Ways of Finding Out
In about 360BC, the young Aristotle, aged about 17, went to study at the Academy, Plato’s college in Athens. Plato always taught his students that nothing could be known properly through our senses because these were faulty. The rebel Aristotle would not accept this idea, and finally left the Academy to become the tutor of a young man called Alexander, son of King Philip of Macedon.
|“The truth is different from what we usually perceive (through our senses)…” Plato|
Why did Aristotle reject Plato’s doubts about knowing things? Aristotle’s dad was a doctor – in fact, King Philip’s doctor. He had seen his dad gathering information about illness, examining the signs and symptoms in a patient, making a diagnosis and then successfully treating his patients – so knowledge could usefully be gathered through seeing, feeling, listening, smelling, and tasting, and then joining up the dots!
Luke the Doctor who Perceived Something in Paul
About 400 years later another Greek doctor, called Luke, saw, and heard things which filled him with excitement. A preacher called Paul was passing through his home town of Troas (Troy).
For him, Paul’s words were vibrant and alive. It wasn’t just knowledge but a charisma that radiated the love and power of a God who is really there.
Not only that, the doctor could see the signs of it working in those who responded. This was a million miles way from the religious ideas and culture Luke had inherited. This was a message that could be examined and analysed, a message that could be tested in the lives of ordinary people.
So began Luke’s quest to plunge into the substance of what had really happened to a Jewish man called Jesus. It’s not surprising that when the doctor speaks of the resurrection, he words it like this.
Perceiving Jesus through other People
Sadan was a successful Indian man – until he found he had leprosy. From then on he was rejected by society, and shunned by those who had previously been his friends. The lowest point came when Sadan sat in a car alone and watched his daughter’s wedding from a distance. He was desperate for help. Then he met a Christian missionary called Dr. Paul Brand.
“I can still remember when Dr. Brand took my infected, bleeding feet in his hands. I had been to many doctors. A few had examined my hands and feet from a distance, but the Brands were the first who dared to touch me. I had nearly forgotten what human touch felt like. Even more impressive, they let me stay in their house that night, and this was when even health workers were terrified of leprosy.”
Sadan was overjoyed with the surgery the Brands had performed for him, working on hands that had become claws, and feet that couldn’t function. They had made it possible for him to write again, to walk and even to become employed. When he told his story to a reporter, Sadan concluded with these unbelievable words:
“Still I must say that I am now happy that I had this disease….Apart from leprosy, I would have been a normal man with a normal family, chasing wealth and a higher position in society. I would never have known such wonderful people as Dr. Paul and Dr. Margaret, and I would never have known the God who lives in them.”
The Lord’s Power in a Hopeless Situation: A reading from Acts 27.17-21
“Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.
The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone…..
“Finally, Paul called the crew together and said “….. take courage! None of you will lose your lives…”
The reality of the work of Jesus in Luke’s life
The kind of detailed observation, and diligent historical writing found in our reading has made Luke highly regarded by classicists and ancient historians. When we look closer at this passage we see a writer who had learned to trust Jesus in the most adverse circumstances.
Papyrus, ancient paper, was very expensive, yet Luke decides to give us a massively detailed account of the voyage from Cyprus to Malta. Why? It’s not just about Paul. In some way, the Lord really spoke to Luke through these events. For me, the hinge point in the account; where the situation changes, is the phrase: “until at last all hope was gone…”
Luke is showing the Lord to be the God of the irretrievable. He realises with joy in his heart that God had brought him to a position when everything looked impossible ……. as if Luke realises that when all the options have run out, Jesus is still there, and able to do what needs to be done.
- Lord Jesus, open my eyes, my ears, my mind, and my heart.
- Help me to be bold to explore and test out the words of the gospel.
- Enable me to find inspiration in the people and events around me.
- Help me to rejoice with my Christian brothers and sisters.
- Strengthen me to trust You, even when everything looks impossible.
- Give me the power to comfort and heal those around me.
Amen. Amen. Amen.