A CENTURION'S SERVANT HEALED
The Lord then came to Capernaum and there was appealed to by a Gentile, a Roman centurion, by means of the mediatorship of Jewish elders. In contrast to this a woman of Canaan later came to Him herself, asking His mercy for her daughter (Matthew 15:22), but He ignored her because she appealed to Him as though she was Jewish. But when she called Him "Lord" rather than "Son of David," He reminded her that she was in the place of a "dog," being a Gentile. She then took her proper place and He answered her need. But in this case, the centurion fully realized his place and asked only as an undeserving Gentile, not for himself, but for a servant who was dear to him. The Jews testified to the commendable character of the centurion as one who loved the Jewish nation, even to the building of a synagogue for them (vs.4-5).
The Lord Jesus did not hesitate to go with the messengers. Yet the centurion sent others to tell Him that he himself was not worthy to have the Lord even enter his home, no more than he was worthy to come to the Lord. But he asked that the Lord only say the word which would heal his servant. The centurion reasoned that he himself, a man subject to authority, had authority over all those under him and they would obey his commands. So he recognized the Lord as the One truly subject to the will of God, yet Himself having authority over creation, so that even sickness would immediately obey His command (v.8).
In this centurion we see a picture of Gentiles today brought into blessing by the pure grace of God. First, he recognized that God had sovereignly chosen Israel as His special people, and He loves them rather than envying them. Secondly, he takes a place of complete unworthiness in reference to having any claim upon the Lord Jesus. Then thirdly, he gave the Lord His true place and honor of being both Son of Man, obedient to the authority of God, and Son of God in authority over all creation. This beautifully illustrates the proper attitude of Gentiles in their reception of the blessings of Christianity. The heart of the Lord Jesus was so refreshed by the man's words that He told those who followed Him, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel" (v.9). The Greek word for "great" used by the Lord in this instance is great in its largeness: faith was not constricted by mere natural thought or feeling. Yet let us remember that the important reason for this was the Object of his faith, the glory of the person of the Son of God. The servant was healed immediately, as the messengers found in returning home.
THE SON OF THE WIDOW OF NAIN RAISED
Not only was this illustrious Person able to heal the dread diseases of mankind, for we now find that death itself is no problem for Him. In the centurion's servant we witness the healing and blessing of Gentiles at a time when Israel was stumbling in unbelief, and in the case of the son of the widow of Nain we see a picture of the great grace and power of the Son of God as able to bring the nation Israel from a state of death to that of life, as will be the case yet for that desolate nation when she is completely restored after centuries of death and decay, for the receiving of Israel again by the Lord will be figuratively "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15). The young man being carried out for burial (v.12) was the only son of his mother, whose heart was surely desolate with sorrow. Here is the same lesson as seen in Naomi in the Book of Ruth. Naomi is typical of Israel's former blessing reduced to widowhood and desolation, so that, just as it required Ruth also to fill out the picture of Israel restored to blessing, so it takes the resurrection of a son to show this picture of Israel's future rising from death. The Lord's compassionate words, "Do not weep," are backed up by immediate action. He touched the coffin and spoke with calm authority to the young man who sat up and began to speak. Wonderful anticipation of the day when good words will be put into the mouth of Israel (Hosea 14:1-3), "a pure language" in contrast to the vain words of unbelief (Zephaniah 3:9). The Lord then delivered him to his mother. How great a comfort this must have been to her desolate heart, just as Naomi was comforted in the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, the mighty man of wealth, bringing new life in the child born as a result of his happy union (Ruth 4:13-15).
This great miracle of resurrection stirred a wholesome, reverential fear among the people. This, with other occasions of His raising the dead, provides proof that Jesus is "the Son of God with power" (Romans 1:4). The people glorified God for raising up a great prophet, and realized that this was a manifest visitation of God among His people (v.16). The report went out to all the surrounding area and to Judea, some distance removed from Galilee.
JOHN SENDS MESSENGERS TO QUESTION THE LORD
The disciples of John the Baptist carried news to him in prison of the power of the Lord Jesus over disease and death. This beloved prophet of God had ministered publicly only for a short time in the living power of the Spirit of God, and had borne faithful witness to the glory of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God (John 1:34). He heard of miracles performed by the Lord, but there was no miracle performed to release him from prison, nor had the Lord taken any place of power and dignity such as might be expected of the Messiah of Israel. Evidently this bewildered John, and his faith for the time wavered. Sending two of his disciples to the Lord, he instructed them to question Him as to whether He was the one for whom Israel looked, or was it for another? Not only John was affected in this way, for none of the Lord's disciples expected their Messiah to take a pathway of humiliation leading to the death of the cross. This was contrary to the great manifestation of His glory for which they looked. But they must learn that He was to be "made perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10).
