Sunday, September 06, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Certain Of Jesus"

“Certain of Jesus”
The Gospel of Luke
September 6, 2009
Luke 1:1-4

It is a real pleasure to get to open the Word of God with you again this morning.

I enjoyed going away for the last two weeks in August and studying biblical counseling intensely with a top-notch faculty and a class of students with class, but an even greater pleasure is getting to be back with my family, my church family, and open the Word of God with you. This is my calling in life and one of my greatest joys.

If you are interested in hearing about what I’ve been learning in my classes, I invite you to come to Sunday School next Sunday morning at 9am in the Fellowship Hall. I’ll be sharing some of the things I’m picking up in my classes. I’d love for you to come and hear.

Today, we begin a new sermon series in the biggest book in the New Testament. Did you know that? The Gospel of Luke is the biggest, longest book in the New Testament. It’s the longest gospel, with about 50% more information in it than the other three gospels–50% of information that the other gospels do not include. So it’s the biggest of the gospels.

In my ministry here over the last decade or so, I’ve preached through both the gospels of Mark and John. And now, we’re going to tackle the big one–the Gospel of Luke.

I forsee this series running about a year in length–maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. We’ll take breaks from it around holidays and if the Spirit leads at other times, but I would recommend that you put a bookmark here in Luke and read it in your quiet times, because, as a church, we’re going to marinate in Luke for some time.

And then, my plan is for us to study Luke’s sequel.

Luke’s gospel is the only gospel in the Bible that has a sequel. “Luke, Vol 2.” “Luke 2: The Church Strikes Back!”

What is Luke’s sequel? The Book of Acts.

Dr. Luke wrote two books in our Bible, “The Gospel According to Luke” and “The Acts of the Apostles” or “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” (it’s both!).

And I’m planning for us to just go through one and then through the other.

So, this is a long term preaching plan. At least a year and half, perhaps two or more.


Why tackle these books together?

Why read Luke?

Let’s let Luke answer that question. Let’s read verses 1 through 4 of his gospel.

These four verses are actually one long run-on sentence in Greek. Luke was a physician, a very educated man in the Greco-Roman world, and he wrote some of the “best” Greek sentences in ancient history. He knows the language. He knows how to use it.

And he crafted this sentence as the purpose statement of his gospel. Let’s see why he wrote it and why we should read it and take it to heart. Luke 1, 1 through 4.

“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.”

Our message title this morning comes from verse 4 when Luke makes his purpose crystal clear.

He says that he wrote all of this, “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Our title is “Certain of Jesus.”

The word translated “certainty” in the NIV is placed last in Luke’s first sentence.

In Greek, the word order is up for grabs. They don’t always place their words in the same order like we do. Subject then verb then object, etc. There are tags on the words to let you know which one is the subject, which one is the verb, which one is the object, and so on. And so, word order can often be used for other purposes.

One thing Greek does (and German is like this, too) is, sometimes, a writer will put a word out of order and at the end of the sentence to emphasize it. We would put it in 40 point font and underline and italicize it.

That’s what Luke has done here.

He wants his reader(s) to read his gospel so that they “may know the CERTAINTY of the things [they] have been taught.”

Luke’s goal is certainty. It is assurance. It is knowing the exact truth.

Luke wants his readers to know what they know and to know that they know it.


And I want that for you and for me.

Do you want certainty?

Let’s study Luke together.

Let’s see what kind of things Luke wants us know for certain.


Luke might have been a doctor by vocation, but his main contribution to Christianity was being a great historian.

Notice that Luke intends to write an “orderly account” in his gospel.

And even though he wasn’t there for Jesus’ life and ministry (it appears that Luke was a Gentile convert who came to Christ after Pentecost...even though he wasn’t there for Jesus’ life and ministry), he has done his homework!

He says that others have written down historical accounts. Luke has studied them all.

Perhaps that includes the Gospel of Mark which appears to have been written first of all of the gospels.

