St. Luke the Physician and Evangelist – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistLuke 4:14-21

Today we remember with thanksgiving one of Jesus’ twelve Apostles named Luke.  Luke was odd-man-out. Luke was not a Jew and, unlike most, he was educated. His home was likely Antioch, capital of Syria. Some historians conjecture he was educated in Tarsus, in what is now southern Turkey. Tarsus was the foundation of a famous medical school, and also the home town of St. Paul, with whom Luke became a devoted friend. Paul writes from prison just before he was executed: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course… Only Luke is with me.”[i] Luke also knew Peter, the Apostle. When it comes to the writing attributed to Luke, it is the most eloquent Greek of the New Testament, and it is revealing what Luke notices and records. Of the four Gospel writers, only Luke remembers that Jesus began his public ministry talking about healing.[ii]

As a physician, Luke would have practiced his vocation with a combination of science, experience, intuition, and bedside manner, then as now. The medical arts. Tradition has it that Luke may also have been an artist; he certainly was a wordsmith. Like no other writer in the New Testament, Luke describes with fascinating, picturesque detail the angels’ Annunciation to the Virgin Mary; the Visitation to her kinsfolk, Elizabeth and Zacharias[iii]; the Nativity scene with the Shepherds; Jesus’ Presentation at age 12 in the Temple; the Good Shepherd searching for the  lost sheep.  These and many other scenes, particularly about the poor, are described by Luke in the Gospel attributed to him and in the Acts of the Apostles.  Luke’s descriptions have become inspired, inspiring themes of artists, writers, and preachers down through the centuries.[iv]  If Luke did not paint with pigment, he surely painted with words.

On the one hand, it is no surprise that Luke the physician would understand Jesus first-and-foremostly as a healer. In first-century Palestine, there was so much suffering caused by disease, poverty, fear, injustice, prejudice, and persecution. But why Luke? Why, as an upper-crust Gentile, was Luke so broad in his sympathies for the poor, so compas­sionate toward the outcasts of society, so self-effacing, so loyal to those whom he loved? Why was Luke such a tenacious follower of the Great Physician, this Jesus? Luke’s storytelling is surely autobiographical.  Luke himself sorely needed the healing that Jesus promised: about binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, comfort to those who mourn.…23…[v]  Clearly, Luke was a strong and gifted person; he was also a person in need.

Luke the physician and Apostle gives us witness to several things:

  1. Our need for healing: body, mind, or spirit. You can be very well physically, but in absolute agony because of a broken heart or an imprisoned soul.  Jesus promises us he will bind up our broken hearts, set us free, and heal us from the inside out.
  2. All healing is God’s healing. Use the channels for wellness that you find inviting and accessible. All healing is God’s healing.
  3. What the church calls “the paschal mystery”: out of death comes life. It is possible to be very sick in body, even dying, and to be healing up in one’s soul.  Earlier this week I spoke with someone who is quite near death, and, paradoxically, he has never been so well: so full of gratitude, amazement, wonder, freedom.  So we pray for healing, in whatever form it may come.  Always pray for healing, and then look for it.

There’s so much we don’t know about Luke’s story, which is true for all of us.  Luke remembers Jesus’ promise to heal us, a healing that Luke claimed for himself.  Luke’s written testimony, remembered down through the centuries, is an encouragement for us for healing and hope.

Blessed Luke, whom we remember today.

[i] 2 Timothy 4:7-11; see also Philemon 24.

[ii] Luke 4:14-21; see also Acts. 10:38.

[iii] Because of the Visitation to Zacharias, a priest and the father of John the Baptist, St. Luke its always represented by a calf or ox, the sacrificial animal.

[iv] A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke (1902) by British scholar Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), sometime Master of University College, Durham.

[v] Quoting from Isaiah 61:1-3.

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  1. Judy Hunter on October 18, 2023 at 09:17

    Thank you for a wonderful reminder of who Luke was. I am thankful that he was a follower of Christ and that his writings compose part of the New Testament. Thank the Lord for Luke and his dedicated following of Christ and his recording of Christ’s life on earth.

  2. Bill Palmer on October 18, 2023 at 08:32

    Br. Curtis, Thanks you for reminding me that today is the feast day of St. Luke, physician and disciple of Jesus. I’ll consider that a sign as I take my wife for a consultation with a neurosurgeon this morning. I welcome prayers for Carolyn’s healing and for our trust, both in those who minister to her and, above all, in the Great Physician.

  3. Dee Dee on October 18, 2023 at 07:22

    I needed this today and will carry these words with me. Especially the list at the end. Thank you, Br. Curtis, for teaching me more about the apostle Luke and his beautiful words about Jesus’ ability to heal.

  4. The Rev. William Winston on October 18, 2021 at 17:08

    Thanks for this, Curtis. I always really appreciate your good work and keen insight. Though an Evangelist rather than one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Luke brings such a perfect Gentile, feminine, worldwide balance to the Gospel as the counterpart to St. Matthew’s focus on the Jewish roots and masculine orientation. And, certainly, living through a pandemic, St. Luke’s patronage of all physicians and other health care workers becomes powerful and poignant as we see so many needless deaths of those who eschew science and so many magnificent victories as the virus fades. And there are so many other blessed areas of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation that flow from St. Luke’s inspiring episodes of faith & healing.

    Oh, and happy birthday to Br. Luke.

  5. Kitty Whitman on October 18, 2021 at 06:42

    Your lessons are so meaningful to me, so succinct and inviting. There is always a little extra room for each of us to join in your own journey to wholeness through your written pondering and teachings. All of life seems to be about this journey—I am grateful to have travel companions like you. Thank you

  6. laurel alexander on October 18, 2019 at 18:24

    Thank you

  7. Laurel Alexander on October 18, 2019 at 18:22

    Thank you for this on Luke.. I needed t his today, came to me perfectly. God is Good

    • Rev. Ann Trousdale on October 19, 2021 at 07:09

      The writer of the Gospel according to Luke gives such a powerful portrayal of Jesus, giving us incidents not included in the other Gospels that it does indeed seem that he or she must have known and accompanied Jesus personally. Some scholars think that the writer must have known Mary and shared Mary’s experiences and insights. As William Winston noted above, Luke was a great evangelist if not one of the 12.

  8. Jeanne DeFazio on October 18, 2019 at 10:50

    This message was so timely. Thanks and God bless you!

    • Elin on October 18, 2021 at 08:21

      Thank you and God bless

  9. Harriet on October 18, 2019 at 07:11

    Healing in mind and soul is paramount in my personal health. After years of being burdened with depressions and ill feelings, I have been healed—through traditional medicine—of my ailments. Let us say, they are under control with medicine. It has been a God sent relief. And Jesus has healed my soul through prayer and study and time—lots of time. Nothing has been instantaneous; but I am relieved. To people who are suffering, I say relax in the God filled moment. Pray for help and accept it. Jesus heals today as he did in biblical times.

  10. Roderic Brawn on October 18, 2019 at 05:15

    I need healing. I am waiting for a place in the queue to get a hip replacement. I have some PMR. These ailments have slowed my pace. I am healing because I have more time to contemplate in the context of my reduced mobility. Living in Ontario, Canada I will get the hip replacement I need marvelously free of individual cost to me. Still, the wait heals my soul.

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