Luke is an interesting writer because he did not know Jesus Christ personally. He became a follower after the Lord’s death, when Paul taught him the gospel. Luke had been a physician, but he left that profession to travel with Paul. He had the opportunity to talk with many of the Apostles as well as others who were eyewitnesses to special events or moments in the Lord’s life. In the first few verses of his book, Luke says that he is going to write the things that eyewitnesses and other teachers of the gospel had to say about the Savior. Apparently he had the opportunity to talk to many who were present when the Savior taught or performed miracles.
One of the most amazing stories Luke wrote about was the birth of the Savior. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says that Luke probably got his information about Jesus’s birth from Mary herself.
Who were the other people Luke interviewed about Jesus Christ? The list would have been long. Many of the people who knew the Savior would still have been alive and would have remembered such important times in their lives. Paul mentions that about 500 people saw the Savior after His Resurrection and that most of them were still alive when he was writing to the Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).
It is believed that Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile, probably in Antioch in Syria. He was a physician by trade. In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor was rich, but scholars have argued that Luke might have been born a slave. It was not uncommon for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician.
Luke first met the apostle Paul at Troas on Paul's second missionary journey, around AD51. He continued to travel with Paul from that point on. He was Paul's medical advisor and undoubtedly prolonged Paul's life and rescued him from many a serious illness.
When they both went through Philippi, Luke stayed there to encourage the Church to grow. When Paul came back that way 7 years later Luke continued with him. They travelled together through Miletus, Tyre, Caesarea, to Jerusalem. Eventually in AD61 Paul is imprisoned in Rome, and Luke is the only one with him at that time (2 Timothy 4:11).
It is believed that he was the author of the Gospel of Luke and of the Acts of the Apostles.
Luke's gospel shows special sensitivity to evangelizing Gentiles. It is only in his gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian (Lk.4:25-27), and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan (Lk.17:11-19). Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary 's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53). Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth. Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy. Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.
The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel. He was unmarried, and without children.
Luke's Tomb was located in Thebes (Greece), from whence his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.
A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.
He is also often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world.
He is venerated as Saint Luke, patron saint of artists, physicians, surgeons, students, and butchers.
His feast day is 18 October.