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Nov 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 21, 2010

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

INTRO: If there is a book you are thinking about buying, how do you look it over to make your decision?

When you begin a new book, do you turn to the first page and start reading?
– Barbara teases me for taking the time to break in the binding of each new book before I read it

Well, you can’t browse a rolled-up scroll, which is what the Gospel of Luke was written on
– therefore, the first line written on a scroll was very important
– it gave you enough information to form an idea of what would follow and to pique your interest

We are going to begin with the first line of Luke and see where it takes us

Verses 1-2, The life and ministry of Jesus begged to be told

Not only for its religious insights, but for what it did in people
– the word “accomplished” is also translated fulfilled (or fully fulfilled)

Two things we cannot miss in the idea of “the things fulfilled”:

  • that the follwing events fulfilled some purpose implies God’s involvement
    “. . . all the things written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (24:44)
    – we will be looking at this more later on
  • the Greek word is is in the perfect tense, which means it is a completed action yet it is ongoing

“Among us” is interesting, because Luke was not an eyewitness (he was a second or third generation believer)
– the story isn’t just about how a movement got started, but about something that keeps coming to fulfillment in other people
– so if Luke can successfully tell the story of these “things,” God will carry forward that same work in the lives of the readers

Verse 3, Luke adds his efforts to what was already out there

If many writers had already compiled accounts of Jesus’ life, why dis Luke feel he had to add another?

[Briefly]: Because of the many shared stories and sayings of Jesus–even the exact wording of particular verses–between Matthew, Mark and Luke, they have earned the title of Synoptic Gospels. When these gospels are placed side-by-side, it is obvious that the life of Jesus is seen (optikos) with (sun) the same point of view.

Bible scholars have spent a lot of time looking at similarities and harmonizing the Synopitic Gospels, but the differences are what reveal the author’s intention
– Luke stands apart from Matthew and Mark in a number of ways, but the two primary differences have to do with the emphasis he places on prayer and on the Spirit of God
– for example, The descent of the Spirit on Jesus is linked more to his prayer than to his baptism (Lk. 3:21-22)

Luke wrote his account of the life of Jesus in order to direct his readers to God through prayer
– then, by his Spirit, God brings those readers into the story (or he works the story into them)
– in other words, Luke wrote to cause something to happen in us that is the hand of God

Verse 4, Luke addresses this book to Theophilus and explains why he wrote it for him

The name Theophilus can mean loved by God, friend of God, or lover of God

In literary theory, scholars will sometimes talk about an ideal reader
– who is the ideal reader? Well, imagine readers who

  • see exactly what the author wants them to see
  • respond in exactly the way the author hopes they will respond

What Luke wanted for Theophilus, he wanted for all his readers

There is an implication in Luke’s gospel that if people know something, they will act accordingly
– e.g., the lawyer who asked, “Who is my neighbor” and after he guessed right to Jesus’ multiple-choice question he was told, “Go and do the same” (Lk. 10:37)
– see also:

But be sure of this, that if the head of the ouse had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. (Luke 12:39)

If Theophilus would suspend judgment (trusting Luke’s careful investigation, research and report) and take the story to heart, it would have the effect in his life that it had on Luke and the others

Before moving on, notice that Luke is hiding the main theme of “the things” he is writing about
– he does not mention Jesus, the main character of the story (in fact, Jesus’ name does not appear until his birth announcement)
– once Jesus’ ministry is underway, he still remains hidden, warning people he heals to “tell no one” (5:14; 8:56) and would not allow demons to speak “because they knew Him to be the Christ” (4:35, 41)
– Luke wants Jesus to emerge from the story as it unfolds so he continues to return to the issue of Jesus’ identity
The idea here is that the Spirit of God has to open the eyes of the readers for them to be able to discover Jesus for themselves–then we meet him as a living person who is present with us and not merely a divine character within the story
God’s work takes place in us only if we meet Jesus in this way

So here we are; we have unrolled the scroll and read the first line

I want you to think of this introduction as a threshold
– it stands between us and the world of Jesus
– it is Luke’s introduction, but it is also an invitation; and invitation to enter the world of Jesus and take this journey with him

The journey is not only to Jerusalem, but to an event
– the event which brings us face to face with God
– the event that makes even knowing God a possibility

Luke gives us an idea of how this transition will feel once we have crossed the threshold
– this introduction is written in a recognizable Greek style, moving on into verse 5, it’s as if we’ve been thrown backward into the Hebrew Scrptures
(reading about Zacharias and Elizabeth is as if we are looking at duplicates Abraham and Sarah)

Beginning in verse 5, Luke begins to use Hebrew expressions, figures of speech, idioms, and so on

“Luke’s Greek style varies from very good Greek to a thoroughly Hebrew-like Greek (usually called Semitic Greek, which uses grammatical constructions similar to those in the Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Aramaic rather than the constructions normally expected by a native Greek speaker. For example, the finest Greek in Luke-Acts is the opening prologue (Luke 1:1-4) . . . . However, as Greek readers would move from Luke’s first sentence to the second, their stylistic sense would be jarred. This second sentence is one of the most Semitic constructions in the book, reading almost like a sentence out of the Septuagint.” David Barr

“Even if the Evangelist has to some degree anticipated this move . . . the transition is nevertheless abrupt. Almost without warning we depart the cultural milieu wherein Greek preface-writing would have been fully at home, and enter the world of the struggles and faithfulness of a small town priest and his wife, a peasant girl, and two devout Jerusalemites . . . The intersection of these two worlds is of critical importance for Luke, who will show through his orderly account how the unfolding events in this world of ancient Galilee and Judea are of universal significance.” Joel Green

That’s exactly the point I want to impress on us! That Luke emphasizes the intersection of two worlds
– He wants us to be aware of the threshold we are crossing and our transition into a different space
– entering the story, we step out of our familiar, predictable everyday world and into the strangeness of Jesus’ world
– if at first we feel disoriented, it is only so we can become reoriented to God through Jesus

Each morning we get out of bed and slip into the same routine
– our schedule isn’t arranged so we move through life thoughtfully, it is merely habit
– there’s no transformation here – it just reinforces the same pattern
Transformation doesn’t happen when I stand in same place, doing the same thing day after day

Habit is a powerful and controlling force in human behavior
– let’s use it for reaching goals that we want to achieve

When we learn a new skill, the brain changes and it keeps changing until we master the skill
– this is true of developing an awareness of God
– once we make a conscious determination to bring ourselves to an awareness of God, our brain will apply itself to this task until it is less and less of a struggle to turn from the distraction of many things that have us “worried and bothered” and more easily hold our attention on the one thing that is necessary (Lk. 10:40-42)
– our brains will develop the habit of continually returning our attention toward God

Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that the may immediately open the door to him when he comes andknocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 12:35-38

CONC: Here is what I want us to do this week

Pause in the threshold

Between the introduction to Luke’s Gospel and verse 5, we can pause and consider what it means to go on with Jesus
– and the fact that choosing to do so means that we risk being transformed

We may find, that like Matthew when Jesus said “Follow Me,” we are compelled to leave everything behind, get up and follow him

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