Luke 8 – Reading Helps

1-3

  • Jesus continues the mission that He laid out in 4:43 – He is here to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Messiah is here, and God’s kingdom will be established through Him – both now to a limited extent and in the future to the fullest.
  • Luke helpfully explains how Jesus is able to travel around with no visible means of support (see LK 9:58).  He has a group of women – all of whom He has touched in some way – that supports Him.  It’s interesting to see the cross-section of society represented by the group.  The wife of Herod’s steward (this is likely Herod Antipas a/k/a Herod the Tetrarch who rules Galilee – he is the king who ran off with his brother’s wife and beheaded John the Baptist – how amazing is it that one of the most important men in his administration has a wife who travels with Jesus and supports His ministry??) is likely toward the top of the social hierarchy and Mary Magdalene – who was possessed by SEVEN demons – is likely toward the bottom.  Note that Luke says many other women support Jesus also.  Something to think about: the world says Christianity is a patriarchal religion that shortchanges women, and yet in Jesus’ time women were apparently very attracted to His ministry and were among His largest supporters.

4-15

  • In verses 9-10 we find out something interesting.  First, the disciples don’t understand the parable Jesus just told.  Second, Jesus says that the others who heard it didn’t understand it either because it hasn’t been given to them to understand.  That means Jesus just knowingly told a parable that pretty much no one – when they heard it – understood.  And that means He apparently told it for the sake of the disciples – who He’s about to explain it to – but also for everyone who will believe in the future and read it in the gospels.  Jesus told this parable for us.
  • What do we do with Jesus’ statement that He speaks to the multitudes in parables so they WON’T understand?  Note that He quotes Isaiah 6:9, which is a statement of judgment.  In the Isaiah passage, God commissions Isaiah to go to Israel but tells him the people will be precluded from understanding his message because they have rejected God.  The logical connection with this passage is that the parables are judgment on those who have rejected the message.  To those who accept Jesus, the parables are understandable or will be explained (as Jesus is about to do for the disciples).  But for those who do not accept Jesus – like the religious leaders and the multitudes looking for a political Messiah or who simply want to see signs – the parables are indecipherable and unexplained.

Beside the road

The soil beside the road represents those who hear the word but do not understand it.  This goes along with what Jesus just said about the people to whom He only speaks in parables.  These are the ones whose hearts are too hard to comprehend the gospel.  The seed is sown in their hearts – to the Hebrew mind this was the seat of both the intellect and the emotions – but the condition of their hearts makes the seed ineffective.

Because they do not understand the word it is effectively forgotten.  Satan makes sure they do not contemplate it for long. 

Of the four soils, this is the only one that does not accept the word in any way.  This is the person who is too intellectual, too busy in life, or too caught up in religion to bother with the truth.  He is a member of the wise and intelligent who Jesus refers to in Matthew 11:25.  There is no doubt as to his condition – he sees nothing in the message of Jesus that attracts him or is worthy of his consideration.  He is so given over to his own perspective and worldview that there is no room for the gospel.

Rocky places

The shallow soil covering rocks represents the person who readily accepts the gospel but does not truly understand what he is accepting.  He is the person who hears it, gets excited about it (receive the word with joy), perhaps thinks it is the answer to all his problems and his ticket to a happy life.  But when trials come into his life as a result of the word, he immediately forsakes what he has claimed to believe because the trials destroy his premise for believing in the first place.  He finds out to his dismay that the way of the disciple is hard (as Jesus said it would be in Matthew 10:16-25).  This is the person who most likely gets carried away with the emotion of the moment.  He wants to be part of the community of believers and join others who respond to the message, but does not count on having to stand up for his faith under persecution or persevering through unexplained difficulties.

Thorns

This person is similar to the one denoted by the rocky places except he does not receive the word with joy; perhaps emotions do not play as large of a role.  This is the person who accepts the word and changes his life for a while – perhaps in the midst of a crisis or when dealing with death – but later realizes that it does not fit with the worldly pursuits he does not want to give up.  This might be someone who says, “I tried Christianity and then moved on – I outgrew it.”

Note there is nothing wrong with the soil here – it is deep enough for the seed to take firm root.  But the soil already supports the thorns – there is simply not enough room or resources for the seed to fully grow.

The thorns are there because he cannot take his eyes off the world and pursue only God.  He thinks of the Christian life only in terms of what he must give up – he sees no benefits.  He measures everything from the perspective of this life only.  He cannot fit through the narrow gate because of all he wants to bring with him.

