Luke, a medical doctor, wrote two books that are in the Bible: Luke and Acts. Writing in the decade between 60 and 70 A.D. (approximately 30 to 35 years after Jesus’ death), Luke had an excellent opportunity to meet eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He joined the Apostle Paul on his travels (Acts 16:10), so in the latter chapters of Acts, much of what he wrote consisted of what he had personally experienced. Both books were addressed to Theophilus, a Greek name that means “one who loves God.”
Let’s see what the author Luke himself said about each of his books.
Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3With 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, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.®
Luke used three methods of a good historian: a.) He interviewed eyewitnesses. b.) He carefully investigated. c.) He wrote an orderly account. Luke definitely wanted to find and record the truth. In Luke, often called the Gospel of Luke, we find a record of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Acts 1:1-3 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3After his suffering, he showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. ®
Acts records many of the actions of Jesus’ followers from the time of Jesus’ resurrection until Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. The “suffering” of Jesus (Acts 1:3) refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. Luke said that Jesus rose from the dead and then appeared to his followers during a period of forty days–quite a while.
The Gospel of Luke, as well as the other three New Testament gospels, tells how Jesus’ followers not only saw Jesus alive but also ate, talked, and walked with the resurrected Jesus. Now these reports had to be one of the following: a lie, a mistake, or the truth. Millions of people have investigated these reports and have decided they are true, but it’s important for each of us to evaluate the information.
About 20 years after Jesus died, Paul wrote about these appearances in a letter to the new Christians in Corinth, Greece. I Corinthians 15:3-8 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James [Jesus’ half-brother], then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born.®
More than five hundred people saw Jesus, including Paul himself! Remarkable! Let’s examine this testimony.
- Sometimes people ask whether these appearances could be hallucinations. However, people don’t interact with hallucinations; a large group of people don’t all have the same hallucination at the same time; hallucinations don’t happen over a period of time and then suddenly stop; most people come back to their senses after hallucinations and realize that they were not seeing reality.
- Could the people who claimed to see Jesus alive have been telling a lie? The Christians who saw Jesus were willing to die for that fact, and many of them were put to death. People may tell lies in order to improve their lives, but they are not willing to suffer and die for a lie.
While exploring Acts, we’ll look for more evidence of the book’s trustworthiness and for practical applications for our lives. Let’s travel together to Acts 1.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV®) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. NIV® Copyright © 1973,1978,1984,2011 by Bilica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.