St. Luke, Evangelist 2020
2 Timothy 4:5-18; Luke 10:1-9
October 18, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Today is the feast day of St. Luke. Most of us know him as the author of the Gospel that bears his name. He diligently prepared both a Gospel account, the history of Christ's work in the flesh before His ascension, and the Acts of the Apostles, the history of Jesus’ continued work among His Church. About 1/3 of the New Testament was composed by Luke as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Luke and his writings are a gift from this Ascended Lord (Eph. 4:8-12), written for Theophilus and for all who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:5-8), so that those who hear and read these accounts have certainty concerning Christ and the things that you have been taught about him. It’s from St. Luke that we hear so many of the beloved accounts of Christ - the traditional Christmas account, the great hymns of the Magnificat, Benedictus, and Nunc Dimittis. It’s in the Gospel of Luke that we hear of the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, Lazarus and the rich man – and from Acts we hear of the early church, the missionary journeys of St. Paul and the spreading of the Gospel around the world.
It’s also fairly well known that St. Luke was a medical doctor and probably a Gentile. St. Paul calls him the beloved physician (Col 4:14). Perhaps very few know that according to tradition, Luke was also the very first iconographer of our Lord. In other words, St. Luke drew the first portrait of Jesus that has become a model for artists even until today. It’s also probably not widely known among Christians that St. Luke was martyred for preaching the Christian faith when he was 84 years old, hence the red paraments around the church today. And yet, Luke’s proclamation of the Gospel continues to this day, as his words are read from lecterns and pulpits in every Christian church in the world, in every language, and on every continent. Luke’s words (which are really God’s Word) ring out, and have rung out, every day around the globe for nearly two thousand years without interruption.
And so we remember St. Luke who was a faithful servant of Christ, a highly educated man, a researcher who could hold his own against any other ancient historian from the Greco-Roman world, a doctor, an artist, and an eloquent writer. According to today’s Gospel text, written by the hand of Luke himself, the Lord commissioned 72 preachers to proclaim the Gospel in advance of the Lord’s coming. It is very possible that Luke was one of these preachers.
This calling went long after the commission of the 72 in Luke 10. Luke proved to be a faithful companion throughout St. Paul's missionary journeys, through many trials and crosses, and even to Rome, where he alone was with Paul. In reading St. Luke’s words, it is often clear to see St. Paul’s influence on the theology of Luke, of his understanding of Christ, but it probably went both ways. It was not until after Paul’s journeys with Luke that Paul began to speak of Christ as the head of His body, the Church, using very physical, medical terms even, to describe this relationship between Jesus and His Church. Eph 4:15-16 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
St. Luke began his work as a medical doctor with the calling of easing pain, of stopping issues of blood, of grasping life itself from the jaws of death – but even in that noble vocation, death always eventually claims the patient. However, the Lord Jesus transforms Luke into a new kind of doctor, who eases the pain of guilty consciences, who gives out the life-giving blood of the Lord, who rescues from death and the grave to give life that never ends. He is called to do the work under the authority, in the stead and by the command of the Great Physician Himself. He presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality.
Some people greet these preachers in peace, in which case the Lord, speaking through the preacher, blesses that home with His peace. He is to heal the sick, and to make an announcement to those who welcome him: “The kingdom of God has come near you.” To those who receive the peace from the preacher who is sent out by Christ, this announcement is good news, but to those who will be judged by the Word of God, held in slavery to sin and entrapped by the devil, under the curse of the law, the preacher’s words proclaim the stark reality of sin unchecked and unforgiven, of divine healing rejected which only leads to impending, eternal death.
The Lord still sends out His preachers to proclaim the Good News, that the kingdom of God has come in God’s very presence in the person of Jesus Christ. The same commission to proclaim Law and Gospel is given to every preacher from the time of the apostles even to our day. We pray that the Lord would raise up such men, to send men out into the world with the Word of Christ where they will be met by sons of peace but also with rejection, lambs sent out among wolves. We pray for Nick Whitney, a child of our congregation, who received his vicarage assignment as he continues to his study and training and formation into a pastor.
And pray that you would receive God’s preachers rightly, with ears of faith, repentant hearts, and mouths to confess Christ. It is the preachers job to declare the kingdom of God is present when and where Jesus comes. When the Law of God is proclaimed, you would repent of your sin, that you would look to the Word of God as guidance and direction in living a holy life of godly virtue and character. When the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed, you receive God’s peace, the peace of God with passes all understanding.
The kingdom of God has come near to you today as Christ the King comes in His Word and Sacrament. Let us receive Him today with thanks and praise.