[The description of this soil has application to the Christian also.  If we are not growing or we find we have little victory over our besetting sins, could it be that we are too accepting of the thorns in our lives?  Are we trying to live a heavenly life with an earthly perspective?  Do we see the temptations and wealth of this world as thorns or goals?  Note that Jesus could have used many different examples of what corrupts this soil, but He used riches and pleasures because He knows the rewards of this world mean everything to the unrenewed mind. 

Are we willing to pull the thorns out by the roots, thus showing that we are radically different from the world around us?  Or are we content to just cut them back periodically while largely living with the same priorities as everyone else?  The extent to which we destroy the thorns in our lives is the extent to which we will bear fruit for the kingdom.]

Good Soil

These hear the word and understand it, believe it, and hold it fast.  They receive the word in an honest and good heart.  Implicit in their receiving is the work of the Spirit.  The Spirit enables them to hear and understand.  And notice the proof of their understanding – they bear fruit.  This is the only soil that produces a harvest.  The word cannot take root without bearing fruit.  Said another way, if there isn’t fruit, then the word didn’t take root.  No fruit, no root.  No root, no fruit.  And lastly, notice the fruit comes with perseverance (patience).  Sanctification progresses by the work of the Spirit and the work of the believer.  He who perseveres to the end is saved.

16-18

  • This is not an easily understood metaphor, but it seems to be a continuation of the thought expressed in the parable of the sower.  How the word is received is the point.  The word of God is a light that is available to all men – it won’t stay hidden.  It will be proclaimed and is accessible.  However, only those who hear it correctly will benefit from it.  Those who hear it and believe will benefit by growing in the word more and more.  But those who don’t hear appropriately will lose even the religion they think they have (perhaps a warning to the religious Jews).
  • It could be that verse 17 refers to secret sins that will come out at judgment (just as in Lk 12:2-3), but the context seems to refer to the word of God rather than works done in secret.

19-21

  • The Catholics say the brothers mentioned here are half-brothers of Jesus born to Joseph in a prior marriage (because Mary is a perpetual virgin).  Nothing in the text support this.
  • Jesus essentially tells us that we are His family.  We aren’t the Son of God, but we’re brothers and sisters to the Son and children of the Father if we believe the Son’s message.

22-25

  • This scene illustrates both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity.  He falls asleep in the boat after a long day of ministry (humanity).  He’s awakened and calms the storm (divinity).  And then He becomes irritated at the disciples for their lack of faith (both).
  • Something to think about as far as the severity of the storm.  It’s likely that Peter, Andrew, James, and John are in the boat along with the other disciples.  The four of them have made their living on this lake – they’ve presumably seen it all.  And yet the text says everyone in the boat is panicked enough to fear for their lives.  This is no ordinary storm.
  • The disciples’ reaction to what Jesus does shows that it’s one thing to give mental assent to Jesus’ divinity and status as the Son of God.  But belief reaches a whole new level when they fully witness His power.  Don’t let familiarity lessen the effect of the story.  He stands up and says a few words and a deadly storm immediately stops.  The effect on the witnesses had to be profound.
  • Something else to consider.  Judas is presumably here.  Judas witnesses the same display of power as everyone else.  Amazing to consider that he can experience this and later become disgruntled enough to betray Jesus for money.  It really shows the extent to which selfish sin and pride can twist our thinking.

26-39

  • The country of the Gerasenes is likely a Gentile area.  This is another example of Luke showing that Jesus has come for more than just the Jews.
  • Isn’t it interesting that every demon that Jesus confronts knows exactly who He is?  And isn’t it also interesting that they seem to know they’re doomed to judgment eventually (vs 31 – they entreat Jesus not to send them to the abyss – in Matthew’s version it says they don’t want to be tormented before the time – Matt 8:29)?  That means their judgment includes the knowledge that they are doomed along with the inability to change that outcome.  It’s ultimate judgment.
  • The outcome for the demons doesn’t seem fair to the owners of the swine (the herd of pigs is another sign that this is a Gentile community).  If a whole herd drowns itself, doesn’t that mean someone is out a significant amount of money?  No commentaries seem to deal with this fact, by the way.
  • Unlike the disciples whose belief was reinforced by a show of Jesus’ power, the people of the surrounding communities come and witness the change in the man (after hearing about the pigs drowning themselves from the herdsmen) and urge Jesus to go.  They are scared and it’s not a reverent fear.  They’re scared of Jesus’ power and want nothing to do with Him.
  • Unlike the people, the healed man wants to follow Jesus.  Jesus tells him instead to stay and become a witness.  He essentially gives him a mini-great commission (good commission?).  Note how Luke describes the commission and the man’s actions in verse 39.  Jesus tells him to tell everyone the great things GOD has done for him.  Luke ends the verse by saying the man does what he was told and describes the great things JESUS had done for him.  Luke shows that the two words are one in the same.    

