Today we begin a journey through the book of Luke. Luke is the author: “Let me tell you a story with a purpose, a story I have carefully researched, it is the story of Jesus Christ, a story of faith. Why is this important? What is the purpose? READ Luke 1:4… the purpose is confidence/ assurance, certainty. You will find peace/strength, when you walk with confidence in the sure and certain knowledge of Jesus Christ.” Luke is the only New Testament writer that is not Jewish; he methodically studies and listens and writes down the story of Jesus Christ. READ Luke 1:3.
Today, 3 qualities from Theophilus: I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus… Who is Theophilus? We only find his name here and in the opening verses of Acts. Most of you have never heard of this man, yet Theophilus is responsible for ¼ of the New Testament! The book of Luke and Acts are companion books, written by Luke for Theophilus, the book of Jesus Christ and the book of the spread of the church. Put the books on a scale and they take up ¼ of the volume of the N.T. Dr. Luke, as he is designated in Col. 4:14, is the most prolific author in the N.T. and it’s all because of Theophilus.// Paul often wrote letters to churches with problems. Luke wrote to “most excellent Theophilus, “so that you may know with certainty of the things you have been taught.”
This makes the books of Luke-Acts very personal, very purposeful… This is a purpose that addresses our need as well. The book might as well be written to me personally (it is!). Theophilus means “lover of God.” Theophilus is addressed as “most excellent.” The only people with this title are Roman officials, dignitaries. Theophilus is acquainted with Luke, and he starts asking questions about Luke’s faith. Luke has been on missionary journeys with Paul; Luke has adopted that new religion called Christianity, you’ve heard of it, people worship the one called Jesus, miracles.
A quality to admire and embrace about Theophilus is that he is curious! Curiosity is the beginning of giving your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ: Theophilus is curious. He has questions. Tell me, Luke, why do you believe? Tell me about Jesus. Theophilus wants to know. Christianity is not about blind belief; it is based on the story of Jesus Christ, a story with a purpose, a story to give confidence and new life, a story that will change your life. It starts with curiosity. Are you curious?
Be curious… Until you are asking questions, then it doesn’t matter what I say…I can’t convince anyone of anything until they are asking questions. If you think you have all the answers then nobody can help you. If you have friends that are not Christians, perk up your ears the day they start asking questions…A life of faith starts with curiosity. Today, 2000 years after Christ, we are in possession of Luke and Acts because a gentile Roman official was curious. Incredible: Luke and Acts take up over ¼ of the N.T. Dr. Luke, in terms of space, is the most prolific writer of the New Testament. And it starts because Theopilus was curious…. He wanted to know.
Some of the questions Theophilus may have been wondering: “Is it really true? Is Jesus really God? Did he do what I’ve heard he’s done? Miraculous birth, walk on water, cast out demons, multiply fishes and loaves, command nature to obey him, die and rise. Did he really say he was God, can he really forgive sin, is he really God become a man to reconcile us back to God? Is this all true or not?”
It’s uncertain if Theophilus is a new Christian or just a curious person, but clearly he has been taught something of faith. Many people believe Theophilus actually sponsored Luke and Acts, i.e. paid Luke for this time to research and write the books. Here is a book written by Ed Nelsen, “A History of Lynden.” 1995. Ed Nelson contacted Sally and asked Sally to research for him much of the material in the book. Sally spent weeks reading all the minutes of all the city council minutes of Lynden since the beginning of the establishment of the town of Lynden – bet few people in this world have actually done that! Ed had enough money and this was his hobby.
Theophilus could well have had a similar relationship with Luke, only Dr. Luke wrote the book and acknowledged Theophilus in the introduction ~ common. And it’s all because Theophilus was curious. He wanted his questions answered. Ask away, persist.
The next quality of Theophilus. This is what puts an edge on curiosity and makes it come alive: risk taking.
Be a risk taker… “ignorance is bliss” they say. And it’s true. Don’t want to change? Want to be the captain of your own ship? Then don’t ask any questions. Don’t ask for help. Be like the stubborn guy that wont’ go to the doctor for help! “Curiosity killed a cat” they say. That’s because curiosity is to take a risk. To know the truth of Jesus Christ might force you to change. Gasp. No more excuses. No more living small.
Theophilus did not want to play it safe: he wanted to know the truth. That means a huge risk: Theophilus has a lot to lose by publicly declaring an allegiance to Jesus Christ. In that day, Caesar was lord. As a Christian, Theophilus must declare, “Not anymore, Jesus is Lord.” In that day, the most excellent Theophilus would be expected to say, “My highest allegiance is Rome!” and upon meeting Jesus he must say, “My highest allegiance is to the kingdom of Christ.” As a representative to Rome Theophilus would need to say, “All religions are welcome,” but as a Christian he must say, “Jesus alone is God and savior.” These new beliefs would get him in great trouble with his boss, Caesar. Embracing Christ could get him fired, maybe even imprisoned.
