The opening sentence of Luke's Gospel introduces the reader to a theme that links the biographical details of Christ's life and mission as well as the historical accounts in rthe Acts of the Apostles. He wrote---
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been
accomplished among us...
Luke 1:2, ESV
Evidently the first century world was abuzz with the news about Jesus. With that in mind, Luke informs us that many were attempting to relate the miraculous truth about Jesus to the expectant and waiting world. Scholars generally debate the dates of the Gospels and whether or not Luke was referencing the Gospels of Matthew and Mark in this opening statement. Just the same, there are many other anonymous manuscripts written in those times and he could have been acknowledging them.
Most translators agree that Luke 1 was written in refined, classical Greek, the language of academia. It is thought by many to reflect the most sophisticated grammar in the New Testament. The remaining chapters, Chapters 2-24, were penned in the language of the villages and streets, the common wording and phrasing spoken by the people. Bible teacher David Guzik, writing in the Enduring Word Commentary, noted that “This account has all the proper academic and scholarly credentials. But it is written for the man on the street. Luke wrote so that people would understand Jesus, not so they would admire his brain and literary skill" (Enduring Word Bible Commentary, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/luke-1/). His education prepared him to communicate with clarity and precision. But, again, his life in the Greek world taught him to target the general population with his writing skills.
A simple phrase in that first sentence grasped my attention when I was contemplating these thoughts. They are the words "accomplished among us". The word that is translated "accomplished" in the ESV is often translated as "fulfilled" in many of the other Bible versions. It identifies the completion of something anticipated, perhaps prophesied. One translation identifies the work more specifically as that which was accomplished or completed as the work of God.
Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. Luke 1:1, Contemporary English Version
The centrality of God the Father to Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is important to our understanding of his message. As a Gentile Luke was not so much governed by the historical accounts of God's guidance of Israel. Being exposed to Jewish culture, even in that Greek world, he would have heard the epoch of Israel and their faithful God. But, Luke was inspired and challenged to speak of the God who was working in the current time, who had performed the "...things that had been accomplished among us".
Few commentators believe that Luke was an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus. At the very beginning of his two written records, however, he acknowledged some affinity with people who had been. Evidently he had read their written accounts and perhaps heard their first-hand recollections. It is interesting to note that the word usually translated "work" is not used in the Lukan account of Christ's birth and life. But, that God was working in the present time in Christ's birth, early life, full ministry, death, glorious resurrection, and ascension was foundational to Luke's understanding of faith. The working God was center stage in Luke's writing. The word translated "God" was used 114 times by Luke, not counting the many other references. The key people recognized by Luke were usually identified by their relationship to God----righteous before God, priest of God, the presence of God, favor with God, and many more. Luke's life had been ignited by what God had accomplished right then and there and was inspired to write about it.
There is a danger here. Humans often have the capacity to identify with, perhaps even confess the God who was working in the life of Israel, or even in the ages described in the New Testament. In many lives the Bible is a history book with valuable lessons from the past. Knowing the God that is working right now is a critical element of personal faith. I remember many years ago attending a MasterLife training seminar led by missionary strategist Dr. Avery Willis. His first lesson was an exposition of John 5:17---
My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.
It was a profound announcement to fifteen or so Baptist pastors. He told us that God was always working, even at that very moment. It was one of those pivotal moments in Christian ministry when my personal concept of time, value, waste, and the work of God was raised several notches. Maybe something like Dr. Luke, who was inspired to record what God had accomplished among them, right at that time.
Thank you Dr. Luke. You have written about what God has accomplished among us. It is a fresh and profound truth leading us into this Christmas season.