There is a sadness in today’s pastoral letter from Paul to Timothy. Paul is alone in prison deserted by most of his friends. He laments: Demon deserted me; Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; no one appeared on my behalf at my first defense and everyone deserted me.
Though Paul is abandoned he is not defeated: the Lord sustains him, “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”
Throughout his entire ministry -- from his original call on the way to Damascus to this imprisonment -- Paul’s ministry is empowered by a direct in-breaking of God, giving him strength despite massive resistance and obstacles.
But Paul notes that he does have one supporter, “Luke is the only one with me.” Luke is there observing Paul, noticing the strength Paul receives from God amid his abandonment and imprisonment. Paul’s witness to the power of God in him affects Luke deeply and, I believe, influences the composition of Luke’s gospel.
For in Luke’s gospel Jesus appoints seventy-two disciples and sends them out knowing they will encounter massive resistance. But Jesus instructs them to proclaim the Kingdom or God unabashedly — God is with them and they need not be deterred by resistance and obstacles. The truth of their message does not depend on acceptance by others but on the power of God sustaining them.
As Christians we are all called to be disciples and to witness to the power of the Lord’s presence in our lives. But how often we find our witness resisted by others. Many in our secular culture simply look on us skeptically, considering us “duped” by our religious upbringing. Sadly this resistance arises even from those closest to us, our family and friends. Recently in tears a mother lamented to me that her college-age son asserted he no longer believed in God.
Today’s scriptures give us consolation. When our witness is resisted we have the confidence of knowing we are not alone: the power of God is with us. We can exclaim with Paul, that “the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that through me the proclamation might be completed.”
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