Scripture for this Sunday: Isaiah 35:3-6; Psalm 147:1-7;
2 Timothy 4:5-17; Luke 10:1-9.
A red-letter day is when a festival overrides the normal provisions for Sunday worship, such as All Saints, or Christmas. Luke, the evangelist (amongst other characteristics) merits a red-letter day.
One and a half millennia later, he would have been called a “renaissance man.” Educated at the prestigious school in Tarsus, apparently qualified as a physician, he became a companion to the Apostle Paul on some of his missionary journeys, and blessed the church at Philippi with his organisational skill. Above all, he is the evangelist who wrote not only the gospel that bears his name, but also the Acts of the Apostles.
His gospel contains portions of narrative, teachings and parables of Jesus that are shared with Mark and/or Matthew, but it has unique aspects that give it its own personality. His stories are often well-told and captivating. The Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are both parables found only in Luke’s gospel, that have captured the popular imagination across the centuries.
The minor altercation between Mary and Martha reflects Luke’s intent on portraying women as legitimate disciples – something quite radical for his time. Almost always, if Luke describes an incident with a male protagonist, it is paired with one that has a female focus.
What seems to be important for Luke is that the gospel is given widely and inclusively: Jesus’ words, “the Kingdom of God has come near,” are addressed to all, but especially the poor and disadvantaged.
Luke’s gospel is seen as the gospel for the Gentiles, and with Acts is also concerned to demonstrate the legitimacy of “The Way,” those who follow Christ, in the civil regime of the Roman Empire.
Above all, for Luke, it was important to record that Jesus was alive and present with the disciples after his resurrection. That is why his account of Jesus on the road to Emmaus was important: Christ disclosing his message on the journey and being made known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread.
Luke, the physician, gives us more stories of the healing miracles of Jesus than the other gospel-writers; yet his gospel is not simply the record of impressive healing incidents of one man in one time and place, but a record of something that can be a healing influence for the world.
What Luke offers to us, through his telling of the story of Christ incarnate and the Holy Spirit active in the early Church, is the promise of healing for the nations, through the good news of the gospel. The kingdom of God has come near: our task is to bring it nearer.
He deserves his red-letter day.