St Luke wrote his Gospel for an educated Roman reader – presumably someone who was interested in this new religion that had made its way to Rome from the East. Luke approaches his material as an historian, and this Sunday’s Gospel shows us that. St Luke has dealt with the birth and infancy of Jesus (on which, see this), and now turns to the dawn of his public ministry.
He located the preaching of the “praecursor” – John the Baptist – very precisely in time and space. He tells us who the emperor was (Tiberius); who the governor of Judea was (Pontius Pilate); who the (puppet) king of Judea was (Herod); and who were the High Priests (Annas and Caiaphas). He tells us where John began his ministry – in the wilderness, and then through all the Jordan region.
It is as though St Luke wanted his reader – and us – to know that what follows is not some legend, some pious myth, that happened “once upon a time and far away”. The coming of Jesus was an historical event. Thanks to St Luke. and others who collected the verbal testimony and memories about Jesus, we know more about him than about any other contemporary historical figure.
But here’s the thing. The fact that Jesus came to a particular time and place means that he can come now to any time and place. Our Year 7 and Year 10 pupils have been singing the song, “Maranatha| Come, Lord Jesus, come!” We pray each day that our Lord would make his presence felt in our time and place. Like John the Baptist, let our task be to prepare the way for his coming.