JESUS’ POWER Luke 7–8
“Her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).Christ’s miracles showed His power over every natural and supernatural force, and frequently, the importance of faith.
Jesus healed a believing centurion’s servant (7:1–10) and raised a widow’s son (vv. 11–17). Jesus identified John as a prophet—and Himself as “Son of man” (vv. 18–35). He stunned a Pharisee by accepting the touch of, and forgiving, a sinful woman (vv. 36–50). “After this” Jesus began to teach in parables (8:1–15) and riddles (vv. 16–18). He continued to demonstrate His power, calming a storm (vv. 22–25), casting out a demon (vv. 26–39) and healing a chronically ill woman (vv. 40–48). He capped these miracles by raising a dead girl (vv. 49–56).
Understanding the Text
“Such great faith” Luke 7:1–10. “Faith” is a thread that runs through both of Luke’s writings: this Gospel, and the Book of Acts. Here Luke introduced a Gentile, a centurion, who demonstrated “great faith” by expressing the conviction that Jesus was able to heal his critically ill servant by simply speaking a word—from a distance! The centurion also showed great sensitivity. In saying he was “not worthy” to have Jesus enter his house, he showed a concern for Christ’s reputation. The religious leaders would have been sure to criticize Christ if He had entered a Gentile’s home! May God give us similar gifts: great faith—and a deep concern that all we do contributes to the reputation of our Lord. These career officers who led “hundreds” in the Roman army are presented in a positive light in the New Testament (cf. Acts 10–11). These well-trained, responsible, and intelligent men were often entrusted with special duties and sent on a variety of empire affairs. Several are mentioned in the New Testament as “God-fearers,” Gentiles who worshiped God but did not convert to Judaism. In Luke’s writings the believing centurions represent all Gentiles who come to trust in Jesus. “He went up and touched the coffin” Luke 7:11–17. The use of “coffin” is an example of the niv’s tendency to seek modern equivalents for biblical terms. The Greek word indicates an open, stretcher-like bier, on which the dead were carried. Christ’s compassion for the widow who had lost her only son moved Him to help her. In doing so He touched the bier. This act would make the ordinary Jew “unclean,” and unable to approach God at the temple. It did not affect Jesus, for immediately He called on God, and the dead returned to life! The dynamic power of life that infused Jesus could not be dampened by mere ritual rules. Jesus’ act convinced the onlookers that Christ was a Prophet. It undoubtedly reminded the crowd of Elijah, who had also brought a woman’s only son back to life. You and I now recognize Jesus as even more than a prophet. His touch is still able to make the dead live, and cleanse the unclean. We experience His life-giving power as we trust Him each day. “Report to John what you have seen and heard” Luke 7:18–23. Even John seemed to have expected Jesus to set up an earthly kingdom. To settle his doubts, he sent his followers to put the question to Jesus directly: “Are You the One?” Jesus listed specific healing works John’s followers had seen, because the Old Testament declared that in the Messianic Age just such works would be performed! Isaiah 35 says, “Your God will come,” and while the passage speaks of divine retribution, it also says, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb shout for joy” (vv. 4–6; cf. 61:1–2). The evidence of Christ’s works alone was sufficient to identify Him as the Messiah: as Israel’s God, come at long last! The answer surely was enough for John. He would set aside his preconceived ideas about how God must work, and simply trust. The other day our Florida lottery reached 22 million dollars. “I’m praying about a ticket,” a friend said. “God surely would want one of His own to have that money. Only a Christian could use it wisely.” It seems logical, all right. Yet it’s an idea of how God must work that is based on human reasoning. Like John of old, you and I must be willing to set aside all preconceived ideas. We have evidence of God’s love in the Cross. Now we are to simply trust that what He chooses to do is what’s best. By the way. No lottery win for my friend. Yet. “Like children . . . calling out to each other” Luke 7:24–35. Jesus identified John as a great prophet. While the sinful of society recognized him, and responded to his message, the “Pharisees and experts in the Law” had rejected John—and God’s purpose for them! Why? Jesus illustrates from the familiar scene of children, playing in the streets. They play “wedding” (v. 32b) and they play “funeral” (v. 32c). And they complain when other’s won’t play their game. And that, Jesus said, is what the religious leaders had done. They’d