17 Apr A Doctor-Writer
“I’m closing up shop. Please see another physician,” said Dr. Luke and walked away on the dusty streets of a town in Western Asia Minor, while his patients wondered why.
“I think he’s joined this new Jewish sect called Christianity,” guessed one of them. “Yes, I saw him listening to a preacher who has come to our town,” added another.
Come; let’s see where this doctor goes . . .
He follows Paul, the travelling emissary.
But we don’t see him preaching sermons; nor do we see him healing the sick “in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth”, or casting out a demon. He was neither among the twelve chosen by Jesus, nor even among the seven appointed later. What work did he do, then? Little is known about him expect what Paul describes him in Colossians as ‘the beloved physician’ and in Philemon as one of his faithful ‘co-workers’. While Paul awaited his execution in Rome, he writes to Timothy in his last epistle “Only Luke is with me.” From being one of Paul’s Gentile converts, Luke went on to be his constant companion till the end. From these few verses about him, we realize he was no ordinary man either. In fact, he is the only Gentile to have his writings included in the NT. His two volume Luke-Acts work comprises a quarter of the NT!
His medical services would now have become useful to a healer – Paul! While he travelled with Paul, who received beatings and stoning wherever he went with the Gospel, Luke must have used his bandages and balms for him. What a comfort this “beloved physician” must have been to Paul! “I know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me” said Paul to the Ephesian elders on leaving them (Acts 20:23); but his ‘faithful co-worker’ a compassionate, travelling doctor would surely have been a great support to him.
But more than practising medicine, we see him writing, and writing meticulously. See him accompanying Paul even on his last trip to Jerusalem. He must have talked extensively with people who were eyewitnesses of Jesus, studied others’ writings about Him, and then put it together in an orderly account himself, for Theophilus. The only mention of Theophilus in the Bible is as the recipient of the works of Luke. Was he an individual? Or did Luke direct his works to everyone who loves God? (Theophilus in Greek means ‘one who loves God’). In any case, Luke states he is doing it with the noble purpose that Theophilus would be certain of the truths he had learnt about the Christian faith. He begins writing his gospel this way –
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Though there were many already writing, Luke didn’t think “What difference will my writing make?” Rather, he went and interviewed every person associated with Jesus, whoever was available to share their first-hand experiences with Him, and carefully noted down each detail that he considered important. “I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning” (The Message Version). This is what makes a good writer – to verify our content as true and then present is as reliable. Being accurate in minute details makes us excellent and therefore trustworthy.
While Paul was imprisoned in Judea for two years, Luke may have used the time to gather more information for the early part of the book of Acts, and the latter part while accompanying Paul, even till Rome where he was under house arrest. Luke entered the scene so quietly, one wouldn’t easily notice in Acts 16:10 a small “we” as Paul starts off his second missionary journey. But the detailed account of the spread of the early church and the lives and works of the first missionaries gives us sources that are dependable for our faith, and motivating for our missions. Luke is nowhere in the spotlight himself. But God used this humble historian to be one of the writers of the Holy Scriptures, and he became a great blessing to all generations to follow, through his writing.
A few years back, a young boy in Bihar picked up a piece of paper from the roadside. It had the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15 – the only gospel where it is recorded) and found it similar to his own life. He later went to a church, heard a sermon based on the same passage, and accepted Christ as his Saviour. He is now actively involved in ministering to others. See the impact of Luke’s efforts even after 2000 years?
Written works will remain even after we don’t. John Huss was burnt to death in 1415 A.D. for opposing false practices of the Roman Catholic Church. But his precious writings stood the test of fire: they were read almost a century later by Martin Luther in a library while he did his doctorate in theology. The Protestant Reformation resulted.
When we write for God, who can say how far it would go, and what it would achieve? There may be many a ‘Theophilus’ today, who love God, and wait to read and learn more about Him. Why not we make a record of what God teaches us from the Scriptures, and pass it on for the benefit of others!` May we, like Luke, ascertain the facts we want to write about, carefully put together our material, and be a blessing to all who will read it. Then our readers will ‘know the certainty of the things they have been taught’ and glorify God.
UESI Staff based in Nagpur