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A Composite Portrait Of A Remarkable Man

II Timothy 4:11, Colossians 4:14, Psalm 1:24

If I were to ask you to name for me the one person who wrote more of the material in the New Testament than any other single writer, my guess is that you would answer Paul or, perhaps, John. You would be wrong. The person who wrote more of the New Testament than any other single writer was actually Luke. You see, Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke, but also the book that we know as the Act of the Apostles. And when you take Luke and Acts together, they comprise more than one-fourth of all of the material in the New Testament. And when you take them together, they play an incredibly pivotal role in our understanding of the life of Jesus Christ, and the founding of the church of Jesus Christ.

Now, ironically enough, while Luke tells us much about Christ and about Christ’s church, he tells us nothing about himself. All we know of Luke can be found in just 10 words, 10 words lifted out of 3 of the Letters of Paul. I would contend, however, that those 10 little words give us a composite portrait of this remarkable man. Further, I would contend that those 10 words give us a clear picture of how we are to live for Christ in our world today. And therefore, right now, I would like to invite you to look with me at those 10 words. 

Words one and two: beloved physician.

Now you may remember that Paul, frequently at the end of his letter, liked to make references to specific individuals. And at the end of his Colossian Letter, he writes, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.” Paul describes Luke with two words: beloved physician. Look closely. Physician. Obviously, Luke was a doctor, but also, obviously, Luke was engaged in a great mission enterprise for the Lord. Now what does that tell you about Luke? I want you to remember, please, that then as now, a doctor’s career was terribly demanding and required specialized training and skills. Then as now, a doctor would always be at the beck and call of the sick and the needy. And therefore, it would have been very easy and entirely justifiable for Luke to have said, “Now look, I am way too busy tending to the needs of the sick to do anything big for the Lord.” Luke never said that. Luke, you see, never drew a distinction between what he did for a living and what he did for the Lord. He never separated his sacred faith from his secular work. That’s an important principle for us to learn, and to remember. He never drew a distinction between what he did for a living, and what he did for the Lord.

How can I ever forget visiting the Presbyterian Hospital in Gwangju, Korea? There, I was taken to the operating room in order to participate in what is standard surgical procedure in that great hospital. In the operating room, on the operating table, there was a woman about to have serious surgery for cancer. However, before the anesthetic was administered, all of us in the operating room—the surgeons, the anesthesiologist, the nurses, the aides, the patient, and I—all joined hands and all prayed. Only then did the operation begin. Doctor Luke would have understood that and appreciated it. Because, you see, Luke never drew a distinction between what he did for a living and what he did for the Lord. He was just as comfortable with the practice of prayer as he was with the practice of medicine. There’s a note for us to take for our own living. We are never, never, to separate our faith from our work. We are never to draw a distinction between what we do for a living and what we do for the Lord.

But Paul called Luke, “beloved physician.” He added that second word. I want you to understand something. That word, beloved, applied to Luke was very telling. It meant that Luke was more than just a doctor. You see, that word beloved refers not to pills, but to people. Not to techniques, but to relationships. You do not become beloved simply by wielding a scalpel and distributing medication. There is something more here. Luke obviously was one who chose to make his work an act of glorification to God, and an act of blessing to people. You see, he dealt with people not only in terms of their physical needs, but also their spiritual needs. He worked with people for their good, but also for their Christ. He was more than just a doctor, and it’s all captured in that lovely little word, beloved.

I looked it up. That word appears in the Bible a number of times, and usually, it refers to a relationship: beloved brother; beloved sister; beloved friend. This is the only time in all of the Bible where that word is used to describe a job. Isn’t that amazing? Obviously, Luke was one who worked in such a way that he could bring glory to God, and blessing to other people. There is a lesson in that for our own living. See, you don’t have to be just an accountant, just a salesperson, just a teacher, just a homemaker, just a business executive. You can be something more. You can be beloved. You can resolve to yourself that you are going to take and use your work, your calling, your vocation, to influence other people for good and for Christ, to help shape other people’s lives, to encourage other people to become what God means for them to be. That was the glory and the genius of the life of Doctor Luke. That’s why Paul called him, I think, beloved physician.

Now look at words three, four, and five: my fellow worker.

The shortest book in the New Testament is Paul’s Letter to Philemon. It’s just one little chapter long, and at the end of that chapter, Paul lists Luke as one of his fellow workers. Now I want us to understand that when Paul used the word worker here, he meant it quite literally. You see, Paul and the others were not just missionaries who were being supported by a church or a denomination. No, quite the contrary. They had to ply their trade every day, whatever that trade happened to be, while they were also engaged in their missionary effort, in order to make ends meet. It was hard work, and so therefore, when Paul calls Luke, “my fellow worker,” he was letting us know that Luke was not just an honorary member of Paul’s missionary team. No, he was a worker with a hard job to do. Now, what is truly amazing here when you stop to think about it, is that these words written by Paul are the only praise Luke ever received for all of his effort. Paul said, “my fellow worker.” That’s it. I want you to make a note about that. You see, in our own living, we ought to be, I think, people who are like Luke, who work for the sheer joy and pleasure of the Lord. Not for any praise, or gratitude, or reward we might receive, or might not receive, along the way.

