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What do you know about investigative reporting?

University of Missouri journalism professor Steve Weinberg defined investigative reporting as “Reporting, through one's own initiative and work product, matters of importance to readers, viewers, or listeners.”

What are the qualities of good investigative reporting?

For sure there has to be an important story, something people need to know.

In addition, the reporter should have:

  • Passion for the story
  • Determination to get the facts
  • Logical thinking and organization
  • Strong ethics to ensure accuracy and truthfulness
  • Purpose. Those who hear or read the report are called to do something significant.

All these elements are present in the “Gospel according to Luke.” 

Luke the Investigator

Luke begins his account to a man named Theophilus – probably a well-placed Roman official – with these words:

“… since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you … so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).

What follows is the greatest story ever told.[1] 

The events of which Luke writes are embedded within world history.

Luke writes that “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)” (2:1-2)

Caesar Augustus and the governor Quirinius were real historical figures. 

Conception to confrontation

Have you ever wondered how Luke was able to write about the personal experiences of others?

For instance, how did Luke obtain the word-for-word exchange between Mary and the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:26-38?

My proposal is that he met with Mary and listened to her tell the ‘story’ first-hand.

This was a ‘story’ of a teenage girl given the immense privilege and responsibility of being the mother of Jesus – God became a human fetus in her womb.

She asked the angel Gabriel “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (1:34).

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. … For nothing is impossible with God.”

Her simple, yet profound, response was “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” 

What follows is the ‘story’ of Jesus – his conception and birth, his actions and words, his arrest and crucifixion, and beyond.

The record of Jesus’ public service begins at Luke 4:14 when he's rejected by the people of his own town. At every step, he comes in contact with people – and there are two responses:

  • Willing acceptance, or
  • Intentional rejection of Jesus. 

At Luke 9:51 a climax of sorts is reached: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” 

Central section

Some view the text from 9:51 – 19:27 as a record of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. This has difficulties.

It is better to call this the “central section” and discover what Luke’s purpose is in this record. Almost all of the material in this section is found only in Luke’s account.

Perhaps the best understanding of this unit is that Luke is restating Deuteronomy in and through the actions and words of Jesus Christ. As Moses recited what was expected of Israel as they entered the Promised Land centuries before so now Jesus Christ is reinterpreting and stating what is expected of his followers as they live in his kingdom.

Here’s a sampling of this parallel between Deuteronomy and Jesus’ life and teaching.

In Deuteronomy 8:1-3 we read:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

In the corresponding part of the Central Section, Luke uses Jesus’ visit in the home of Martha and Mary to convey the need for sitting at the feet of Jesus over against the frenetic busyness of our modern lives.

Take a moment to read Luke 10:38-42 in this context. If you want a copy of an article that explores the parallel between Deuteronomy and Luke’s Central Section, send me an e-mail at [email protected] – I’ll send it to you. 

Jerusalem to heaven

Jesus reaches Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-48). The conflict intensifies as he is arrested and crucified. Three days later – his opponents having done their worst – Jesus walks out of the tomb in the power of his resurrection.

But the story does not end there.

For forty days Jesus continues to meet with his followers until:

He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:50-53)


Of course, that is not the end of the ‘Story’ either – there’s much more to come.

What do you think Luke’s purpose is in telling us this story? 

What is he calling you to do? 

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Photo credit: stevebustin via Compfight cc 

[1] I remind my readers that the word ‘story’ does not mean fiction here. As pointed out before, if you were asked for your ‘story’ you would select and arrange various facts from your past to explain your personal history. I use ‘story’ in this sense. 

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