Luke 10: 1-9, Isaiah 35: 3-6, 2 Timothy 4.5-17
Festival of St. Luke the Evangelist: 18th October 2020
9 a.m. @ St. Andrew’s, Totteridge & 10:30 Zoom @ Vicarage
Each of the four gospel writers has a symbol which originates from two biblical texts (Ezek.1:4-11 & Rev. 4:6-8). The Symbol for St Luke is that of the Ox, the hardworking creature who lives his life in service. Luke’s story of Jesus has much in common with Matthew and Mark, and all three tell of Jesus’ determined journey to Jerusalem to fulfil God’s purposes for him, but only Luke’s begins and ends in the Temple.
Matthew covers the journey in two chapters, and Mark in only one. Luke, on the other hand, devotes ten chapters to it, beginning at verse 9.51 with a verse of exceptional solemnity: ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem’. The concept of journey is very important to Luke; remember the road to Emmaus, the journey from desolation and despair to hope and resurrection (24.13-35).
He is described by St Paul in Colossians 4:14 as, “Luke, the beloved physician” and it is Luke alone who speaks of the child Jesus being presented in the Temple and later found there amongst the doctors. Luke alone tells of the mission of the seventy, the ‘others’ appointed by the Lord to be sent ‘ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go’. The message they are to preach is that ‘the kingdom…has come near’, though its embrace is limited to those who respond favourably.
The seventy are to fulfil their task with the utmost haste; they must not carry even the simplest impedimenta; they must avoid the time-consuming futilities of wayside etiquette, waste no time on the heedless, and to leave behind any scruples about the ritual cleanliness of food. The mission is urgent because they are harvesters: ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few’
Israel is ripe for the sickle and must be gathered into the garner of the kingdom while the brief season lasts.
Not one of Jesus’ earliest followers, Luke took every opportunity to associate with them and deliberately sought out those who knew him best. An educated man professional man, he is well versed in Judaism but an outsider. He is obviously well travelled: what St Mark refers to as the Sea of Galilee, Luke knows to be only an inland lake.
Our Saint is more interested in people than ideas and greatly concerned with their wellbeing. His sympathies are with sinners, the sick, the outcasts, the powerless, the women and children. Not for him the prosperous Magi, but the shepherds, not the protective male like Joseph in St Matthew, but the vulnerable young woman, Mary.
His stories are laced with grace and forgiveness – the penitent prostitute anointing Jesus’ head, Zaccheus noticed by the Lord and brought to new life, the dying thief on the cross, maybe the angry one too, forgiven and received into heaven. It’s St Luke who brings us the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the lost sheep. He loves to paint pictures with words, drawing sharp contrasts between Mary & Martha, the Rich man and Lazarus, the Pharisee and the publican.
The stories he selects grab our attention and keep us listening and then quite suddenly, we find ourselves unwittingly identifying with censorious or hard-hearted people and becoming the intended subjects of Christ’s teaching.
That ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you’ doesn’t mean that the arrival of the kingdom is some future crisis that needs to be forewarned, it is a present reality to be proclaimed and demonstrated by the healing of the sick and the bestowal of heavenly peace. This blessing will come about because of the prince of peace upon whose shoulders the blessing can rest. Time is short because the opposition is gathering its forces – the seventy will be lambs amongst wolves.
The judgement of Jesus is pronounced against whole towns and cities because he has come to recall Israel to her true vocation as the holy people of God – people must choose between his way of humble, self-denying service and the other way of defiant and contemptuous nationalism.
In two of Luke’s parables, Jesus warns the crowds not to join the company of his disciples without first counting the cost (14.25-32) as he himself had had to do. He made common cause with the sick, the despised and the rejected, knowing full well where this identification would lead him. This is why Luke represents the latter part of Christ’s ministry as this constant facing towards the city that has first claim on the lives of God’s messengers (13.33) ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem’, but we can stay with St Luke as he doesn’t stop writing. His gospel is far from over and will continue into what is sometime known as the fifth gospel, the Acts of the Apostles. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the road to the Cross is also the road to victory and just the beginning of a journey for humanity that’s still going here today.
Spoken in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.