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He was the writer of the Book of Acts

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He was the writer of the Book of Acts. Now there are certain passages of Acts which are written in the first person plural and we can be quite sure that Luke is here describing occasions on which he himself was actually present. Acts 27 describes Paul setting out under arrest for Rome and the story is told in the first person. Therefore we can be sure that Luke was there. From that we deduce something else. It is thought that when an arrested prisoner was on his way to trial at Rome, he was allowed to be accompanied by only two slaves, and it is therefore probable that Luke enrolled himself as Paul’s slave in order to be allowed to accompany him to Rome and to prison. Little wonder that Paul speaks of him with love in his voice. Surely devotion could go no farther.

 In Colossians 4:14 he is described as the beloved physician. Paul owed much to Luke. All his life he had the torturing thorn in his flesh; and Luke must have been the man who used his skill to ease his pain and enable him to go on.

 (iii) The other definite reference to Luke is in Philemon 24; where Paul calls him his fellow-labourer. Luke was not content only to write nor to confine himself to his job as a doctor; he set his hand to the work.

Paul urges Timothy to bring Mark with him “for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” The word ministry is not used in its narrower sense of the ministry of the Church but in its wider sense of service. “Bring Mark,” says Paul, “for he is very useful in service.” As E. F. Scott puts it; “Bring Mark, for he can turn his hand to anything.” Or, as we might put it in our own everyday language: “Bring Mark, for he is a useful man to have about the place.”

He was very young when the Church began.When Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey they took Mark with them—John Mark was his full name—to be their assistant (Acts 13:5). It looked as if he was earmarked for a great career in the company of Paul and in the service of the Church. Then something happened. When Paul and Barnabas left Pamphylia and struck inland on the hard and dangerous road that led to the central plateau of Asia Minor, Mark left them and went home (Acts 13:13). His nerve failed him, and he turned back.

Paul took that defection very hard. When he set out with Barnabas on their second missionary journey. Barnabas—he was related to Mark (Colossians 4:10)—planned to take Mark with them again. But Paul absolutely refused to have the quitter a second time, and so fierce was the argument and so acute the difference that Paul and Barnabas split company and never, so far as we know, worked together again (Acts 15:36–40). So then, there was a time when Paul had no use for Mark, when he looked on him as a spineless deserter and completely refused to have him on his staff.

What happened to Mark after that we do not know. Tradition has it that he went to Egypt and that he was the founder of the Christian Church in that country. But, whatever he did, he certainly redeemed himself. When Paul comes to write Colossians from his Roman prison, Mark is with him, and Paul commends him to the Colossian Church and charges them to receive him. And now, when the end is near, the one man Paul wants, besides his beloved Timothy, is Mark, for he is a useful man to have about. The quitter has become the man who can turn his hand to anything in the service of Paul and of the gospel.

The one has to stay a failure. Mark is proof of that. He is our encouragement and our inspiration, for he was the man who failed and yet made good. Still to this day Jesus Christ can make the coward spirit brave and nerve the feeble arm for fight. He can release the sleeping hero in the soul of every man. He can turn the shame of failure into the joy of triumphant service.

It may be that Demas was swept into the Church in a moment of emotion without ever thinking things out; and then when unpopularity, persecution, the necessity of sacrifice, loneliness, imprisonment came, he quit because he had never bargained for anything like that. When a man undertakes to follow Christ, the first essential is that he should know what he is doing.

(ii) It may be that there came to Demas the inevitable weariness of the years. They have a way of taking our ideals away, of lowering our standards, of accustoming us to defeat.


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