Luke addressed his gospel to “most excellent Theophilus.” The designation “most excellent” points to an individual of status, perhaps the official in Nero’s administration at Rome who is hearing the case that Paul appealed to the emperor (Acts 25:11). Nero’s rule was tyrannical. He had recently murdered his mother. To address such power was a dangerous task.
Nevertheless, Luke boldly speaks the truth (Luke 1:4) to Theophilus. Luke asserts in the birth story that Jesus is Savior (Luke 2:11), a title reserved for the emperor as the savior of the Fatherland, that is, of Rome and its elites. To drive his truth home, Luke includes in his gospel a range of stories that occur nowhere else in the other gospels. These stories illustrate that Jesus is Savior of all, not just the few. In Luke’s gospel the poor and the marginalized matter.
The birth of Jesus in Luke is announced to shepherds, because shepherds matter. The child Jesus is revered by two street people at the temple in Jerusalem because Simeon and Anna matter. Only in this gospel does Jesus interrupt a funeral procession because the widow of Nain matters. Only in this gospel does Jesus commend a good Samaritan and a Samaritan leper who returns to give thanks for healing because Samaritans matter. A sinful woman, a repentant tax collector, a woman who lost a coin, and two unknown disciples on the road to Emmaus experience God’s mercy because they matter. Luke alone tells of a father killing the fatted calf for a prodigal son because even this son matters. The Lukan Jesus speaks of a persistent woman who keeps demanding justice because she matters. And in this gospel alone Jesus says to a criminal being crucified with him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Yes, even a criminal matters. Jesus is Savior of all.
Luke could have spoken the truth about Jesus by simply writing, “Jesus is Savior of all.” But Luke never uses that phrase. Instead, Luke makes the point by invoking the term “Savior” and then telling story after story about those who are marginalized and mistreated but who still matter to the Savior of all.
It is not enough to say that everyone matters. One must also clearly name those despised by the culture, those mistreated, those denied justice, those with a knee to their necks, as people who matter to the Jesus who is Savior of all.
We who follow Jesus do justice to Luke’s stirring portrayal when we do the same. In this moment, our opportunity as Christians is to speak the truth to power and say, “Black lives matter,” and then to work to make it so.