Thank you, Dr Luke!
1st October 2020
Feast Day 18th October
‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, bless the bed that I lie on’ - my grandma taught me that one. At least it meant I never forgot the names of the writers of the four Gospels. This month Luke, the writer of the third of them, has his feast day – 18th October
He was, we learn from the letters of St Paul, a ‘physician’ - an educated man and probably the only one of the writers of the New Testament who was not a Jew. In modern terms, he was Turkish. Paul took him as one of his missionary team on a long journey around the Middle East, and they clearly became close friends. Under house arrest later in his life Paul could write, ‘only Luke is with me’
However, it is his Gospel which has established him as a major figure in the history of the Christian Church. Mark’s Gospel may have more drama, Matthew’s more prophetic background, and John’s a more profound sense of the mystery of the divine, but Luke offers us a Jesus who is utterly and believably real. This man turned no one away, reserved his harshest words for hypocrites and religious grandees, cared for the marginalised, the poor, the persecuted, the handicapped and the sinful. His Gospel is full of people we can recognise - indeed, in whom we can often recognise ourselves
He was also a masterly storyteller. Try, for instance, the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). Read it (this time) not as a sacred text but as a brilliant piece of story-telling: subtle repetitions (‘your son, this brother of yours’), believable characters, drama and profound emotion. There is the older brother, so cynical about his sibling’s alleged reformation, the ‘prodigal’ himself, so hesitant about throwing himself on his father’s mercy after the folly of his earlier behaviour, and there is the father, of course, abandoning the dignity of his role in the family and actually running to welcome his wretched son’s return
There are more women in Luke’s Gospel than in any of the others, but also more poor people, more lepers, more ‘sinners’ and tax-collectors, more ‘outsiders’ who are shown to be ‘inside’ the love of Christ. This, for many of us, is the great Gospel of inclusion and compassion. Here is a Jesus for the whole world and for every one of us. Thank you, Dr Luke!
Canon David Winter
image courtesy of https://pixabay.com
also published in Parish Life
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