Who is Luke?

When I read the Bible I look for the women and girls. I’m a woman, and I used to be a girl. It’s natural, isn’t it? Where am I, in the Bible? And for a woman, or a girl, the Gospel according to Luke is a wonderful read. In fact, his has often been called the “Woman’s Gospel” for the very reason he paid attention to the woman’s point of view, and all the many women involved with Jesus. For example, his is the most often quoted gospel during the Christmas season. Ever wonder where he got all those details? You can bet it was because Luke got to know Mary, and asked her to tell her story.

So let’s get to know this intriguing man, who listened to women, and who honored and respected the women’s contribution to Jesus’ ministry and work.

Luke was a physician by profession, well educated in the classical Hellenistic style, and an accomplished writer. Apparently he enjoyed a certain measure of wealth and standing in his society, and had become friends with a fairly well-known government leader named Theophilus.

Luke wanted to give Theophilus an account of Jesus’ life and continuing ministry as risen Lord, so he sent his friend a two-volume chronicle which today is found in two books of the New Testament: the Gospel of Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles.

It’s possible Luke mentioned himself in Acts 13:1 when he listed the various teachers and leaders in the church of the Greek city of Antioch, in Ancient Syria. Among those named was Lucius the Cyrene, a man of African origin. It was men from Cyprus and Cyrene, in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, who had first brought the gospel to the Greeks in Antioch. Lucius is a Latin name, so he was probably brought up in a Roman culture, and was most likely a Gentile by birth, since he was uncircumcised.

Luke joined with Paul for most of the rest of rest of his missionary journeys. However, when they first came to Philippi, Luke stayed behind for a while, and then rejoined with Paul when Paul visited Philippi on his second, follow-up trip. Luke remained Paul’s close associate and fellow missionary for many years, starting the first medical mission on the island of Malta.

Judging from Luke’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, he was possibly one of the seventy disciples Jesus sent out on an evangelism tour, and he could very well have been one of the two disciples who met with Jesus on their way home to Emmaus, after Jesus’ resurrection (since Luke is the only gospel writer to tell that story).

The most ancient record of Luke’s life says that he “Served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit; he died at the age of 84 years.”                            

What fascinated Luke, the scientist and doctor, was Jesus’ special emphasis on what can’t be quantified by science: Prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit—more on that in the next post.