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‘And it came about soon afterwards, that he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good tidings of the Kingly Rule of God, and with him the twelve, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to them of their substance.’
Following on the previous successes Jesus continued going through the towns and villages of Galilee proclaiming the Good News of the presence of the Kingly Rule of God, and with Him went His ‘army’, the twelve Apostles and a group of influential women who helped to provide sustenance. These last had experienced His healing power and in their love and gratitude followed Him, ministering to Him and His disciples. It was in fact quite common for women to support Rabbis materially, indeed sometimes to the point of bankruptcy. Jesus Himself criticised the Rabbis for ‘devouring widow’s houses’ (Luke 20:47). How much more then would wealthy women support One Who had done them so much good. But it would have been unusual for them to follow them continually. These women were equally ‘disciples’ with the men, but they would stay, and camp together, separate from the men.
Note that this description of the women disciples follows immediately after the incident of the sinful woman whose love for Him has also been spoken of. Luke wants to avoid any slur on Jesus as a result of someone suggesting that only women of a certain type came to Him. He indicates here that even the highest and most reputable in society followed Him. It is also contrasts in the chiasmus which follows with the mother love of Mary. That love was in contrast to this and was a hindrance to His ministry, although it should not have been. But here with Him were His spiritual ‘mother, sisters and brothers’ who helped Him all the way.
There seems to be no thought that the women should give away all their wealth. Women in those days could not support themselves as men could, nor did they have the freedom that men had. A woman could not just ‘enter into a city and there abide’. She had to be careful not to give a wrong impression of herself.
No doubt there were other disciples with them also. Some would follow Him on and off depending on when they could get free time, and there may have been others with Him permanently, but if so they are not mentioned here (but compare the seventy later on), although verse 62 would suggest that it was so.
‘Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others.’ Both Mary and Joanna are mentioned in Luke 24:10 as having seen the empty tomb, they thus appear to have remained with Him through much of His ministry. Joanna had moved in the highest circles, but she had chosen the better part. There are no grounds for thinking that Mary had been a prostitute or a particularly evil woman. Possession by multiple evil spirits was not unusual (compare Luke 11:26). But it may suggest that she had once been a medium and had delved deep in the occult. The mention of ‘seven’ (completeness in the realm of the spirit) probably indicates a severe case of complete control (compare ‘legion’ - Luke 8:30). She had clearly been a deeply troubled woman, and was a continual testimony to the power of Jesus to save. We know nothing further about Susanna, but she was apparently prominent, probably famed for her works of compassion (compare Acts 9:36; Romans 16:1; 1 Timothy 5:10). But later traditions concerning all these were probably based on mere speculation and wishful thinking.
2). THE FOUNDING OF THE NEW ISRAEL UNDER THE KINGLY RULE OF GOD (6:20-8:18)
In this second part of the section Luke 5:1 to Luke 9:50, Jesus now reveals Himself as the founder of the new Israel under the Kingly Rule of God:
a He proclaims the new Law of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 6:20-49).
b He sends out His power to the Gentiles, to those who are seen as unclean, but who have believed. They too are to benefit from His Kingly Rule (Luke 7:1-10).
c He raises the dead, a foretaste of the resurrection, revealing Him as ‘the Lord’. The Kingly Rule of God is here (Luke 7:11-17).
d John’s disciples come to ‘the Lord’ enquiring on behalf of John, and He points to His signs and wonders as evidence that He is the promised One. The King is present to heal and proclaim the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 7:18-23).
c He exalts, yet also sets in his rightful place, John the Baptiser as the greatest of the prophets and points beyond him to the new Kingly Rule of God, emphasising again that the Kingly Rule of God is here (Luke 7:24-35).
b He is greeted by the transformed prostitute, who has believed, a picture of restored Israel (Ezekiel 16:59-63) and of the fact that the Kingly Rule of God is available to all Who seek Him and hear Him.
a He proclaims the parables of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 8:1-18).