40-56

  • Jesus returns to Galilee and the multitudes are waiting for Him.  His fame is such that He doesn’t travel anywhere without people gathering.
  • A synagogue official – Jairus – comes to him in a panic.  His only daughter (12 years old) is dying at home, and he urgently needs Jesus to come.  It’s interesting that a man who represents the religious establishment that has fought Jesus’ ministry tooth and nail comes to Him in humility and asks for help.  He comes in complete faith. 
  • The woman with the hemorrhage has struggled with the problem for TWELVE years (which is the entire lifetime of Jairus’ daughter – it’s likely that Luke wants us to notice this).  That means she’s been ceremonially unclean for twelve years.  It means she hasn’t worshiped corporately for twelve years.  If she’s married, she hasn’t had sex with her husband for twelve years.  And since she’s ritually unclean, it means others can’t come into contact with her or they will also become unclean.  So beyond the medical misery of her problem, she’s been socially isolated for twelve years.  And she’s sought healing unsuccessfully so it’s likely her hopes have been dashed again and again as she’s tried to find someone to heal her.
  • The woman is on the opposite side of society from Jairus.  He’s the top – she’s the bottom.
  • Notice that Jesus seems to be in no rush with the woman.  He stops and asks who touched Him.  He waits for the woman to identify herself and then engages with her.  All this takes place while Jairus waits, knowing his daughter is at death’s door.  He has to be dying himself while Jesus patiently interacts with the woman.  It’s similar to how Jesus will treat the imminent death of Lazarus when He receives word that Lazarus is near death.  He delays two days because He knows what He’s going to do and what will bring Him the most glory.
  • The fact that the woman doesn’t try to interrupt Him or get His attention in any way shows the depth of her faith (and perhaps her reticence born of being a social outcast for so many years).  She doesn’t need His words or actions.  She knows who He is and has faith that just touching his garment will heal her.  It’s this faith that’s rewarded.
  • Jesus treats the woman gently.  He heals her and encourages her and sends her away with tender words.  He couldn’t be more compassionate towards her.  We should never think that just because a trial lasts for long times or there doesn’t seem to be much movement from our prayers that God doesn’t care.  We serve a compassionate Savior who died for us and loves us and lets us hurt but never without a reason and never without Him nurturing us along the way.
  • By the time Jesus turns His attention back to Jairus it’s too late.  Word comes that the girl is dead.  There’s no reason for Jesus to come to the house now.  It’s not recorded, but we can imagine how Jairus feels when he gets the news.  If Jesus had hurried, maybe she’d be alive.
  • Jesus doesn’t give up the mission.  He hears the news but tells Jairus not to give up hope and that his daughter will be saved.  The emotional rollercoaster Jairus is on is hard to imagine.  “Your daughter is dead but don’t be afraid.  Believe and she’ll be saved.”  At this point he probably doesn’t know what to think.
  • The mourners are already at the house when they arrive.  Jesus’ words about the girl being asleep instead of dead (have you noticed how often in the gospels people take Jesus’ words literally when He means them figuratively? – apparently people in Jesus’ time weren’t big on nuance) causes them to stop mourning and start laughing.  This is a hard scene to understand.  How do they go from one to the other so quickly?  Perhaps it’s a bitter laugh of scorn towards someone who obviously doesn’t get what’s happened.
  • Jesus takes the girl by the hand and commands her to arise.  It’s similar to how he treated the storm.  His words make all the difference.  He then commands that they get her something to eat because apparently resurrection works up an appetite.  It also shows that she’s truly alive.
  • Unlike what He told the demoniac in Gerasene, Jesus tells Jairus and his wife not to tell anyone about this.  The difference likely is that Jairus and his wife are Jews living in a Jewish area.  Jesus doesn’t need more fame and doesn’t need anyone trying to make him into a political leader.  In Gerasene, the healed man was a Gentile living in a Gentile area where Jesus didn’t have those worries.  Plus, Jesus wasn’t going back to Gerasene and the people there needed to hear about the kingdom.

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