Since Luke authored both the Gospel which bears his name and the Acts of the Apostles, it’s safe to assume we’ll find the same theology in each work. That’s why Peter’s Pentecost speech in the first reading (Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19) and Jesus’ Easter Sunday words to His disciples (Lk 24: 35-48) are so similar. The same author is responsible for both.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Scripture to notice Luke’s interest in “prediction/fulfillment” theology. Peter tells his audience, “God has...brought to fulfillment what He had announced beforehand through His pro-phets, that His Christ would suffer.”

Jesus reminds His disciples, “Everything written about me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled....Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Exegesis

Modern Scripture scholars have problems with this kind of theology. Exegetes long ago gave up trying to find Hebrew Scripture predictions of the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as we know Him.

The quest to mine those writings of quotes that could be applied to Jesus fell on hard times once scholars began to return the “usual suspect” quotes to the historical periods which produced them. Those who study the Bible from such an historical perspective have come to understand why Rev. Raymond Brown once said, “There are no predictions of Jesus, as such, anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Every one of our favorite prediction/fulfillment texts has been misinterpreted by those who employed them to biblically verify the arrival, life and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus stands on His own. It doesn’t make a difference whether we can or can’t find predictions about Him in the Hebrew Scriptures. If He doesn’t mean anything to us, nothing written about Him by others is going to change our attitude.

So what’s to be said about Luke’s theology? First of all, he didn’t actually begin with a picture of the Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures and match it with Jesus. (Since there are many different messianic pictures in those writings, that could have been an impossible process.) He began, like all Christians, with his experience of the risen Jesus and worked backward.

He knew what Jesus’ presence in his life meant to him - especially that special presence which surfaced, as the two out-of-breath disciples announced, “in the breaking of the bread” (the Eucharist). Only then did he delve into his Bible and find texts which coincided with that experience.

Seeking Jesus

Each of the sacred authors knew that one’s experience of God, present and working in his or her everyday life, is the beginning of faith. This seems to be why the author of I John puts so much emphasis on both keeping Jesus’ commandments of love and carrying out His words (I Jn 2: 1-5).

Only by courageously going down these two parallel roads can we be certain that we’ll come to “know Him.” Is it possible that some of us no longer know how to surface the risen Jesus in our lives? Perhaps we’ve replaced that essential Christian experience with a pious reading of the words of those who had such a life-changing moment centuries ago.

If that’s happened to us, we’re probably clutching those writers’ theologies so tightly that we don’t leave ourselves enough space and reflection to develop our own theology - a theology which will spring up from our historical situation, not theirs.

(5/1/03)