‘And when a great crowd came together, and those of every city resorted to him, he spoke by a parable.’
The crowds still flocked to Him from towns all around, and He was now teaching in parables so as to stir the people into thought. He had probably already discovered that many of His hearers were becoming ‘word-hardened’, and stolidly listened to His words without taking them in and acting on them. So now He had decided to teach in stories, leaving them to think about, and ask about, their significance. The first example is that of the sower which reveals the way by which the Kingly Rule of God is growing.
As we consider the parable we need to consider the background situation. Different farmers would have strips of land in the same field, and much of the land would be hard and stony, and some merely a thin layer of soil over hard rock underneath. The poorer farmers would do what they could with their wooden ploughs, pushed or pulled by hand, but only parts of their land would be dug up suitable for sowing. There would be the rocky parts which the plough would not touch, and weed ridden parts where the weeds had been cut back but were still in the soil, or parts so overgrown that getting rid of the weeds would be too difficult, and there would necessarily be pathways between the furrows for other farmers to reach their strips. So as the sower went forward, taking handfuls from his satchel of seed and dispersing it over the ground, however great his effort and careful his aim, it would fall on all kinds of ground. He was not even sure in all cases what would be the good ground.
The Parable of the Sower (8:4-8).
The purpose of this parable appears to be in order to explain why not all who heard His words responded fully, and to encourage His followers with the knowledge that this was to be expected. Not all had the same keen interest as they had. But they could be sure of this, that the seed that was sown would gradually reap an abundant harvest. It was, of course, also designed to make men think.
‘The sower went forth to sow his seed, and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it.’
So it was with the sower here. Some of his seed fell on the pathways where others trod on it as they went about their business, in casual unconcern, and where the birds soon swooped down and ate the grain which was simply lying on top of the ground.
‘And other fell on the rock, and as soon as it grew, it withered away, because it had no moisture.’
Some fell on rocky areas where there was only a thin layer of soil. It might spring up in the rain and sun, but it soon withered because it was planted where it could reach no moisture beneath the surface.
‘And other fell amidst the thorns, and the thorns grew with it, and choked it.’
Other seed fell among where the thorns and weeds were beginning to grow, and they grew up and choked it.
‘As he said these things, he cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” ’
Then He urged His listeners to think carefully about the meaning of what He had said.
The Interpretation of the Parable: The Kingly Rule of God Is Being Built Up By The Spreading of the Word (8:9-15).
‘And his disciples asked him what this parable might be.’
We who are used to the parables and this way of using illustrations are puzzled as to why no one seemed to understand. We forget that we have been given the key. But the people were used to hearing stories from the Rabbis, and sometimes such stories had strange meanings which were not always apparent on the surface. Many were just content to enjoy the story and not think too closely about what it meant. Thus they may well have felt that they could not be expected to know what Jesus was inferring by His words. They were more interested in the miracles. However, had they really wanted to know it was always open to them to ask. Which is precisely what those who did want to know, did.
‘And he said, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingly Rule of God, but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
Then He explained to His disciples that for them the ‘secrets of the Kingly Rule of God’ would be unlocked, because they genuinely wanted to know. The word ‘mystery’ in the New Testament always speaks of ‘a mystery now to be revealed’. Thus He would open up the mystery for those who were seeking. And it would mean more to them because they had first had to think about it before asking.
But to the remainder it was told in parables, so that they would see what was on the surface but not see what lay underneath, so that they would hear what was said and yet not appreciate its true meaning. And why should He do this? So that they might not become hardened to the message. Once they really began to want to know they could come and ask. Until then it was better if they only received hints of it.
‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.’
He explained that the seed represented the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God, the word of God going out to the people from the Scriptures. It was not an idea without precedent as we see in Isaiah 55:10-11; Isaiah 61:11. Compare also Amos 9:13 which has in mind abundant harvests. Contrast Jeremiah 12:13.
