Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:14)
In this little greeting we have a glimpse of two companions of Paul who were to have very different futures.
Luke was a doctor and, since he is not mentioned in the earlier list of Jews, we can assume he was a gentile. He travelled widely with Paul, and of course is best known to us at the author of the third Gospel and also the Acts of the Apostles. From the passages in Acts which refer to ‘we’ it is possible to place Luke with Paul during the missionary journey from Troas to Philippi, and also another from Philippi to Jerusalem. He then accompanied Paul on his fateful journey to Rome and stayed with the Apostle when he was imprisoned.
Some think that Luke-Acts was written as a defence document for Paul’s trial, and it is certainly true that Luke is setting out a well researched account of both Jesus and Paul’s lives. His gospel begins:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1–4)
From these small bits of information we can gain an impression of a well educated man (his Greek is polished), who stuck by Paul even in difficulties. He is diligent in his research, and wanted to put together a clear account of Jesus and his earliest followers for a gentile audience.
So what of Demas? Well, there is another mention of a Demas in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, but it refers to a man who took a rather different path to the good doctor. We read: “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10). It would seem that, rather like the seed sown amongst the weeds, the cares of this life choked Demas’ faith.
Good beginnings don’t always make for good endings, and even having as good a teacher as St Paul does not guarantee someone continues in the faith. What a difference we see in the lives of the two men mentioned in one breath at the end of the Letter to the Colossians.