The Book for you
Many years ago my parents presented a photograph album to me. It was a very special album because it was full of photographs of me. They had spent considerable time sorting through collections of family snaps, gathered over the years, and they had selected ones which traced my own life from babyhood to early adulthood. These were then inserted into an album which sits on a shelf marked by a label reading ‘Martin - the early years.’
In fact, they did the same for my brother and sister. They, too, each have an album which is particularly about them, containing photographs uniquely telling their story.
The album is a precious possession. Its contents are the result of hours of sifting and selecting and it was put together specifically with me in mind. It has photographs of me being held as a baby by my grandmother; it has photographs of me at primary school; photographs of me with the rest of the school football team. There is a photograph of me in full costume as I took part in the secondary school production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe (in the interests of clarity, I was chosen not because of any vocal talent, but to play the part of the Pageboy because I was the smallest boy in my year, a distinction I retained, with great disappointment, until a late growth spurt in my 4th year) There are also photographs of me as a teenager with disgracefully long hair, and so the gallery of embarrassment continues.
The point is that this was a collection put together with me in mind. This is not to say that it is not of interest to others, although I am careful that it not fall into the wrong hands!
The album is not only special because it contains things about me, but because it was put together for me. It is the result of hours of work, spent with me in mind.
It is a little appreciated fact that the Gospel according to Luke was written, in the first instance, for one particular individual. It is a collection, not of photographs, but of events in the life of Jesus and a record of some of his teaching ministry. The great task of putting this collection together was inspired by the needs of one man. Other Gospels were written for communities of people. Matthew seems to have written with a Jewish readership in mind, and so he includes lots of allusions to the Old Testament. Mark, by contrast, had non-Jews (Gentiles) in mind, and so he often goes out of his way to explain Jewish customs. John may have had those from a Greek background in mind, although his intention seems to have been broadly evangelistic. All three of these Gospel writers had large groups of people in mind as they tell the story of Jesus. Luke is very different. Amazingly, he wrote his Gospel, and also the Book of Acts, for one man, whose name was Theophilus.
Imagine having a masterpiece such as the gospel according to Luke, put together just for you!
Luke contributed more to the New Testament, in terms of volume, than any other writer - almost a quarter. The apostle Paul authored more books, but in terms of the sheer number of words, Luke comes out top. That massive input, traces not only the events of Jesus life and ministry, together with His teaching, but also, in the Book of Acts, the story of the early church. Together these two volumes take us from the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, to the life of the church. And it was all put together for one man!
Let me remind you of how Luke begins his Gospel:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke was writing history, but he was writing far more than history. He was recording events, but he was doing far more than recording events. He was also weaving these events into the coherent framework that showed that in and through these events God was at work in a great plan of salvation. Luke wants Theophilus to know, and Luke wants you and I to know, that God has burst onto the stage of human history in Jesus Christ and is offering salvation in Christ. God in His love is come to seek and to save the lost.
So when Theophilus read this book he would not simply close its pages and place it back on the shelf as having been an interesting read. Theophilus would read this book and discover that here he finds verified and confirmed all the wonderful truths he had been told of Christ, and his love of Christ might then deepen, and his commitment to Christ might strengthen, and his determination to serve Christ might be all the more wholehearted. This is what is going on in the compilation of this book we know as ‘the Gospel according to Luke’. It is a book which should sponsor and sustain and confirm the faith.
Like my photograph album, Luke’s masterpiece would adorn the shelf in the home of Theophilus as a precious gift compiled with him in mind. Yet that is actually true for each of us. The gospel is no less for you than it was for Theophilus! This is the wonder of the whole Bible. It is for you, for it was written with your needs and predicament in mind!
Luke’s Gospel, our studies in which will have completed by the time you read this is a divinely inspired volume which was compiled initially for one individual. It was embedded in the New Testament so that we are all able to look over Luke’s shoulder as he has written it for Theophilus. Just as it was written for the eternal benefit of one man Theophilus, so it is written for the eternal benefit of all who might read it: you and me!
The whole Bible is like that. When the Holy Spirit is at work in power, it is a message that reaches in to the individual soul, and we can be made to feel as if Jesus is standing right next to us saying ‘This is for you, child.’
Do you value the volume that was written to bring you the message which perfectly meets your deepest needs? Do you come to worship with an expectation of a word from the Saviour? You should, because this book is for you.