Friday, February 22, 2013

Luke 8 - Parable, Calming, Healing, and Restoring

LINK: Luke 8

73. Women accompany Jesus and the disciples: Luke 8:1-3

In addition to the disciples, women were also closely associated with Jesus and helped support Him. Mary was from Magdala in Galilee.

77. Jesus tells the parable of the four soils: Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8

This marks a transition point in Jesus' ministry. This new phase includes parables. They enabled Him to continue teaching His disciples without being troubled by the religious leaders trying to trap Him in His words (Matthew 13:13). The meaning behind His mysterious words would be revealed to those who were truly seeking.

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. It "uses evident truth from a known field (nature or human life) to convey new truth in an unknown" (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel, p. 775). Our English word parable is a combination of two Greek words para meaning "alongside" and ballo meaning "to throw or cast." Jesus put a figurative picture alongside a teaching so that we might understand its meaning. He used pictures from agrarian life because that was what the people understood in this agrarian society. Parables were known in the Old Testament times. So, it figures that Jesus would perfect them!

The figurative picture of the sower and the seed would have made a connection in this agrarian society.  You will observe the seed fell on four different kinds of soil: 1) beside the road, 2) rocky places (a place where a thin surface of earth covers a rock), 3) thorns (ground not thoroughly cleared of thistles and such), and 4) good soil (soft and tender, moist and clean). 

78. Jesus explains the parable of the four soils: Matthew 13:10-23, Mark 4:10-25, Luke 8:9-18

When they were alone, His disciples and close followers asked Him why there was a shift in His teaching to parables.  Jesus revealed that He used the parables because He was making known to them the "secrets (mysteries) of the kingdom of heaven," but people were slow to understand (Mark 4:33-34). Those who do not have the spiritual acuity to comprehend and understand the parables or reject God's revelation would be left out by the veil that covered them. The parables answered mysteries for those who were ready to hear. 
The word “mysteries” in Scripture is not used in its classical sense—of religious secrets, nor yet of things incomprehensible, or in their own nature difficult to be understood—but in the sense of things of purely divine revelation, and, usually, things darkly announced under the ancient economy, and during all that period darkly understood, but fully published under the Gospel (1Co 2:6–10Eph 3:3–689). “The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” then, mean those glorious Gospel truths which at that time only the more advanced disciples could appreciate, and they but partially.  
(A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Mt 13:11)
Jesus knew that the majority of the multitudes were not true seekers. Their hearts were not prepared to hear the good news of the kingdom. 

Jesus does not explain who the sower is, but we can deduce that it is anyone who proclaims the word of God. Jesus explained that the seed is the "word of God" and the soils are the "different states of the human heart" (Ibid., Mark 4:14). All three of these human hearts have one thing in common -- they do not bear fruit: 
1) Beside the road - This is the hard heart. "The great truth here taught is, that hearts all unbroken and hard are not fit soil for saving truth" (Ibid.). The seed does not penetrate or make an impression. Therefore, the heart is easy prey for the enemy of all human hearts, Satan (birds) who does not want anyone to believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). 
2) Rocky places - This is the shallow heart.  Much of Palestine has a thin layer of soil on top of rock. The seed springs up at first, but with no moisture (Luke 8:6) and place for roots to go down deep (Mark 4:6), it withers.  
"The great truth here taught is that hearts superficially impressed are apt to receive the truth with readiness, and even with joy (Lu 8:13); but the heat of tribulation or persecution because of the word, or the trials which their new profession brings upon them quickly dries up their relish for the truth, and withers all the hasty promise of fruit which they showed. Such disappointing issues of a faithful and awakening ministry—alas, how frequent are they" (Ibid. Mk 4:16).
3) Thorns - This is the crowded heartThe "cares of the world" mean "anxious, unrelaxing attention to the business of this present life."  The "deceitfulness of riches" means "riches which are the fruit of this worldly care.'"  The "pleasures of this life" (Luke 8:14) or "desire for other things" are the "enjoyments in themselves [that] may be innocent, which worldly prosperity enables one to indulge" (Ibid. Mark 4:19). These all take ones attention away for the spiritual, drawing on a person's money, time, and energy. God gets what is left over when He should get the best and first of our "wealth" of money, time, and energy (Proverbs 3:9, Matthew 6:33). There is no fruit that results from this!
Notice that all of the above fruitless "hearts" are kept from bearing fruit because of the three enemies of every believer: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3)!
4) Good soil - This is the soft heart. The soil is tilled and soft and able to retain moisture because it isn't just top soil on top of rock. There are no worldly distractions and entanglements because it does the will of the Father:
 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. 
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
For all that is in the world, 
the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes 
and the boastful pride of life, 
is not from the Father, but is from the world. 
(1 John 2:15–16)  

They "accept" the word. The Greek word here (paradechontai) means to "welcome it for themselves." This heart brings forth the lasting fruit of a changed life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:19-23).

