Friday, May 27, 2011

Luke-The Beloved Physician

Luke, the beloved Physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:14, ESV)

This week we get to examine a snapshot of the life of my favorite bible character, Dr. Luke. Luke is my persoanl favorite second only to Jesus Christ Himself. He is my favorite character for at least five reasons:

  • He left his home and medical practice to enter into the ministry of the gospel with the Apostle Paul
  • He traveled with Paul and faithfully endured the hardships and deprivations right along side of Paul.
  • He took great interest in mentoring, discipling, and confirming a new convert in the gospel of Jesus Christ in two volumes - The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles
  • He willingly served in a leadership capacity when Paul asked him to for approximately 7 years.
  • He was at Paul's side, faithful to the end, when the aged Apostle was beheaded for the gospel
The background of Luke is rather obscure. There are those who think that Luke was from Philippi while there are others who think that Luke was from Antioch of Syria. Most believe Luke to have been a Gentile. While a few believe he was a Jew. There are a few who think he might have been a slave. Many slaves were highly trained and skilled in medicine in order for families to have personal physicans. Tradition tells us that Luke was a proficient painter. It is reported that Luke painted portraits of both Mary and Jesus. Luke seems to have been very modest and humble. 

Paul probably came into contact with Luke initialy because of his profession as a physician. The Apostle certainly had health issues. Tradition tells us he had some sort of eye problem that needed treatment more than once. Paul had been suffering from a severe illness when he was in Galatia. We find Luke attending to and accompanying Paul when Paul arrived in Troas. Throughout the remainder of Paul's life Luke was in frequent contact with Paul. We believe that more than likely Luke treated Paul as a personal doctor.

It is also believed that for Luke to have accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome as a prisoner that Luke had to be a "slave" of Paul in order to have booking on the ship. This of course is speculation.

(The following is an excerpt from "Yokefellows," Pastor John LaVier's book about the companions of the Apostle Paul.)

"Luke joined the other three, Paul and Silas and Timothy, at Troas and is mentioned for the first time in Acts 16:10. This meeting was not happenstance, but most surely providential. In spite of Paul's untiring zeal and arduous labors we are not to think of him as being strong and robust. It was far otherwise, for he was in bodily presence weak and often subject to the infirmities of the flesh. To read the account of his sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-33 is to wonder how he survived at all. But his precious Lord, the One who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, gave him sufficient grace for his need and then in love provided him with a personal physician. That was dear Dr. Luke, a companion whose friendship gave Paul inner strength and whose medical skill contributed to his well-being." 

Luke was also a faithful man of God. Paul established the church at Philippi with Lydia, her household and the Philippian jailer and his household. When it was time to go on, Paul left Luke with the Philippian Church. Luke remained in Philippi for approximately 5 years helping that church and strengthening it. I wonder if that is why this single church was so frequently generous with the Apostle Paul as far as monetary support. Luke probably encouraged them over and over to send support to his beloved friend and companion, the Apostle Paul.

To say that Luke was both medically trained and had a great medical interest would be an understatement. Luke makes mention of a number of illnesses, symptoms, diagnosis, and medical conditions throughout his two volume set of historical writings. He frequently used technical terms that only trained physicians and health care workers would use.

Luke was faithful to the very end of Paul's life. Luke was with Paul throughout Paul's first Roman imprisonment and he was with Paul in the last imprisonment. It was probably during this two year period that Luke wrote his gospel and the historical narrative called the Acts of the Apostle. Even when everyone else had been sent off on assignments or had actually forsaken Paul, Luke was there. Can you catch the pathos in Paul's phrase: "Only Luke is with me." (II Timothy 4:11)

Luke probably walked alongside of Paul holding his hand or arm and talking with the aged apostle while Paul was being walked outside of town to the place where he was beheaded. Luke probably took charge of the body and arranged Paul's burial.

Tradition says that Luke lived a very long and active life. It is thought he died about AD 74,  at the age of 84. This would have been about 6 years or so after Paul's death. It is thought that Luke may have died in Greece.


Seams Inspired said...

I was reading the first chapter of Acts this morning, and it caused me to wonder at what age Luke wrote it. I love how the first line introduces us to his voice, which reminds me of a grandfatherly type. Thanks for giving me some details about his life. Happy Friday! :o)

Crystal Mary said...

Yes and Luke was very astute in how he researched and documented the life of Jesus. He had to get it right, nothing else would do. A wonderful man. I suppose we all have our favourites, mine is John...the Lords cousin. Blessing. Crystal

Michael Wright said...

This is probably my favorite of your biographical posts, yet, probably because I'm partial to Luke, but anyway. Lots of good research here, thanks for making it available to us.

David C Brown said...

We really love Luke because of what we learn in his writings. He appreciated the Lord so much. And he was quite a historian - he knew his politarchs from his asiarchs.

li said...

Great post! One of my all time favorite books was Dear and Glorious Physician (now out of print, I believe), a fictionalized account of Luke.

JD Curtis said...

While battling wits with atheists overat my site (and at others), Luke comes in handy in educating the misguided skeptics that try to put a late date (2nd century or more) on the gospels.

Since Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles and mentions Paul's imprisonment, but does NOT state that Paul is yet deceased, it gives us a fairly fixed timeframe for when Acts was written (the late 60's AD).

Since the Gospel of Luke predates The Acts of the Apostles and it is uniformily agreed that Mark predates Luke, then skeptics are usually left babbling incoherent nonsense when confronted with these facts.