Thursday, May 24, 2012

Luke 8 - Who is this Jesus? (part 1)

(Click here to read Luke 8)

 Luke 7:49-50 (ESV)
49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

As the pharisees ask this question at the end of chapter 7, we the reader are encouraged to do the same. Jesus himself answered his cousin John earlier in the same chapter (v22) by encouraging him to judge the things he does. He reminds John that the deaf hear, the blind see, and the poor hear the good news. Chapter 8 follows this question with demonstrations of Jesus' ministry, allowing us, the readers, to also judge for ourselves.

The first half of Luke's eighth chapter begins with Jesus' teaching. First he tells a parable of a sower, scattering seed on different soils, and the resulting harvest from each (8:4-15). He explains to his disciples that he teaches in story because those that are willing to hear will better understand by his illustrations, and those who are not listening will be further unable to discern. Here we are given a multiple layered challenge. Are we listening? Can we discern? Upon which type of soil is the seed of the word of Jesus falling within us?

 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 8:8b)

Verses 16 to 18 end the teaching section as Jesus challenges the disciples to listen and judge carefully what they see and hear. All will be revealed eventually, but our response to truth will determine our outcome.

"Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. "(Luke 8:18)

Just as Jesus made clear at the end of his Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6), Jesus reminds us that his words are not meant to be taken as empty rhetoric. He intends for us to be changed, for his teaching to be demonstrated in our actions.

"My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and *do it*"(Luke 8:21b)

The second half of Luke 8 records active miraculous demonstration of Jesus' power. In verses 22-25, he rebukes a storm before his frightened disciples. When the winds stop, their question echoes the Pharisees in the previous chapter. 

 “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25b) 

they say, once again encouraging the reader to do the same.

After he cures a man oppressed by a demon, he sends him to his town to tell people what Jesus had done for him. The demonstration of Holy Spirit's power testifies to Jesus' identity.

Finally, the story of the woman healed of an issue of blood illustrates to the reader the result of knowing, believing, and acting upon faith in who Jesus is.

 Luke 8:44,47-48 (ESV)
44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Rabbi Jesus wore a prayer shawl, a long tasselled garment wrapped around his shoulders and hanging down at his legs. Each of these tassles had five knots, reminding a religious Jew of the five books of Moses. These tassles had a name in Hebrew that translates to English as "wings".

Three times in two chapters the identity of Jesus has been questioned. Both the Pharisees and Jesus' disciples ask "who is this" in response to his unusual or miraculous actions. The Pharisees ask because he forgives sins (7:49). The disciples ask because he commands nature (8:26). John the Baptist asks more pointedly whether Jesus is the Messiah, the coming deliverer promised in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This woman would have also been waiting for Messiah, and she knew the promises in scripture. One such promise is from Malachi, the last book of the Hebrew scriptures prophesying the coming Messiah:

 Malachi 4:2 (ESV)
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.

She knew and believed that when the promised deliverer would come, he would be a healer. The healing is in his tassels, the knotted ends of his prayer shawl that represented the scripture. Someone might interpret the promise to mean the power of healing present in the word of God. Or perhaps it meant healing would come by the word of Messiah, who would speak the word of God. Maybe it means that the prayer of Jesus would heal the sick.

Scripture gives examples to show all are true. But this woman's bold faith is strong enough to test it literally. She grabs his tassels, his wings of healing, and she is healed. With a beautiful bookending to the passage, just as he does for the woman of bad reputation at the end of chapter seven (7:49), Jesus says that it is her faith that saved her.

Luke 8:48
And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."
Whoever has ears, let them hear. 

(See tomorrow's entry at 9:00 AM for the conclusion, "You are the Christ of God" - Luke 9) 

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