Archive for April 7th, 2008

Dear Theophilus

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Today’s scripture: Luke 1:1-4 (ESV-text and audio) (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me in this passage? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

I just got a black standard poodle puppy and thought seriously of naming him Theophilus, after the early Christian for whom the Gospel of Luke, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, was written. The name, in Greek, means “loved by God” or “friend of God.“ But I decided against naming my puppy that, fearing some might say, “That’s ‘The-awful-est’ looking dog I’ve ever seen.”

We begin a new series in Be Still and Know today, a study of Luke’s Gospel. The introduction to the Gospel (these four verses) tells us that it’s a kind of an epistle, or letter, to Theophilus, in order to strengthen his faith.

The author — we’re never told it’s actually Luke; that suggestion comes from clues in the second volume, Acts — states that already before the end of the first century there have been many accounts of the life of Christ written. Luke has “investigated all the reports in close detail.” He says that these reports came from eyewitnesses who were with Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry. In fact, about a third of this Gospel is almost verbatim from Mark’s Gospel, but another third comes from sources which no longer exist. Luke has compiled these accounts in an orderly way so that Theophilus “can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.”

Because of the Greek name, Theophilus was most likely a Gentile Christian, as was Luke. All but these two books of the New Testament, Luke and Acts, were written by Jewish Christians. Luke and Acts are the only ones written by an outsider to an outsider, and that it evident throughout. Luke shows Jesus as the champion of traditional misfits: women, the poor, the dirty, those of mixed blood, and a gay couple. Jesus includes all. Luke apparently wanted Theophilus to have the reassurance that indeed he did fit into this new movement of God; and that in a pluralistic, multi-cultural world, the claim that Christ is a true revelation of God is valid.

Theophilus needed to know that the Jesus story is not just about Jesus; it’s about us, each and every one of us inclusively. God takes misfits on the outside and welcomes us in. And remember, the story that Luke began with his Gospel and added to with the Acts is not finished; we are still writing and living it.

By the way, I named my puppy Black Forest and will call him Forest.

Thought for the day: As we look at Luke’s Gospel together, pray that you might sense Jesus welcoming and accepting you. Remember, it’s an encounter that calls for a decision — what will you do with Jesus?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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