But it’s in the plural here. Luke, a great historian does, has gathered all of the accounts and studied them out for historical accuracy.

But it’s not just written accounts. Luke has gone (v.2) to the “eyewitnesses.”

Luke has talked with the apostles.

I believe Luke has interviewed Mary, the Mother of Jesus. How else would he know all about her song in verses 46-55? How else would he know about how she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” in chapter 2, verse 19?

Luke has done a masterful job of collecting the history of Jesus and presenting it to us.

Have you ever wondered about the historicity of Jesus? Do we know really know who He is and what He did?

Luke is a sure guide.

Let me recommend some books for you if you have questions about the historicity of Jesus.

This is an easy to read book that we just got into our brand new re-opened library: “Can We Trust the Gospels?” Mark D. Roberts. The answer is “Yes,” but read the book to be convinced.

This one is in my library, but you’re welcome to borrow it, “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels” by Craig Blomberg. This book leaves no stone unturned in investigating how reliable Luke and his comprades are in presenting us with certainy of the history of Jesus. I have a short paper by Blomberg that I can give to you that summarizes the whole book in just 29 pages, too, if that would be helpful to you.

And one more, an older book, also in my library: “Luke: Historian and Theologian” by I. Howard Marshall. This is a book just on Luke and historical method.

Here’s the point: Luke has written an accurate history of Jesus that will help us to be certain of who He is and what He has done.

Luke wrote this orderly account for someone named “Theophilus.” We don’t know anything more about Theophilus except that Luke also wrote the book of Acts for him.

Luke calls him, “most excellent Theophilus” which may mean that he was an official of some kind. He has a Greek name. He was probably a Gentile. And he has been taught the history of Jesus in some form. Now, Luke is filling out his education and assuring him that the facts are true.

Jesus is true.
Jesus death is true.
Jesus resurrection is true.

And you be certain of it, Theophilus.

Perhaps Theophilus was funding the publishing of this gospel. I think that’s likely. That Theophilus wanted to get the gospel out and was paying for Luke’s time and the copying and distribution of Luke’s gospel.

So that others might be certain of the history of Jesus.

Does that interest you?

I like to know the details.

I like to know what happened.

Now, Luke doesn’t necessarily present everything in a chronological order. Ancient historians didn’t value chronology in the same way that we Americans do.

But he is very orderly and organized in his account and there is a rhyme and a reason for every one of his editorial choices.

So, over the next year or so, we’re going to get intimately familiar with the details of the history of Jesus.

How familiar are you with the history of Jesus?

How many know the name of the donkey that Mary road from Nazareth to Bethlehem to have Jesus? Raise your hand.

That’s a trick question.

For all we know, there is no donkey!

I know that we’ve all seen pictures of a donkey carrying Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

But there is no donkey in Luke (or Matthew or Mark or John for that matter!).

What we’re going to study is what actually is in Luke.

And we’ll probably be surprised.

How well do you know the history of Jesus?

There are many people who don’t know the true history of Jesus Christ. And this is an opportunity for us to dwell on the details and soak in the story.


The point of this history is not just to get details but to get a portrait of a person.

It’s not just to get information but to grow in relationship.

It’s not just to get information about Jesus but grow in our relationship with Jesus.

The Gospel of Luke is not just good history, it’s good theology.

It’s going to teach us who Jesus is and what He taught and how He feels about things so that we can relate to Him better.

Let me tell you some of the surprising things we will find out about Jesus.

Luke is the Gospel to the Poor and Downtrodden.

Jesus loves poor people–like we talked about last month. And you see that most clearly in this gospel.

And downtrodden people. Luke is the gospel for women. There are about a dozen women (who were often mistreated at that time) who are named in Luke that aren’t named anywhere else–and they have vital relationships with Jesus.

And Gentiles. People like us outside of the covenant God made with the Jews. Luke is the gospel for the Gentiles. We get included, too.

Jesus loves outcasts, losers, addicts, prodigals (if we didn’t have Luke, we wouldn’t have the story of the Prodigal Son that Super Jeff talked about last week).

