St. Luke, Evangelist
“Physician, Heal Thyself”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. Luke 10.1-9; Isaiah 35.5-8; Timothy 4.5-18
18 October 2020
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
Today is the feast day in celebration of Saint Luke, the beloved evangelist who recorded for us the third of our four Gospels, which bears his name, as well as the Book of Acts. Luke is an incredible man who saw our Lord Jesus with His very own eyes and followed Him, allegedly being one of the seventy disciples we see sent out by the Lord in our Gospel text for this morning, which was of course written by his own hand. He also accompanied Saint Paul on several of his journeys and aided him in his missions, and was even twice locked away in prison with him. He is also a physician, a doctor, as Paul tells us in Colossians. But we know also of course that Saint Luke was, before anything else, a pastor who preached God’s Word and ministered to His people with the Lord’s Sacraments. And he fought the good fight, he ran the race and kept the faith by receiving the crown of martyrdom, receiving the honor of dying on behalf of his confession in Christ. He is a man whose work and writings tower over the face of history, leaving the world after him imprinted with his legacy.
And yet, he is just a man. He probably wasn’t even a very impressive looking man. No, Luke is known as Saint Luke the Evangelist, he is known as the author of two books of the Bible not because he was brilliant or worth anything in and of himself, but because God saw it fit to use Luke as His instrument. The Book of Luke is called a Gospel not because it was written well, not because it was a brilliant work of art and literature, even though it most certainly is all of those things, but because it is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit used Luke to record God’s Word, to preserve His Word for future flocks of His people unblemished and without error. The Gospel is the Word of God because God has promised that His very breath is found in these words, that He has ratified them with a declaration that they are “most certainly true,” and God is truth. God used Luke’s hand, his lips and his mind and his heart, to speak through him. Luke may have been a physician, he may have been a doctor of the needs of the physical body, but how much more was he a Doctor of the Church, because He was a spiritual doctor through the Word of God.
You can hear the voice of Saint Luke in the Gospel today, because God used Luke, because God uses means. And Luke was not alone the only means. Since the days of Luke, there have been far more than twelve apostles and seventy disciples, and there have been disciples who have been sent to you and dwell in your very midst. For you see, Luke held the Apostolic Office. The word apostle means “someone who is sent,” or a “sent-one,” someone who God sends to minister to His flocks, His people, with His Word and His Sacraments. Like Luke, our pastors today hold this Office, and preach the same Word that Luke did. The pastor is an ambassador of Christ, a vicar of Christ on earth, who speaks His Word like a herald, representing everything to the world which Christ Himself represents. God is a king who sends His Son, the crown prince and heir apparent to the throne, to speak on His behalf, and these pastors too are His sons who have been given the authority from above to speak His declarations, whether their names be Peter, Paul, or Luke, or Philip or Jacob.
God uses these men because He is not a distant God. God is not some ethereal force who sits afar off in heaven unaffected by everything that goes on down below. No, our God does not turn away His eye, nor is He content to merely watch. No, our God comes down and puts His boots on the ground: He gets His hands dirty. Our God became flesh in Jesus Christ, He took on the body which we had made filthy through our sin, and He is known as the Great Physician because He took our flesh, our sin, and all our disease upon Himself and healed it for us all. Out of His great love for us, He sends us His Son who reaches into our world and uses His own two hands to operate on it. Throughout the Gospel of Luke, we see a Jesus who is unafraid of demons and of leprosy, putting hands on them all, literally and physically, despite all the health protocols of his day. Jesus is not afraid of our infirmity, He is not afraid of our diseases nor our disease of sin, He is not afraid to get close to you and put His hands on you because He has come to operate on you. When the demoniacs scream at Him and the lepers draw closer, when the crowds cry out for His death, when they mock Him on the Cross by calling out “Physician, heal thyself,” Jesus is not afraid, He has no fear for Himself, but does it all for you. Yes, God is a surgeon, and He brings His ministers into the operating room. He is the greatest surgeon because He gives His own heart so that His patient might live, even though He must die. And He answers the charge of the crowds, He does indeed heal Himself by raising on the third day body and heart and soul and all. And He does indeed Himself heal, for it is by His Word, that sharpest of scalpels which leaves no heart unpierced, that God has opened you up and placed His heart into your chest. It is by His humble servants that He stiches the wound closed, and it is His very own Blood poured out for you which He pumps through your veins and makes you alive. It is by the Word of God and by His own two hands that the eyes of the blind are opened, that the ears of the deaf are unstopped, that the lame leap and the mute sing, that the demons are cast out and the lepers cleansed and the dead raised.
Brethren, if you want to see and hear God, if you want the Great Physician to work on you, then you must come to His hospital. This Church is where the Word of God is spoken, where His servants read it aloud for you, and where they pronounce it over humble means like water and bread and wine so that God can be made physically present for you and so He can present Himself as the antidote to your sin. God uses meager men and meager elements to convey Himself, He makes them great by making them His own and joining Himself to them, and thus He uses them to also be joined unto you, that you too might become sons of God and be His most lovingly attended patients. Through His pastors He ministers unto you, through their mouths you truly hear His voice, through their hands He truly forgives your sins, and through their arms He truly embraces you. He sends these men to run the race with you, to be your chaplains along the Way, so that someday when your race is finished, you may go to your fathers, to Peter, Paul, and Luke, and to God the Father in heaven. And He does this all by His Word, where He promises all these things to you, where He tells you “peace be to this house,” and where He will someday come again in glory and raise all flesh and operate on the entire world again in the new creation.
And so hear the Great Physician, listen to His diagnosis and His prescription, because it is life or death for you. Mark it well and hold onto everything which comes out of His mouth, because it is truth and it is life and it is love. Watch what He does and do likewise, give your heart for others as He has given His for you, for you can never give away more than He can give you, and every day He will raise you up and grant you the strength to run your course. Do not be afraid, brethren, for you have come to the right place. In Jesus’ ☩ Name; Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.