Luke 1:1-4 (NIV) 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. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
This paragraph serves as a kind of prologue to Luke’s gospel and, as people are often prone to do with prologues, it is given a cursory glance as they move on to where the action starts in verse 5. But in these few words, Luke tells us some very interesting information.
First, remember that Luke was a gentile who became a Christian, and who then became an intimate companion of Paul. Like all believers in that early stage of Christianity, the best information about Jesus came from listening to people who had known Him and had witnessed Him in action. However, believers who lived further away from Judea, where Jesus had lived and ministered, often had to settle for much sparser information, often several generations away from the original source. That’s not to say that the information was inaccurate (Jesus’ followers cared deeply about the details, and took great care to make sure that information was passed on correctly), but it was by nature incomplete, and questions that arose could not always be answered authoritatively.
Several people had apparently written out brief accounts of some of the events in Jesus life as teaching aids, but many people wanted more, and Luke was among that number. He was a detail-oriented person by nature, and he longed to know a lot more about his Savior Jesus than was available to him through the normal channels.
A golden opportunity arose for him when he accompanied Paul to Judea to take to them a gift for the poor. A few days later, Paul was arrested, and ended up being in prison for more than two years. And there was Luke, right in the place where Jesus’ life and ministry had all unfolded. Many of the first-hand witnesses were still alive and available to share their memories, including several of the apostles, James the brother of Jesus, and even Mary, His mother.
As he questioned and listened to these living witnesses share their memories, sometimes one-on-one, at other times in groups, Luke began to build a roughly chronological outline that stretched from Gabriel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah, all the way to Jesus’ ascension to heaven, in outline form. He would continue to flesh this out with as much detail as he could get from those who lived with and learned from Jesus.
By the time Luke put his gospel into final form, he was well-assured that it was accurate, and complete enough to answer a lot of the questions that believers were asking about Jesus’ life and ministry, including those of the account’s very first recipient: a government official named Theophilus.
Father, it is easy to simply skip over some of these details without really understanding what motivated Luke to write his gospel in the first place. Sometimes we can get so complacent about the details that we do know about Jesus that we lose our drive to dig deeper and learn more. Thank You that there was a Luke, who so longed to know Jesus more thoroughly that he not only went to extraordinary lengths to find out more, but who also left for us the precious record of his gospel account. Amen.