St. Luke, Evangelist (observed on Pentecost 20, a) October 17, 2020
Luke 1: 1-4
1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
In the Name of Jesus.
Ours is a world of doubt, of uncertainty. Our Lord gives us certainty.
The things we see around us, the chaos, the violence, the hatred of neighbor against neighbor, the failure of public servants who often times serve themselves—it all drives us to uncertainty.
We’re driven to uncertainty by conversations with friends afraid of what tomorrow brings, with loved ones searching for permanence in a shaky world.
We are driven to uncertainty in our own conscience—the voice of God’s Law accusing us and standing us before the face of God empty.
In this, Jesus gives us certainty.
On the Church calendar, this is the Day of St. Luke the Evangelist. When he writes his account of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, Luke states the purpose:
It seemed good to me, … having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Certainty. Certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
A quick word about Luke, about who he was. Luke was not an Apostle. He was not one of those twelve men who were Jewish, who lived in the towns around Jerusalem, whom Jesus appointed as Apostles.
According to Church history, Luke was a gentile. He would’ve been from a Greek city called Antioch, in the area we today call Turkey.
According to Church history, he was probably brought to the faith by Paul as Paul was traveling throughout the Greek lands, and, as a doctor, Luke may have even helped Paul by attending to his illnesses.
So Luke’s Gospel is a little different.
We have the Matthew, Mark, and John Gospels—and they were all good Jews. Circumcised, brought up around the synagogue, knowing the ceremonial law of Moses, Matthew, Mark, and John all write from, what we might call, an Israelite perspective. And their style of writing follows that—more poetic at times, more circular, sometimes hard for us to follow.
Luke’s Gospel is different. More Greek. More logical, more straightforward with regard to keeping dates in order and following the historical timeline of Jesus’ travel to the cross. We might even say, if we had never read a Gospel account of Jesus, maybe the first one we should start with should be Luke, since he comes from the Gentile world and his Gospel might fall in line better with what would make sense to us.
So, after Matthew writes his Gospel and then Mark his, along comes Luke to write a Gospel to go out into the Gentile world.
It’s the same Gospel, of course, the same history of a Man named Jesus, crucified outside Jerusalem to take away the sin of the world. But anyone reading the Gospel accounts can see that the Holy Spirit used different men to give the account in somewhat different ways.
So, Luke writes his Gospel. He writes it, in the first case, to Theophilus, a Greek name meaning, One-who-loves-God. But in the second case, the Gospel is written for all those who follow, for us and our families, the Holy Spirit having Luke’s Gospel, along with Matthew’s and Mark’s and John’s to be circulated and read throughout all the churches.
And the Gospel is written to Theophilus “so that you may know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.” [Luke 1:4]
Who had instructed Theophilus? We don’t know. Probably Paul. Maybe one of Paul’s students. Also, Theophilus had surely heard the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark.
But however that took place for Theophilus, Luke will leave him in no doubt of the Gospel in which he has been instructed.
The Gospel is certainty.
What is this certainty Luke writes of to Theophilus, this certainty which our Lord Jesus wants us to have?
It is the certainty that the Name of Jesus is holy and his mercy is for those who fear him. [Luke 1:50]
It is the certainty that in looking upon Jesus, you are looking upon your salvation, a salvation which is a light for all Gentiles and for the people of Israel. [Luke 2:30]
Luke writes to give us the certainty that this Jesus is the Son of God, and the Father’s love is found in him. [Luke 3:22]
It is the certainty that Jesus has taken our temptation and sin upon himself, and has defeated the devil in our stead. [Luke 4]
Luke the Evangelist writes his Gospel account to give every sinner the certainty that Jesus has taken all leprosy and sickness upon himself, has touched the skin of lepers and healed them, and looking upon the sick and paralyzed, upon those burdened by guilt, those covered in shame, has spoken the life-giving words, “Your sins are forgiven you.” [Luke 5:20]
Through the hand of Luke, the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church the certainty that Jesus had compassion on the widow of Nain who had lost her son, and he told her not to weep, then touched the casket and said to the corpse, “Young man, I say to you, stand up.” Luke wrote that down so that we know that those words of life are for us too. [Luke 7:14]
As a gift to us from our Lord, Luke wrote down the words giving us the certainty that Jesus cast the legion of demons out of the demon possessed man and claimed that man as his own [Luke 8:38]; that he has rejected those who would withhold the kingdom from a child, saying that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are the least [Luke 9:48]; the certainty that Jesus gives us to pray to his Father in Heaven as our Father, praying that his Name be holy among us also, making us holy as our sins are forgiven here on Earth and we are given to forgive those who sin against us [Luke 11:2]; the certainty that we are not to fear those who can hurt us, even those who can take our life, but we are to fear only him who can cast us into Hell [Luke 12:5]; and the only one who can cast you into Hell is the Lord, but when you look at him, you hear him saying to the Church, “Fear not, little flock” [Luke 12:32]; and you see in his hands the nail prints of his crucifixion. And you remember the words Luke wrote of his crucifixion, of Jesus saying from the cross, “Father, forgive them” [Luke 23:34], and him saying to the thief crucified next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” [Luke 23:43]; and in remembering all these words in which you have been instructed, you remember the certainty that everything Jesus did, everything he spoke to the rejected and the drunkards and the thieves, every glass of wine and dinner he had with the sinners and tax-collectors, all that he taught, all that he suffered in his trial and crucifixion, he did it all for you.
For you, that you would hear the Word he speaks in the Church to forgive your sins, that you would daily be brought to the gift of repentance and forgiveness he gave you in your Baptism, that you would have the certainty of the gift that he is giving to you as he gives you his Body and Blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins.
Luke did not write about Luke. He wrote no autobiography.
He wrote the account of Jesus, that you—in this world of uncertainty, in the uncertainty of our own sin, the doubt brought by our own weakness, the shame covering us—that you and me and our children, would have the certainty of those things in which we have been instructed by the Apostles.
And this is the certainty that Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world, that he is the One who justifies the sinner, and he is your Lord.
In the Name of Jesus.