In the Old Testament ‘the word of God’ was that word which came to the prophet for him to pass on (see 1 Kings 12:22; 1 Chronicles 17:3). Compare also ‘the word of the Lord’ which also came to the prophets (over two hundred times).
‘And those by the wayside are those who have heard. Then comes the Devil, and takes away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.’
Those by the wayside were people who were like hard, beaten down ground, resistant and unreceptive to the seed of the word of God. And just as the birds had done, the Devil would swoop down and take the word from their hearts, lest they believe and be saved. He would not risk it lying there where it might be kicked on to good ground. As far as he was concerned God’s seed had a nasty knack of sprouting where it ought not.
Jesus knew well from His earlier experience of temptation (Luke 3:4-12) the subtlety with which the Devil could come. And how he would soon plant thoughts which would remove the effect of a casual listening to the word of God.
If Jesus had not believed in a personal Devil there was no need to introduce him here. Some other interpretation would have been equally valid.
‘And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy, and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.’
Those on the rock were people whose hearts were like rock, totally impenetrable, but with a veneer of interest on top. When the seed fell on them they received it with apparent joy, for they found it pleasant to the ear. But the seed obtained no root, for they did not want their lives to be over-affected, and while they ‘believed it’ for a while, when times of testing came they fell away. For similar belief compare John 2:23-25). They did not see it as worth suffering for. It is a reminder to us that we need to ‘sow deep’.
‘And that which fell among the thorns, these are they who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.’
And those that fell among thorns were like people who heard the word of God, but cares and riches and the pleasures of life choked the word, and it did not properly mature. How easily this occurs to Christians and non-Christians alike in different ways. Many a Christian has been on the verge of real blessing, only to lose it because something came along at the crucial time and took over their interest and disturbed their dedication. The dangers of seeking wealth are especially made clear elsewhere (Luke 6:24; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 14:12; Luke 16:1; Luke 16:19; Luke 16:21-22; Luke 18:23; Luke 18:25; Luke 19:2; Luke 21:1). It can at first seem so innocent. We all have to live. But it gradually destroys the soul and takes over the life. The ‘pleasures of this life’ simply waste a life which could have achieved such good. They are the opposite of ‘let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works’ (Matthew 5:16). All have to decide whether they will live for the moment, or live in the light of eternity. ‘Cares’ can either drive us to God and disappear because we trust Him, or possess our hearts and destroy us. It depends on the direction in which we look, and whether we truly trust God (see Matthew 6:25-34).
‘And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.’
But the seed that fell on good ground represented those whose hearts were honest and open. They had a good, receptive heart. And once they received the word they held it fast, and they endured, and persevered, and patiently brought forth fruit.
So the emphasis of the parable is that the four types of ground represented four types of people. And it demonstrates that how they responded to the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God depended on the state of their hearts. The Kingly Rule of God was present among them all, but it had to be received by their putting their trust in the King and responding to and doing His words, by a faith which would result in fruit, and in the active doing of His will. Each must then choose how he would respond.
It will be noted that there was response in three out of the four examples. It was just that in one case the response was choked, and in another it simply petered out. Neither were true saving faith.
In its own quiet way it was a revolutionary concept of the Kingly Rule of God, not as something which had to be fought for, but as something that would come about through response to His word as the Holy Spirit applied it in the hearts of men.
(It will have been noted that Luke’s account is briefer than Mark’s and somewhat different. But this is to be expected. Luke did not just depend on Mark, even though he used him a great deal. He would also have gathered similar details from Aramaic speaking eyewitnesses, and possibly from Aramaic books about Jesus, as well as from the collection of sayings that Matthew also used (see Luke 1:1-4). Thus while he clearly took advantage of Mark’s rendering, selecting from it what he found suitable, at the same time he would also extract from elsewhere, and also do a little translating himself in a form more useful for his Gentile readers. The parable of the sower was no doubt repeated any number of times in different forms and with different emphases and he would thus have a number of alternatives to choose from).
