The book of Luke and the book of Acts are both written by the same person, (called Luke, although we don’t really know who he was), and both dedicated to the same person, Theophilus. We don’t know who Theophilus is either, it could be he was a patron of the church. His name is Greek, meaning “friend of God” or “one who loves God”. But it was a popular name at the time for Jewish people to take on as a Greek name. It could be that it’s not meant to be a specific person at all, but is a general dedication, to all those who love God.
On Sunday, my reflection was a supposed letter from Theophilus to Luke. I had seen a letter like this someone else had written and had adapted and re-written it for myself. Here’s the letter I read:
My dear Luke,
Thank you so much for your first book about Jesus- you kept me gripped with a story full of wonder and grace… right from the very beginning with Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem and the shepherds and angels at Jesus’ birth I was enthralled. And then all those stories of healing and miraculous events… but more than anything… it was the person of Jesus who fascinated me… a miracle worker, yes, but I got the impression that his miracles were incidental to the purpose of his life… which was to offer and show us how to live a life that is fully given over to the love of God… I so enjoyed reading the many parables he used to teach his followers , but I think his best teachings were in the way he lived- giving people second chances, welcoming in those that others despised, bring people together over a meal.
I have to say the ending of your book was particularly fascinated with the details you gave of the resurrection and the sightings of Jesus after those mysterious events at the empty tomb… it makes this tale of wonder and grace, even more wonderful and grace-filled!
As you can guess, Luke, I was very excited to hear you were writing a sequel!… and I have been looking forward to it with expectation… I did wonder how this wonderful story could continue after Jesus’ resurrection… and so on receiving your second volume… I was keen to start reading straight away… I had to hold myself back- I have a tendency to read so fast I’m almost skimming the story to find out what happens next! But I know this story isn’t only good reading, but also important words to my faith, so I made myself take a deep breath, and savour the first chapter slowly, which I expected would start off rather slowly…
Imagine then… what it was like to open your second volume and read straight away the story of Jesus departure from among us… My heart skipped a beat as I imagined in my mind his ascension… I had wondered what was going to happen to Jesus ever since the early days of resurrection… it was good to hear an explanation of how he went from being physically in one geographical place, to how all of us followers scattered so far away experience him now- as present with us spiritually.
But an ascension… it’s such a difficult thing to imagine… Just like some of the miracle of your first book, I can’t tell if you are offering a symbolic story here… or outlining the facts… but what I’m guessing is that the way Jesus departed isn’t what you meant to be the important part of the story anyway.
What I think you are saying that it is what is left in Jesus’ place that is important, for the disciples, but also for those of us in the church today. The suggestion of the two men who turn up as the disciples stare into space… as if longing for Jesus to be with them… is beautifully and subtly made.
Though I have to confess… I can imagine how they felt… those poor disciples… having been through so much in your first volume… tying their whole lives and livelihood to Jesus… and then all that was familiar was destroyed in the horror of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, the joy of the resurrection, the wonder of his further teachings in Emmaus and Jerusalem, and then this mysterious ascension
… It must have been quite a blow to them…and then with all the responsibility of carrying on Jesus’ work, but with him not there with them… I can imagine how hard that would be…
So far… I have read but the first chapter… and am looking forward to hearing how the tale will grow… but I imagine that these disciples will discover that even in the absence of Jesus’ physical presence with them, they have been left with more than they imagine, and that this baptism with the Holy Spirit Jesus talks about will remind them that they have many gifts from God with them… a confidence? a hope? I am certain that they will find that they have these gifts… but you know, Luke, my friend, if this tale stays consistent with everything you’ve written, then I bet the biggest gift they will realize continues to be with them is love… a love that has seen all kinds of things… feeding and healing and turning people’s lives around…and a love that promises even more… that God is like a shepherd who will search high and low for one missing sheep, that people as different from us as the Samaritans are actually our neighbours, that true greatness is found in serving one another…
With a love like that to guide them, I can only imagine what is going to happen to this new spiritual movement…Jesus is gone… but it seems he is more alive now… than ever before… I can’t wait to continue reading this story!
Thank you, Luke, for encouraging my faith… with your own… this adventure called The Way is really changing my life- I think my friends and neighbours are starting to notice!