Do Luke: Authenticator of the Miracles and Message of Jesus
“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John”, when Christians hear these four names, most automatically think of the Gospel writers. Scholars believe the Gospels were written between 40 and 90 AD, the hastening factor being the death of eyewitnesses, the first generation of Christians who actually knew Jesus.
The Disciples believed that Jesus would return during their lives so there was no urgency in writing the story. They shared the story with others, who, in turn, shared it with others, and the knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God grew exponentially.
In fact, oral presentation by an eyewitness was valued far above anything written, but with the death of those eyewitnesses the Apostles understood the importance of writing the life story of Jesus; His teachings, His ministry, His death and His resurrection. The Gospels were written not simply to record the story of Jesus, but to record the story of Jesus for specific audiences.
Here are a few things scholars know about the men who wrote their testimonies of the Savior.
Matthew, one of the 12 Disciples: The Genealogist: Writing for a Jewish audience. Matthew quotes Old Testament scriptures and points out that specific events in the life of Christ were the fulfillment of the prophecies made when these were written, so that the Jews could plainly see that Jesus was The One promised by the Old Testament prophets.
The Gospel of Mark is remarkably different from that of Matthew. A survey of the information in this book reveals that it was written for a non-Jewish audience, since the writer had to explain Hebrew traditions and Palestinian conditions. Mark’s gospel served the purpose of helping the Gentile world understand that Jesus was truly the Son of God and was likely written to encourage Christians in Rome who were feeling the effects of persecution for the cause of Christ. Whereas Matthew emphasized the words of the Lord, Mark underscores Christ’s deeds. He characterizes Jesus as a servant who came to do the Father’s will—and, servant-like, he did so with great urgency. Jesus is presented as a man on the move, with the word “immediately” being used often, I actually counted… 41 times. Many biblical scholars believe that Mark, the shortest of the four gospels, is essentially the testimony of the Disciple Peter and so it’s believed that Peter is the original source for this gospel. This seems highly possible since Mark spent considerable time with Peter and could have easily written down Peter’s eyewitness accounts of his experiences with Jesus.
John: or John the Beloved as he was known, served as one of the Disciples who wrote of The Divinity of Christ. His book was probably written last, as John seems to have already read the other Gospels before he wrote his own book.
John’s audience were the members of the Church, those who already knew the message of the Lord. John emphasizes Jesus’s divine nature as the Son of God. John repeatedly associates Jesus with God.
The multiple “I am” statements
I am the Bread of Life
I am the Resurrection and the Life
I am the Good Shepherd
John’s primary concern is not to give his readers another account of the life of Jesus but to make clear to his readers the divine identity of Jesus and to help them see how faith in and a relationship with Jesus, brings life.
Now who was Luke, who was his audience and what was his purpose for writing the gospel that bears his name?
In Luke’s day it was believed that a person was sick because the gods were angry at the individual. So, the solution to the problem was, to offer sacrifices to the offended deity. (We know that God provided the ultimate sacrifice with the crucifixion of His Son).
However, Dr. Luke broke from the traditional Greek view of sickness and disease by taking medicine into the realm of science. He diagnosed his patient’s ailments and disease by clinical observation of the body and enquired about the patient’s lifestyle. He also understood the inner workings of the body and believed in a cause and effect relationship between the patient and the disease.
Dr. Luke was referenced as a “beloved physician” in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, indicating that he cared for his patients, and people in general, not only their physical healing, but their spiritual healing as well.
Dr. Luke was Paul’s personal physician whose caring spirit is evident throughout his writings in the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Yes, most biblical scholars support Luke as the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, known to Biblical scholars as Luke-Acts. This is due to the language used and shared writing styles found in each. Luke was the only Gentile writer of the Bible.
Though Luke was not present with Jesus during His ministry, and likely was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection, his attention to detail and abundant eyewitness accounts serve him as a credible historian for the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Luke was written for the non-Hebrew audience. As a scientist, Luke made sure to give a detailed account of everything he wrote, so that those who were unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, customs, places, and Old Testament references would be able to understand the history of Jesus and His plan of salvation for all.
Luke traveled with Paul during his missionary journeys learning about the life and resurrection of Christ. Stories and events were shared by Matthew and Mark, who knew and spent time with the Savior. These men were eye-witnesses to the miracles of Jesus. However, these stories must have been difficult for Luke to comprehend.
I think Luke wanted to accept these wonders, but his pragmatic side, his I am a Doctor of Science and Logic side, needed to be addressed. After Paul’s third missionary journey, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and imprisoned from 57 to 59 AD. Luke took advantage of this time in the Land of Israel and visited the sites in Jerusalem where the Lord Jesus had ministered.
