The gospel of Luke is one of four New Testament gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…four narratives of the life of Jesus. They are monumental. They are inspired by the Spirit of God. They tell the great, great, story of salvation. But Luke’s is unique. I like to call it a persuasive gospel, and you’ll understand why as we work our way through the beginning of this wonderful work of Luke.
Years ago there was a motion picture titled “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” and it was about Jesus. And it was interesting to me that even the world understood that this in fact is the greatest story ever told. The world, frankly, is full of stories. Some are compelling, moving, impactful, even capable of changing how we think and how we act. But there’s really only one story that transcends time and space, that transcends the material world to effect people eternally, and that is the story that Luke writes. And it is indeed the greatest story ever told.
In a summary, or a synopsis, it is the story of God’s plan to save sinners from eternal hell through the coming of His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die and rise again from the dead. Let me say that again. That’s the summary of the best of all stories, the greatest story ever told. It is the story of God’s plan to save sinners from eternal hell through the coming of His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die and rise again from the dead. The story is true. It is actual history. It is without equal in its impact and its power.
In fact, not all the simple and complex legends of ancient cultures, not all the mysteries of past civilizations, the fanciful, supernatural legends of the Greeks, the stories of deities, false gods and all kinds of tales of people that exist in the traditions of tribes and nations, the best of our own culture from Bierwolfe(??) through Shakespeare to modern writers, Aesop’s insightful fables, not all of them combined can even begin to approach the truth and the power of the story of Jesus which is the only story that can, has and will change the eternal destiny of millions of people.
This story is called good news. The word “gospel” means good news. It is the best news that man has ever heard because it is the news of salvation from sin.
Now we’re going to be looking at the third narrative of the life of Jesus. It’s known to us as the gospel of Luke. And I would venture to say that if I asked you, you probably couldn’t talk about Luke for two minutes. If I asked you to tell me all you know about Luke, you would probably say…”Well, he was a doctor, a physician.” You’d be right. But there might not be another sentence because we don’t know much about Luke. It is amazing to think about Luke, apart from the Apostle Paul, was the most influential force in writing the New Testament. In fact, the writings of Luke which come in two volumes…volume one is the gospel of Luke, volume two is the book of Acts…add up to 52 chapters. The gospel of Luke is the longest of all the gospel narratives and therefore it’s the most thorough and complete.
So I say, next to Paul, Luke is the most powerful writing force in the New Testament, and yet he is basically unknown. I don’t think in my life I’ve ever heard a sermon about Luke. His historical narrative spans over 60 years. It starts with the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, and it ends at the end of the book of Acts which is volume two of his writings, it ends with the gospel being preached at Rome which means the gospel has extended to the world. No other writer wrote so comprehensive a history of Jesus and His impact. No other writer goes all the way from the John the Baptist to the gospel having reached the capital of the Roman Empire. He is the most complete story teller of the saga of salvation in the New Testament, and he is mostly unknown to us.
In spite of this immense effort, in spite of this involvement in writing the story of salvation, Luke never once refers to himself so that in the 24 chapters of the gospel of Luke he never mentions his name…and in the 28 chapters of the book of Acts he never mentions his name. He is content to be humbly hidden behind his massive and marvelous two-volume inspired writings. And he lets the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the theme of his writing dominate. A very humble man…this very humble man who had no desire to put himself at all into his own writings has given us the most complete, thorough story of the gospel in the scriptures. What he wrote was accurate. What he wrote was inerrant. What he wrote was sufficient to fill up the full detail that God desired for us to have of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth.
This is real history accurately recorded. It is sound theology logically developed. Luke identifies what he writes in verse 4 of chapter 1 of exact truth…exact truth. It isn’t fantasy, it isn’t his own spiritual musings. It isn’t some effort on his part to concoct a tale or to build a legend. What he is giving is history and theology that is exact.
Let’s listen as Luke begins his gospel. “In as much as many have…and I’m reading from the NAS here…In as much as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eye witnesses and servants of the Word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Stop right there.