The Gospel According to Luke – Chapters 6 and 7

January 19, 2008

At the start of Chapter 6, the scribes and Pharisees confront Jesus on two occasions regarding how He and His disciples observe the sabbath. Jesus implies that while the law of the Lord is perfect and provides guidance, the law is not an end in and of itself, but a means to the end – a roadmap to God, if you will.

We see the scribes and Pharisees scrutinize the actions of Jesus and His disciples, watching for even the smallest mistake and demanding a strict observance of the law. When his disciples pluck heads of grain on the sabbath, Jesus transcends their reasoning and cites David’s eating the bread of the Presence, claiming "the Son of man is lord of the sabbath" (v. 3-5). On another occasion, despite knowing the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees, He heals on the sabbath after asking, "is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" (v. 9).

In verse 12, Jesus retires "in these days" to the mountain to pray, and spends all night in prayer before appointing twelve disciples, a period of time that is akin to Mt. Sinai and Moses’ preparation prior to receiving God’s covenant. From his numerous disciples, Jesus selects twelve by name to be His apostles. One sees in this the continuation of the Hebrew office of "shaliach" wherein a master sends out a representative, oftentimes giving them their full power.

In verse 17, Luke first expounds on the core of Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Plain. Among these tenets, we hear, "Blessed are you when men hate you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets" (v. 20-24).

Accompanying these promises and exhortations, Jesus expounds on the following warnings, in order that we might not follow imprudent paths, most notably He says, "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets" (v. 25-26).

Jesus demands a radical adherence to all of the gospel message in one’s actions. He fleshes out many ethical teachings in verses 27-38. Overall, we see that we must rely completely on God instead of desiring security or clinging to what is comfortable. If we are not radical disciples of Jesus and only take His message half-heartedly, we are no better than blind men and possess no credible Christian identity (v. 39). Verses 40-49 further describe Jesus’ lofty call, containing many wonderful images and lessons for us all.

The start of Chapter 7 describes the miraculous healings in Capernaum and Nain. In the first, Jesus says of the centurion "not even in Israel have I found such faith" before healing the man’s son (v. 9). Soon after this, Jesus travels to Nain and raises a young man from the dead by touching the platform on which he is being carried out of the city, saying, "Young man, I say to you, arise" (v. 14).

Somewhat unlike the depiction of John the Baptist given to us in the Gospel of John, Luke describes that the Baptizer is in need for a final answer whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. After the disciples of John describe the events in Capernaum and Nain to him, John and Jesus communicate with one another through messengers. Giving the last statement, Jesus’ disciples cite elements from Isaiah, imply His Messianic identity, acclaim John’s ministry and justify those who receive John’s baptism.

In verse 36, Luke describes a striking incident while Jesus dines in the house of Simon, a Pharisee. During the meal, a sinful woman enters, wetting his feet with her tears, kissing them, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with oil. Jesus contrasts her devotion with the lack of honor Simon bestows upon Him. He says, "her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little" (47). Simon who is only aware of formal religion, does not break through to God and thus cannot honor Jesus in the same manner. By following Jesus’ message wholeheartedly, not only do we receive His forgiveness, but break beyond formal religion to encounter Christ Himself.

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