Read Colossians 4:14
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-workers. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philemon 23-25, NLT).
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 290: Luke. Luke is probably the most well-known of Paul’s companions and co-workers. The reason for this is that the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles have been attributed and probably were written by him. Of course, those works are anonymous; however, there is some convincing textual evidence that has been argued in favor of Lukan authorship. Out of all of the missionaries, Luke certainly is the most recognizable.
At the end of Colossians, Paul sent greetings from Luke, of whom he referred to as the beloved doctor or physician. Luke was a gentile man who would have no doubt had some modest wealth as a physician. In ancient Rome, private practicing doctors made anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 sestertii per year. To put that into persepctive, soldiers got paid a measly 900 sesterii a year.
Luke would have received a good education in order to become a doctor and would have been a prolific writer, which can be seen in his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Doctors in the ancient world were known to extensively write and, to this day, we have writings from doctors in the ancient world. When one reads the Gospel of Luke and Acts, one gets the sense that he was a highly educated man. In Luke, he opened his Gospel up with, “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught” (Luke 1:1-4, NLT).
In that introduction, Luke was indicating that he had done his research and was putting together an ordered account for Theophilus, and we can see that he had the approach of a well-educated man who researched, used reason, and history in order to be as accurate as possible. From this introduction, we also gather that he was not an eyewitness to Jesus and that he was drawing from many sources, not just three. How many Gospels were there? We don’t know, but there were multiple accounts circulating, both orally and in written form.
This is the Luke that Paul refers to in our Scripture reading today. He was a fellow co-worker and occasional companion with Paul. He was with Paul in Colossae and he was with Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome as well. No doubt, Luke attended to Paul’s medical needs as well as to his Spiritual needs. He was a man of loyalty and well-respected among the early Christian churches.
Beyond this, we know little more about Luke. In fact, there are two traditions on how he even died. In one tradition, based off of early written accounts, Luke settled in Greece, wrote his Gospel, wrote Acts, and, at the age of 84, he peacefully died in Boeotia. In the other tradition, he was martyered by Nero after being accused of practicing sorcery. In that tradition, Nero cut off Luke’s hand after which Luke performed a miracle by reattaching the hand to his wrist. That miracle caused all of Nero’s cabinet to believe in Christ and, as a result, Nero ordered all of them, including Luke, to be beheaded.
It is hard to really know what is true when it comes to these traditions and, honestly, it doesn’t really change who Luke was either way. Luke is, yet again, another important faithfulness is and how powerful faithful witness can be. Luke’s Gospel emphasized God’s affinity for the “least of these” and how important it was for wealthy people, such as himself, to value God’s Kingdom and human life over and above finances. Luke used his resources to help others, including Paul, and he humbly served and made a huge impact in the development of the New Testament canon and of Christianity itself. In fact, his Gospel and Acts make up one quarter of the entire New Testament.
Luke’s traits should challenge us to grow in our own faithfulness and commitment to being a faithful witness. Evangelism is vital to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ Luke’s example shows us how important that is in ushering the Kingdom of God, where the last shall be first, where the poor shall be rich, and where the the lost and the least shall be welcomed in by a Father (e.g. the Prodigal Son) who is waiting with open, loving arms. Let our commitment to evangelism be renewed and let us continue to grow in our faithfulness.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” – Hudson Taylor
Lord, I love you and praise your holy name. Please give me the strength to be a powerful witness to your Good News and for your Kingdom. Amen.