The Certain Gospel: Is Jesus Fake News? | Luke 1:1-4

The Certain Gospel: Is Jesus Fake News? | Luke 1:1-4

Fake news… What’s the difference between news that is real and news that is fake? And if you were put to the test to determine what news actually happened, would you get it right? Today, I’d like to put you to that test. I want to show you some headlines and for you to guess if they’re real or fake.

But whether Jesus is true news or fake news is the big question, isn’t it? Luke set out to answer this question about 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion—somewhere around AD 70. We don’t know exactly when he wrote this gospel, but he does tell us why he wrote it, how he wrote it, and what he wrote. In our sermon today we’re going to answer those three questions:

  1. What did Luke write? (Lk 1:1)
  2. How did he write it? (Lk 1:2-3)
  3. Why did he write? (Lk 1:4)

It’s as we answer these three questions that we will will begin to understand whether or not Jesus is true news or fake news. Jesus is the most important person in all of human history, and he makes some pretty startling claims about how we should live our lives and what comes next after we die. I want to know if Jesus is true or false. So let’s get started.

What did Luke write?

Let’s see if we can find the answer in verse one.

Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, (NIV®)

Another way you can say this is, “Many have tried to draft the story of what God promised to do and did among us.” Luke is setting out to write two things: 1) a narrative, a history, a record of what took place among them; and 2) how it is a fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. Luke is writing Christmas! Luke writes how God stepped down into human history, which is what we celebrate.

The story of God stepping into human history.

As we look at all the big themes we’re going to see in Luke, we see over and over again God stepping into human history—that he is becoming apart of our narrative. I’ve adapted and condensed the major themes from Mike McKinley’s Luke For You series into four themes.

  1. The Holy Spirit moves: The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit), one God, three persons. The book of Acts is famous for the movement of the Spirit, but Acts is the second book in a two-part series. The Spirit shows up first in Luke (Lk 1:35; 2:25-27; 4:14; 10:21).
  2. Prayer works: Prayer is talking with the one true God. Skye Jethani illustrates the 4 Stages of Prayer. Prayer is not talking at God, but talking to him, listening to him, and being with him. Luke records when Jesus prays and his teachings on prayer (Lk 6:28; 9:18, 28; 11:1-9; 18:1-14).
  3. God saves his people: When the angel announces to the shepherds the arrival of Jesus, the angel says “a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah” (Lk 2:11). The Messiah was God’s promised Savior. Since Adam and Eve sinned and this world fell into brokenness, God has been unfolding a plan to save people who put their faith in him, and this plan comes to completion in Jesus (Lk 4:21; 19:10; 22:37; 24:44).
  4. Jesus flips the norm upside-down: When Jesus comes, he blesses social outcasts like the poor and the sick and prostitutes and tax collectors. And he says the prideful, the religious, and the powerful don’t have any part with him (Lk 1:45; 5:27-32; 7:36-50). Jesus brings both spiritual rescue and social justice—he lifts up what the world discards and humbles what the world values. (Stranger Things, upside-down?)

As we look at these themes, what do we see? We see God stepping down from eternity and into our human story and this changes everything. This is what Luke is writing about in his gospel.

Do you know the story Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll first told this story to his friend Henry Liddell’s three daughters, Lorina, Alice, and Edith. In fact, in the prefatory verse (aka. opening poem) to Alice in Wonderland he names them Prima, Secunda, and Tertia. And then of course, he names the main character Alice after the second daughter. Carroll writes Alice into the story. He draws out these girls imaginations by drawing them into the book. That’s kind of like what God does. God the Father wrote his Son Christ Jesus into our story.

And if God has entered our story, that changes everything, how I live my life, why I’m here, what I should be doing. It gives me both hope that I have an ultimate purpose but challenges me to stop living life just for myself. When we hear that God has entered our story, it can seem a little fantastical, but although it is supernatural, it’s not fantasy. How do we know it’s not pure make-believe? By how Luke wrote his book.

How did Luke write it? 

Let’s look at the next couple verses. Luke drafted this story of things fulfilled

Luke 1:2-3  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, (NIV®)

So how did he write it?

Carefully, based on eyewitness accounts.

Like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Luke carefully investigated Jesus’ life and death to find the truth. As we read Luke, you’ll notice he’s a combination of Sherlock, who notices the small things, the little details that tell us this is a true story, and the trained mind of Dr. Watson. In fact, Luke is a Doctor.

Colossians 4:14  Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. (NIV®)

This doesn’t mean that Luke was wealthy or had status, but he did have medical knowledge and training. So we can safely assume that he would go about investigating the story of Jesus just as carefully as he might operate on a patient or care for the sick. Like Sherlock and Watson talk to different witnesses, so did he.

