For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 25, 2007
This chapter opens with the story of the centurion and his servant. This man was desperate for his servant to be healed, and he was apparently a gracious man. You will not find many Romans about whom the Jews would say this: "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue." (7:4-5) He, unlike virtually every other person who came to Jesus for healing, understood the real power that Jesus had. When Jesus was nearing the centurion's house, he said he wasn't worthy to have Jesus come into his house, but that Jesus could heal him right there in the street. "But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." (7:7-8) He understood that Jesus' power was not magic, but it was something that came from God. Jesus did as the centurion requested, then said: "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." (7:9)
Next is a story that is found only in Luke. And that's rather surprising, because this is an amazing miracle. You would think at least one of the other Gospel writers would have mentioned it. Jesus comes to a village, and the whole town is in mourning. An elderly widow's only son is being taken out to be buried. Jesus comes to the widow, tells her to stop crying, and then tells the bearers of the body to stop. As He came to the body of the dead son, most of the people probably were shocked. They may have thought Jesus was making a mockery of their funeral. But then Jesus raises the young man and restores him to his mother.
Next we have the messengers from John. John was having his doubts. Sure, Jesus was healing people and preaching, but like most Jews, John was not looking for just a teacher and a healer. He was looking for the Messiah who would break the bonds of Roman oppression and establish the Kingdom. Jesus does not blast John for his doubts. He has a simple message for His friend: "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." (7:22-23)
Jesus then tells the people about John, and He adds something very strange at the end: "To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by all her children." (7:31-35, ESV)
Jesus says both John and Himself defied the people's expectations. People didn't expect a prophet to live in the desert and do the strange things John did, so they said he was demon-possessed. Of course the prophets like Hosea and Ezekiel did even more bizarre things than John, but they were safely in the past, and their actions were already part of Scripture.
The people certainly didn't expect the Messiah to be running around with the outcasts of society and defying their societal norms. They accused Him of being a drunkard and a glutton. Now I could go off on Jesus being accused of being a drunkard, and that few "good Christians" today would be accused of such, but I think the most important thing to learn from this passage is that Jesus defied people's expectations. I think He would do the same thing today. We get too comfortable in what we consider normal or correct Christianity. I don't think the Lord minds that different Christians do things different ways, but I do think He minds that people think their way is the only correct way. And I'm not talking about the cardinal doctrines of the faith. I'm talking about people who split churches and fellowships or blast their fellow believers over lesser differences. I'm all for knowing why you believe what you believe, but part of knowing why is understanding what things are worth fighting for and what things are not. There were lots of things the Jews considered to be the correct religion. Jesus did not follow their rules, and so they dismissed Him as a fraud.