22nd May 2023

An orderly account 

This study is the fourth in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament
(Luke’s gospel – read in 1 hour, 26 minutes)

…many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus…  Luke 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Luke acknowledges the other ‘many’ accounts of Christ’s ministry; the fact that he has used these accounts to inform his own, and a bit of a suggestion that some of the accounts were lacking in organisation. He felt there was space for another, more ‘orderly account’.

His immediate audience was Theophilus, about whom there are several well known theories, however none are conclusive. Luke was not an eyewitness to the gospel events; he was probably a Greek convert and, at times, companion to the Apostle Paul. So he shared his ‘perfect understanding’ gleaned from others who were first-hand witnesses. (Luke 1:2). 

As a Gentile, Luke chooses to trace the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam – beyond Abraham – underlining the inclusion of all people in God’s promises, not just the Jewish nation. Throughout his account he includes stories of marginalised people: shepherds, tax collectors, the poor, the physically and mentally damaged. Some of these accounts are not found in other gospels. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and the one thankful, Samaritan leper who was healed, along with nine other lepers (Luke 17:11-19), are both unique to Luke. And, as a Gentile, it is not unexpected that he would include Simeon’s blessing of the infant Jesus: “…A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles… ” (Luke 2:32). 

Luke features women more prominently, and maybe some of the information he gained was from women who had been close to Jesus. Christ’s genealogy includes Mary’s ancestry as well as Joseph’s – Joseph is almost side-lined with the subtle, ‘…being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph…’ (Luke 3:23). The details of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus are told largely from Elizabeth and Mary’s perspective. Women are credited for supporting Christ’s ministry financially ‘from their substance’ (Luke 8:1-3), the only time this is mentioned in the gospels. 

Christ’s final journey to Jerusalem, more detailed than the other accounts, covers ten chapters – Luke 9:51-19:41 – compared to the half chapter in Mark, and begins with, ‘…when the time had come for Him to be received up…He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem’. It ends with him weeping over the city from a distance, and his subsequent cleansing of the temple. The events on the journey, and his final days in Jerusalem before his death, preaching and healing, are also closely documented. It’s not a direct route Christ takes but there are continual reminders, as in Luke 17:11, ‘…as He went to Jerusalem…He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.’ The overall goal is always there.

Luke elects to underline the principle continually preached by Christ, that it is not the people of power, wealth and privilege who will inherit the kingdom, but the ‘poor’, ‘meek’ and those who confess they are sinners. And it is Mary – a woman – who emphasises this in her song of rejoicing, in her early pregnancy: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly.” (Luke 1:52).

Thank you Father for the dedication of those who took time to record the details of Christ’s short, but life-saving ministry, so that we might better understand your purpose. Amen.

Study by Maggie Mitchell

About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Northampton congregation of Grace Communion International and is Chair of the Pastoral Council

Local congregation:
GCI Northampton
Ecton Village Hall
78A High Street

Local congregational contact:
Maggie Mitchell
Email:  maggie.mitchell@btinternet.com

Word of Life contact: