Doctor Luke, and the Good News he was writing about, came into the world just when needed the most. Good news is always best when contrasted with bad news, and there was plenty of bad news in the first century. Rome was bad news everywhere!
Luke was a well educated physician. He was very articulate and precise in his use of the Greek language in which he wrote. His accuracy and faithfulness to detail are what you would expect from a doctor. He was a highly intelligent and earnest believer in Y'shua the Messiah. He was also well traveled and experienced within the ancient Roman world, having traveled with Paul on his mission journeys far and wide. Luke personally knew, and had access to, virtually all of the people who had been involved with Messiah from the start. He carefully interviewed these witnesses, as he said, "having traced the course of all things accurately from the first, to write in order" to produce a trustworthy narrative. Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke, and the Book of Acts, which continues the narrative of the Messianic community after Messiah's departure. Scholars often see these two as one work, which they refer to as Luke-Acts. As the narrative concludes before major events of the 60s, such as the death of James the Just, the death of Paul in Rome, and the destruction of Jerusalem, it is logical to conclude that Luke-Acts was written before any of those events. This would place Luke's entire narrative within thirty years of Messiah's ministry. Luke gives us the big picture of the entire Messianic movement in those vital formative years. (Luke 1:3)
Today, as we begin with Luke, I'm seeing the world of which he wrote.
The ascension of Augustus as Caesar of Rome in 27 BC marked the end of the Roman Republic and the start of the Roman Empire. Imperial Rome became the largest city in the world thereafter, with a population of up to 90,000,000! That's right, 90 million people in one ancient city! All manor of debauchery was encouraged and exploited there, and exported from there to everywhere else. This is the Rome that dominated the first century.
It would be hard, if not impossible, to overstate the impact of the Roman Empire on the first century. The iron fist of Rome was ever present everywhere around the Great Sea. Rome viewed themselves as owning the world. While it's true that Rome brought order to the world, along with roads, aqueducts, and civilization, it's also true that Rome was an absolute dictatorship with very little, if any, respect, for god or man.
The prophet Daniel had seen the rise of Rome centuries in advance, in the figure of the fourth beast that would dominate Israel. He said; "..The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces." Daniel 7:23
Rome was indeed brutal, and unstoppable. It was also very different from earlier kingdoms. Rome developed the mechanistic mindset that produced its mechanized legions, its hierarchical world government, and its domination of everything, including nature itself. Rome sought to change time by Imperial Decree, totally changing the calendar and bringing time itself into the service of the Empire. Rome created the first corporations, allowing for the hording of previously impossible amounts of wealth. Rome was the ultimate benefactor of the elite - at the expense of everybody else. Rome invented and modeled the mindset and mechanisms that continue to be the blueprint for "civilization." Rome continues to be a beast, and a menace, to ordinary people everywhere, even now. In a few years from now, Rome will rise again in its final form of global empire, only to be defeated forever.
In the first century Judea wanted to be rid of Rome. They envisioned a Messiah who would lead the Jews to glorious victory against the Roman oppressor. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for us, YHWH had other plans. He allowed the horrible specter of a seemingly undefeatable Rome to come along, precisely because He wanted to show His people another way of winning. He wanted them to see that they already had the most powerful weapon in the universe, if only they would use it. He sent His Son into the world to demonstrate the one power in the universe big enough to conquer Rome, and every enemy, even death itself. Of course, I am talking about the unsurpassed power of the love of God through Messiah, in us!
Luke-Acts tells that amazing story of how the love of God in Messiah defeated Rome, and all evil, in the life of every person who believes. It is the story of the Good News, and it is our story, too.
Tonight we begin to consider the Book of Luke. That's at 8 PM CST at Tsiyon.Net. Join us!
PS - Modern Israel has the same problems as all western democracies. See article below.