Warren Wiersbe goes on to explain more about fruit: 
Fruit is the test of true salvation (Matt. 7:16). This would include holiness (Rom. 6:22), Christian character (Gal. 5:22–23), good works (Col. 1:10), winning others to Christ (Rom. 1:13), sharing what we have (Rom. 15:25–28), and praising God (Heb. 13:15). If a plant is to bear fruit, it must be rooted in soil and exposed to sunshine.   
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Mt 13:1)
Mark 4:21-25 and Luke 8:16-18 add a little addendum that is not in the Matthew 13 account. These authors explain that just as lamps are meant to give light and not be out of sight, Jesus was destined to be revealed. The measure in these passages means that the more truth we receive and apply now the more we will receive in the future. 

76. Jesus describes his true family: Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21

Here Jesus asserts the importance of spiritual family. Even Jesus' own family (John 7:1-5) and hometown friends (Mark 3:21) did not understand His ministry. He emphasized the importance of the family of God. As one who comes from a family where God was not the center, my spiritual family has meant so much to me!

87. Jesus calms the storm:  Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25

Violent storms often arose on the small Sea of Galilee (thirteen miles long and eight miles wide). Jesus asserts His deity by causing the storm to cease with a mere word!  He rebuked His disciples for their "little faith." This is in contrast to the "great faith" of the Gentile centurion in Matthew 8:5-13. 

88. Jesus sends demons into a heard of pigs: Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39 

This event probably occurred in a small town called Gersa which is now modern day Khersa. It is located on the Sea of Galilee's eastern shore, and most of the people who lived there were Gentiles. We know this because farmers on the east side of the Sea of Galilee were raising pigs for the predominantly Gentile population since Jews considered pigs "unclean" (Leviticus 11:7). 

The man came out of the tombs which were sometimes places where demented people dwelt. Matthew mentions two demoniacs, but Mark and Luke put their attention on just one who asked to become a disciple of the Lord. The demons possessing the men knew that Jesus was the "Son of the Most High God."  This title was often used in the Old Testament by Gentiles in order to refer to the God of Israel as above any of their pagan gods (Genesis 14:18-24; Numbers 24:16; Isaiah 14:14; Daniel 3:26; 4:2). 

The name of the demon was Legion. This was a Latin word denoting a Roman army of about 6,000 soldiers. These men were greatly oppressed by a host of demons! Jesus' authority was demonstrated because He gave the demons "permission" to go into the swine. 

The significance of Jesus delivering the Gerasene demoniacs is that they were obviously Gentiles. Jesus was showing that His ministry reach and care was not just to the Jews but to the Gentiles. It was God's plan all along that Gentiles would be reached with the Good News. 

After one of the men was healed, he asked to accompany Jesus, but Jesus told him to go and tell his family all that the Lord had done. This spread the Good New among the Gentiles in the Decapolis (a league of 10 Greek cities with all but one east of the Jordan). 

89. Jesus restores a girl to life and heals a bleeding woman: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56

The story of Jairus' daughter is "sandwiched" around the story of the bleeding woman in all three gospel accounts.

Jairus asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter, but he had to wait for Jesus to heal the bleeding woman. It was a test of faith for him because his daughter died as he waited, but it was an opportunity for Jesus' power over death to be displayed!

Jesus told him to not be afraid (it might be wise to mark how many times Jesus said this in His ministry).  Essentially, He was saying, "Stop fearing in unbelief, and just keep believing." Mark records Jesus as speaking in Aramaic (a Jewish language related to Hebrew). He translated it into Greek, perhaps for his Greek-speaking, Gentile readers: "Little girl . . . get up." 

The bleeding woman had what might have been a menstrual disorder or a uterine hemorrhage. This would make her ritually "unclean" (Leviticus 15:25-27) and would exclude her from social relations. This was a double whammy of physical illness and socio-religious isolation!

Many touched Jesus, but He realized the touch of faith of this woman, and she was instantly healed. He called her "daughter," and this is the only recorded use of this term by Jesus in the gospel accounts.

No REFLECTION or APPLICATION today because there was so much to cover in this chapter!


Thank You Jesus for calming storms, healing, and restoring. Help us to be agents of your healing and restoration for others. I pray this in Your name. Amen. 
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