The basis for discerning the whole truth of a matter is assessing “testimony.” Geologists look at the testimony of rocks. Paleontologists look at the testimony of bones. Astronomers look at the testimony of stars. Mathematicians look at the testimony of numbers. Inspired Bible writers looked at the testimony of God’s mighty acts in history.
In these final Sundays in December we will consider the testimony of the only Gentile to write about the life of Christ. Luke was a doctor by profession (Colossians 4:14), a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16), a fellow worker in the gospel (Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11), and the author of his Gospel and the book of Acts. He wrote the first volume with an eye to the second.
Luke followed the typical format of writing for his day with a rather predictable prologue in these opening verses. This formal testimony of truth comes to us in a five-fold way. First, it was “one” testimony. Luke was aware of other written testimonies of Jesus, perhaps those written by Matthew and Mark. Luke’s Gospel was one of the Synoptic Gospels. He saw the testimony of Jesus like others, but it was uniquely his. Second, it was a “traditioned” testimony. The events he described were fulfilled from the Old Testament. In addition to that they were handed down from others.
Third, it was a “personal” testimony. While Luke did not personally witness the deeds of Jesus he obtained his information from those who were eyewitnesses and servants. No doubt he must have interviewed many of them personally. Fourth, it was an “investigated” testimony. Luke admitted to having carefully investigated (follow closely or give careful attention to) everything. Finally, it was a “written” testimony. This testimony might have originated through oral tradition, but Luke wrote it down. And he wrote it down in an orderly (not necessarily in a strict chronological) way. And he wrote it down for most excellent (a phrase that normally means some kind of political official) Theophilus (a man whose name meant “God-lover”). This testimony of Luke hardly qualified as a fairy tale. The formal testimony assumes a historical context.
This portion of the lesson bookends the prologue. The lengthy post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the two people on the road to Emmaus is almost the final pericope of Luke’s Gospel, with only Jesus’ appearance to his disciples and the ascension following it. Jesus had already appeared to the women and to Mary Magdalene in particular (John 20:1-18). Jesus had also appeared to his disciples on the evening of that first day (v. 19). Now it was three days later and Jesus appeared to two people walking to a small Judean village named Emmaus—seven miles from Jerusalem. Jesus appeared mysteriously and engaged the travelers in conversation. He began with a naïve question to his downcast friends.
The lead role of the two people was played by Cleopas (another spelling for Clopas, the husband of Mary—John 19:25?). Not recognizing who Jesus was, Cleopas essentially asked, “Where have you been?” Jesus continued to play along with a second question, “What things?” he asked.
What happened next was a testimony of the gospel given by Cleopas. For someone whose eyes were kept from noticing Jesus (Luke 24:16), Cleopas gave a stunning summary of the ABC’s of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He mentioned Jesus’ identity, his prophetic status, his miracles, his corrupt trials, and his death by crucifixion. Then he mentioned the preliminary details of Jesus’ resurrection. Cleopas’ testimony was a gospel testimony.
Jesus will always have the last word, as he did here. First he chided the two people about being foolish (the word simply means, “not knowing”) and slow to believe (literally, “slow of heart to believe”). Next Jesus seemed almost surprised that they did not understand about the need for the Messiah to suffer (go through the passion experience of the cross). The cross always precedes the crown. Humiliation always precedes glorification.
Finally, Jesus’ testimony consisted of Scripture exposition. He walked the two people through Moses and all the Prophets (a metonymy for the Old Testament). He explained (or interpreted, the origin of the English word “hermeneutics”) the Scriptures in light of himself. Jesus is the hermeneutical construct of the Bible. As all roads lead to London, all texts lead to Jesus. The light bulb came on above their heads and they had a good case of heartburn (24:32). Jesus left as mysteriously as he came. But the truth of the testimony was in the books.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.