The Purpose of the Word Is That It Might Come Fully Into the Light, For One Day It Will Certainly Do So (8:16-18).
‘And no man, when he has lighted a lamp, covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but he puts it on a stand, that those who enter in may see the light.’
Then He points out that He has not come in order to keep things hidden. That is not the purpose of the word of God. When a man lights an oil lamp he wants it to be seen by all who are in the house. To put it under the bed or to cover it up would be ridiculous. Its purpose is to shine out. And the same applies to Him and His word, and to the word of God itself. He wants all to see what He is offering. He has brought truth for all.
The same applies to our Christian witness. It should be open and available to the world, not hidden by stay-abeds, or by discreetly hiding it. Our light should so shine before men that they see our good works, realise their source, and glorify our Father Who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). But let us not forget that if we forget to mention the name of Jesus, then the credit will go to us not Him.
‘For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret, that shall not be known and come to light.’
Indeed he reminds us that in the end everything will be revealed, and nothing will finally be hidden. God’s light shines on it now for those who have eyes to see. And there is coming a day when God will judge the secrets of men though Christ. Then everyone will have to come to the light. So there is one thing that we can be sure of, and that is that whatever we have done and have tried to cover up must either be brought to the light now (John 3:18-21) or will one day be openly revealed when all have to give account. Nothing will be hidden. And it will be by the One from Whom nothing can be hidden, and to Whom men have made such all-sweeping promises and commitments. One day all will be brought into the light and each of us will be known for what we really are.
Thus it behoves us as Christians to bring all our sins to the light now so that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son might cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7-10). And then when that day comes we will have nothing to fear, for all our sin will have been dealt with.
‘Take heed therefore how you hear, for whoever has, to him shall be given, and whoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that which he thinks that he has.’
So all should be careful how they hear, whether with receptive hearts or hardened ones. For the one who hears and receives, and thus ‘has’, will find that he is given more, abundantly more. Whereas those who do not hear with a receptive heart will discover sooner rather than later that they will not only lose God’s fullness of blessing, but will also lose the little that they thought that they had of it. They will be left spiritually bankrupt. For His truth is not something that we can take or leave as we like. It is all or nothing. Either we respond to it and grow more and more, or it wilts and dies and leaves us with nothing.
‘And there came to him his mother and brethren, and they could not come at him for the crowd.’
Mark 3:21 tells us that they came because they thought that He was ‘beside Himself’. Luke leaves that fact to be inferred. He had had much to do with Jesus’ mother and therefore was sympathetic in His treatment of her. However the tale had to be told. And he does make it clear that they had not come to join the crowd in order to hear Him. Rather they wanted to ‘come at Him’. Their purpose was not to approach Him in the cause of the Kingly Rule of God, but rather as basically agreeing with the people of His home town in their negative verdict against Him (Luke 4:28-30).
Jesus’ Own Family Do Not Receive Him: The Son of Man Is Rejected (8:19-21).
We have already considered these verses in connection with the previous part, but reintroduce them here because they also form the commencement of this new part. Here His own family remain ‘on the outside’. They are not ready to receive Him. They act as a warning that Jesus will not be accepted by everyone. In view of what chapter 9 contains of a continual threat of death this must be seen as significant.
3). Jesus is Revealed As The Messiah Who Has Come With Power (8:19-9:36).
In this third part of Section 3 Jesus is Revealed as the glorious Messiah Who has come with power but will be involved in suffering and death (Luke 8:19 to Luke 9:36). It may be analysed as follows:
a He no longer owns responsibility to His own family who do not believe in Him, and are on the outside (His own do not recognise Him) (Luke 8:19-21).
b He is revealed as the One Who is from above by quelling the storm, revealing His power and authority over nature (Luke 8:22-25).
c He delivers the demoniac of a legion of demons, revealing His power and authority over the spirit world, and His ability to deliver from legions (Luke 8:26-39).
d He raises the dead, revealing His power and authority over death (Luke 8:30-56).
c He sends out His power to preach and to heal through the twelve, giving them power and authority over all demons, coming under threat from Herod (Luke 9:1-10).
b He is revealed as the One Who is from above by providing a miraculous sacramental meal, revealing again His power over nature and His power to feed men’s inner beings (Luke 9:11-17).
a He is confessed as Messiah by His followers, and revealed as such by being transfigured before, them revealing Who His true Father is, but at the same time He warns that He has come to suffer (Luke 9:18-36).