  1. He could have spoken to Men who knew Jesus. When the 11 apostles (disciples) chose someone to replace Judas, they chose from among men who had been there from Jesus’ birth to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Luke probably spoke to these men. In Corinthians Paul tells us that over 500 people saw Jesus alive; and Luke probably talked to some of them (1 Cor 15:6). He’s writing around 40 years after Jesus’ ministry, when many of them were still alive. In their oral society, people worked hard to remember and truthfully retell significant events because they didn’t have easy access to reading and writing. So their testimony is reliable.
  2. Luke also likely talked to Women who saw it happen. One of Luke’s primary sources was probably Mary herself (Luke 2:19), who knew Jesus his whole life. He also likely spoke to Mary Magdalene and Joanna since he records them being among the first to discover Jesus risen from the grave (Luke 24:9-11), but the men didn’t believe them. Both Jewish and Roman law didn’t think much of a woman’s testimony, but Luke trusted them. Now he is asking us, do you trust them?

But maybe some of you are thinking. Why are there four different gospel accounts? Don’t they contradict each other? Have you ever been to the Newseum in Washington DC? Out front of the museum on the street they have a row of cases displaying the front pages of a bunch of different newspapers from all around the world. When something big happens, many of them may cover the same event, but with different headlines and different reporters writing to different audiences. Same event. Different reporters. Different audiences. That’s what the four gospels are. Same event (the life of Jesus). Different reporters (with different perspectives). Different audiences:

  1. MatthewOriginal disciple writing to Jewish Christians. 
  2. MarkPeter’s account written to church in Rome.
  3. LukeEarly believer writing to Hellenized Jewish Christians.
  4. JohnDisciple writing to convince Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.

Luke writes for the social outcasts, those not accepted by the majority of Jewish people. We see this in the name Theophilus. That’s a Greek name that means “friend of God.” Theophilus was the wealthy benefactor who paid for the account but the intended audience was always larger than him. Luke probably referred to Mark as one of his eyewitnesses. Luke wrote his gospel carefully based on eyewitness accounts. But why did he write this?

Why did Luke write? 

Luke gives us his purpose statement in verse four. He did all this research and investigation

Luke 1:4  so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (NIV®)

Why did Luke write his gospel account?

So that we can believe with certainty.

The Greek word here for “certainty” means truth. In other words, Luke writes so that we can know what the first Christians and what we still believe today is true. But this word for certainty can also mean security. Certainty equals safety. There’s safety in truth, isn’t there?

Imagine for a moment that you are moving all of your belongings in a big moving truck. Your whole life is packed into your U-Haul. You pack your family in and you begin driving. You’re driving to your new home when you come up to a bridge. It has a sign that says “weight limit 4 tons.”And as you look ahead, you see a bridge that’s rusty but looks stable. What do you do? Do you take a big breath and drive across the bridge or do you use Waze to find another route? Is the sign fake news or is it telling the truth? How do you know what decision to make? Do you know how much your table, chairs, and trunk full of furbies weighs? Or are you willing to risk all of that, your whole life on your best guess?

You would never risk your life on your best guess. But are you risking your eternity on your best guess? One day we’re each going to face a much greater bridgedeath. This is the scariest of all bridges. It’s dark and looks like it will collapse and we can’t see the other side clearly. But there is a sign above it. The sign over the bridge says this.

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…”
Jesus Christ (John 11:25b)

Jesus is not just a best guess, he’s a certain guarantee. I want to challenge you, whether you’re a Christian or not to stop risking the next-life on your best guess. Jesus himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and he backed up that claim from rising from the grave. He walked back across the bridge and offers to walk with you through this life, across that bridge, and into the next. He asks you repent of your sins, trust him, and come and follow him.

You can call yourself a Christian and never get serious about following Jesus. You’ve taken your best guess.  Maybe your parents were Christians so you are, or all of your friends are Christians so you go to church. You’ve said the prayer and you call yourself a Christian but your life doesn’t look different than anyone else’s. Jesus isn’t really Lord of your life. You’re driving onto a bridge you have not examined. Get real about your faith. Get real about Jesus. Stop messing around.

If you’re not a Christian, or haven’t taken the time time to see if this Jesus story is true, I want to invite you to join us for the duration of this sermon series. Come every week. This can be your investigation. You can also pick up The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel at our Welcome Center. Lee Strobel was an atheist journalist who took the time to investigate the truth claims of Christians, and he found the evidence to be good, to be certain. But don’t take my word for it. Read his book. So is Jesus fake news or true news?

Jesus is a true story.

Jesus isn’t fake news. He’s true news. He’s good news. Jesus isn’t a myth or fantasy or made up. People like you and me saw it happen and Luke wrote it all down really carefully. Jesus is the certain gospel. He’s the truly good news. Jesus is a true story, and true stories are the best stories. Jesus is a true story.

Pastor Jonathan Romig wrote and preached this message for the people of Cornerstone Congregational Church. Click here to listen to more sermons or click here to read our story.