The Historian

December 4, 2021 | Amanda Stricker

About the author: Amanda Stricker has participated in the ZPC community since being dropped off at the nursery back in 1988 up through her current Sunday mornings working as a part of the tech team. She very much enjoyed serving as a ZPC Elder in the past. She is currently employed as a Social Studies and English teacher for Eman Schools, which is a private Islamic school in Fishers. She feels quite blessed to have an opportunity to get to know her Muslim neighbors while also indulging her passion for teaching the humanities.

Today's Scripture: Luke 3:1-6

Luke is the gospel writer who is often called “the historian,” and as a history teacher, the first thing I noticed in today’s Bible passage is how it spends almost ALL its words establishing the historical context for Jesus’ upcoming arrival on Earth. Verses 1-2 let the readers know the year and the political leaders who governed and impacted the setting which is identified in verse 3 (“all the country around the [river] Jordan”). Then verses 4-6 give a quote from a well known and respected reference text (“Isaiah the prophet”), which – as all my students know – is required when writing an A+ paper, although I do want to point out that Luke did not use proper MLA or Chicago/Turabian style citation for his in-text quotation. ;)

Historical context is important. Without knowing the social, cultural, geographical, economic, and political context, NOTHING makes sense, for you cannot explain the WHY of anything that currently exists nor even the whys of our own behavior, thoughts, and circumstances. The “social studies” of Jesus’ world and life are essential to understanding his message, actions, and impact while here on earth. Without the words of Isaiah and the other prophets that came before, the Jewish community wouldn’t have followed or recognized the importance of John son of Zechariah or Jesus of Nazareth. Without the reign of the Roman Empire and its Roman and Jewish governors, the census wouldn’t have been taken, meaning Joseph and Mary wouldn’t have traveled to Bethlehem; Jesus wouldn’t have been executed in the Roman style; the apostle Paul wouldn’t have been able to travel throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe using the Roman roads and sea trade routes to spread the “good news.” This “good news” was able to spread through the vast expanse and territory of the Roman Empire, eventually leading to Christianity becoming the dominant religion of Europe, and then on to be the dominant religion of North America through European colonization, which ultimately caused the establishment of Zionsville Presbyterian Church, the church I have attended since I was two years old and which shaped my personal beliefs, character, and actions. History and social and cultural contexts shape people and futures.

That is why I like that today’s verses start with the historical context and end with looking towards the future. John’s existence was predicted and created by history, and John’s historical actions paved the way for Jesus. All of human history prepared the way for our Messiah and the hope a relationship with him offers. The future that stretches out before us has likewise been prepared by God and meticulously sculpted. Studying history leaves me in awe at all the pieces that had to align to create the world we live in and helps me understand myself, others, humankind, and God. When looking at current events and when contemplating the future, people who do not know the history of God’s actions on earth will feel anxiety, frustration, and existential dread, but those who look back at all that has come before and the promises that have been fulfilled are filled with joy, hope, and confidence. Where we come from shapes our present and gives us hope for the future: “And all people will see God’s salvation.”


Think about your personal historical context. What events, cultures, doctrines, and people have shaped your life and your actions? Write a reflection or have a discussion with your family about how your present has been shaped by the past and your “context,” and then reflect on how your view of the future and your actions in the future should be shaped going forward.


Heavenly father and earthly son,
Thank you for my history. Thank you that I live in a time and place that has been prepared by you so that I may go out and do your good work. Thank you for my faith, which you have allowed to take root and flourish in my heart through the circumstances you have cultivated. Please give me patience and empathy for people whose histories, cultures, and “contexts” are different from my own, and help me to love them, understand them, and form communities with them where mutual appreciation, joy, and fellowship can grow. May my life reflect your “good news” and the history of your love for humanity to all that meet me.