18 October 2016

2 Timothy 4:5-17

“Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 145


Today the Church gives particular thanks to God for the life of Luke, author of one of the Gospels (and Acts of the Apostles), and companion of Paul on many of his journeys.

As Paul went on his missionary trips he didn't just plant churches but raised up and equipped leaders. One of those dearest to him was Timothy. At the beginning of this letter Paul describes him as "my beloved child" (2 Timothy 1:2).

This letter was written towards the end of Paul's life. He was under arrest and suspected he would be found guilty and executed. Despite all this, he did not view his impending death as a failure, rather as an offering to God.

Note the phrase "the time of my departure has come" (v. 6). The word for departure, by which Paul meant his death, is a word used for releasing a beast of burden from its plough; for loosening the ropes of a tent or a ship prior to departure. For Paul, death was to be seen as liberation and the setting off on a new adventure.

It can be easy to skip over the ends of Paul's letters when he lists names of people that mean very little to us. But in these closing verses we see Paul's human side. He has left his cloak behind somewhere else (verse 13) and is maybe now feeling the cold - is this a sign that lost property was an issue for churches even then?!

Not only did Paul crave material possessions, but also companions. Most had left him - some to seek after their own desires, some no doubt sent off by Paul on other missionary activities. In these final days he longed for Timothy and Mark. The only one left with him was Luke, the person whom we celebrate today. Clearly he was not only a skilled author, but a devoted friend. He is described elsewhere as a doctor (Colossians 4:14) who had maybe cared for Paul. As Paul prepared to set sail on his next adventure Luke was one the last companions he had.

To Ponder

  • What qualities do you look for in a companion? What do you feel you offer?
  • Is there a particular image or metaphor for death that you have found most useful? If so, what is it? And how do you find it helpful?

Bible notes author

The Revd Will Fletcher

Will is a presbyter stationed in the Sheffield Circuit. He has oversight of one multisite church (The Beacon Methodist Church) which is spread over three locations in western Sheffield.