David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Luke 7:1-50 - THE SICK HEALED, THE DEAD RAISED, THE SINNER FORGIVEN
A. A centurion’s servant is healed.
1. (Luke 7:1-5) The centurion’s request.
Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”
a. A certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die: This centurion seems to be a devout, kind, humble man - yet, all the same he is a centurion - not only a Gentile, but a Roman soldier, and an instrument of Israel’s oppression.
i. The centurion had an unusual attitude towards his slave. Under Roman law, a master had the right to kill his slave, and it was expected that he would do so if the slave became ill or injured to the point where he could not work.
b. He sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant: Apparently, the centurion did not think himself worthy of a personal meeting with Jesus, and perhaps thought Jesus would not want to meet with a Gentile like himself, so he sent Jewish leaders as his representatives to Jesus.
i. We don’t need to have the centurion’s fear today. We don’t need to send a representative to Jesus - we can come to Him ourselves.
2. (Luke 7:6-8) The centurion tells Jesus that He need not come, because he knows that Jesus need not be present to do His work.
Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
a. Then Jesus went with them: Jesus did not hesitate to go to the centurion’s house, and we half wish the centurion would have allowed Him. Would Jesus have entered a Gentile’s house? It was completely against Jewish custom, but not against God’s law.
b. But say the word, and my servant will be healed: The centurion fully understands that Jesus’ healing power was not some sort of magic trick that required the magician’s presence. Instead he knew Jesus had true authority, and can command things to be done and completed outside His immediate presence.
i. The centurion shows great faith in Jesus’ word. He understands that Jesus can heal with His word just as easily as with a touch.
ii. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me: The centurion also knew about the military chain of command, and how the orders of one in authority were unquestioningly obeyed - he sees that Jesus has at least that much authority.
iii. “He believes that, just as he, a man with authority, is obeyed by his subordinates, just so surely will the authoritative utterance of Christ be fulfilled even though He is not present where the sick person is.” (Geldenhuys)
c. The centurion also shows great sensitivity to Jesus, in that he wants to spare Jesus the awkward challenge of whether or not to enter a Gentile’s house - as well as the time and trouble of travel.
i. He didn’t know Jesus well enough to know that He would feel awkward in the least; but his consideration of Jesus in this situation is impressive.
3. (Luke 7:9-10) Jesus heals the servant and marvels at the centurion’s faith.
When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
a. He marveled at him: We see that Jesus only marveled on a few occasions. He does so here, at the faith of the centurion, and also at the unbelief of His own people (Mark 6:6). Jesus can be amazed at either our faith or our unbelief.
b. The centurion knew that Jesus had true power from God, not magic that had to be used according to some ritualistic formula.
B. Jesus raises a boy from the dead.
1. (Luke 7:11-13) Jesus comes upon a funeral procession.
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
a. A dead man was being carried out: The tragedy is compounded when we are told that the boy was the only son of his mother and that the mother herself was a widow. The loss of her only son means that there is nothing in her future except a life of destitute poverty and misery.
b. Do not weep: Why does Jesus tell her to stop crying? There is nothing wrong for a mother to weep at the funeral of her son; but Jesus is showing her that her sorrow will be turned to joy. Jesus’ words of compassion to the mother would have been cruel if He did not have the power to back them up.
2. (Luke 7:14-17) Jesus raises the boy from the dead.
Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.
a. He came and touched the open coffin: The picture is all the more powerful when we are told that it was an open coffin. Jesus is able to look at this boy, and speak to a dead person as if they were alive.
b. Young man, I say to you, arise: Romans 4:17 shows that this is what God alone does - speak to the dead as if they were alive. God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. Jesus could speak to something dead and bring life to it.
c. So he who was dead sat up and began to speak: Jesus had a strange habit of breaking up funeral processions by raising the dead, such as Jarius’ daughter (Luke 8:41-56) and Lazarus (John 11:1-45). Jesus didn’t like death, and He regarded it as an enemy that had to be defeated.
d. We remember that this boy was not resurrected, but resuscitated - he rose from the dead only to die again. God promises that we will be resurrected, and rise from the dead never to die again.
C. Jesus and John the Baptist.
1. (Luke 7:18-19) John questions Jesus: are You really the Christ (the Messiah)?
Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
a. Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another? Why does John ask this question, especially after all the miraculous signs that would demonstrate this to him? Weren’t all the prophecies through his father Zacharias (Luke 1:13-17 and Luke 1:67-80) and the voice from heaven at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-22) enough proof?
b. Matthew tells us that John asked this question from prison (Matthew 11:2-3). Even John the Baptist probably had some misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission, and thought: “If He really is who I thought He is, why am I in prison?” John probably asked this question because of discouragement in prison.
i. “John was already in prison, and things began to appear incomprehensible to him. He had expected that Christ would speedily destroy the powers of darkness and judge the unrighteous. But instead of doing this, He leaves him, His forerunner, helpless in prison.” (Geldenhuys)
ii. It is the same with us. Our discouraging circumstances often cause us to forget or doubt who Jesus is.
2. (Luke 7:20-23) Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples: tell him that the Messiah is alive and well.
When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
a. And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight: John might have wondered why the power of the Messiah was not being shown in more significant acts, such as in freeing him from prison and calling down fire from heaven on the evil political leaders who put him in prison!
b. Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: Jesus sends John’s messengers back with a simple report. The Messiah is definitely here, but His power is manifested in acts of mercy, not judgment, and blessed is he who can receive this Messiah of mercy.
i. When discouragement has led us to believe that Jesus isn’t really who we though He was, we need to clear our eyes and look to God’s Word to see who He really is.
c. How can we know that the power of Jesus is really at work? When we see the simple needs of simple people being met in a powerful way.
