Luke’s gospel is addressed to “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3). The name Theophilus means “lover of God.” Many theories have been proposed, but no one knows for sure who this person is. Some have suggested Theophilus isn’t a specific person, but rather that the name refers to anyone who loves God. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus singled out several women who fit this description and who serve as examples of what it means to follow Jesus.
When Jesus was making his way through a crowd, a woman came up behind him (Luke 8:43–48). She wanted to touch Jesus because she believed he could heal her incurable disease. But anything she touched would be considered defiled because the illness made her ritually unclean.
The woman tried to stay hidden, but Jesus felt her touch and sought her out in the crowd. Instead of rebuking her, he responded, “your faith has made you well; go in peace” (Luke 8:48). For twelve years, people recognized this woman as someone they needed to avoid. But Jesus was not afraid to be close to her, or to call her his “daughter” in front of everyone.
When Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he singled out another woman as an example of devotion (Luke 21:1–4). In contrast to the rich who were depositing large sums in the treasury, this woman was only able to give two small copper coins. As a poor widow, people probably assumed she had nothing to offer. But Jesus recognized her as someone who gave more than anyone else.
When Jesus was invited to dinner in the home of Simon the Pharisee, he was followed by a woman from the city who was known as a sinner (Luke 7:36–50). She must have caused quite a stir among the distinguished religious leaders reclining at the table when she started pouring out perfume, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and kissing him over and over.
Not only did Jesus allow her to continue, but he also singled her out as an example to the men. They only knew her as a sinner, but Jesus saw that she was full of love. We are never told her name, but her actions identify her as a most excellent Theophilus.
How can we recognize disciples of Jesus? Is it by their gender? Their authority? Their training? According to John 13:35, Jesus’ disciples are distinguished by their love. This issue of Mutuality offers many insights into what it means to follow Jesus, and Mimi Haddad’s message at the end reminds us that love is a disciple’s most distinguishing characteristic.