“Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”
Demas is probably not a name that most Christians are familiar with. He is not a famous Bible character but he did earn a measure of noteriety by being one of Paul’s co-workers. Paul mentions Demas in Colossians and the letter to Philemon. In both letters, it is clear that Demas was with Paul at the time the letters were being written and he even sent his own personal greetings, the First Century equivalent to a shout out. Demas is mentioned in the same breath with Luke and Mark, two of Paul’s closest companions.
The last time that Paul mentions Demas in 2 Timothy, however, everything has changed. Paul is on death row in a Roman jail, waiting to be executed. Paul writes to Timothy and asks him to hurry to visit him before his inevitable martyrdom. Listen to what Paul says: “Make every effort to come to me soon, for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.”
What a punch in the stomach that must have been for Paul! There is nothing worse than having a friend betray you and walk away from the faith at the same time. What led Demas to desert Paul when Paul needed him the most? Paul said it was because Demas “loved this present world.” What causes someone to love the world so much that they walk away from their faith and from a close friend? How can we be sure that we will finish this Great Race that we are running?
Paul told Timothy that Demas had deserted him. With his next breath, Paul says, “Only Luke is with me.” What made Luke stick around? Luke had to know that his very acquaintance with Paul could have had him arrested and executed as well.
I think that Luke had tapped into something important here. Paul needed Luke, to be sure. With his execution looming on the horizon, Paul needed Luke’s help and friendship as he put his affairs and those of his churches in order. Paul also needed the emotional support of a loyal friend during these difficult days, someone that he could talk to and pray with.
That is all fine and good, but what was it that kept Luke from leaving, even for a “ministry trip,” like some of Paul’s other companions had done? The truth is, Luke needed Paul as well. It has been said that our destiny is directly related to those that we are connected with. Luke had been serving with Paul for over ten years by now and was commited to him and his vision. Luke was a loyal and faithful friend to the very end.
In the Old Testament, Elijah told Elisha three times to leave him. Each time, Elisha refused saying, “I will never leave you.” In staying with Elijah until he was taken up, Elisha received a double portion of his annointing.
After a number of his followers deserted Him, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Are you going to go as well?” Peter’s answer was classic: “Where are we going to go? You have the words of eternal life.” Whether it was intentional or not, Luke’s faithfulness seemed to gain for him a double portion of Paul’s annointing. Luke’s two books make up twenty-five percent of the New Testament and are foundational to our understanding of Jesus and the the Early Church.
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Do I go or do I stay?” Paul said, “Only Luke is with me.” This verse speaks volumes about Luke, Paul, and the importance of loyalty. How are you doing in the loyalty department?
To read more about Demas, Luke, and John Mark, check out my book New Testament Snapshots!
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