3. (Luke 7:24-28) Jesus teaches about John the Baptist.
When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
a. What did you go out into the wilderness to see? Jesus explains that John was a great man of God, one who did not live for his own comfort or the approval of others. John is a chosen prophet of God, not a man-pleaser.
b. For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: Yet, John was greater than all the prophets, mainly because he had the privilege of saying of the Messiah “here He is” instead of “He is coming.”
c. Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You: Jesus quotes the Malachi passage about the coming of John, because the prophets themselves were not prophesied, but John was, and this is one way that he is greater than all previous prophets.
d. But he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he: Yet, John the Baptist is less than the least in the kingdom of God, because John was not born again under the terms of the new covenant, on account that Jesus’ work on the cross had not yet been accomplished.
4. (Luke 7:29-35) Jesus admonishes those who refuse to be pleased by either His ministry or John’s.
And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.”
a. And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John: Those who had repented in preparation for the Messiah by receiving John’s baptism found it easy to receive what Jesus said. But those who would not repent rejected the counsel of God for themselves.
b. We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not weep: Jesus points out the hypocrisy of these hardened hearts who criticized both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. “If the message is unwelcome, nothing that the messenger can say or do will be right.” (Maclaren)
D. Jesus forgives a sinful woman.
1. (Luke 7:36-38) A sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feet.
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.
a. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner: Some suppose this is Mary Magdalene, but we have no evidence that this was her. In John 12:3, Mary of Bethany also anoints Jesus’ feet with oil, but this was a separate incident.
b. Who was a sinner: This tells us more than that she was a sinner just like we are all sinners. She was a particularly notorious sinner - most likely, a prostitute.
i. It was pretty bold for this woman with a sinful reputation to come into the house of a Pharisee, but she was willing to do anything to express her love for Jesus. Going into that house took courage and determination.
c. Brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil: Morris on the alabaster flask: “It had no handles and was furnished with a long neck which was broken off when the contents were needed . . . We may fairly deduce that this perfume was costly. Jewish ladies commonly wore a perfume flask suspended from a cord round the neck, and it was so much a part of them that they were allowed to wear it on the sabbath.”
d. And stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears: How did she pour this perfumed oil on Jesus while He had sat down to eat? “People reclined on low couches at festive meals, leaning on the left arm with the head towards the table and the body stretched away from it. The sandals were removed before reclining.” (Morris)
i. We can imagine the woman coming originally to only anoint Jesus’ feet with oil; but then, being overcome with emotion, tears flowing from her eyes, starting to wash His feet with her tears, wiping them clean with her hair, and kissing His feet repeatedly.
ii. Normally, this oil would be used on someone’s head. This woman shows her humility by saying, “the best perfume for my head is only good enough to anoint Your feet.”
iii. “To have her hair flowing would be deemed immodest . . . [she] kissed fervently, again and again.” (Bruce) But in her emotional display of love, it doesn’t matter to her.
2. (Luke 7:39-47) Simon the Pharisee objects to this, and Jesus answers his objection.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
a. This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner: Simon the Pharisee doubted that Jesus was a prophet because he thought that Jesus was unable to see this woman’s heart. But Jesus has no problem seeing hearts - He tells Simon the Pharisee exactly what is on his heart.
b. Jesus uses a simple and easily understood parable to illustrate the point: the more we are forgiven, the more we should love.
i. We don’t need to go and sin more in order to be forgiven more, thus loving God more. All we need to do is become more sensitive to our current state of sinfulness.
c. Do you see this woman? Therefore, Jesus explains the motive of the woman’s deeply emotional devotion. She loved Jesus because in faith she anticipated His forgiveness.
i. Simon the Pharisee did not see the woman as she was (a humble sinner seeking forgiveness, pouring out love for Jesus) for he was looking at her as she had been (a notorious sinner).
d. I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet: Simon the Pharisee denied Jesus the common courtesies between a host and a guest - washing the feet, a kiss for a greeting, anointing the head with oil. Does he now reproach the woman for giving them to Jesus?
i. Jesus noticed neglect and appreciated devotion. He did not reject deeply emotional devotion.
3. (Luke 7:48-50) Jesus assures the woman of her forgiveness from God.
Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
a. Your sins are forgiven: If Jesus has already said that her sins are forgiven (Luke 7:47), why does he turn to the woman and repeat it? Because we need the healing power inherent in the words your sins are forgiven.
i. It can be so hard for us to truly believe that we are forgiven, that often, we must be persuaded of it.
b. On what basis does Jesus forgive her? Not because He just wants to irritate Simon the Pharisee; but because the woman has displayed humility of repentance and a devoted love for Jesus.
i. The humility and love are themselves God’s work within the woman. She could not come to Jesus in this way unless God had first moved within her.
c. Your faith has saved you: The key to her forgiveness was faith - it was her faith that saved her, because it was her faith that believed the words from Jesus your sins are forgiven. Faith enabled her to take the grace God gave to her.
i. Forgiveness is ready from God; there is no hesitation or shortage on His part. Our part is to come with humility and loving submission to Jesus, and to receive the forgiveness He offers by faith.
d. Go in peace: The woman came to Jesus in complete humility, with the attitude that she was not worthy to even be in His presence. That was a good way for her to come to Jesus, but He doesn’t want her to stay there. He raises her up, acknowledges her love, forgives her sin, and sends her in peace.
e. Of the works done in this chapter, this is the greatest. Sickness that is healed (as in the centurion’s servant), or life that is restored (as in the widow’s son) are not permanent works of healing, because those bodies will one day die again. But sins that are forgiven are forgiven forever.
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