St. Justin Martyr

Turning to Luke

St. Luke the Evangelist, by Andrey Mironov

There are no written documents on Earth that can compare with the Four Gospels. I am a mega-admirer of the Bhagavad-Gita, of the Upanishads and of the Dao de Jing, not to mention dozens of other truly great works – both religious and secular – that look down at me from my numerous bookshelves. But the Gospels are another matter altogether. It is not that they are better works of literature – they are not. One struggles to convey the contrast. The difference is too broad to even be called a difference. Oceans are larger than lakes and ponds, but it seems silly to say so.

Furthermore, each Gospel careers off in such a distinct direction in relation to the other three, one wonders how they hold on to same generic name. But Gospels are like that – they form a genre unto themselves. Each Gospel bears so much trembling life, it can emphasize one breath or gesture of that life and allow it full warrant to fill the sky, without in the least stealing the show from the other Evangelists (waiting patiently in the pages before or after it).

Matthew faces the daunting Old Testament. He can hardly be expected not to engage it at every turn, pointing out its veiled anticipations of the explosive events he was moved to document. Mark’s association with the first Vicar of Christ fills his quick and dramatic Gospel with an economy of language reminiscent of Peter’s own brevity of expression. He shares the same astonishment at the exorcistic trajectory of the Son of God as he watches him hasten like Alexander the Great through our lives. John, in contrast, takes us to the top of the sky and bids us look back down, in wonder, upon the story of the Word on Earth. We are left with the urge to retire to a monastery for a sabbatical of reflection.

But still, I’ve always loved Luke. He is so much more approachable, almost avuncular in his eagerness to tell us about his research. He was the only non-Jew among the Evangelists, indeed among the New Testament authors. His long, but never tedious Gospel presents us with a Jesus that heals, that saves, and yet who leaves dimensions open to the Messiahship Matthew insists upon, the power over which Mark marvels (and trembles), or the sublimity of John’s Word that was in the Beginning.

About 25 years ago I unloaded my own reflections on this wonderful Gospel, and felt inspired to say a lot more as well. For what it’s worth, someone bothered to record me. Here it is:  The Gospel of Luke

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