To change is to take a risk, a new allegiance, new truth, your reputation, what others think of you, dying to your old patterns and raised to a new life. Surely Theophilus wrestled, perhaps as some of you are, with his faith: “Do I really believe in Jesus? Do I love Jesus? Do I belong to Jesus? Am I willing to go public? Am I willing to go to my Facebook page and click ‘Christian’? Am I gonna blog my testimony? Theophilus takes a risk: and employs Dr. Luke to find the answers. Two gentiles collaborating to find out the truth about a Jewish God-Man, how crazy is that! Theophilus could have ignored the intrigue that was festering within, but he took that risk, to find out, knowing he might have to change everything about himself. He goes to Dr. Luke, an educated gentile friend who has access to the apostles and the eyewitnesses and the disciples. And he says, “Luke, I need you to go find the truth. Go get the facts. Go find out exactly what happened around this man Jesus and give me a full report.”
Being a Christian is risky. Everyday you must ask if you are willing to live by the truth, to change. I like this story: A ship wrecked off the New England coast many years ago. A young member of the coast guard rescue crew said, "We can't go out. We'll never get back." The grizzled old captain replied, "We have to go out. We don't have to come back." When you take a risk and find out truth, you may never come back, die to the old is the way the Bible says it. You will be a different person: “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”
Theophilus is curious, he takes a risk, and the third quality: //he listens to the right people. Theophilus chooses Dr. Luke. Steady, meticulous, faithful Luke. There is something about Dr. Luke. I heard an intriguing bit of wisdom: “A minister sees a man at his best. A lawyer sees a man at his worst. A Doctor sees a man as he is.” Something about Luke: like a good doctor, detailed, thorough, realistic, disciplined.
Curiosity and risk taking stand on solid ground when you listen to the right people. When I was in San Francisco, one day we let the building be used by a community group gathering. One woman found out I was the pastor, so she started asking me questions about the nuance of what I believed. Finally I asked her why she was so interested. She said, “I collect other people’s beliefs and add them to what I already believe…” This woman had a curiosity, but she was not discriminating whatsoever in who she listened to… any religion and all religions, the more the merrier…
Listen to the right people… When the Holy Spirit starts softly knocking on the door of your heart, find people you trust that have embraced Jesus Christ, somebody you relate to… you cannot listen to everyone. Find people of character… people you trust. Theophilus found Luke: In this case, the two have in common that they are gentiles, certainly neither one grew up going to the synagogue or read the Old Testament and did not hear about how we are waiting for the Messiah to come. In other words, Luke fits Theophilus. I don’t know what makes your heart beat and who resonates with you. The reason I like being on a team with a hundred other ministers is because some people might relate to me and find in me a bit of wisdom, but others may find more in common with Jack, or Denny, or Jim, or Annie, or Connie, or Doris, or Barb, or Larry… You get the picture. Theophilus resonated with Dr. Luke. He admired him, knew he had knowledge.
Whoever you choose to entrust with your questions, Luke has one amazing quality that make him an excellent choice: Luke is mentioned several times in the New Testament. At one point he’s paid one of the highest compliments in the New Testament; Paul was always getting into trouble, riots, they tried to murder him, put in prison... at one point Paul says, everyone is gone, has abandoned me, I’m on my own, except for Luke (2 Tim. 4:11). That’s who you want in your life when you start asking questions, a faithful Christian friend that has time for you and will not give up. Everyone else gives up on Paul, except for Luke. Everyone went home, Luke’s still there. You need to trust people with your questions, to help guide you, who have the same character as Luke. They won’t get bored with you. They will stick with you. They will listen, and listen, and listen. They have a measure of wisdom, like Luke. They have something to say. They will come alongside you with the same questions and walk with you to get them answered. Isn’t that what this entire book of Luke is about? Theophilus surely started with a mountain of questions and Luke didn’t start out knowing all the answers, but he said, “let’s find out.”
Everyone needs to be heard. Find someone who will listen. Walk with you through the questions of faith. Years ago, teenage prostitutes were interviewed in a San Francisco study: "Is there anything you needed most and couldn't get?" The response, almost always accompanied by sadness and tears, was unanimous: "What I needed most was someone to listen to me. Someone who cared enough to listen to me."
Theophilus was curious about Jesus and ready to take a risk, even if it meant changing everything about him. Luke listened. The result is the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Curiosity, risk taking, and a person with a listening ear, that’s all it takes to change your world so that you will see Christ like never before. Luke told Theophilus a story with a purpose. And the world has never been the same. Be curious. Take a risk. Find a steady friend who will listen and walk with you in your questions of faith. Amen.