Anyone who has ever visited the country of Denmark knows the work of the great sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen. Thorvaldsen’s works, for the most part, reside now in his native Denmark. However, most of Thorvaldsen’s actual work was done in Italy, where he could acquire the great blocks of marble that he required to fulfill his artistic creation. On one occasion, Thorvaldsen had carved this immense, magnificent statue, and he ordered it packed up and crated for shipment back to Denmark. Now, the workers who packed that immense statue in the crate used a kind of thick grassy straw that was readily available in Rome. That straw became the packing for this huge statue that would hold it in place during shipment. In Copenhagen, when the statue was un—crated, the workers there took this straw, and there was a lot of it. They took this straw, and they used it for mulch wherever it was needed. What they did not know was that that straw contained tiny seeds, which has been carried on the winds of Rome. And as a result, the next spring, wherever the workers had spread that mulch, suddenly, surprisingly, but so beautifully, the flowers of Rome began to bloom along the streets of Denmark.

I want to suggest to you that Luke’s life was like that. He never received acclaim and attention. Paul and Peter, they got all of that. The only praise Luke ever received was Paul called him, “my fellow worker.” And yet, I believe, that as Luke moved up and down and around the Mediterranean world, wherever he went, the flowers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ began to grow and to bloom, surprisingly, suddenly, but also beautifully, wherever he went. There’s a lesson there for us in our living. We are called to be the servants of Christ, yes. We are called to be fellow workers with Christ, who quietly, lovingly, faithfully, in every way, in every day, speak and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is by so doing that the beauty of the message of our Lord is spread into the world. I actually think that’s what Paul was calling us to realize when he said of Luke, “he is my fellow worker.”

Now, words 6, 7, 8, 9, 10: only Luke is with me.

Those words come at the end of 2 Timothy, chapter 4, the eleventh verse. I actually believe that they are the most touching and beautiful words of them all. You see, at this point in time, Paul was in prison in Rome. He was under the sentence of death. This was a tough time for Paul, a tough time for any Christian carrying the name of Jesus. All around Paul, Christians were being mauled by wild animals in the arena, or they were being tied to stakes and set on fire in order to light up Roman garden parties, for Heaven’s sake. It was a tough time for anyone carrying the name of Jesus. And Paul notes that during this tough time, those who had been with him were gone, disappeared, even deserted him. “Only Luke,” he said, “Only Luke is with me.” Only Luke stayed. Only Luke was loyal to the end. Only Luke remained faithful to Christ, and faithful to Paul, to the uttermost. Only Luke. There is something incredibly beautiful about those words, isn’t there? Only Luke is with me.

If you stop to think about it, it’s really easy, as a matter of fact, to live the Christian life when everything is good, when the tides of the faith are running at the flood. It’s easy. I want to say this, and I make no apology for saying it. I want the Christian faith to be the dominant faith in the world. I want churches filled to overflowing. I want people won to faith in Jesus Christ. I want Christian beliefs to be accepted by society. But I know something. It’s easy. Maybe, maybe, it’s even too easy, to be a Christian in circumstances like that. Paul understood. Oh, yes. You remember earlier in his life when he was in Ephesus, he tells us that the amphitheater in Ephesus was crowded with people who came to hear him preach. The gospel message fell on eager, receptive ears. Christianity was booming in popularity and at that point in time, Paul was surrounded by friends. That’s when Mark, and Demas, and Aristarchus and all of the rest of them were with him. But later on, when the going got tough, when Paul was in jail, when hope seemed dim, the others were gone, only Luke was left. Only Luke.

I don’t think I need to tell you this. This is a tough time to be a Christian in this world, and this is a tough time to be a Christian even in this country. Carrying the name of Jesus now carries a rising cost. If you doubt that, then let me urge you to get and to read Franklin Graham’s new book called The Name. He makes the case overwhelmingly. There is one paragraph in the book that I found particularly potent. Listen. “Jesus is gentle, but He is not weak. He loves the sinner, but He’s absolutely intolerant of sin. He is not a negotiator. He is Lord. It is this bristling truth that invites intolerance towards Christians. Jesus did not say, ‘Do your own thing. All roads lead to God.’ That would have made Jesus politically correct, but Jesus is not politically correct. He is Lord.”

Yes. He is Lord. He is the true Lord. He is the only Lord. He is the Lord of all other Lords. He is Lord. And what Jesus, the Lord, wants to know from you and me today, is not will we be with Him when it’s easy to live the Christian life, and when we can worship God as we please. No. What Jesus, the Lord, wants to know from you and from me today is will we stand true and strong with Him when the going gets tough, and when it costs us something to carry His name. Will we stay true, strong, loyal, faithful, to Him and to Him alone, even when we seem to be alone, or at least when we seem to be in the minority, and when it seems that hope is dim? Will we stand with Christ to the end?

I think that is why the words of Paul cut so cleanly to my heart, and speak so clearly to our living: only Luke is with me. Just 10 words. That’s all we know of Luke. Those 10 words do give us a composite portrait of a remarkable man who lived for Christ. 10 words. If only we would begin today to live like Luke. If only…

 

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