25 October 2006

Part 6- Luke 5:1-32 "followers"

OBSERVE what does it say?

What does Simon Peter's response to Jesus (v.5) indicate about his state of mind toward Jesus leading-up to this moment? Simon Peter appears to have already been favorably disposed to Jesus as a religious teacher or newly recognized prophet. He is willing to be deferential to Him based on what He knows of Him. Chapters 1-4 of John's account of Jesus' life inticate that these men had already been sporadically following Jesus when He was active in the region.

What potential barrier to healing does the leper anticipate Jesus having to healing him (v.12)? What is Jesus' directive after (v.14)? The leper likely anticipates that Jesus will not be willing to heal Him because He will not want to become "contaminated" and unclean. Typically, healings even by "miracle-workers" of the day would entail touching the person to spread salve or speak incantations. This would be all the more the fear when Jesus is in a public place surrounded by a crowd. Jesus' direction is essentially to follow the law in Leviticus and go to the priest to be examined and proclaimed clean (Lev. 14).

As a result of this incident, and Jesus' directions to the leper, what begins to happen (v.17)? The word begins to spread even further. People come to hear Him teach and be healed. As it turns out, the word also spreads among religious circles as they begin to shadow him to monitor His activity.

The paralytic and friends want him to be healed to walk. What is Jesus' priority focus (v.20, 22-24)? Jesus' priority is forgiveness of the man's sins. Healing his physical disease seems to be an afterthought, offered as a proof of the easier claim that cannot be verified.

INTERPRET what does it mean?

Why is Simon Peter's reaction to Jesus' miraculous guidance telling Him to leave--to "go away from me" (v.8)? Simon is reacting in a general way to someone that God must be present in or working through. Simon figures that only God can be behind what just happened. Knowing that he's a mere mortal--morally frail and completely inferior to an Almight Holy God--Simon is experiencing the gut reaction that is frequently related in moments like these recorded in the scriptures.

In light of the issue of willingness, what's the real miracle that Luke is focusing on in the account of the healed leper (v.13)? What is Jesus' intent in His directive to the leper about what to do next (vv. 14-16)? The real miracle here is Jesus' unwillingness to abide by the conventional understanding of what was clean and unclean (Lev. 13:45-46). In this act, as in many others, Jesus is clarifying the intent of the law given long ago. He is clarifying the ethic or motivation that is behind its specific dictates. Jesus' directive reveals that He wants to be sure that the Jewish religious establishment must grapple with what He has done and commit to a judgment regarding the man's healing. They would now have to take a position and go on the record.

Why does Jesus respond to looking for healing by making the outrageous claim to forgive the man's sins (v.20)? Jesus is interested in the man's whole healing, but sin is the fatal disease that really defines his life. In this moment, Jesus is clarifying the real point of what He's doing--the real thing that's wrong in this man's life. He does this knowing full well that the potential charge of blasphemy carries deadly consequences (Lev. 24:13-16).

APPLY how do I respond?
Luke has laid-out a few realities for us to consider in these pericopes:

  • We are all in need of Jesus' guidance and healing, and can count on His ability, wisdom, and willingness.
  • Jesus' ministry is open to all--scandalously open--so long as a person open to Him, recognizing their need and letting Him meet it.
  • Jesus doesn't care about what people say about Him as He is the One to initiate contact with sinners and spend time with them.
  • The task Jesus calls us to is seeking, not separation.

I said it Sunday, but I'll say it again. My observation and experience is that one of our great failings as 21st Century North American Christians is the degree to which we have made following Him about separating ourselves from those who don't. We value time at church and with other Christians more than that which we spend with those who are not. We hide in our own Christian subculture (books, music) rather than wading into the deep pool of the culture at-large where those who don't believe are swimming. We talk about work or school being our "mission field," but know that our interactions with people there are under fairly tight constraints. Our doors aren't regularly open allowing them entry into our lives. I think this is the case because our hearts aren't open either.

So, the obvious question is why? I think we like to feel that we are somehow different, that we're not like them. I think we're sometimes rooted so shallowly in what it means to live as Jesus did, that we're afraid that we'll end-up doing what they're doing. I think we forget that the point is about loving them as He has. I'm walking away from this section asking: "What if Jesus really does want me to go live with and love those who don't follow Him?" It's elementary, I know. But, it's usually the simple basic stuff that would change everything if we just started living them.

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