“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4
Luke took on the role of an investigative journalist. He looked into “everything from the beginning” and spoke with “eyewitnesses” so that he could lay down “an orderly account” for Theophilus and in turn us. That he and now we could “know the certainty of the things [we] have been taught.”
Matthew and John are written by disciples that were with Jesus, they are very much like personal accounts, probably supplemented by talking with their fellow disciples. Luke on the other hand is an outsider and isn’t able to rely on his own experiences, so he has to approach writing an account of Jesus’s life and ministry in a much different way.
It is fascinating to me to picture Luke traveling throughout Israel, Samaria and the Mediterranean–part of the time joining Paul on missionary journeys–armed with all of his notes interviewing disciples, those that were healed, Jesus’s family members, maybe even some of the Sanhedrin or Roman soldiers. I see Luke sitting attentively across from Mary as she is getting older. She looks off into the distance as the memories play back in her mind and she tells Luke about all of the things she “treasured and pondered in her heart” about Jesus (Luke 2:19). Or picture Luke standing at the synagogue with the man whose hand used to be shriveled as he tells the way in which Jesus spurned the judgement of the Pharisees and healed him anyway, looking at and showing his fully restored hand as he spoke. Luke may have talked to many people who were healed, people formerly paralyzed, blind, infected by leprosy, possessed by demons, or who may have even died, all healed by the Christ. For a physician, these healing miracles may have been especially powerful. Luke could have talked to a Pharisee who told him how they had plotted against Jesus and wanted to kill him, but after the resurrection later believed. Or one of the soldiers that witnessed the crucifixion, saw the sky darken, and felt the earth shake.
Luke would have interviewed the disciples about the first time they met Jesus, how He called them, His teachings and parables, and how over time He proved to them that He was the Christ. He would have heard them recount the triumphal entry, the last supper, Judas’s betrayal and their desertion. Maybe he spoke with Joseph of Arimathea about how he wrapped and buried the Lord and placed Him in his own tomb. Luke watched Jesus’s followers relive the death of Christ and then brighten with joy as they recalled His resurrection and laugh remembering how they couldn’t believe it at first when He stood among them. Their eyes would have filled with hope and wonder as they told Luke about the ascension and His promises to them and the day of pentecost.
The disciples and followers of Jesus would have continued their story about Jesus’s work as they told of the growth of the early Church and how the good news spread throughout the world up to the point where Luke was able to then start writing of his own personal experiences in Acts and finishing with Paul preaching the gospel in Rome. It was a project that may have taken Luke years to complete. Maybe at first it was his personal investigation of the gospel and the stories he heard that he later decided to write down. We don’t know, but it is fun to think about.
I know much of what I have written is just conjecture and possibilities because we don’t know for sure who Luke talked to other than those he is found with in the book of Acts. There has also been a lot of scholarly work on figuring out who Theophilus may have been or if it is just a generic title as well as the years when Luke and Acts may have been written. The purpose of this wasn’t really to argue any of that, but to picture possibilities to flesh out that which we know for sure. That Luke, guided by the Holy Spirit, investigated the story of Jesus and drew up an account so that we “might know the certainty of the things [we] have been taught.”