physician behind the best Christmas story
By Walter Rupesinghe
Of the four evangelists, it is only St. Luke who
has given the world a graphic and intensely moving description of
the events relating to the birth of Jesus in the little town of
Bethlehem. Christmas without St. Luke's beautiful narrative would
be devoid of the enchanting memories that come back to us from year
to year as we gather at the midnight service which heralds the dawn
of Christmas day.
we sing carols like 'Silent Night’, ‘O' Little Town
of Bethlehem’ and so many others, all based on St. Luke's
story we are transported back in time to that greatest of all nights
when a virgin brought forth the Son of God in a lowly stable in
Luke tells his story in chronological order as befits a disciplined
mind. That is perhaps why his Gospel has been described as the most
orderly account of the life of Jesus although some of the events
recorded by the other evangelists have not found a place in Luke's
narrative. A case in point is the visit of the Magi which for some
reason he has omitted in his story of the nativity (See Mathew Chap.2).
all the details spelt out in Luke's Gospel it is strange but true
that the evangelist did not see Jesus in person. In fact, his first
visit to Israel took place a year after the crucifixion on the rugged
hill of Calvary.
Cadwell in her book - Dear and glorious physician- deals in detail
with Luke's long and arduous journey in search of the Unknown God.
Caldwell had spent forty years researching for this fantastic biography.
She states that the story of St. Luke is the story of every man's
pilgrimage through despair and darkness, through anguish, doubt
and rebellion to the feet and the understanding of God.
was not a Jew. He was Lucanus, the son of Aeneas, a Greek slave
who had later become a free man living in Syria working in the office
of Diodorus Cyrinus, the Roman Tribune. Everyday before the evening
meal, Aeneas would pour the customary libation to the gods for having
freed him from slavery. Then came the most solemn moment when Aeneas
refilled the wine cup and poured out the red liquid saying reverently,
"To the Unknown God".
this ritual was enacted evening after evening Lucanus was greatly
impressed and filled with deep emotion. Aeneas explained to his
son "that the Unknown God was mighty, omniscient and omnipresent”.
Lucanus treasured all this in his heart and decided that come what
may he must go in search of the Unknown God.
was an unusually gifted boy, handsome and with an insatiable thirst
for learning. His ambition was to be a doctor. With the assistance
of the Roman Tribune who admired him very much he attended medical
school and passed out with flying colours. Soon he was in great
demand as a very capable physician and his fame spread far and wide.
His patrons even arranged to send him to the Faculty of Medicine
of the University of Alexandria, the best in the Roman world.
Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar heard of Lucanus and appointed him
as his personal physician. Everything that any human being could
wish for was at his feet but Lucanus was so sick and disgusted with
the moral degradation and debauchery of the Roman court that he
sought the Emperor's permission to leave, saying that he preferred
to work with the poor and the oppressed. The Emperor who had great
affection and admiration for Lucanus could not understand all this.
was given the God-sent opportunity to leave when he was banished
from the imperial court through the machinations of Caesar's wife
who had failed in her attempts to seduce him. Yet Tiberius Caesar
never forgot him and instructed his subordinates to help him whenever
took up an appointment as a ship's doctor. It was then that he met
several persons who told him of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem,
the star in the East, the visit of the Magi, the miracles performed
by Jesus and His passion and crucifixion.
this he noted in his diary in meticulous detail. He made up his
mind to go to Israel to find out more and as he prayed for the realisation
of his dream he heard a voice from heaven say to him, "I have
known you from the beginning of time. I am He alone who can quench
your thirst O! my servant Lucanus".
dream of going to Israel was at last realised. Tiberius Caesar had
arranged for Lucanus to be treated like a royal guest by Pontius
Pilate, Governor of Judea. Leaving Pilate's court he journeyed all
over Israel and also met Mary, the mother of Jesus, who gave him
all the information relating to the annunciation, the birth of Jesus,
His public ministry, His passion and death, His resurrection and
ascension. He worked on his Gospel far into the night checking and
rechecking every detail. He spent many hours in prayer, saying,
"Make me worthy to write about you and to follow You".
was filled with a strange joy and satisfaction when he finished
the Gospel to which he affixed the following introduction:
have undertaken to draw up an account of things that have been fulfilled
among us just as they were handed down to us by those who from the
first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. Therefore, since
I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning
it seemed good also for me to write an orderly account for you most
excellent Theophilus so that you may know the certainty of the things
you have taught."
indeed is how Lucanus, later affectionately called Luke by his friends
(which name came to stay) gave the world the beautiful Christmas
story and the other events in the life of Jesus as he recorded them.