Monday, August 6, 2018

Luke 7:1-17

Remember that Jesus is living out the new wine in new wineskins throughout these chapters. His kingdom and his way and his kingship stands in stark contrast to the ironclad rules of human existence as they have been known in the past.

There are a couple absolutes of this world that Jesus contradicts in these verses. The first rule is, "Our tribe above all others." The second is, "Death has the final say."

The Roman centurion is a perfect example of one who not only calls Jesus "Lord" (see the last verses of chapter 6) but also puts a life-changing trust in him. Through the rigid structures and requisite obedience of the Roman army, God has given himself a witness in this man's life. The centurion uses his military experience and authority to put himself under Jesus' authority, and it is a remarkable testimony both to Jesus and the Jews. Interestingly, the Jews surrounding Jesus make a claim that the centurion deserves Jesus' attention because of his good works, but the centurion himself makes no such claim. Instead he defers to Jesus' power and mercy, never trying to argue for his own way.

The dead man, of course, is beyond any appeal at all. Death is just the final, despairing end of all things. Except that Jesus turns even this (sorry, Ben Franklin) on its head. Instead of the hopelessness of a mother stumbling along in her son's funeral procession, Jesus creates wonder, awe, and new life.

Both of these incidents point to the supreme kingly authority of Jesus himself. These actions are parables-in-action. In the first, the hated outsider, the Roman oppressor, submits to God's grace. He is a representative of "all the nations" who will be blessed through Abraham's descendants (see Genesis 12). The raising of the widow's son at Nain (a minor village in southeastern Galilee, about five miles from Nazareth) flies in the face of the grief and hopelessness death always brings. The Old Testament is full of many statements about the finality of death, and there are just a few remarkable spots where it hints that there might be hope that God will someday defeat even death.

We often miss an element in this story -- the mother herself. Luke is careful to tell us that the man is the only son of his mother, and that she is a widow. Luke also says specifically that Jesus had compassion on her. It is hard for us to understand the economic terror that faced this woman. As a widow deprived of her only son, she now had no means of support, no rights, no status. She would be consigned to begging at best. When Jesus raises the young man, we are told Jesus gives him specifically to his mother. Jesus not only resuscitates the young man's dead body, but he gives the woman back her life as well. If we pay attention, Luke is very good at showing us how Jesus pays attention to women, treating them as fully human, bearers of the image of God, partners in his ministry and more. Again, it is difficult for us to envision how far outside the norms this was in Jesus' day and his culture. He stands as king in a kingdom that contradicts the ironclad rules of our existence.

The people of his own day had trouble understanding who Jesus was and what he had come to accomplish. That's what we'll see next time as even John the Baptist starts to question Jesus' work.

No comments:

Post a Comment