been playing games, and they whined because neither John, that gaunt and austere wilderness man, nor Jesus, a social, friendly Teacher, played their games with them! “If you won’t play our way,” Jesus pictured them saying, and we can clearly see the pout on petulant, childish faces, “we won’t play at all. So there!” But Jesus wasn’t playing games. And if you and I are to have a meaningful relationship with Him, we can’t play games either! In Jesus, our God has come. And we must now be fully committed to Him. “She began to wet His feet with her tears” Luke 7:36–50. Don’t think the woman was forgiven after she wet Jesus’ feet with her tears. Oh, no. She was forgiven before. That was an act of love; an expression of gratitude. Her “many sins” had been purged, and her tears were tears of joy. Jesus’ later comments were explanation to Simon the Pharisee, and confirmation to the woman (vv. 48, 50). It’s the same in our lives. Faith and forgiveness precede both joy and service. “A farmer went out to sow his seed” Luke 8:1–15. This familiar parable is told in Matthew and Mark as well. In each telling the focus is on either the seed, or the ground on which it fell. Sometimes you and I focus on the farmer-ourselves, as sowers of God’s Word. We are essential. But results depend most of all on the inherent power of the Good News, and on the nature of the soil on which it falls. So you and I can sow freely. In its brief mention of the farmer, this parable helps set to rest such fears as “I don’t know enough yet,” or “I may say something wrong.”All we need to do is scatter the seed. God will work in those who hear, according to their willingness to respond, to produce the crop. “Your daughter is dead” Luke 8:26–56. These verses report how Jesus dealt with what must be considered “hopeless cases.” The demon-possessed man had been chained “many times” but had always broken loose (v. 29). The woman who touched Jesus had been “subject to bleeding” for a dozen years, and “no one could heal her” (v. 43). And the daughter of Jairus was dead: all hope was gone, and friends advised, “Don’t bother the Teacher any more” (v. 49). Yet Jesus cast out the demon, restored the health of the woman, and raised the little girl from the dead! Strung together, as these stories are by Luke, they remind us of a wonderful truth. There are no “hopeless cases” with the Lord. And there are no “hopeless people” either. The power of Jesus Christ is great enough to meet every need, and to transform any sinner as well.
Don’t Talk to Yourself (Luke 7:36–50)
G.K. Chesterton has pointed out that in every field except religion, people tend to come to an agreement. Scientists the world over agree on atomic structure. Nutritionists agree on what’s best to eat. Common rules are developed for accounting, and all nations agree that the use of steroids in the Olympics is not right or fair. But there’s no agreement on religion! And this despite thousands and thousands of years of searching and discussion. Luke’s report of a dinner Jesus had at a Pharisee’s house helps us see why. A woman known to be a sinner—most likely a local prostitute—slipped into the dining room and began to anoint Jesus’ feet, weeping as she did. The Pharisee observed what was happening and reasoned it out (“said to himself”). He was logical too. (1) A prophet would know she was a sinner. (2) A prophet wouldn’t let a sinner touch him. (3) Ergo, Jesus was no prophet! (v. 39) The only trouble was, the Pharisee was totally wrong in one of his premises. Jesus did know she was a sinner. But He knew she was a forgiven sinner, and that her love and tears flowed from faith in Him. When Jesus explained, even the Pharisee had to grudgingly admit that a person who has been forgiven “much” will love more than a person who has been forgiven (what he considered!) little (vv. 41–43). Jesus then confirmed the message the woman had already heard: “Your sins are forgiven,” and again, “Your faith has saved you” (vv. 48–50). What’s wrong with human efforts to construct religions? As with the Pharisee, each effort is merely “saying to oneself.” The religious make statements that seem logical, but are faulty in one or more of the premises involved. Only when God speaks through Jesus can the truth be discerned. The only religious truth we can possibly have must come from God by revelation, for it can never be discovered by people who talk only with themselves. So don’t be disturbed when people have different beliefs and ideas about God than you do. Put your confidence in the Word of God. Let the others talk to themselves all they want. You talk—and listen—to God.
Have confidence in what God says, not in what other people think.
“When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found in it the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty.”—Woodrow Wilson