John's two disciples witnessed the marvelous power of the Lord Jesus in the healing of great numbers of infirmities and virulent diseases, of demon possession also and restoring the sight of many who were blind (v.21). This last was a special sign of the power of Messiah (Isaiah 42:6-7). No other had ever opened the eyes of the blind before the Lord Jesus did so (John 9:32-33).
The Lord answered by telling them to report to John what they had seen and heard in the way of miraculous power shown in tender mercy to those who were in deepest need, and ending with "to the poor the gospel is preached." John may have wondered why he was not brought out of prison, when Isaiah 42:7 spoke of the Messiah "bringing the prisoners from the prison", but soon he was delivered from prison by way of a martyr's death, which surely has resulted in greater blessing than he had imagined. However, the things the Lord had done could not have been done by any other than the Son of God, the true Messiah of Israel. There could be no question whatever. Yet the Lord only gently reproved John's doubts, "Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (v.23). Who else could possibly speak this way?
THE LORD'S COMMENDATION OF JOHN
The Lord then addressed the crowd, defending John as a true prophet of God, though He says nothing of Herod's cruel injustice in imprisoning him. What had the people gone into the wilderness to see? Was it merely a reed (a weakling) shaken by the wind, moved merely by earthly circumstances? Or was it a celebrity in fine clothing? People who want to attract attention do not go the the wilderness: they seek that which caters to the flesh, such as kings' courts where they may show themselves to advantage amid the glitter and tinsel. Yet people were impelled to go to the wilderness, to see what? A prophet? Yes, the Lord, says, "and more than a prophet."
John had the great privilege, not only of prophesying of Christ, but of preparing the way before Him. He was God's messenger to announce the blessed Christ of God. No other had ever been accorded such dignity as this. No greater prophet had ever arisen. Though the greatness of John's moral and spiritual character is evident (John 1:1-27; John 3:27-31), it is not this to which the Lord refers, but to the greatness of the dignity of the place God had given him. In this regard he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John. The Lord speaks of the future glorious millennial kingdom for which the Old Testament had taught Israel to look and which will be introduced entirely by the power and grace of God. Yet we may also rightly apply it to the present aspect of the kingdom of God in its mystery form, that is, believers even now have a favored place in the present kingdom that John did not have.
Verses 29 and 30 are still the words of the Lord Jesus. The people generally, and tax collectors specifically, recognized that God was righteous in sending John to call Israel to repentance. They therefore submitted to John's baptism of repentance, publicly justifying God rather than themselves. But the proud self-righteous Pharisees refused God's counsel against themselves. They preferred the deceitful covering up of their guilt rather than to admit their guilt by being baptized by John. This was haughty rejection of the Word of God.
The Lord then used a question to stir the interest of the people, asking what He might compare with "the men of this generation," that is, a generation of self-righteous men. The similarity of His illustration is striking. They were children -- childish and immature -- sitting idly in the marketplace (the place where serious business is transacted), complaining that people had not danced to their music and they had not wept to the tune of their mournful dirge (v.32). They had not liked John the Baptist's serious call to repentance, but had virtually played their frivolous music to him, complaining because he was too serious to dance. But how could John respond to this when their true state was one of departure from God. He abstained from even eating and drinking with them, for God had sent him for the serious purpose of bringing them down in self-judgment in view of preparing the way of the Lord. They accused him then of having a demon.
On the other hand, the Son of Man did eat and drink with them. He did not weep to the tune of the mournful dirge of the Pharisees with their legal demands. They were legal minded enough to strongly criticize Him for eating with tax gatherers and sinners (Luke 5:30). They wanted Him to conform to their cold, formal religion, which reduces people to a practical state of mourning. But He had brought the grace of God that people desperately needed. He would not do as they wanted him to, to put on a long face and pretend to be very religious. Then they criticized Him for not conforming to their attitude of false humility. He did not practice their outward show of fasting, but even ate with tax collectors and sinners. Then they falsely accused Him of being a gluttonous man and a winebibber, just as religious zealots today glory in their boasted self-denial and despise others who do not do the same. Thus self-righteousness despises the grace of God and is grossly unfair in its accusations.
