Each of the synoptic Gospels includes a chapter that tells of Jesus sending the disciples to preach. Each of them records that Jesus sent them with the instructions that they were to take no money. Matthew and Luke specify that they are not to wear sandals and to keep only one tunic. Mark took a little mercy on the band of travelers and tells them that they can wear sandals.
Luke does include one statement in the instructions that seems a little puzzling. He says, “Greet no one on the way.” Why would preachers who are trying to convince people of the nearness of the Kingdom of God suggest that they shouldn’t speak to people as they traveled?
One possible answer lies in one of the stories that only Luke tells in his Gospel, the story that we have come to know as that of the Good Samaritan. Traveling at this time was inherently dangerous. Brigands, thieves and murderers were very much a part of the world of Jesus. So no one ever traveled alone; and although Jesus sends the disciples in pairs, even that was a dangerous proposition. The people of the Middle East had a proverb that reads, "In traveling, we learn the purpose of caravans." St. Luke brings home that point very effectively in today’s Gospel.
St. Luke’s writings account for 25% of the Christian Scriptures. His parallel texts of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are the source of most of what we know of St. Paul. St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, part of which we read this morning, indicates that Luke was one of Paul’s disciples.
While I love all of the Gospels, it is St. Luke’s that I find myself turning to most often. St. Luke was a Gentile and writes for a Gentile audience, those who were left out of the covenant of Sinai. He includes parables that speak of God’s mercy and compassion that are found in his Gospel only. However, the most dramatic part of the Gospel occurs as Jesus is hanging on the cross between two thieves. Only St. Luke records the conversation that occurs between Jesus and the man we have come to identify as St. Dismas. “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
In chapter four of the Gospel, St. Luke tells us of Jesus’ visit to Capernaum where he preached in the synagogue. He chose a text from Isaiah with which I am sure you are all familiar: ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” As the Gospel moves forward from that point, St. Luke tells stories of how Jesus fulfills each of these Messianic signs. However, it is only when he is hanging on the cross, only when he is at his most vulnerable, that he actually sets a captive free.
St. Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles stand before us today as we celebrate his feast to move us to acts of mercy and compassion, to embrace the prodigal and the outsider and the sinner and welcome them to the Kingdom of God which Jesus taught us was so near and for which task he sent his disciples.