What is your favorite gospel? I am so glad the Lord chose to reveal Himself through four different accounts - four different angles written to four different audiences, highlighting different truths about Jesus but all uniting together to reveal our One True Lord. Mark is the action gospel - Jesus and the disciples are always dashing about. The word "immediately" appears more in that gospel than in any other book in the Bible. Matthew is written to a Jewish audience and focuses heavily on the ways Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecy. I often refer to John as the "Wise Old Man's Gospel" - John wrote it late in life, allowing for a lifetime of reflection on not just what Jesus said but what he meant through it all.
As amazing as they all are, I must admit that Luke is my favorite. Paul refers to Luke as "the beloved physician," and as such, he's clearly an analytical person wanting evidence and proof. He says in his introduction that he "carefully investigated everything from the beginning" in order to "write an orderly account" (Luke 1:2-3). We can see evidence of this investigation by the stories that he tells. He must have interviewed hundreds of people. He includes eyewitness accounts of dozens of Jesus' miracles, travels, and teaching. One of the most important interviews must have been Mary, Jesus' mother. He offers a more personal account of her experiences than any other gospel writer. In addition, Luke gives voice and honor to women and children, to social outcasts and foreigners in a way that no other writer does.
Luke tells us that his primary audience is "most excellent Theophilus," who by his name and description is likely a Roman government official (think "his excellency.") The gospel becomes an apologetic, a defense against accusations that this group of people referred to as Christians are a group of anti-government insurgents or crazy fanatics. He wants Theophilus to understand "with certainty" the things he has learned about Christianity.
What better gospel for us to be studying right now? Christians are seen more and more frequently as outsiders and extremists. It is more important than ever for us to know with certainty what it is that we believe. We need to be able to share with confidence the truth of Jesus Christ. We need to know the real Jesus - not the Jesus as the world defines him, a harmless wandering wise man who wanted everybody to feel okay about themselves. This is the Jesus of ancient prophecy, of miraculous power, of convicting teaching, of harsh criticism to the religious elites, and of grace-filled words for the outcasts.
We are taking the gospel in four parts starting this Sunday with Part 1, "Jesus in Galilee." Then for Advent, we will backtrack to the opening chapters for Part 2, "The Road to Bethlehem." After Epiphany, we will reconnect with Luke 10 for Part 3, "Jesus in Jerusalem." And we will finish up with the Lent series, Part 4, "The Road to the Cross." Many many thanks to Pastor Linda for writing the small group study guide to go along with the sermon series!
So buckle up - we are in for an incredible ride. Invite a friend to worship. Pick up a study guide. Join a small group. Let's explore Jesus together like we never have before!