Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In the Street: Luke 8

In Summary: It is hard to appreciate just how densely-packed the Gospels are for material until you try and separate out a high-point from every chapter. Everything in Luke is valuable, not just because we see all of Scripture as valuable, but because Luke has great information.

Luke 8 brushes through the financial support team of the ministry of Jesus. We see that there were not only the Twelve, but also women who traveled with Him much of the time. Further, Joanna and Susanna are named as supporting Jesus and the Twelve “out of their private means” (Luke 8:3). There is a vague mention of others, but these two come up by name. Joanna is additionally significant as the wife of Herod’s steward. We know little else about her, and even less about Susanna.

Luke records parables and miracles in this chapter, covering a calming of the sea and the healing of a demoniac. Jesus teaches about the sower and the seed and the lamp on the lampstand. We also see a challenging thought in Luke 8:19-21, where Jesus essentially separates from His biological family and identifies His family as those who obey His Father.

In Focus: Let us turn our attention to the two miracles of the end of this chapter. On the heels of being asked to leave Gerasa after healing the demoniac, Luke notes that the crowd here welcomes Jesus. Geographically, these events most likely occur in either Capernaum or Tiberias. Capernaum is most likely, but the text simply gives us “Jesus returned” from Gerasa, that He was on the “other side” of the lake. That should not be taken too literally, as any good rural person knows. The “other side” is anywhere that is better reached by going away from the shore and crossing the water, rather than either walking or hugging the coastline in the boat.

Still, what town is less important than the events. In town, the crowd welcomes Jesus. That’s a big deal, and then a man named Jairus has a request. Jairus has a daughter, 12 years old, and she is sick. Sick back then did not just mean missing a day or two of work. If you were sick enough to worry your family, you were sick enough to die. In fact, the severity of illness is bad enough that Mark records Jairus as saying she is near to death, and Matthew records her as having just died. These likely harmonize because Matthew shortens the account. Luke (and Mark) record that Jairus receives the report of his daughter’s death on the way with Jesus—while they are still in the street together.

What slowed them down is important. Why? Because it was not the pressing crowds or the chaotic scene. It was not a Roman patrol. It was a woman, a “who” and not a “what.” Jesus was walking down the street, headed to heal this 12-year-old girl and a woman who has been hemorrhaging blood for 12 years touches His garment and is healed. We see that Jesus was not content to let this pass. He calls out the woman and praises her faith, sending her on her way not only healed but dismissed in peace.

12 years had separated this woman from society, just as Jairus had given 12 years of support to his daughter. These lives had likely never touched, because as a synagogue official Jairus would have stayed away from the unclean woman who kept bleeding. Yet both found the same need: healing from Jesus. Both knew they needed Him, and had no other hope.

In Practice:
Three things commend themselves to our action:

First, take note that these events heal women. Many societies, then and now, devalue women. Jesus healed both of them: a girl not quite to adulthood and a woman past childbearing. Motherhood might come to one, but it would have passed the other. Neither did they have funds like Joanna and Susanna. One lived at home and the other had paid it all out to physicians. Jesus healed them because He valued these ladies as people, not because they could contribute to Him or even to society. He did it because He deemed it right.

Do not reserve doing good to those who have value in your sight. Do good to those who have value in God’s sight.

Second, take note of the faith in action. Jairus shows his faith by publicly begging Jesus for healing. The woman risks the ire of the crowd for her faith. When their need was great, faith drove them to desperate action.

Do not consider anything but the Word of God in acting on your faith. Do what God has commanded rather than what others approve—especially when “others” are not following Jesus!

Third, take note of where it all happens. In the street. Right out in the open, where everyone could see. God does not hide His work—the command Jesus gives Jairus to keep the healing private had other purposes, because there was no hiding what everyone could see.

Do not fall for “God’s doing secret really cool stuff. Trust me blindly.” God works in the open—admittedly, some places are hard to get news from, like majority-oppressor countries such as Iran or North Korea—but that’s not the issue here. The issue is falling for “I’ve got God’s secret, just buy my book or follow me without reading your Bible.” It’s nonsense.

Do, absolutely, understand that God will not guarantee you privacy when you come to Him.

In Nerdiness:  We kind of dealt with part of the synoptic issue in the above, as well as the geography. That’s plenty of nerd, but if you want more: Why does Jesus decline to have the healed demoniac follow Him? Why the pigs? We try to read a lot about the spiritual realm from this story, but it’s not wise to do so. Just because Jesus demands names or commands demons does not mean that we should—our allegiance is to Him and He is the one with the power. Let’s not get carried away. 

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