Biographers often approach their subject from a particular angle. For instance, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume has been the subject of several recent biographies: one focused on his intellectual history, another focused on his work as a historian, and a third devoted more attention to his childhood and early life.
Historians and biographers try to be objective in their presentation of the material, even when they have chosen a particular focus. This is no less true in the four biographical accounts of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But like other biographers, the Gospel writers do arrange their material in a purposeful way, each striving to emphasize certain elements in the story of Jesus. Luke, writing to Theophilus, determined that he would write an “orderly account” to encourage faith in the truth about Jesus (vv. 3–4). Luke would bring his own (Gentile) perspective and research to bear on the history of Jesus’ life.
Curiously, Luke uses a generic word to refer to the content of his book: he will write of “things” that have been fulfilled, witnessed, and taught to Theophilus. These “things” are historical events, which Luke had meticulously researched and intended to draw into a coherent whole. And the whole, as can be deduced from the opening narratives of the book, is this: God keeps His promises.
Luke underscores that this history is a continuation of Israel’s story. The son promised to Zechariah and Elizabeth, John, would assume the ministry of Elijah and turn the hearts of Israel back to God. The promised Son, Jesus, will assume the throne of David and rule forever. Blessed are the men and women who continue believing in the faithfulness of the promise-keeping God.
Apply the Word
Luke situates his story historically (“in the time of Herod king of Judea,” v. 5) to remind us of the dark historical moment into which the gospel arrived. Rome was in power; some wondered if God had forgotten His people—but Mary embraced the good news of God’s faithfulness. May we follow her example and trust the Word of the Lord.