God, Self & Other – Luke 02: Dear Theophilus…

The Apostle Luke is often regarded as an historian. His book, Acts (of the Apostles), is a highly detailed description of the events of the early church, and he describes his “gospel” as a carefully investigated “orderly account” of Jesus’s life. Both are the sort of literature we find in other ancient histories.

But Luke’s inspiration is not to preserve a record of events or even to document the life of a great person, but rather to share his own – surprising and unexpected! – recognition that Jesus is the means by which the God of Israel is accomplishing the salvation of the world.

Luke addresses his account of Jesus’s life to “Theophilus” – a Greek proper name that literally means “one who loves God.” Like Luke, Theophilus was a Gentile (not a Jew) who had been drawn to the faith of Israel (many in Roman society were intrigued by the antiquity of the Hebrew faith and the idea of one, all-powerful deity), but had not undergone any Jewish conversion. He had come to learn stories of this “Jesus of Nazareth” and wanted to know more of the story (whether Theophilus had just joined a Christian community or was considering it, we do not know).  But Luke writes to explain the story of Jesus and to tell it in a way that demonstrates not only the truth of the Hebrew God, but how Jesus is indeed the means of salvation.

It is quite possible that Theophilus was an actual person. But he may also stand as a name for all those who long to know the God they can sense is present but may not have experienced personally, the God they seek but have not found. Luke is writing to share what he has come to know in his bones: that Jesus is Lord and love is the name of the game.

You can download the Theophilus Map HERE.


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