next few months, we continue our disciples’ journey and focus our attention on Jesus.
A recent survey in Ohio by the Barna group showed that our younger generation of adults (age 22-36) expect to learn about who Jesus is from preaching (20 %). Only two other topics had the same or higher percentage: How to be a Christian in today’s society (22%) and morality and values (32%). [Barna, “State of Columbus: What People Expect of Churches].
Today, we begin our journey with Jesus in the opening verses of Luke 1.1-4.
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 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, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
To summarize these verses into a sentence for our time today, I would say, This good news gives us confidence to know Jesus better.
From the outset, Luke acknowledges other people who have written accounts of the “things that have been fulfilled among us.” The writer, whom we are calling Luke, inserts himself into the story with the words, “us” and then later he uses, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write and orderly account for you...” We connect these words with Luke based on the tradition of the church, the early title, “according to Luke,” and the connection to the book of Acts that appears to be the second volume of the story.
Luke writes to a well respected person named Theophilus. His name means, “lover of God.” I believe he was a real person. He seems to be a respected and prominent person with the greeting, “most excellent.” The other time we find this title is in Acts for Roman governors (Acts 23.26; 24.2; 26.25). Theophilus may be a person who is funding Luke’s work. He may be a young Christian. He has been taught something about the ways of God. Other than Theophilus’ name, Luke makes no reference to God or Jesus. That’s about to change quickly as the story unfolds.
So, if Pastor Luke were you pastor, what values would identify his ministry? I’ve chosen to highlight three values of Pastor Luke’s ministry: accuracy, diversity, and story.
First, Luke’s ministry focuses on accuracy. From these opening words, he confesses, “I have carefully investigated everything carefully.” The Apostle Paul describes Luke as the beloved physician (Colossians 4.14). Luke, a doctor would recognize the importance of details. If you go to your doctor, do you want him to be fuzzy with details of your illness or accurate? Do you want a doctor who just barely passed his exams or passed with excellent scores. This gospel we have before us contains accurate details about the life of Christ with the goal of helping Theophilus and those who will come after him to know the certainty of the things we have been taught.
As you read through Luke’s gospel, you’ll find details. For example, in Luke 3.1-2, we read six leaders: “Tiberius Caesar (1); Pontius Pilate being governor of Syria (2); Herod being tetrarch of Galilee (3); and his brother Philip being tetrarch of Ituraea and of the regions of Trachonitus (4); and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene (5); Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests (6); the word came to John (the Baptist).” (Paul Butler, Luke, p. 4)
As you read through Luke over the next few months, keep you eyes open for the details of the story. Take note of the geography and the people. Luke anchors the birth of Christ in time and place. In Luke 2.1-2, In the days of Caesar Augustus, a decree went out that everyone should be registered. He then highlights the census while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Why are these details important? They help us understand that this Jesus story happened in real time in a real place with real people.
Second, Luke’s ministry focuses on diversity. Luke’s story of Jesus invites many people to along the journey. From most excellent Theophilus to the lowly shepherds who first heard, worshipped, and preached about the Savior born in Bethlehem. In Luke, we’ll meet a couple wealthy tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus who change and follow after Jesus. In Luke, we’ll meet several women. Some who will support Jesus and the disciples out of their means (Luke 8.1-3). One of those women, Mary Magdalene, Jesus delivered seven evil spirits out of her.
In Luke 14, Jesus dines at the house of a “prominent Pharisee” (Luke 14.1). As he saw the people choose the places of honor at the table he told them a parable. Then Jesus said to the host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do they will invite you back and so you will be repaid” (Luke 14.12).
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I love how Luke highlights the ability of Jesus to connect with the rich and the poor. Jesus willingly cross racial barriers to accomplish His mission, too. In Luke 17, Jesus traveled along the border of Samaria and Galilee, the crosshairs of racial tension. That last time Jesus traveled through Samaria, they rejected him and James and John wanted to call down fire to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9.52-55). Ten men who had leprosy met Jesus and stood at a distance and called out, “Jesus, Master [a term that Luke highlights on a few occasions] have pity on us!” (Luke 17.13). Jesus instructed them to “Go, show yourselves to the priests. An as they went they were cleansed” (Luke 17.14).
Then Luke gives the account of one of the men who was healed in Luke 17.15-19.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke wants his audience to know that Jesus has come for people of all races and economic levels. This Jesus has come for everyone.
During this series, we invite you to check out the Right Now Media resource, The Chosen. It is a series of episodes on the life of Christ and how he engages with different people from all walks of life. I have heard great reviews. Know that the creators use some sanctified imagination to fill in some of the storyline. I am confident the series will supplement your reading of Luke’s gospel.
Third, Luke’s ministry focuses on story. Some people describe the gospels as biographies. While we learn some biographical information about Jesus, Luke wants to accomplish something deeper in his account of Jesus. Luke records several stories that Jesus told. Two of the more popular ones are the parables of the Samaritan who helped the wounded man in the ditch in Luke 10. Luke also records the story of the man who had two sons. The younger one gambles his inheritance away, but comes to his senses and returns home. The father runs to him and welcomes him home. The story concludes with the father inviting the older brother to come inside for the party. Luke tells stories.
Luke tells the story. The story is Jesus who was born, the Savior who brings great joy for all the people as the angels announced to the shepherds (Luke 2.10-11).
The goal for Luke gospel describes Jesus mission to travel to Jerusalem. Near the end of Luke 9, we have a key transition moment that identifies Jesus’ mission(Luke 9.51 ).
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
From this verse, Jesus sets his eyes on Jerusalem, the culmination of his mission.
My friend Greg Hafer told me the story of his favorite and most memorable offering appeal at Ozark Christian College. The speaker, a leader at Watered Gardens, a ministry to the homeless in Joplin, MO, told of an encounter with a homeless woman on a wintery day. The man and his wife were driving through Joplin in a snow storm. They noticed the local homeless lady pushing her cart of belonging through the snow. The man invited the lady into their car with his wife. “Hop in and we will take you to the shelter.” The woman refused to leave her cart and her belongings, all that she had. They arranged for his wife to drive her to the shelter and he would push her shopping cart and her belongings to the 5-6 blocks to Watered Gardens. While he’s pushing the shopping cart in the snow and sleet and through the frozen slush of the sidewalk, he said to God, “God, I just wanted to help her. I didn’t want to take her place.” That’s the story of the gospel, Jesus, the perfect one, coming to take our place, to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19.10).
One of the final scenes in Luke gospel happens to two people on a Sunday afternoon walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus came out o the grave earlier that morning. At first, the two were kept from recognizing Jesus (Luke 24.16). They didn’t know for certainty that it was Jesus. It is the same word Luke used in Luke 1.4. They keep walking and invite Jesus to stay for dinner. On their walk, their hearts were burning as they visited with Jesus. Jesus sits down to eat with them and breaks the bread and their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. Another way to say it, “they knew for certain that it was Jesus. My prayer for our church during our study through Luke’s gospel is to know for certain who Jesus is. I invite you to tell someone one of these Jesus stories this week.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.