Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Sermon Notes 11.23.08

This sermon kicks off one of many from the Gospel according to Luke. At Anchor we are going to read through Luke in a year, about a chapter every two weeks or so. It's not really about reading some chunk of the Bible, but about reflectively walking our way through the stories and teachings of Jesus. If we're to be life-long students of Jesus, then the more we learn his stories and teachings the more we can live them out - and become like our teacher. Of course the point is not to be a student who mostly has lots of knowledge in the head, it's about having a lot of His wisdom, courage, righteousness, mercy in our hearts and hands.

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives.

Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story's beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

Luke 1v1-4 (The Message)

Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven.
Acts 1v1 (The Message)

The first text we reflectively walk through is Luke's prologue to his narrative of all the things that Jesus began to do and teach. In ancient texts, a lot like today, the authors try to clarify what they are seeking to accomplish through their writings through their introductory paragraph. We know that Luke wrote this gospel, as well as the book, the Acts of the Apostles. Luke-Acts is one story, one narrative about the work of God through Jesus and the local church - a work that began long ago and which will go on for a long time yet.

Since the Luke-Acts narrative is a story about the work of God - it's worth noting what the big picture is concerning this written account. Literally, gospel means good news. Narratively, according to Luke-Acts (and the rest of the Scriptures), the Gospel is:
The work of God to restore us
in the context of community to God and to others
for the good of others and the world.

(see Scot McKnight: Embracing Grace)

Luke acknowledges that many people before him had been passing on the stories of God and the teachings of Jesus - but he was going to write it all down so that Theophilus could regain some of his confidence in what he had been taught concerning the life and events of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is where so many of us can connect with Luke and Theophilus: we have our doubts about the reliability of the stories, we wonder about the realisticness of Jesus' teachings, and we wonder whether what we've been taught really matters. Luke's answer: Yes! The stories are trustworthy, the teachings are transformative, and all that God has done in the world with and through Jesus matters.

Luke is a brilliant writer, and the man he is writing about is brilliant himself, and so is God the Father, the Son, and Spirit. This means that they write in such a way that simple men and women like me can read the stories and teachings and be changed; it also means that brilliant men and women like you can read the stories and teachings and be changed. Everyone can be inspired, invigorated, injected with a new life through the Scriptures - but we have to apply all our heart, mind, soul and strength to the task. If we briefly skim through the stories and teachings, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be confronted and conformed by the Scriptures.

The brilliant story that Luke has revealed through his literary craft - a story rooted in historical veracity, eyewitness accounts, and oral traditions - has to do with the ongoing work of God to gather together a community of men and women in whom and through whom he wants to fix what is wrong in the world. God started with Adam and Eve, but their Fall has been an ongoing descent of humanity. God also began the restoration process with Adam and Eve, forgiving them, being reconciled to them, and using them still to bless the world. God's intent is to restore all humanity and this whole world - the heavens and the earth, and this is what his work has been about since the days of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Isaiah, John, Jesus, Peter, Paul and you.

There's more to the story, but restoration is the heart of the Gospel and the Scriptures. Jesus is the God-Man who comes to show us the Way of restoration in this life and the Next. In light of the brokeness and lonliness and despair of our world, this Way of Restoration is certainly good news. Welcome to the Gospel according to Luke...


faye said...

Hi Tim
The commentary I am reading said they are not sure Luke wrote Luke. The Early church thought but it was not 100% sure. Is this right?

Tim Hallman said...


Nowhere in the gospel of Luke does Luke say that he wrote it - his name does not appear anywhere in the book.

Luke does show up in Acts, and by the way he writes, it seems to indicate that he is the author. And since the beginnings are similar to Luke and Acts, it seems to reason that Luke is author of both. But it's not definitive.

There are many scholars that can make some credible arguments that Luke is not the author.

We don't have 100% proof that Luke is the author, but there are some very credible reasons to think so, which is why I and the author of your commentary go on to insist that it is reasonable to say that Luke is the author.

Hope this makes sense!