In both these cases God's wisdom was condemned by religious leaders. But all wisdom's children (genuine believers) fully justified that wisdom, whether in the stern message of John or in the gracious ministry of the Lord Jesus, for both were in perfect place. Faith recognized this, while unbelief remained undiscerning and insensible.
IN THE HOUSE OF SIMON THE PHARISEE
The Lord not only ate with tax collectors and sinners, He accepted the invitation to dinner of Simon, a Pharisee. This also was grace, though the Pharisee did not think of it in this way. As the Lord was sitting there a woman of the city, known as a sinful person, came boldly into the house and stood behind Him weeping. She then washed His feed with her tears, kissing His feet and finally anointing them with ointment (vs.37-38). Such a sight ought to have amazed the Pharisee, causing him to wonder why such a totally unique thing was done. Could we imagine this being done to any other person? No indeed! In fact, to do this to any other would be idolatry. Only Christ is worthy of such tears of repentance and such lowly adoration of any created being.
But the Pharisee discerned nothing of this: he understood nothing of the woman's tears nor of her evident full submission to the Lord Jesus. All he could think of was that the Lord had allowed a sinful woman to touch Him. Therefore he concluded that Christ was not a prophet, for a prophet would surely have had some knowledge of the woman's character (v.39).
However, the Lord knew, not only her character, but the reality of her tearful repentance and the reality of her loving adoration of Himself. More than that, He knew all the thoughts of Simon, and what He spoke to Simon should surely have persuaded the haughty Pharisee that the Lord was certainly a prophet of unusual greatness, for He more than answered Simon's unexpressed thoughts, using an example of two debtors.
Of the two debtors He speaks of, one owed ten times as much as the other. The creditor "freely forgave them both." Then the Lord questioned Simon as to which of them would love the creditor more, and Simon answered correctly "the one to whom he forgave more" (vs.40-43). How little Simon was prepared for the direct and striking application of this! The Lord reminded him that when He was invited into his house, Simon did not give Him water to wash His feet, which was a usual common courtesy in that land of sandals and dusty paths. But the woman had done far more: she washed His feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.
Again, a kiss was a common friendly greeting in Israel, but Simon had ignored this, while the woman had not ceased to kiss the Lord's feet, which expressed affection and humble adoration. Simon had not furnished oil with which to anoint the Lord's head, but the woman had anointed His feet with ointment, typical of fragrant, lowly worship (vs.44-46).
How powerful and wise then are the Lord's words in verse 47: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much." Simon was to realize that the Lord knew more about her sins than Simon did, yet all were forgiven. It was a sense of His -- forgiving grace that drew her to Him, and in this condition she expressed her responsive affection toward Him.
The Lord adds a word that ought to have deeply penetrated Simon's conscience: "to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Did Simon realize that there was anything in his life that needed forgiveness? Did he practically dismiss it as being "little"? Indeed, did Simon love the Lord at all, let alone love Him a little? The woman realized she was a sinner. Simon should have realized he was a sinner too. But some think of their sins as being of little consequence. and therefore think they have no need of forgiveness. Others, whose sins are no more glaring than the first, yet realize their sins are a serious offense against God, and are deeply burdened by them. Their hearts cry out for forgiveness, When forgiveness is realized, they love much.
Then the Lord addressed the woman, but did not refer to her sins as being many. He simply assured her they were forgiven. She had His word for this, so there remained no lingering doubts that all were fully forgiven. Wonderful certainty, for the Lord had said it!
The Lord had answered Simon's thoughts, but others present at the meal were dense enough to question within themselves as to how the Lord could forgive sins (v.49). He answered their unbelieving thoughts also, but not by speaking to them directly. Rather, He added still more striking words of encouragement to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (v.50). Not only does He forgive: He saves and gives peace. He gives this positive assurance to the woman in the presence of all these doubters. At least, she was given no reason to doubt, though others may have unbelieving doubts, at the thought of forgiveness, salvation and peace with God being given now to those who receive the Lord Jesus. She knew she needed just what the Lord spoke of, and she received it. How beautifully mingled here is the majestic greatness of the Lord Jesus with His tender grace and truth!
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 7". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany