BEHIND THE SCENES WITH LUKE, THE HUMBLE WISE MAN
Paul again! This is my last Sunday. I told you last week that I was going to talk about Luke today. I know I gave you a preview with the doctor joke that very few understood. Dr. Luke would have been disappointed. Sometimes doctors are the only ones who understand doctor jokes. Let’s try this one. An ancient Roman walks into an ancient McDonalds and holds up two fingers and says, “I want five lamb burgers please!” If you didn’t get the joke, try this: he crosses his fingers and says he wants ten lamb burgers.
Luke was a doctor. I was happy he was a doctor. I was happy he was my doctor. I had that thorn in my flesh that I spoke about in my Second Letter to the Corinthians. More about that later.
I don’t know if you find the following comparison interesting or not because it is to me. When Jesus was about to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, as he traveled to the house of Jairus he met a woman who had an issue of bleeding. Mark reported it like this: “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Mark makes it sound that the doctors who treated her didn’t heal her and yet made her poor by charging her a lot of money. Luke says it a little differently. He said, “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.” He doesn’t seem to attack the doctors. Doctors too can heal only so far as God allows.
Luke too was used by God not only as a doctor but as a scientist, researcher, historian, apologist and even a creationist. I was happy to know him as a fellow saint in Christ, a traveling companion and missionary.
Luke was the only Gentile or non-Jew who contributed any books to the Bible. In fact he wrote two books, the Gospel known by his name and the book of Acts. It is like the sequel of his Gospel. I mentioned him in three letters I wrote, the letters to Philemon and the letter to the Colossians. They were written when I was imprisoned the first time in the city of Rome. He was also the only one with me when I was imprisoned the second and final time there. He was loyal to the end.
You ask how can a man’s name not be mentioned but three times in the Bible when he wrote two rather substantial books of the Bible? Well, it’s true. But let me tell you something interesting. In the book of Acts, written by Luke, he recounts the missionary journeys that I took with Barnabas and John Mark – the first one. He also recounts the second missionary journey and third too. Just notice when you read the book of Acts when he switches the pronoun from “they” to ‘we.” For example, on the second missionary Journey Timothy, Silas and I were prevented by God from entering Ephesus, Mysia and Bithynia. All the while God wanted us to go into Europe. At Troas he quits referring to the team as “they” and starts to refer to the team as “we” and “us”. Why? He joined the team as we entered into Europe. He does that a couple of other times in his book. Next time you read the book of Acts, pay attention to that.
But let me tell you something. The fact that he never refers to himself by mentioning his name says a lot about Luke. He was a humble, humble man. Yes, he was a doctor, but he didn’t flaunt himself or his title. He had a great God-given intellect but remained a humble about it.
But, then, it doesn’t make any difference what anyone’s intelligence quota is, we all sin before our God. What is there to boast about? The intelligent person might be at times a bit more clever in his sins; he might be able to disguise them, but never from God.
Jesus once said, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” If we think we are hotshots and better than those around us and spend time looking down on everyone, how can we look up to Jesus? Hey, be honest, we are all beggars before God.
I got to know Luke as a doctor, scientist, researcher, historian and creationist. I liked being around Luke. He was well-educated and interesting. Luke was my beloved doctor. Now he didn’t graduate from Emory or Duke, but no one became a doctor easily. He was well educated, and he helped me. I told you about that thorn in the flesh I had. I asked the Lord three times to remove it from me. His answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, God said “no” but with the promise that he would sustain me
Not only was it the thorn in the flesh, but also the floggings, the imprisonments, the shipwrecks, the stonings, the forty lashes I received five times, the beatings by rods, the sleepless nights, the long periods of times without food and the constant pressure that Satan made sure I bore. It takes a toll on the body, but I am convinced that God sent a doctor, Dr. Luke, to sustain me.
Doctors and health professionals of every sort are God’s gifts. Appreciate those gifts for you. The good Lord works through them. To be such a one is a high calling in life, but remember, if you do become a doctor or a nurse or something else, your license will expire and be useless in heaven.
