Faithful Physician (2 Timothy 4)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #525, 810, 728
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
St. Luke was St. Paul's faithful physician. They met as Paul sailed from Troas to Philippi on his second missionary journey. He alone was with St. Paul as he was imprisoned in Rome and presumably there at his death. While he was not at Paul's defence, he faithfully stayed by Paul's side throughout his journeys.
St. Luke was one of the most prolific evangelists because he was not just an evangelist. He was also a physician, artist, liturgist and martyr. He was also one of the seventy-two. He is the only evangelist who mentions the seventy-two. And he names none of them. And this is important. They were sent out to proclaim the Gospel. Their names don't matter. They were fulfilling their vocation.
Luke likely practiced medicine to assist him in his ministry. Paul paid his own way by making and repairing tents. Giving an example for you of how to share your faith wherever God has placed you. Teacher or student. Farmer or businessman. Garbage collector or tax collector. You can minister to others through your vocation no matter what you are.
Delivering the same message Luke and the other seventy-one delivered. The same message as the Apostles. Reconciliation with God. Jesus sent them out into the harvest. Jesus never stopped sending. He still sends people out today. Not all of His laborers are clergy. Luke makes this distinction. The seventy-two are “others”. Laymen trained to share their faith. No great program. Just listening to Jesus' Word.
Christ Our Savior is one of the great blessings Jesus has in the harvest field. Not only training seminarians to become pastors through worship and Bible study. Training them by the examples given by you in the pew. Many of you have been instrumental in shaping the lives and ministries of the dozens of young men who have sat up here, who have preached in this pulpit, learning how to train laborers for God's harvest. More than you can possibly know. More than you can possibly grasp.
And you didn't want credit. Just as Luke didn't name himself or any of the “others,” you didn't look for credit for the dozens of pastors you helped through seminary. Imitating Luke's following of Jesus' example, you made yourself nothing so that we would know Christ.
St. Luke writes his Gospel and the book of Acts to fulfill his job as one of the seventy-two. To proclaim the Gospel. To show the true faithful physician. Our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke's Gospel is filled with His healing words. Words we still sing and reference in our worship services.
The healing words begin with Gabriel's proclamations to Zechariah and the Virgin Mary. We still sing their songs in our daily offices. The healing words come out strongly through the Christmas story. No Christmas program would be complete without Luke 2. The angelic song to the shepherds. Simeon's faith-filled words declaring his readiness for everlasting life. Luke's entire Gospel proclaims Jesus' healing Word. The Good Samaritan. The prodigal son. The rich man and Lazarus. The ten lepers. The penitent thief. All these show you the healing Word of the faithful Physician.
Everything Luke writes has one purpose. The same purpose John gives to his Gospel: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Luke embodied Christ's faithfulness as he ministered to Paul and others through his vocation as a physician. But he wasn't perfect. While he had accompanied Paul from Judea to Rome, he didn't stand with Paul at his first defence. He deserted Paul like all the rest. But he came back in repentance. Paul forgave him, and he resumed his role as “the beloved physician.” Luke also needed to hear Jesus' healing words. The healing Word of the One who stands beside His people in every defence. Strengthening them so they are “rescued from the lion's mouth.”
“The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” But you have the Lion of the Tribe of Judah standing next to you. He is your Strength, your Fortress, your Rock, your Shield.
Thus protected, you may be confident, when you face your final days, to say with Paul, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day.” Or as Luke records Simeon's words, “Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace; Your Word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people.” The healing words which bring “the Way of Holiness” into our world. The Way that brings you to everlasting life. Amen.