As humans, we love superheroes. But what about them keeps us begging for more?
Between the ever-expanding universe of Marvel, the never-ending remakes of Spiderman, and unexpected resurrection of a decades-old series such as The Matrix, it seems as though a new superhero movie is released every week.
What about these movies keeps us spending billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours each year?
Is it our insatiable appetite for action?
It it our desire to see good win in the end?
Is it our longing to believe a greater narrative is at play?
I think it's all of these things and more.
But most of all, I think it's because we want to believe ourselves capable of being like the hero we idolize and doing the things our hero does.
We might never acquire "spidey-senses" or ever fly without wings, but we can be like these heroes in another way; dependence.
Did you know Luke the Apostle wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts?
Yep! Luke was a doctor from the Greek town of Antioch who was likely converted by Paul on the first missionary journeys from Jerusalem.
When Luke heard the Apostles’ stories about Jesus, he was so intrigued that he wanted to investigate the matter himself.
Since Luke didn't become a Jesus follower until after Jesus' death and resurrection, Luke wasn’t an eyewitness to any of Jesus’s ministry. So, Luke took it upon himself to seek out and interview eyewitnesses so that he could write their accounts down for future generations. Compiled together, these accounts make up what we know as the Gospel of Luke.
“1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4 NIV
Pretty cool, right? It get’s cooler. You might have noticed the strange reference in verse 3--”most excellent Theolphilus.” What is that about?
Well, “Theophilus” is most likely a man's name. He is referenced both here in Luke and again at the beginning of Acts.
“1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen..” Acts 1:1-2 NIV
So, who is this Theophilus, and why is he “most excellent?”
Most scholars believe Theophilus to be a Roman dignitary converted by Luke. And “most excellent” isn’t just a title of endearment, it’s actually a status one could obtain in the ancient Roman empire.
Historians believe ancient Roman citizens could become “most excellent” in one of two ways: 1. Earn the title by merit or 2. Purchase the title.
This means Theophilus was either a man of great influence, affluence, or most likely both."
The way in which Luke directly addresses the book of Luke and the book of Acts to Theophilus gives us reason to believe Theophilus was financially supporting Luke’s ministry.
If this is true, these two books--Luke and Acts--which Christians have held dear for centuries, are update letters from a missionary to his donor.
Luke was a hero indeed. Had Luke not made the commitment to seek out the truth and write the accounts down, we likely would not have the books of Luke and Acts. Luke ultimately died sharing the message and hope of Jesus that we read in his Gospel.
Because Luke is Luke, it's easy for us to see Theophilus as his sidekick, but I'd argue Theophilus was just as much a hero as Luke.
Had Theophilus not made the commitment to fund and support Luke’s ministry, we likely would not have the books of Luke and Acts.
Without these two precious documents, humanity would know significantly less about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and relatively nothing about the early Christian church.
And that's a big deal.
We like to think of heroes as someone who can do it all on their own. A larger-than-life character who can lift cars, stop trains, bring justice to an unjust world, and save the day in a seemingly effortless and single-handed fashion.
But that's not what makes a hero.
What makes a hero is the courage to do what's right, the confidence to follow your convictions, and the humility to know you didn't save the day alone.
Batman needs Robin. Neo needs Trinity. The Avengers need each other.
In the same way, Luke needed Theophilus. And Theophilus needed Luke.
The moral of the story is this: God's Kingdom requires all of us.
We are dependent both on God and each other to extend his kingdom here on Earth.
Some are called to be Lukes--the front-line workers in the field. Others are called to be Theophiluses--the ones who leverage their influence and affluence to fund and support others in the field.
None is more important than the other. Each depends on the other.
Neither wear capes, but both are heroes.
The question isn't whether or not you're a hero.
The question is, which kind of hero are you?
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