22 February 2007

Part 11-Luke 7:1-8:3 (A) "questions"

Here are my responses for this week’s Luke study guide. Click the link below to read the rest.

OBSERVE // what does it say?

What is the emphasis of 7:1-10—the miracle healing or the centurion’s faith-filled quest for help? Who takes the initiative? What does this reveal about faith? The emphasis is almost totally on the Centurion and his initiative. Jesus is responsive to the man’s faith. The extent and confidence of his faith leaves Jesus amazed and commenting on it to those around Him.

What does Luke reveal about this gentile’s relationship with the Jews? This gentile has a good relationship with the Jews—even having a favorable assessment of them as a people and actively supporting their institutions. The Jews had as much disdain for gentiles as gentiles had for the Jews. It’s interesting to note that here, it is the Jews willing to plead the case of a gentile because he had acted to tear down the barriers that existed between them. It’s ironic that that Jews were unwilling to be the active force in that reconciliation and serve as the bridge to the Savior of the world. Paul will call this to mind and make this a prominent part of Jesus’ followers’ agenda (cf. Gal 3:26-29; Eph 2:11-22)

INTERPRET // what does it mean?

In 7:11-17, who takes the initiative? What does this reveal about faith? In this incident, Jesus is clearly the one taking the initiative. The mother gives no indication of faith before or after. Jesus acts of His own accord. It is clear that Jesus is not subject to faith. He can act in miraculous ways when He wants to whether or not the person has faith. Ephesians 2:8 makes it clear that it is through faith that we have been graciously saved by God. But even this faith is not something that comes from us, but “is the gift of God.”

What does Jesus risk in His interaction in this incident? Jesus is willing to risk being viewed as ceremonially unclean (cf. Nu 19:16), not to mention having violated the norms of behavior for a funeral. Jesus repeatedly asserts that something being unclean or not is an internal matter of the heart, not an external condition (Mk 7:14-16).

In 7:18-35, why does Jesus respond to questions about who He is by noting what he has done (vv. 20-23)? While anyone could claim to be the Messiah and people could argue about their opinions regarding whether John or Jesus were the Messiah, it’s hard to argue the evidence. At the very least, the things that Jesus is doing speak to an undeniable power. More, the power they reveal is a power that is doing good—healing, restoring, giving hope to the hopeless. The Jews had many prophetic descriptions of what reality would accompany the coming of the Messiah. While the element of present judgment is absent, it is hard to miss that these things represent the positive element described in those passages.

What point is Jesus making about John in the verses that follow (vv. 24-29)? Jesus appears to want the crowd to understand the nature of John’s questions. He points out that John’s original ministry was one that was based on being willing to say the unpopular thing regardless of the public’s response. John was not a “reed swayed by the wind,” a politician who says what people want to hear and follow the guidance of public opinion. No, from the beginning, John was a strong messenger who said what God wanted him to say because He believed it and would be faithful to that task. The implication for the crowd is that they should not view John as a fraud, or think less of John because he is now struggling with confidence in the face of his imprisonment.

What point is Jesus making about the religious leaders (vv. 30-35)? The religious leaders had not been open to John’s message or manner of responding to it by being baptized as a sign of repentance. In this, it was evident that they had “rejected God’s purpose for themselves.” As he goes on to note, their rejection cannot be explained by faulting the approach or nature of the messenger’s ministry. John was a prophet living a hard-scrabble existence of deprivation and isolation, with a demanding message of impending judgment and a fitting response, yet some dismissed him as demon-possessed. Jesus, on the other hand, has a ministry characterized by extensive interaction with the crowds, often in the setting of eating and drinking with those of questionable character. Yet, some reject Him too asserting that He is a “glutton and drunkard” (in our language: “Jesus is a pig and a lush”). Such harsh negative responses have little to do with the style of the ministry, but are rather a response to the substance of God’s message. Those who are spiritually wise can see past the style to the substance because of the outcomes of both men’s ministries.

APPLY // how do I respond?

As I studied this week, the thing that really hit me was the way in which I often fall prey to the lie that God’s ability to work in my life hinges on my degree of faith. God is not limited by anything, least of all me. The reality is that, even when my faith may be described as shaky, God can do whatever He wills in and through my life—even regenerating life. Thank God for the gift of faith!

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