The Artistry of Dr. Luke

or How a Left Brain Researcher Connects the Dots

MaunaLoaSkies_Magrath_full

The Southern Cross, Mauna Loa Skies – Magrath

 

Luke has always intrigued me – maybe because I sense a bit of a kinship with him. Maybe you will too. Here are a few of the characteristics many of us share with this fascinating man:

  • He is a Gentile (Colossians 4:11-14), as many of us are.
  • He was not an apostle – not one who had seen the risen Lord and been commissioned by Him directly. But Luke was a companion of Paul, who was an apostle, just as Mark (not an apostle) was a companion of Peter (who was an apostle). In light of the Great Commission (Matthew 28), all Christians are “envoys” or “sent ones” (the meaning of the Greek term, “apostle”); however, neither I, nor anyone reading this, are apostles in the technical sense that the term is used in the New Testament. So all of us share that with Luke.
  • Luke was a meticulous researcher (Luke 1:1-4) – one whom we might characterize as a “left-brainer” in modern parlance. While you may not think of yourself as a researcher, I’d be willing to bet you have a love for the Word of God. One of the hardest things I have to do when I write a book or a sermon is to stop researching and start writing. When we research, we put on the pith helmet of the field archeologist and we dig! We discover truth hidden deep in the Word. It’s fun and a reward in its own right. We share that characteristic with Luke as well.

But there are marked differences between many of us and Luke:

  • He was a physician (Colossians 4:14).
  • He surrendered his practice to accompany the Apostle Paul for much of the second missionary journey and all of the third. He was probably with him in Rome until Paul was executed. How many of us have left our workaday jobs behind to follow a hardcore missionary wherever he might lead?

He was a humble servant. Not once in all of the Gospel of Luke or Acts (he wrote both) do we read of Luke mentioning his ministry to Paul. He had bragging rights, but he never once boasted.

AND

  • Luke was an artist. I am an artist, so I do share this with Luke in a shadowy kind of way. I place this in the category of “differences,” because most folks don’t consider themselves to be artists, or even particularly creative.

But we are all created in God’s image and so have a divinely appointed capacity to reflect our Creator in all that we do, say, and think. One example, out of many: all of us have the amazing ability to recognize patterns – to “connect the dots.” We can “see” a picture, a constellation in the “arrangement” of stars in the night sky – usually, following a second or third look, and with someone pointing it out. Then we will create stories/myths about how those constellations came to inhabit the heavens!

Luke demonstrates his ability to connect the dots all through Luke-Acts. One example will illustrate how this left brain researcher used his data to reveal a pattern of truth. Under Luke’s masterful brush strokes, a dimensional portrait of Jesus emerges that would otherwise remain comparatively flat and enigmatic.

We discover the first star in Luke 2:41-52. The setting is the temple. Jesus is 12 years old, and has been left behind by his parents, who assumed he was in the back seat of the station wagon that was returning to Nazareth (ever left a kid behind? I have!). When his frantic parents find him, sitting among the teachers of the law in the temple, Mary asks him why he has treated them like this (i.e. so shabbily). Jesus’s response is bracing to say the least: “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” Why would Jesus assume that his parents should have known where he would be and what he would be doing?

I think that question must have haunted Luke – at least a little. Here’s a doctor – a Gentile doctor, remember – who consistently displays a preference for Greek over Hebrew expressions throughout Luke-Acts. A man unfamiliar, and perhaps unschooled in the finer points of Old Testament theology. And yet he ferrets out an amazing connection to the Old Testament. In Jesus’s response, Luke recognizes something that many of us would miss – he gazes back through his notes on the Old Testament and recognizes a star in that galaxy of personalities that bears a striking resemblance to the New Testament story of Jesus in the temple.

Luke traces the trajectory of the story of Samuel in the tabernacle as a boy to the story of Jesus in the temple as a boy, and he connects the dots. Here is a brief list of the similarities:

  • Both Samuel and Jesus were dedicated to the Lord from birth (1 Samuel 1-2; Luke 2:22-24)
  • Both Samuel and Jesus could have been redeemed according to Exodus 13:2, 13; Numbers 3:47; 18:15, 16, but they weren’t. That meant they belonged solely to God. This is why Jesus responds to his mother, Mary, in such a way. He hadn’t been redeemed as a baby; therefore, he belonged solely to God. His earthly parents should have expected Him to be about His Father’s business in His Father’s House.
  • The names in the narratives bear some scrutiny as well. The name Samuel means, “the name of the Lord.”; the name Jesus means, “God is salvation”; moreover, one of the names applied to Messiah in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14) is Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Since Jesus is the Messiah toward whom Isaiah looked, the name is apropos to Him.
  • Both Jesus and Samuel are said to increase in knowledge and wisdom and in favor with God and men (1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 2:52).

Luke recognizes a pattern, and he consciously draws a line that connects the dots between Samuel and Jesus. That kind of perspective is the domain of the artist-theologian. It is informed by diligent study, and a dogged dependence on the Holy Spirit to illuminate the events of the New Testament in light of Old Testament truth. We emerge from the third Gospel, not with a glittering array of cold observations about the life of Jesus, clinically accurate, but cold and discreetly dispassionate – instead, we discover an enfleshed Savior who is divine and yet who matures in His fully realized humanity.

Luke reveals a constellation of truth where most, unaided by the illuminating and integrating work of the Holy Spirit, may have noted only a spray of interesting historical factoids. Part of our role as artists is to draw out those  intentional connections, to highlight patterns that tend to escape casual notice. That’s one way we can reflect the beauty and unity of Scripture, the theological coherence, and complementarity between Old and New testaments. It’s one good way we can exalt the Word as artists.

 

 

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One thought on “The Artistry of Dr. Luke

  1. Hey Reg: Appreciate your study of Luke. Here are two or three thoughts from some of my recent looking into Luke: 1.Appreciate the connection with Samuel. I also came to the conclusion the parallel is simply too powerful to ignore, Samuel was the miracle born anointing prophet of the messianic line, the priest-king, David. John the Baptist was the miracle born anointing prophet of the royal priest-king son of David, Jesus. Both lives were molded by devout fathers who offered sacrifices at the center of worship. When Samuel anointed David “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David.” When John baptized Jesus he saw the Spirit descend upon Jesus. I believe Luke wanted to show the royal, God ordained connection between Jesus and David. 2. Luke’s perspective, as far as we know was post resurrection/Pentecost. His acquaintance with Jesus was not personal eye witness, but Holy Spirit enlightenment and seeing and experiencing the Spirit’s work as he travelled with Paul. That’s why he mentions the Holy Spirit so often in his gospel. He was shaped by the freshness and power of the coming of the Spirit and could see the emerging mosaic of OT fulfillment. 3. I think it is likely that he attended the death of the Apostle Paul, “Only Luke is with me.” What an experience that must have been. I suppose my 25 years as a medical chaplain made me sensitive to that point! So grateful God has put you where you are, doing what you do.