As a doctor Luke was concerned about science. He recorded things in a scientific way. He shares with us what went into writing the books that God used him to write. The Gospel of Luke begins, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” The book of Acts begins, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” He wrote the books for Theophilus and from him they were shared with people for all time.
He investigated and he recorded like someone does to become a doctor. He spent time with eyewitnesses. He wrote down what they said. Luke has the most thorough account of Jesus’ birth. Pastor Zahn says Luke 2 is the most loved account of Jesus’ birth. Luke investigated and wrote about the census of Caesar, the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem that Mary and Joseph made. He wrote about the problem of not finding a room. He wrote about the birth in a stable and a manger for The Savior’s bed. He tells how Mary pondered these things in her heart. It sounds like he interviewed Mary herself.
Another story only Luke records occurs on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Two disciples of Jesus lived in Emmaus and were returning home and Jesus who is disguised shows up and walks with them for seven miles so they don’t recognize him. He opened up the Scriptures to them. When they arrived in Emmaus Jesus revealed himself to them. You know the story! I wonder if he interviewed those two. That’s what Luke did. He interviewed real people who were there and recorded what they said for posterity.
Pastor Zahn told me that a scholar by the name of Sir William Ramsay said that Luke’s preciseness and accuracy impressed him so much and was very influential in leading him to believe in Jesus. Ramsay wrote, “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect to its trustworthiness.” Later he added “Luke….should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Let me add one more point here. I hope you follow me on this. When Luke said, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” I know that is how in your language that was translated, but there is a phrase that could be translated differently. When he speaks about the people who left their record of events of Jesus’ life, “just as they were handed down to us by those who “from the first” were eyewitnesses, the phrase “from the first” could also be translated “from above.”In other words, they knew they were being used by God who is above to be witnesses. Luke, in other words, would be verifying something we all know. What he wrote and others wrote came from God. In other words, “All Scripture (both Old and New Testament) is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Let me make still another point that makes Luke’s books so important. He wrote them as a defense of Christianity. You call it Christian apologetics. He makes an unmistakable claim that Christianity is legitimately the only true religion in the world.
He makes the point that when Jesus was still here, those who opposed him the Jewish leaders. Even pagan rulers mentioned in Luke’s books couldn’t find anything wrong with the Christian faith. Pilate, a pagan Roman leader, tried to defend Jesus. Yeah, he was spineless and let the Jews have their way, but he gave up because he just got tired of arguing with knot headed people. Luke records in Acts how I faced Felix, Festus and Agrippa and didn’t find me guilty of anything but loving Jesus. In other words pagans, who were more objective than Jews didn’t understand the hatred that Jews had for Jesus’ followers. Even today, what is the unbelievers’ rationale for hating God’s people?
He begins the book of Acts by writing, “After his suffering, (Jesus) presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” He records other miracles like the miracle Pentecost when the Spirit came so miraculously to the people of Jerusalem. Both believer and unbeliever heard and saw the wind and tongues of fire and the different languages the disciples spoke. Luke points out the change that took place in the disciples after Jesus rose from the dead. Prior to his resurrection they went from cowardly deserters to after the resurrection an irrepressible army of witnesses for Jesus. Why did Stephen and James die confessing Jesus to the end?
If you doubt God or if you feel skeptical, Luke would challenge you to read and study what he wrote and what others wrote who were inspired by the Holy Spirit like he was.
One last point! As I already said, Luke was a doctor and a scientist. He had no problem believing that the God whom he believed in was capable of doing whatever he desires to do. In fact, he quoted a sermon I gave in Athens where I said, “(God) himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” He even believed in Adam and Eve and God’s creation just the way God said it in the Torah, in Genesis. He was a doctor, a scientist, a researcher, missionary and apologist and even a creationist.
Like Barnabas and Silas and Timothy and Lydia and John Mark, remember Luke too and the outcome of his life and imitate his faith.
Thanks for listening the last few weeks. See you in heaven. Shalom.