01.Luke 1:1-4


 Exposition
Luke’s elegantly written preface expresses his intent in writing this gospel. Luke is traditionally thought to be a Gentile doctor and cohort of Paul (though the gospel itself is anonymous and Luke is a common Greco-Roman name). Aware that “many” have already set down accounts about the events “that have been fulfilled” in their midst, that is, God’s promises to his people in Jesus, he decides to draw up his own to add to their number. Luke believes he has something to say about these things that will aid the story of Jesus having its full effect. One scholar notes that such an addition to a tradition of writings about a similar subject strives not “to strike out boldly in a radical departure from one’s predecessors, but rather to be incrementally innovative within a tradition, by embracing the best in previous performers and adding something of one’s own marked with an individual stamp” (cited in Garland, David E.; Clinton E. Arnold. Luke (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 3) [Kindle Locations 1332-1334], Zondervan. Kindle Edition).

These previous accounts of Jesus and the one Luke pens are “orderly” (v.1,3). All of them attempt to display the significance of Jesus’ life and ministry. They seek to “preach”! The orderly account Luke gives is about historical events crafted to persuade the reader that what they have heard about Jesus is indeed the truth (v.4).

That Luke depends on “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (probably conceiving of them as one group, eyewitnesses who became servants of the word) and declares he has “investigated everything carefully from the very first” (v.3) sets forth his credentials. “Orderly” (v.3) “modifies the infinitive ‘to write’ . . . (and) does not refer to a chronological sequence of what happened but to a coherent, sequential arrangement of the material so that the reader has clear impressions” (Garland, Luke: 1389-1390).

“Theophilus” is the addressee of Luke (as he is of Acts as well). Though a common name at the time, it means “friend of God” and may well be a symbolic name for those instructed in the faith whom Luke wishes to fully persuade of its truth. His respectful address “most excellent” would build a relationship of trust between Luke and these readers.

Reflection

“Fulfilled” (v.1): the “events” Luke writes about are part of a story. Israel’s story with God. The story prefaced by creation and beginning with God’s call to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3). Jesus only makes sense as the culmination and climax of this story which though particular (that is, Jewish) carries universal significance for all people. This verb is in the perfect tense - pointing to an action completed but with continuing effect (Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke (p. 40). Eerdmans Publishing Co - A. Kindle Edition). The culminative, climactic effect of Jesus’ work continues in Luke’s day and beyond (Acts). As we tell this story today we may do so with the same confidence as Luke of its unending and inexhaustible significance.

“truth” (v.4): in the emphatic position in the Greek. This is Luke’s object in writing. Not primarily the historical veracity of what happened in and through Jesus. Theophilus may well have already been “instructed” (v.4) about that. No, Luke’s offering his considered interpretation of what happened in and through Jesus. As noted above, Luke is preaching, seeking to persuade Theophilus to commit himself fully to Jesus’ cause. Our preaching/teaching today should similarly be a persuasive unfolding of the meaning of Jesus seeking full or fuller commitment to him from our listeners.




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