Just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Luke 1:2
Some think, “I need to see it to believe it!” Well, many did! Imagine the thrill of the aged Simeon. Not only did he get to see his salvation in the baby Jesus, but he also got to hold his salvation in his arms! Thomas put his hands in Jesus’ wounds, which won that salvation! We not only have eyewitnesses but “hand witnesses.” These eyewitnesses that Luke talks about are the most valuable form of evidence of the Bible’s truth.
At the time of Luke’s writing, his gospel could be fact-checked by the first audience. In addition, many of these eyewitnesses of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection were willing to die for their testimony. No one dies for a lie. Church history says that Nathanael had his skin flayed off before they crucified him. It also says that Peter was forced to watch his wife be crucified for three days before he himself was crucified upside down. All of them could have saved their skin if they had just said they were lying. But they were clearly telling the truth.
Since Luke was a Gentile and not one of the apostles, who were these eyewitnesses that he spoke to? We know that Luke accompanied Paul on his later missionary journeys through his imprisonment. He might have had the opportunity to speak with some of the apostles in Jerusalem. In addition, it’s hard to imagine that Luke did not speak in depth with Mary because of his gospel’s intimate details of Jesus’ birth, including the very thoughts going through Mary’s mind. Finally, we cannot say who the eyewitnesses were with absolute certainty. Who they are is not as important as what they saw.
Martin Luther said that Christianity is just one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. The eyewitnesses found the Bread of Life in the manger, and now 2,000 years later, their testimony still stands.
This Advent, marvel as you read how the shepherds run to praise, Mary ponders, Simeon holds, and we rejoice that God came to earth to be our Savior. He let his people see it with their own eyes so that we can see it through theirs, all so that you can be confident that the baby in the manger is God, your Savior.
They saw it! Believe it!
Heavenly Father, you sent Jesus to be our Savior. You allowed eyewitnesses to see it so they could tell us. This Christmas season, lead us to see your Son through their eyes. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Rev. David Scharf serves Martin Luther College as a professor of theology.