THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE GREAT GALILEAN MINISTRY
Luke 4:14-9:50

Who Is This Jesus?
Luke 7:1-50

. INTRODUCTION

In Luke 4-6 Jesus has been healing, calling disciples unto Himself, and preaching with an authority that went beyond the authority of a mere man. For example, at the end of chapter 6 Jesus claims that our eternal destiny depends upon our response to Jesus' teachings. Just who is this Jesus who is making these ultimate claims upon our lives? The 4 episodes in chapter 7 lay the foundation for the ultimate answer: He is the One who speaks God's word authoritatively, the One who raises the dead, the One who has come as the Lord's Servant, and the One who forgives sins. These episodes are laying the foundation for the ultimate claim which will be made later: He is the Christ, God's Son.

The underlying theme though in these episodes is that the people have misunderstood the kind of Christ that Jesus was going to be. Both Christians and Jews believe that God was going to christen a special Man with His Spirit who would be called "the Christ." Both groups believed that the Christ would be filled with God's Spirit. It's just that the Jews believed that whenever God christened the Christ with His Spirit He would become like a Saul. When God's Spirit overcame Saul, he was so filled with power that He tore an ox into 12 different pieces, to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. This though was not the kind of Christ that God was intending to send to Israel. This chapter helps deal with the issue of what kind of Christ God was going to send to Israel.

This issue though does not reside exclusively with Israel. How many of us have preconceived ideas about the way Christ is going to operate in our lives? We believe that if we live good little lives, then Christ is going to be so good to us. How many of us have had our faiths shaken to the foundation because some tragedy hit them, a tragedy we didn't see coming and one which we felt we so much did not deserve? "Sure I'm a sinner. We're all sinners! But I didn't deserve this!" That's the attitude we cop.

We too though need to open up our minds and hearts to discovering the kind of Christ that Jesus really has come to be, not only for Israel but also for ourselves. In his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe C. S. Lewis likens Jesus to a lion, Aslan, because the lion is the king of the beasts. Yet Lewis says another feature of the lion applies to Jesus as well. Whenever the heroine Lucy discovers that Aslan is a lion, she asks: "He is a tame lion, isn't he?" Mrs. Beaver responds that he was not a tame lion. Though He was good, He was still dangerous--after all He is a lion, you know. You and I can put Jesus into our little box all day long; yet Jesus is not tame. He will operate in your and my lives the way He sees fit.


THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S SLAVE AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE WIDOW'S SON (7:1-17)

While Jesus is ministering (most likely in Capernaum), some messengers from a Roman centurion approach Jesus and ask him to come to the house of their master so that He might heal a servant who is special to their master. Jesus grants them their request and heads for the home of the centurion. As Jesus gets nearer the house, another messenger meets Jesus and asks Him to come no further. Why? Because the centurion feels that he is unworthy to have Jesus grace his home. Does this mean that the servant will die? No. The centurion understands the concept of authority. Both Jesus and the centurion are men of authority. Whenever the centurion issues a word of command, his word has such authority that it is obeyed. Well, the centurion knows that Jesus is greater than him (as seen in the fact that he says that he is unworthy to have Jesus enter his home). If the centurion's word has authority and power, how much more does Jesus' word have authority and power? We know why. Jesus is God the Son; naturally then His word would have great authority. All Jesus has to do is speak the word of healing and the centurion's servant will be healed. Jesus is duly impressed and amazed with this response. He says that He has not found such faith in all of Israel, that is, even among God's people the Jews. The centurion's servant is healed because of the centurion's faith.

At another point in time while Jesus is approaching Nain, he encounters a funeral procession. The son of a widow has just died, and the people of Nain are in the process of burying the son. Jesus has compassion for the widow and raises her son from the dead.


JESUS IS ISAIAH'S SERVANT OF LORD (7:18-35)

Towards the beginning of Jesus' ministry Herod Antipas imprisons John the Baptist because he has preached against the incestuous relationship between Antipas and his new wife, Herodias, who was formerly his brother's wife. While in prison John apparently begins to doubt that Jesus is truly the Christ, the One christened (anointed) with the Spirit to bring about the kingdom of God. It is interesting that John should doubt this because he had seen the Spirit descend upon Jesus at the time of His baptism (John 1:33-34). This event was supposed to have been conclusive proof for John that Jesus was the Christ/Messiah.

What led to these doubts? Most likely John doubted because Jesus was not proving to be the kind of Christ John believed Jesus would be. John had ministered in the wilderness, and yet Jesus was ministering in the towns, villages, and cities. John ran around in clothing made of camel's hair, while Jesus wore the ordinary clothes of that day. John fasted and abstained totally from wine, while Jesus enjoyed banquets and apparently drank wine. [The Pharisees noticed the contrast and made fun of both Jesus and John claiming that while John had a demon because he was abstinent, Jesus was a glutton and drunkard because he feasted and drank wine (Luke 7:33-34).] Moreover, where were the flaming fires of judgment John had predicted would come with the coming of the Christ?

Of all people though John should have understood better than others about the kind of Christ that Jesus was supposed to be. Appealing to Isaiah 40:3-4 John identified himself as "the voice crying in the wilderness." This voice was to proclaim that God was coming to Israel and that a new day was about to dawn, a day of righteousness, peace, and re-creation (Isaiah 40-66). Yet the same passages which proclaimed this new day also proclaimed that the Christ who ushered in this new day would suffer unspeakable pain (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). He would heal the lame, give sight to the blind, and preach the gospel to the poor; yet He would also suffer death and rise from the dead in order to save God's people from their sins.

