18 October 2011

"Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica, Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me." (vv. 9-11)


Today is the feast day of St Luke the Evangelist, who, according to Christian tradition, is the author not only of the Gospel which bears his name but also of the Acts of the Apostles.

However, there are only three references to Luke to be found in the whole of the New Testament. The first occurs in Paul's letter to the Colossians, where among a series of greetings towards the end of his letter, Paul writes: "Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you" (Colossians 4:14). Again he is included in a list of greetings at the end of the letter to Philemon, along with Mark, Aristarchus and Demas, as Paul's "fellow workers" (Philemon v. 24).

The last one comes here in Paul's second letter to Timothy and by this time it appears that things have changed. Paul now complains that Demas has gone, as have Crescens and Titus too. Only Luke is left, and we can sense that Paul is commending him for his faithfulness, as well as asking for Mark to be sent to him "for he is useful in my ministry" (v. 11).

This second letter to Timothy offers a vision of the apostle Paul towards the end of his life and looking back on his ministry: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (v. 7). But this is not just reminiscence; it's also offered as encouragement to Timothy, a young man whose ministry is just beginning.

And in his word to Timothy, we may just detect a tribute to the ministry of Luke, as he writes: "As for you, always be sober, endure suffering do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully" (v. 5). Luke is not just the evangelist, a teller of good news; for Paul he has also been good news, a faithful colleague and companion on his missionary journeys.

To Ponder

In this letter, Luke appears as someone who stuck around when times got tough. How important is it for us to have faithful companions on our journey? Is this something that others could say of us?

Today we celebrate Luke the Evangelist; how important is it not just to proclaim but also be good news to those around us?

And how can you be good news to those around you?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

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