<Read Luke 1:1-4>
It’s sad how willfully blind people will become in order to protect themselves from the truth. They will reach conclusions by looking at the entirety of the forest but when you try to show them each tree they recoil and claim that the trees don’t matter, just the forest.
Take evolution as an example. Its proponents love the broad sweeping conclusions Darwin made (as well as the cute cartoon of an ape walking on feet and knuckles eventually standing erect and looking human). But there are some pesky details about the theory of evolution (and that’s all it is and ever will be despite those who errantly declare it is established science) that just won’t go away.
- Evolution depends on the Big Bang but there never has been any kind of plausible explanation for anything that existed before it. There has never been a single example in the history of the world where nothing produced something.
- Darwinists have no satisfactory explanation for the complexities of genetics in general or DNA in particular. Their pat answer is always that it was accomplished over millions and millions of years. “Ok, but how?” “It was accomplished over millions and millions of years.”
- And then there is “irreducible complexity” as set forth by Dr. Michael Behe. For there to be macroevolution (the forest) there has to first be microevolution (the trees). Or, as Dr Behe puts it: “Evolution does not take place on the factory level; it takes place on the nut and bolt level.” Then he proceeds to destroy “the nut and bolt level” with “irreducible complexity.” The idea is that complex machines must be built completely all at once or they don’t work. Like a mousetrap (his analogy). It cannot be built over a long process and serve the function of trapping mice. It has to be built all at once for it to work.
The point here is that grandiose claims have to be substantiated with a lot of details or the claims are just that and nothing more. Sort of like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claiming that unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. A big bold explanation for something that completely lacks any details to substantiate it.
People love their hot dogs but don’t really want to know the details about how they are made.
Matthew’s gospel focused on context. Mark’s focus was conflict and confrontation. Luke builds his case for the identity of Jesus with a lot of details.
Compare the nativity accounts that Matthew and Luke provide. Matthew’s story is in the neighborhood of 1,150 words (I say “neighborhood” because it depends on which language and translation you use). Luke’s story is more than double that number: 2,660 words! Over the course of his gospel, Luke mentions 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 islands. In his opening statement he talks about “narrative,” “eyewitnesses,” and writing an “orderly account.”
Each gospel writer had a burden from God about what to reveal about Jesus and how to do it. Luke is the one who examines the trees in the forest. Apparently, a lot more people than just Mark and Matthew were writing about Jesus as indicated by Luke’s first sentence: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative…” And it is also apparent that Luke thought most of them were jumbled up stories that had little basis in fact as evidenced by this statement in verse 3: “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account…”
Luke is your forensic historian. He is going to provide details and evidence for his claims all the while debunking the false ones (such as the story put forth by the chief priests that Jesus’ disciples stole His body from the tomb [Matthew 28:12-13]).
I guess you could say that in a world that loves to behold forests, Luke is a tree surgeon.
The way Luke presents his Advent of Christ is incredibly suggestive of the necessity of grasping the details of such grandiose statements that Jesus is the Son of God and He saves us from our sins.
- - - -
One of the requirements for the M.Div. at the seminary I attended was the “Bible Competency Exam.” You didn’t get any credit for it but you weren’t allowed to graduate until you passed it. I didn’t bother with it until the last semester of my final year. I took it just a few weeks out from the end of school. Part of it was pretty difficult (try associating which king belonged to which kingdom during the divided kingdom years). I passed it without a whole lot of trouble. But I was astonished at the rather large number of seniors who, like me, put it off to the last minute but failed. How do you plan on being a pastor, missionary, or evangelist without knowing the details of the Bible?
How can anyone call themselves a Christian (much less a Christian leader) if they don’t know anything but generalities about “the Word [that] became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14)? One of the first books I read when I became a Christian was Paul E. Little’s Know What You Believe and I followed that up with Know Why You Believe (same author). Hostility to Christianity was really just beginning to come out in the open back in the early 80’s when I became a follower of Jesus and I didn’t want to look like a fool when someone challenged my belief in a “fairy tale.”
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5 to see what Paul expected of his young protégé when it came to being knowledgeable about the Word of God. Peter was just as adamant about scriptural literacy. Upon charging his readers with honoring Christ as holy he quickly tells them how that is accomplished: “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15). What a statement! The best way to honor the holiness of Jesus Christ is to know the details of the Christian faith.
It’s easy to tell someone that Jesus died for their sins and that repentant baptized believers are saved and will enjoy eternal life. But you had better be ready to answer “Just how does His death over 2,000 years ago save me today?” “Why do you think Jesus is the Son of God rather than simply a great prophet?” “How can anyone seriously believe that Jesus rose from the dead?”
The sad reality is that most churchgoers don’t know or care about the details of the Christian faith. Over the more than three decades I’ve been in ministry one of the most repeated lines I have heard is, “I don’t know much about the Bible, but…” What follows is some opinion someone has about a biblical issue with the implication being their opinion or experience trumps whatever the Bible actually says (that they don’t know). In other words, “This is how I feel about the issue at hand and if it lines up with the biblical details, that’s great. If it doesn’t, this is how I choose to live or believe anyway.”
- - - -
Each of the four gospels stands broad and tall as each author endeavors to reveal Jesus in a unique way. Luke’s particular revelation of Jesus is as the Son of Man. Consequently, Luke is very careful, particular, and meticulous to make everyone aware of the circumstances that affirm His humanity. He entered this world and life in a particular way, in a specific place, in response to certain prophecies, while an individual named Herod was Israel’s king and during the reign of the Roman Caesar Augustus. Luke lets everyone know that Jesus was several months younger than His cousin John, that His was an immaculate conception, where He was born and why He was born there. Exactly eight days after His birth He was taken to the temple and circumcised. Luke is also the only gospel writer who says anything about Jesus’ childhood. Details.
Fairy tales, myths, and fables are great tools to present a belief or a lesson, but they are blatantly short on details and circumstances. That’s because they aren’t things that happened in real life. Luke the physician, wants everyone to know that his narrative is not a “cleverly devised myth” (2 Peter 1:16). He names officials, towns and cities, and specific people who both recognized and affirmed Jesus as God’s salvation and fulfilled promise (like Simeon and Anna in the temple).
“Why is that so important?” you ask. Let Luke tell you:
[T]hat you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:4).
I know you see the forest. Have you ever realized just how important each and every tree is in that forest?