October 18 – Luke

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Luke, witness to Jesus

Luke (‘the beloved physician’)
(Greek: Loukas = luminous, white)

The name Luke occurs only three times in our New Testament (Philemon 24, ‘. . . Demas and Luke, my fellow workers’; Col 4:14, ‘Luke the beloved physician’; and 2 Timothy 4:11, ‘Only Luke is with me’), but authorship of the third gospel (and by association, The Acts of the Apostles) is also attributed to him from early times. Part of the evidence for this claim comes from the ‘we’ passages in Acts 16:20-21 and 27 onwards, describing sea voyages with Paul, where it seems that the author himself suddenly joins the story in Troas. Luke remains with Paul until the end (Acts 28:16 and 2 Timothy 4:11), though he refrains from telling us the sad story of Paul’s death.

Further evidence in support of these connections is given in the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to the Gospel of Luke, containing the following Greek section that may date as early as the second century:

Luke: a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He had become a disciple of the apostle Paul and later followed Paul until his (Paul’s) martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit, he died at the age of 84 years in Boeotia (Greece).

It was Luke’s genius that set the story of Jesus in the wider world of the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1; 3:1) and then continued it into the story of the earliest followers (Acts). He did this in sensitive continuity with the Jewish traditions, yet in a way that rehabilitated Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, as the great missionary who took the Gospel beyond the boundaries of Judea.

We owe to Luke’s research and 2-volume narrative the conceptual and chronological framework for our understanding of the events following Jesus’ death: from Passover to Pentecost, from First Fruits to the full harvest. We also are indebted to Luke’s honesty for our awareness of the considerable tensions between the earliest communities of Jesus-followers (Acts 6:15; and 21, for example), and for his vibrant portrayal of the movement of God’s Spirit amongst diverse ethnic groups — a movement which the Apostles sometimes struggled to comprehend and affirm.

Traditionally, Luke has been the patron saint of artists, physicians, students, teachers and butchers (Feast Day, October 18). Given the particular emphasis of the Lukan tradition, we might also suggest he should be seen today as patron saint of single people, the childless, researchers, historians, and of multi-ethnic communities.

Contributed by Keith Dyer