Friday, October 18, is the day on the Church Calendar set aside to commemorate St. Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke, as well as the book of Acts. What do we know about Luke? Why does the Church Calendar set aside a day to honor him?
Luke was a Gentile convert to Christ and was not originally a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry. Eusebius, the early church historian, wrote that Luke was from the Syrian city of Antioch. The apostle Paul refers to “Luke, the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14 as one of his colleagues and it is widely believed this is the same Luke who wrote the Biblical book of Luke. Paul refers to Luke also in Philemon 1:24 and 2 Timothy 4:11.
Some portions of the book of Acts, beginning in chapter 16, are written in first person, showing that Luke accompanied Paul for many of his travels. Some have argued that when Paul uses the phrase “my gospel” in his epistles, he is specifically referring to Luke’s gospel, which Paul used during his preaching and teaching.
What sets Luke’s gospel apart from the gospel of John and the other synoptic gospels, Matthew and Mark? Catholic.org says, “Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses ‘Blessed are the poor’ instead of ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God ‘has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (Luke 1:52-53).”
Luke discloses more details about the virgin Mary than any other gospel. Luke tells the story of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and Mary and Joseph’s presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
Another unique feature of Luke’s gospel is its focus on the women involved in Jesus’ ministry. Luke tells us that numerous women were financially contributing to Jesus’ ministry, helping meet the needs of him and his disciples. Luke’s gospel is the only one that tells the story of the sinful woman who comes and wipes Jesus’ feet with her tears. Although the Pharisees wanted Jesus to ignore her, Jesus defended her and explained that her sins, though many, had been forgiven.
Catholic.org says, “Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.”
An Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that Luke was also a painter and that one of the earliest icons of Jesus was painted by Luke. He is regarded as the “patron saint” of painters. Due to his medical vocation, Luke is also the “patron saint” of doctors and surgeons.
Luke is honored in the metro-Jackson area by having churches named after him. St. Luke Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) is located on 260 Presto Lane (Jackson, MS 39206) and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church is located on 621 Duling Ave (Jackson, MS 39216).