OK…here’s a little quiz. If you had to choose your favorite parable from Jesus, what would it be? How about your top two? Got them in mind? Now, magically, I will read your mind: The Prodigal Son…and the Good Samaritan.
How’d I do? Even irreligious people have heard the stories of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. In fact, those phrases have made it into everyday language. The Prodigal Son may be the quintessential expression of the grace of God. The image of that proud Jewish patriarch running across the field to welcome home his wayward son…that is the supreme expression of God’s love for us, even in our waywardness.
Now…where do you think you find those two masterpieces? The gospels, yes. But actually…only one. Only one gospel contains those two precious gifts from the lips of Jesus. The gospel of Luke. Aren’t you grateful that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of our gospels, stirred the heart of a Gentile doctor named Luke? Inspired him to do his research, talk to the eyewitnesses and then write his own account of the story of Jesus Christ. And don’t you imagine when one of the disciples told him the story of the Prodigal Son that Luke thought to himself, “How in the world did Matthew and Mark leave that one out!”
I love Luke’s gospel. It is the work of a careful researcher, a historian who examined all the evidence carefully and then wrote his two-volume work describing the life and ministry of Jesus (Luke) and the history of St. Paul and the early church (Acts.) He dedicated these two works to the same person: Most Excellent Theophilus. This was probably a pseudonym meant to disguise the identity of a prominent Roman leader who was interested in the story of Jesus…but maybe not quite ready to reveal his identity.
Interestingly, the name “Theophilus” means, literally, “lover of God” or “friend of God”. And surely, by the time he was done reading Luke’s beautiful and carefully crafted gift, he was more “a friend of God” than ever he had been.
Tomorrow morning, we launch a year-long sermon series on this epic masterpiece, the gospel of Luke. My hope…my prayer…is that at the end of that time, you, too, will be more of a friend of God than ever before. And when you read gems like the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan…well, how can you help yourself?
I can’t wait to dive in! See you Sunday. And bring a friend.
P.S.—I pause to note, with deep regret, the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I can think of no other historical figure who better exemplified enduring faithfulness than this woman and her 70-year reign as sovereign of the United Kingdom. Her deep, genuine, and boldly declared faith in Jesus rooted her life and her reign. May she rest in peace.