Note how in ‘a’ His natural family do not acknowledge Him while in the parallel His spiritual family and His Father do. In ‘b’ He reveals His power over nature so as to protect His own, in the parallel He reveals His power over nature so as to feed His own. In neither case is it for His own benefit. It is for theirs. In ‘c’ He delivers the demoniac from the tyranny of evil spirits, and in the parallel His disciples go out to deliver people from the same tyranny. Central over all is that He is the Giver of Life, and Lord over Death.
‘And it was told him, “Your mother and your brethren are standing outside, desiring to see you.’
The emphasis is put on the fact that they were ‘standing outside’. Someone then came and informed Jesus that His family were ‘outside’ wanting to see Him. ‘He came to His own, and His own received Him not’ (John 1:11). Jesus knew very well why they wanted to see Him, and that it would therefore be unwise for Him to see them. He was here for those who were on the inside. As Messiah He would respond to those who followed the Messiah.
‘But he answered and said to them, “My mother and my brethren are these who hear the word of God, and do it.” ’
So He replied that the ones who had a right to His attention now were not His earthly family, but His ‘heavenly’ family, those who heard the word of God and did it, those who responded to Him as Messiah. This undoubtedly included those mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. Now that He had begun His ministry family ties were broken. All His efforts must now be concentrated on His future task with no outside interference. The indication was that now if they were to have a part in Him they too must become followers.
And from this point on up to the end of this part Luke turns the attention in the proclamation of the Kingly Rule of God towards an emphasis on the Messiahship of Jesus, as symbolically rejected by Israel, but revealed to those who are chosen. As such The Kingly Rule of God though His Messiah is revealed by His power over nature, His power over evil spirits, His power to remove uncleanness, His power over death, and His revealed right to establish and feed a new community, a new Israel. And yet in contrast we are also warned that it was to be a Messiahship of suffering.
‘Now it came about on one of those days, that he entered into a boat, himself and his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched forth.’
Luke gives us the bare details necessary as a context. His whole concentration is on presenting what happened with as little superfluous comment as possible. Thus he simply tells us that Jesus embarked on a boat, taking His disciples with Him in order to cross the lake.
Jesus Is Revealed As Lord of Wind and Waves (8:22-25).
We first come to three incidents which reveal the folly of His mother and brothers. Each reveals His compassionate power as in His manhood He is revealed as Lord of Creation. In the first He stills the storm and there is a calm. In the second He removes the evil spirits that are causing a storm in the demoniac, so that he ends up seated calmly at the feet of Jesus. And in the third He quietens the storm in the father’s heart over his dead daughter, by raising her from the dead, while at the same time calming the storm in the woman with heavy bleeding by healing her and removing her uncleanness. He is ‘given dominion over the works of His hands, and all things are put under His feet’ (Psalms 8:6)
In this first incident Luke wants his readers to recognise that Jesus is the One Who ‘rules the power of the sea. When its waves rise You still them’ (Psalms 89:9), words previously spoken of God Himself. In other words that as the God-sent Messiah (which will be made clear shortly, and to which this is leading up) He has divine power and authority, even over nature itself.
There may also be behind it the indication by a visual display that Jesus has come in order to quieten a troubled world. In Psalms 65:5-6 we read, ‘Who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at earth’s farthest bounds are afraid at your signs’, which combines the ideas of a situation like this and the subjugation of the peoples of the world. The restless, uncontrollable seas are regularly seen as a picture of the nations. The same idea occurs in Daniel 7:2-3; Revelation 13:1. Compare also Isaiah 57:20, ‘the wicked are like the troubled sea, they find no rest’. But Jesus had come to give rest in the midst of a troubled world. When the Apostles were later out in the world surrounded by its raging, they may well have looked back to this incident and realised that they need not fear, for the Calmer of Storms and Raging Seas was still with them.