In the first few verses of Luke’s gospel, (which Fred / Peter read for us) Luke states that he is going to write the things that eyewitnesses and other teachers of the gospel had to say about Jesus.
During these two years of Paul’s imprisonment, Luke had the opportunity to talk to many who were present when the Savior taught or performed miracles; the eyewitnesses to special events or moments in the Lord’s life.
By the time Luke was writing his gospel, the Holy Spirit had already inspired two others: Matthew and Mark. It is reasonable to think that Luke would have interviewed them and investigated their writings.
Luke would have likely traveled with Mark, since Mark also traveled with Paul. And, it is logical to think that since Mark and Luke knew each other, and Mark and Matthew knew each other, that Matthew and Luke would have also met. (If this seems confusing to you, just think of it like this, they all knew each other and were buddies).
Luke is the only gospel writer that recorded Jesus’s statements about physicians. “Physician, heal yourself!”. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are ailing both physically or spiritually do. One of the most amazing stories Luke wrote was the birth of the Savior. Luke probably got his information about Jesus’ birth from Mary herself. The account in Luke: Chapters 1 and 2 was written in medical language. Moreover, the evidence for the Lord’s virgin birth must have been overwhelming for a doctor to acknowledge and to profess the case as strongly as Luke did.
Now let’s think about this for a minute, here’s Luke, a well-trained doctor of the day, coming to the conclusion that miracles do happen. Everything that he had accepted as true about the human body was now turned on its head. This must have been a terrible struggle for him, a Doctor of Science, Fact and Reason. To do this, he had to take a leap of faith. When I think of this life-changing moment for Luke, his epiphany, I am reminded of the conversation the resurrected Jesus had with His Disciple, Thomas. John 20:24-29 Many of you are familiar with this passage, so enjoy the wonder of our Lord’s words as I read it
“…. One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” Luke found his answer, he found his faith. Luke believed!
Who were the other people Luke interviewed about Jesus? He referenced 21 Miracles in his gospel, the “to be interviewed list” would have been long. Many of the people who knew the Savior would still have been alive and would have remembered such important events in their lives. Paul mentioned that about 500 people saw the Savior after His Resurrection and that most of them were still alive when he was writing to the Corinthians Luke was not trying to write a new gospel, he wanted to record the life of Jesus as accurately as possible and to emphasize the humanity of Christ.
- He writes a most complete record of the Savior’s birth and childhood (chapters one and two).
- The inspired historian traces Christ’s lineage all the way back to Adam, demonstrating Jesus’ solidarity with mankind.
- He emphasizes many human traits of the Master, his weeping over Jerusalem and his sweating great drops of blood
- Luke gives prominence to the prayers of Christ (a factor not to be overlooked in consideration of the Lord’s humanity). Of the fifteen prayers of Jesus that are recorded in the four Gospel accounts, eleven are found in Luke’s narrative.
Now I want you to think about one of your doctors, the one who takes your concerns seriously and searches for answers to your problems, no matter how long it takes, diagnosing, testing, evaluating, prescribing, until the truth of your situation is uncovered.
This is how I believe Dr. Luke wrote his Gospel. He provided a first-rate testimony for the authenticity of the miracles of Jesus. A scientist by profession, he thoroughly investigated the claims of Christ’s supernatural works (he mentioned twenty-one of them, six of which were unique to his gospel), and he recorded them as historical reality.
Luke was an evangelist, a historian, a physician, a pastor, a missionary, a companion, a brother, and a theologian. Luke knew he wasn’t the first to write about Jesus nor did he claim to be; he wanted to write a gospel that authenticated the truth that had already been written. He investigated every written and oral source that he could.
Luke’s goal was to write a gospel that verified the miracles and message of Jesus, a doctrine inspired by the Holy Spirit for those living in the first century, as well as, us today, living in the twenty-first century.
And I believe with God’s guidance, that’s exactly what he did. Amen.
New Testament Lesson: I Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Gospel Lesson: 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.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, September 23 ~ Saturday, September 29
Sunday: “Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Consider that the message of Jesus has come to you across decades and generations, disciples and apostles, faithful servants over time who all seek God.
Monday: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Pray for ways to pass on the good news that you received as first importance.
Tuesday: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10. Grace is amorphous and ample. How can you lean on God today?
Wednesday: “Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” 1 Corinthians 15:11. It is often through others we come to know faith. Who have you been walking beside on this faith journey?
Thursday: “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,” Luke 1:1-2. Consider to what you have been an eyewitness. Perhaps you are being nudged towards sharing with a friend, family member or neighbor, that wonder.
Friday: “I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,” Luke 1:3. The gospel of Luke was written as an orderly account, so that even readers of today, might follow the wonders of God. Have you taken time to read of God’s wonders?
Saturday: “So that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:4. Pray for discernment as you receive news: good news, mediocre news, and news you do not need.