Chapter 7 begins with a healing and raising a widow’s son from the dead. We see Jesus’ power and His compassion here. Matthew told us the abbreviated story of the centurions servant but here Luke gives us the full story. A centurion was in charge of a century, 100 soldiers. There were 60 centuries in a Roman legion…6,000 soldiers. Some people who had slaves treated them badly. It is clear this centurion greatly valued his slave. He sent respected Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal his slave. Not only did these elders ask for Jesus to heal this slave but they shared with him the respect the centurion had for the Jewish people. This was rare indeed. Most Romans held the Jews in contempt. Some believe the centurion may have been a God fearer, a Gentile who worshiped the God of Israel but had not been fully converted to Judaism. The officer also sent friends to tell Jesus not to trouble Himself to go to his place. He was not worthy of that kind of honor. This centurion may well have been showing sensitivity to Jewish concerns. Pious Jews would not enter the home of a Gentile since it would make them ceremonially unclean. That didn’t bother Jesus at all. This centurion may also have been acknowledging Jesus’ superior status. But the centurion also had faith. The Roman army was known for their organization and discipline, and the centurion recognized authority when he saw it. Jesus was amazed when He heard the centurion say Jesus could just say the word and his slave would be healed. Many in Israel were unresponsive to the good news of salvation. Some Gentiles believed and found salvation. And when the centurion’s friends went back to his house they found the slave healed.
Jesus raised three people from the dead; Lazarus, Jairus’s daughter, and the widow of Nain’s son. Nain was about six miles south of Nazareth. This event was a big deal because the woman was already a widow and would have precious few opportunities to support herself. Widows were the most vulnerable members of society and God had special concern for them. This widow’s son was her only means of support and hope for the future and his death was a terrible loss. Jesus had a large crowd following Him, as usual and they encountered a large funeral procession coming toward them, family and friends of the woman plus the usual collection of professional mourners who were wailing and carrying on. The fact that this crowd was large meant there was great love both for the deceased and for the survivors. The young man was being carried in a coffin or on a funeral bier. If a Jew touched any of this they would be made unclean but like the leper, Jesus touched the coffin and commanded the young man to get up, which he did. Jesus was not defiled. He replaced disease and death with cleansing and life. The crowds were both amazed and afraid.
Matthew also told us the account of the disciples of John the Baptist approaching Jesus asking if He really was the One. Jesus answered by quoting Malachi 3:1. Yes, He was the One and you can tell by what He had done and was doing. When John’s disciples left Jesus, He began speaking about John. He praised him as the greatest person who ever lived under the old covenant. But even the least person in the kingdom of God is greater than John. The blessings of the new covenant; free and complete forgiveness of sins, the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit, and intimate knowledge of God; give believers in Jesus a new and greater position than even John enjoyed. Verses 29-30 are an aside by Luke where he contrasts the responses to John’s message. The tax collectors justified God, which means they responded to John’s message by submitting to John’s baptism. The Pharisees however, rejected the will of God, which means they refused to listen to John and were not baptized.
Jesus made a comparison between children playing a game in the marketplace and the present generation of Israel, referring particularly to the Jewish religious leaders. They called John the Baptist to dance (a wedding game) but the solemn prophet refused, calling them instead to mourning and repentance for their sins. Then they called on Jesus to mourn (a funeral game) but He was the bridegroom who announced the joyful celebration banquet of the kingdom of God, so it would not have been fitting for Him to mourn. The leaders were like the children in that they complained no matter what tune was played. John the Baptist refused to eat bread or drink wine (because he was a Nazarite) and the religious leaders dismissed him as demon possessed. Jesus, the Son of Man was accused of living loosely and associating with sinners. No matter what style of messenger God sent, the religious leaders complained and then rejected them. Jesus told the people that God’s wisdom is vindicated by those who respond to it and receive blessing. In Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman who calls God’s people to a life of godliness and obedience to God’s commands. Wisdom’s children are those who live righteously, as God’s word instructs.
All three synoptic gospels record the account of the woman anointing Jesus with expensive perfume. Luke tells us Jesus was at Simon the Pharisees’s house. Jesus has more positive contact with the Pharisees in Luke’s gospel than the others. He was a respected teacher and healer so it isn’t too surprising that He was invited to dinner by this Pharisee. In Luke’s account it appears the woman is a prostitute, which bothered Simon greatly. If Jesus only knew what sort of a woman this was. But Jesus didn’t seem to be bothered in the least. When people were gathered around a table for a banquet they reclined with their feet stretched outward. This woman could not get to Jesus’ head so she anointed His feet. A woman letting her hair down in public was scandalous and could have constituted grounds for her husband to divorce her. Kissing Jesus’ feet was a sign of reverence. The parable Jesus told Simon was intended to help him understand that those who have been forgiven the greatest debt respond with greater love and gratitude. This woman had made her extraordinary act of sacrificial love because Jesus had forgiven her sins. Jesus then contrasted the actions of the woman with Simon’s, and Simon didn’t come out looking very good. He had neglected to show Jesus common hospitality. Typically servants washed the dust from the roads off guests feet. Kissing guests on both cheeks is still common in The Middle East today. Anointing a guests head with olive oil was a way to honor a respected guest. Simon did none of these things. But the woman did all of them.
Jesus set the tone for how all people are to be treated. In His day no rabbi had female disciples but Jesus had several. Some of them, like Joanna were from wealthy families and contributed financially to Jesus ministry. It always makes me smile when I read that some of the money from Herod’s household went to support Jesus and His disciples! Luke also recorded the parable of the soils which speaks to the various ways people respond to Jesus’ ministry of proclaiming God’s Word. When Jesus finished a parable He often ended with “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” This means everyone who was willing to listen. Secrets of the kingdom of God refers to what was once hidden about God’s reign is now revealed in Jesus’ words and actions. Lamps in Jesus’ day were small clay boat shaped vessels that were filled with oil. A wick was then floated in the oil. Often these lamps a were placed in small alcoves. Jesus’ message provides light for those who listen, and it reveals their heart attitudes. We also see here Jesus’ true family. He had four brothers; James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon, plus an unknown number of sisters. For most of us, that would be family. But Jesus has a different idea about family. Jesus wasn’t rejecting His family, but instead announcing that spiritual relationships , being part of God’s family, supersede family ties.
Again we see Jesus calming a storm. Luke records Jesus casting out demons, in this case from a man who lived outside of town and was plagued by hundreds of demons. When Jesus drove them out of the man and into a herd of pigs, the townspeople didn’t celebrate with the man. They took one look at Jesus and out of fear asked Him to leave…now if not sooner please. There is then the healing of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with an issue of blood. Jesus paired up the disciples and sent them out with nothing extra to depend on except Him. He sent them out with His authority to share the good news, heal and cast out demons. They were to depend on the hospitality of the people they encountered in the towns they visited and shake the dust off their feet towards those who refused them. Herod heard about all that Jesus was doing and wanted to see Him. He couldn’t decide exactly who Jesus was but thought maybe he was Elijah or John the Baptist come back from the dead. Jesus could have also been one of the prophets. Luke records Jesus a feeding the 5,000 as well.
In 9:21-22 Jesus first predicted His death. The verses preceding are Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah. This was as turning point because here Jesus moved from demonstrating His messianic authority through miracles to explaining the expected suffering of the Messiah. Jesus accepted the confession but clarified that. His being the Messiah would involve suffering and death. He called His disciples to follow Him regardless of the cost. This was the first of Jesus’ prophecies about His upcoming death in Jerusalem. Jesus would fulfill Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in which the servant of the Lord, the Messiah, became a saving sacrifice for God’s people. These events were all part of God’s purpose and plan. Though wicked men plotted against Jesus and put Him to death, God accomplished salvation by raising Jesus from the dead. Though Israel had only one high priest, the upper class priests were the aristocracy. They served on the Sanhedrin and held positions of power Jerusalem. Things got a bit dicey when Jesus taught that if people wanted to follow him they had to take up their crosses daily and follow. This did not simply mean carrying a heavy burden but instead suffering a violent death by crucifixion. Believers had to be completely willing to die themselves and to live for God, even at the cost of their lives. Although Jesus offered salvation as a free gift, He also warned that following Him would entail suffering and hardship. It makes no sense to attempt to save our lives on earth only to loose everything when our lives quickly and inevitably pass away. The wise course is to invest our earthly resources; time, talent, and wealth, in what is eternal. Even if we lose our lives for Jesus sake, that investment will produce returns for all eternity. Recognition of Jesus now will be rewarded in the coming judgement. Failure to recognize Him now will lead to significant loss. Verse 27 is a difficult verse to interpret. It may refer to the second coming of Christ. It could be the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This may be speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, or, a reference to the transfiguration which follows this. Most agree the last possibility is the most likely.
At the transfiguration Jesus’ true glory was revealed for three disciples to witness. This confirmed Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ. Moses and Elijah confirmed that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Peter, James, and John were the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus took the three up on a mountain to pray but, remember mountains are places of revelation. While Jesus was praying He was transformed. His clothes became dazzling white, literally they became bright as a flash of lightning. Jesus divine glory shone through His human body. Luke tells us that Peter and the others had fallen asleep, just like they did when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane before Jesus was arrested. Moses and Elijah showed up, the law and the prophets, and they were glorious. The three of them were discussing Jesus’ exodus or departure from this world…in other words Jesus’ ascension. Jesus would accomplish an even greater exodus. It appeared Peter wanted to prolong this event by building shelters so Moses and Elijah could stay longer. But as he was suggesting this a cloud overshadowed them. Clouds often veil the presence of God and the voice from the cloud was just like the voice at Jesus’ baptism. God called Jesus His chosen One, identifying Jesus as the suffering servant of the Lord.
After they left the mountain top they encountered a demon possessed boy who the disciples could not heal. Jesus’ rebuke of a faithless and perverse generation may have been pointed at the disciples. They may have lacked the faith needed to cast this evil spirit out of the boy. But there was also a hint of a competitive spirit among the disciples. The disciples were often slow to understand, partly because their eyes were blinded to the truth until after the resurrection. Their failure to comprehend Jesus’ impending death was now illustrated by their pride and selfishness. Jesus had just predicted His own suffering and death and they were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. This was astonishing insensitivity and prideful. Jesus knew their thoughts. To welcome someone means to bestow honor and to treat them as a social equal. The statement is shocking since children in Jesus’ day had no social status in the community and were viewed as their parents property. Jesus took the lowest and most vulnerable members in society and announced that welcoming them was equivalent to welcoming Him. True leadership Jesus announced was achieved by sacrificial service , not the exercise of power.
Jesus journey to Jerusalem was a new phase in the suffering of the Messiah. Here Jesus is preparing the disciples for what was to come, while opposition from the leaders increased. Jesus resolutely set out for the city. Though the route was indirect Jesus would end up where He was supposed to be. There was still the separation and out and out hate between the Samaritans and the Judeans and the disciples were willing to call fire down from heaven to burn them up. While they traveled Jesus explained the cost of discipleship to them again. Any of Jesus’ disciples needed to be ready to go anywhere and give up home and security. Respect for parents was a very important value in first century Israel. Among other things was giving them an honorable burial. Jesus called for a commitment that took precedents over all human relationships. The concerns of home were this man’s stumbling block. And the father was not yet dead. The man wanted to wait until his father died before he followed Jesus. Lastly, the ancient farmer guided a light plow with his left hand and his oxen with the right. Looking away would turn the plow out of its path. For a believer, looking back meant placing earthly concerns ahead of God.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W