We may analyse the passage as follows:
a He entered into a boat, Himself and His disciples, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched forth. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy (Luke 8:22-23).
b They came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, “Master, master, we perish” (Luke 8:24).
c He awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and they ceased, and there was a calm (Luke 8:24 b).
b And He said to them, “Where is your faith?”
a And being afraid they marvelled, saying one to another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (Luke 8:25).
Note that in ‘a’ they are in peril from the wind and the water and in the parallel He commands the winds and the water. In ‘b’ His disciples plead with Him, while in the parallel He asks them where their faith is. And central is His power revealed in bringing about the calm.
‘But as they sailed he fell asleep. And there came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy.’
As they sailed on, Jesus was lying in the boat exhausted from His labours, and fell asleep. In a boat such as this there would be a special seat at the stern which was the place of honour for any distinguished person aboard, where there would be a cushion and possibly a carpet. This was the place occupied by the exhausted Jesus. And then there arose a vicious storm the consequence of which was that the boat was filling with water and was in danger of sinking along with all on board. They were ‘in jeopardy’. Such storms were frequent on the Lake of Galilee because of the mountains and ravines surrounding the Lake, and the cold air of the mountains in contrast with the heat which hovered over the lake which was well below sea level. This at times caused and funnelled sudden strong winds onto the Lake. But these were experienced fishermen, and were used to storms at sea, especially on this sea which they had been sailing on for years. The situation had to be pretty bad for them to panic. The impression given by the story is that Jesus had expected just this situation. He had a lesson to teach His disciples.
‘And he awoke, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and they ceased, and there was a calm.’
In response Jesus awoke, and then He rebuked the wind and the raging water, with the result that their raging ceased. And ‘there was a calm’.
The rebuking of the seas by God was a picture common in the Old Testament. It was a picture of total control. It was saying that here was One Who could control Himself and could control the elements. He had no fear of the wind or the sea, batter as they would, for He knew they would obey His will. This is not just a miracle, it is a portrayal of the One Who is Lord of all, of One Who rules the power of the sea (Psalms 89:9; Psalms 93:4). For He was the One Who had first spoken to the waters and had caused them to divide and to produce the dry land (Genesis 1:6; Genesis 1:9-10).
‘He rebuked the wind and the raging of the water.’ The rebuking of the waters is a common description of God’s activity. For such rebuking of the waters compare Psalms 106:9, ‘He rebuked the Red Sea also and it was dried up’; Isaiah 50:2, ‘Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea’; Nahum 1:4, ‘The Lord has His way in the whirlwind and the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry ---.’ In each case it is the voice of the Creator speaking to His creation as He did in Genesis 1:0, ‘rebuking’ the waters and bringing about His will. In none of these cases is there the suggestion of any demonic element, or of battle. Even inanimate nature immediately responds to His voice because of Who He is. For the idea of God bringing about a great calm see Psalms 107:29, ‘He makes the storm a calm, so that its waves are still’. Compare also Jonah 1:12.
Now here we have the Son of God, and the same thing occurs. The raging waters obey His word. We can hardly fail to see in this a demonstration of deity. He is Master of the elements, Master of wind and waves. And He wants His disciples to know it. He wants them to come to recognise Who He really is. They will need to know it in the future.
And yet in view of its juxtaposition with the account of the raging demoniac which follows, who also comes to a position of calm, sitting at Jesus’ feet and in his right mind we may probably be intended to see in this storm a deliberate attempt by the Devil to be rid of Jesus (compare Job 1:19). He still thought he could do it. The Devil had still not quite caught on as to Who Jesus was (and never did to the end).
