Chapter 1.
An Autopsy of Eye Witnesses

Luke 1:1-4

We now begin a journey on one of the finest records of Scripture in the entire New Testament, the Gospel of Luke. This book is the longest of the four gospels in the New Testament. In fact, you will find Luke's gospel was very thorough, giving us many details that are not recorded in the other gospels, including some of these events:

We do not know anything about the background of Luke. We know he was a Gentile, not a Jew. He was a well-educated man that made a living as a medical doctor. It is interesting to note that God used this trait in Luke when he wrote, for he portrayed Jesus as the Son of Man.

The details of his conversion are unknown. We do know, however, that he became a very close friend of the Apostle Paul. In fact, it was Luke who stayed with Paul during his second imprisonment, right to the very end. Shortly before his martyrdom Paul wrote to Timothy, "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11). What happened to Luke after Paul's martyrdom is a secret of history. Some feel he was martyred by Nero or he was hanged on an olive tree in Greece by pagans. We don't know for sure.

Luke seems to have written his Gospel sometime between 63-68 A.D., give or take a few years. Luke's humility is seen as he keeps himself in the shadows in both the book of Luke and Acts, which he penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We begin this chapter by looking at the purpose of this gospel. Notice verses one through four.

Luke 1:1-4

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, [2] Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; [3] It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, [4] That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Verses one through four are one, long, sentence in the Greek text. It has been divided up into shorter sentences, which is the style of the English language. This was Luke's preface for his book which was a customary practice in the first century. In the preface, the purpose of the book would be stated. Luke's style and vocabulary in these opening four verses comprise perhaps the best example of classical Greek in the New Testament. It is also an indication of Luke's extraordinary education and his fitness for the task God gave to him of writing such a complete biography of Christ Luke states in the first verse that many folks have compiled an account of the events that were fulfilled in their lives. These may have included such writings as the Gospel of Matthew (40-70 A.D.) and the Gospel of Mark (63-70 A.D.). He is not implying that these records are deficient. He mentions these earlier records to lay a foundation of what he was about to write in his gospel. The records he consulted were orderly and very helpful to him in his research and as he wrote. These records were based on eyewitness testimonies of people who were present during the sacred events they recorded, beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist.

Some of the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament were copied on fine-grained lambskins, dyed in purple and written with silver ink. These scribes, however, wanted only the best for Jesus or the name of God, so they wrote the these names in gold. Their attitude was the same attitude that Luke had, for he desired to do his best for Christ.

Luke wanted his readers to understand that his history of Jesus came from the best, most authentic written and oral sources he could find. His research of the life of Christ was grounded in solid historical research and many reliable sources. He was determined to be as accurate as possible, writing the best record of the greatest story in the world about the greatest person whoever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit guided him in his research, writing, and arrangement of material as he sought to give us certainty and assurance about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me ask, "Are you doing your best for the Lord Jesus Christ?" In his fine book, The Pursuit of Excellence, John Gardner says, "Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. They achieve it. They do not achieve it unwittingly by 'doing what comes naturally' and they don't stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves. All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose." Are you disciplined and determined to make your life count for Jesus Christ? This was Paul's challenge to us.

1 Corinthians 15:58—Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Notice the second verse again, "Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;"

In this second verse, Luke states they used reliable, eyewitness records that were handed down from the early disciples, who rubbed shoulders with the Lord Jesus Christ and accompanied Him during His ministry.

This word "eyewitness" is an interesting word. It is from the Greek word autoptes {ow-top'-tace} which is derived from two words: auto which means "that which is of itself" and optomai {op-tom-ahee} which means "to see." So the word "eyewitness" means "to see for yourself." This word is a medical term which also means "to make an autopsy or a detailed examination." Dr. Luke is saying in essence, "I have made an autopsy or detailed examination of the events about Christ and I am recording those findings in this book." He was doing an autopsy of eye witnesses.

Who are the eyewitnesses? They would include folks like the apostles and the mother of Jesus. Of course, there were probably hundreds, if not thousands, still alive who had personally heard Jesus teach and had seen Him perform miracles just thirty years previously. In addition, Paul recorded in 52 or 53 A.D. that a great number of the five hundred, who all on one occasion saw Christ after His resurrection, were still alive.

1 Corinthians 15:6- After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

Luke mentions that these eyewitnesses were also "ministers of the word" in verse two. There is a great truth here. This word "minister" is from the Greek word huperetes {hoop-ay-ret'-ace} which means "an under-rower or subordinate rower on a boat; an attendant of the king, a servant or assistant." In a hospital, the "under-rower or assistant" is the intern.

Dr. Luke is saying that all of them were just interns under the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were servants of the King of Kings. This is what we are to be in our lives too. Are you a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Acts 20:19- Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:

Romans 12:11- Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.

Pioneer 10, however, accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November, 1973, Jupiter's immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past the planet Uranus, then Neptune at nearly three billion miles, and then Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.

Despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. "Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth." The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years, but it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.

So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits. May we strive to live our lives for Him one day at a time. This is what Paul did.

Philippians 3:13-14... Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] 1 press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1- Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

If you want to be a surrendered and effective servant of Christ, then do an autopsy of God's word. Be a servant of the living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written Word, the Scriptures. Examine God's Word carefully for yourself. See for yourself the wonderful truths of Scripture. We are admonished repeatedly to get our nose in the Book.

Isaiah 34:16- Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.

John 5:39- Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

2 Timothy 2:15- Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Psalm 1:2- But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. Do you delight in God's Word?

Notice verses three and four again,

"It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, [4] That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."

In verse three, the word "perfect" is from the word akribos {ak-ree-boce'} which means "accurate, precise, or exact." Luke reaffirms that what he recorded has been carefully investigated from the very beginning of Christ's life and was written in an orderly, accurate fashion for an honorable man known as Theophilus. He may have been a man who financed the writing of Luke's gospel. His name means "friend of God" and it appears he was a good friend of Luke.

Luke's mention of the phrase, "in order" perhaps hints that some of the other accounts, then in existence, were not only fragmentary and partial, but were also somewhat disarranged. The phrase "in order" does not necessarily mean that all events are recorded in the exact chronological sequence in which they occurred, but that the account produced is an orderly one. It may also mean that Luke wrote according to a plan that God led him to adopt. All the Gospel writers seem to have departed from a strictly chronological arrangement of events occasionally for thematic purposes.

This is one of the clearest proofs in the Bible that God did not always dictate the words of Scripture to the writers who simply copied them down. When men penned the Scriptures, their personalities were a part of their writings that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21- For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Paul's goal in writing this gospel was to give Theophilus, and all of us, certainty, undoubted truth, or assurance in what we have been taught about the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation. Let me ask, "Do you know for sure that you are saved? Are you certain about the truths of Jesus Christ? Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life?"