Appealing to Isaiah, Jesus first proves that He is the Christ and then demonstrates what kind of Christ He is by performing miracles: curing many people afflicted with diseases and evil spirits, giving sight to the blind. Next Jesus quotes selected passages from Isaiah which spoke of the Christ: "the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them." Although Jesus did not come the way the people and John thought He would come, that does not mean He was not the Christ. It means that their views about the Christ and their interpretation of the OT was wrong. They needed to change their view about the Christ, not have Christ adapt Himself to their view point.

The primary difference between the Jews and the disciples was that whereas the Jews had preconceived notions about the Christ and rejected Jesus when He did not conform to those notions, the disciples changed their notions about the Christ when Jesus did not conform to those notions. What changed their preconceived notions about the Christ? Jesus' resurrection. They could not get beyond the fact that He rose from the dead. That event alone convinced them that they were the ones who needed to change, not Jesus.

In the following section regarding John the Baptist, Jesus pinpoints the primary problem with the Jew--and with many other people today. They approached John (and Jesus) with the attitude that they should be in control of their relationship with him. We play a flute for John, and dadgummit, we expect him to dance. We give him orders, and we expect him to obey them immediately. It's the same way with Christ. We are going to claim Christ as long as He dances to the tune we play for Him. We are the controllers; we are the judges. Jesus will never accept that kind of relationship with people.


THE DEVOTION OF THE WOMAN WHO IS A SINNER (7:36-50)

The final episode involves a banquet Simon a Pharisee throws in Jesus' honor. Although Simon is not hostile towards Jesus, his lack of full hospitality demonstrates that he is not all that impressed with Jesus. It's not that he is hostile towards Jesus; it's just that he's not all that taken with Him. As was typical of banquets all the participants would eat at a low table. Instead of sitting in chairs, they would lie on a couch low to the ground and rest on their left arm while eating with their right hand. Their feet would be sticking out away from the table.

While the company is eating, a woman who is labeled a "sinner" comes in and begins to anoint Jesus' feet with perfume from an alabaster jar. The woman is labeled a sinner most likely in that she had once been a prostitute but had given up this lifestyle after she had encountered Jesus. She is anointing His feet out of a sense of deep gratitude for His impact upon her life. As she is anointing Jesus' feet with her hair, she is overcome with emotion because He has touched her deeply. In addition to the perfume her tears anoint Jesus' feet. She begins to wipe Jesus' feet with her hair. The woman has thrown decorum to the wind. She doesn't care that it was considered unacceptable for her to wear her hair down loose and free. She didn't care that she was weeping and kissing Jesus' feet in public. His impact upon her life has touched her to such an extent that she can't control her emotions. Nothing else matters to her other than showing Jesus how much she loves Him and how grateful she is to Him for touching her life.

Simon and the other Pharisees are appalled at the sight. They conclude immediately that Jesus is not a prophet. They conclude this because they believe that in no way would a prophet ever let a "sinner" treat him such. Jesus was not a prophet either because He did not know that she was a sinner--and surely a prophet would have known by supernatural means she was a sinner or else because He did something a prophet would never do--accept the gift of this sinner. Jesus though is about to reinterpret for them the nature of a true prophet.

Jesus first shows them that He does have supernatural powers because He reveals to them that He knows what they are thinking. Next, He shows them that a true prophet would indeed accept such a service rendered to Him. He puts to them the situation in which 2 men owed a certain man different amounts of money. The first owed him 500 denarii (1 & 1/2 years wages), while the second owed him 50 denarii (1 & 1/2 month's wages). The man though forgave them both their debts. Jesus then asked Simon who would be more grateful, the person forgiven a great debt or the person forgiven a small debt. Simon naturally replies that the person forgiven the greater debt would love more. In this parable the debt refers to man's sin. Jesus is not saying that the woman is more grateful because her sins were greater than those of Simon's. He is saying that the woman unlike Simon has come to understand the depth of sin. Simon's sin of pride was as great as the woman's. The difference between the 2 was that she understood the depth of her sin. Simon and not the woman was the one with a problem.

Notice the underlying theme in these passages: Jesus reaching out to people we would have never thought would make up kingdom of God--a hated Roman centurion, a poor widow, and especially the woman who is a sinner. Note that unlike Simon the Pharisee both the centurion and the woman who is a sinner feel a deep sense of unworthiness in Jesus' presence. That sense of deep unworthiness is the reason Jesus comes to the centurion and the woman who is a sinner. They have correctly assessed their need for Christ and therefore are capable of responding to Him the way He would have us all respond, in humility. It's not that Jesus does not want to save the rich and the powerful; it's that in many ways their riches and power have rendered them incapable of responding in humility towards Christ.

To conclude this episode Jesus once more takes to Himself the prerogative of God. He claims that the woman's sins are forgiven. He is not saying that God has forgiven her these sins. He is implying that HE has forgiven her these sins, something only God can do. Not only do the Jews correctly realize what Jesus is claiming to be God, He also does not tell them that they are wrong in what they think He is claiming for Himself. These 4 episodes are alluding to the truth which will be made clearer later: Jesus is God the Son. That is the One who is making these ultimate claims on our lives.