Mary was a poor girl from a poor family in “Nowheresville!” And she is the one that will carry the Messiah to term?!

We’re going to learn that Jesus isn’t who we expect Him to be.

And it’s going to be good news to us.

Because it will shape the way that we relate to Him.

How well do you know the person of Jesus?

Come and study the gospel of Luke with us.

Be certain that you know Him!

Know what you know and know that you know HIM!

Because He’s the greatest thing in all the world.

And what He’s done is the greatest news in all the world.


The strangest thing about gospels is that they aren’t just biographies.


What do get when you read a biography? Most of the time.

You get a long book about the life of a person.

What do you get in the gospels?

You get a long book about the life of a person.

But what takes up about a half to a third of the gospels?

The last week.

The last few weeks.

The Passion of Jesus Christ.

The history of the person of Jesus in his last week going to the Cross and then coming back from the grave.

Most biographies don’t spend half the biography on the last week of the person.

There is something deeply important about that last week! The last 6 long chapters of Luke are dedicated to that last week.

And Jesus, in Luke, predicts that last week over and over again–and points to the meaning of that last week.

Luke is the Gospel that mentions salvation more than any other.

Are you CERTAIN of your salvation?

Do you know the Gospel?

Notice again how Luke describes his account in verse 1.

He says, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been [what?] fulfilled among us...”


Luke’s gospel is not just the story of nice things that happened to Jesus and nice things that Jesus said and taught.

It’s a bloody book about terrible things that happened to Jesus–for a reason–for a purpose–to fulfill something. To fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.

To fulfill the promises that Jesus makes about His own death and resurrection.

And those fulfillments are good news for sinners like you and me.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for our sins. So that we can be forgiven.

And He came back to life to give us new life.

Are you certain that you have that new life?

Come and study Luke with us.

Do you know the gospel?

Are you ready to share it?

Whether you are taking it up and down the Amazon like Ryan and Rachel or across the fence in your neighborhood or to the locker next to you.

Know what you know and that you know that you know it.

“So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Certain of Jesus.


Sorry Matt, we can't be certain at all. Who was "Luke"? We don't even know. We don't know anything about him, including his name, and therefore we know nothing about his credibility or the veracity of his information. What we do know, however, is that much of what's contained in "Luke" is copied out of Mark and the Q Source, therefore the author's claims to being a historian are completely dubious.

The facts are that there is no evidence to verify whether or not the Jesus of the gospels existed or not. Not a single eyewitness or contemporary account. Just some myths passed down amongst uneducated peasants living in Palestine thousands of years ago. Hardly historical.


Welcome to Hot Orthodoxy! It's good to have you drop in and comment.

Are you open to other ways of looking at the evidence or are you stuck in just believing what folks have told you?

If you are open minded, I'd suggest reading this article by Craig Blomberg: Jesus of Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him and Why It Matters.

I think that Luke is very up-front that he isn't an eyewitness but that he's done his homework.

And he's up-front that he has used sources. All historians use sources. And in the ancient world, directly copying sources was a legitimate way of doing history. Plagiarism wasn't an issue.

I also think that Luke can be identified by the "we" sections of his second volume: Acts.

By your standards, I'm not sure we can know anything about Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar. History in the ancient world was done differently than now. Not necessarily worse, just different.

I believe that in John's and Matthew's gospels, we have eyewitness accounts and in Mark's and Luke's we have well researched firsthand sources.

And these "uneducated peasants" were willing to die for what they were writing. That gives them lots of credibility in my book.

If you're willing to really do some hard thinking about these issues, I'd be willing to buy and ship to you a copy of either The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg or Can We Trust the Gospels? by Mark D. Roberts.

Just tell me that you'll read them with an open mind and give me an address: [hotorthodoxy AT lansefree DOT org].

Christians have nothing to hide when it comes the historicity of the biblical Jesus.

And non-Christians have everything to gain.