‘And he said to them, “Where is your faith?” And being afraid they marvelled, saying one to another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” ’
Jesus then turned to His disciples and asked, “Where is your faith?” Now under all normal circumstances that would be an unreasonable question. No man has a right to expect that God will protect him in all circumstances. It only becomes reasonable if we see that He is indicating that they should have known that as the Messiah He could not die until He had completed His work, and that as His chosen Apostles they too were safe, because God had chosen them and yet had a work for them all to do. He was awaking them to the fact that as yet they did not really appreciate the privilege that was theirs to such an extent that they were immortal until God withdrew His hand. Jesus had that confidence. They would need to have it too.
But they were amazed and filled with wonder. Never before had they seen anything like it, a man who could make the wind and waves obey Him and do His will. There is, however, no need to see Jesus as seeing the wind and waves as ‘quasi-personal’ (any more than God did in the Old Testament). It is simply a way of indicating that all Creation obeys His word and does His will. All of creation does His bidding.
‘And they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is over against Galilee.’
Landing on the east side of the Lake of Galilee they arrived in ‘the country of the Gerasenes’. Differing manuscripts and versions have different names for the area in mind, probably mainly because of the later difficulty of identification - Gerasenes, Gergesenes, Gadarenes, Gergustenes. Gerasa was a well known city thirty miles inland, (and must thus probably be ruled out, although they may have owned land in the area) and Gadara was six miles inland, although the land between Gadara and the sea was known as ‘the country of the Gadarenes’. Both Gerasa and Gadara were included in ‘The Ten Towns’ (Decapolis), and Matthew actually identifies the place as ‘the country of the Gadarenes’ because that was relatively well known and the incident took place in the area around Gadara. Luke, following Mark, may well have had in mind the small coastal town now known as Kersa or Koursi which is in that area (thus now Kerasenes). Near that town is a fairly steep slope within forty metres of the shore, and the cave tombs can still be seen.
The whole region was known as the Ten Towns (Decapolis) because it was originally a place where ten major towns formed an alliance for mutual protection. It was semi-independent and ruled itself, although being loosely connected to the Province of Syria. It was predominantly Gentile but had been conquered by the Macabbees and now also contained a relatively small Jewish population. It may have been Jesus’ intention to proclaim the coming Kingly Rule of God to the Jews in the area, although in the event He did not do so. More likely His intention was mainly to take a respite from the huge crowds that He could not avoid when on Jewish territory.
Jesus Reveals His Authority Over The Legion of Demons That Possessed the Gadarene Demoniac (8:26-39).
Disembarking from the boat in the country of the Gerasenes, fresh from His triumph at sea, Jesus is confronted with another ‘storm’ in the person of a man possessed by many militant evil spirits who had rendered him naked and mad. The whole countryside feared him, and when they could they bound him with chains and fetters. But he was so strong under the evil influence that he could break the fetters and escape to live among the tombs. It would seem that this would be a severe test of Jesus’ power and authority.
It may well be that Luke intended us to see in this narrative an illustration of Gentiles being delivered ‘from the power of Satan to God’ (Acts 26:18). The man is depicted as under Satan’s control, he comes to Jesus and confesses Him as the Son of the Most High God, Jesus then removes what is unclean from him, and he ends up sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed and in his right mind having been ‘saved’ (Luke 8:36 literally), at which he confesses Jesus before men.
This is not to doubt its historicity. In this regard it should be noted that Jesus performed a large number of miracles and exorcisms. There was therefore a wide selection from which the writers could select, and they regularly made their selection on the basis that the examples they chose also had another lesson to teach.
Note On Evil Spirits/Demons.
The incident we are now about to examine raises again the question as to the existence of evil spirits. But this is something never doubted anywhere in the Bible. It is not constantly stressed or over-emphasised, but there is the clear indication of evil power at work behind the scenes from Genesis 3:0 onwards (compare Job 1-2; Daniel 10:0; Zechariah 3:0), right through to Revelation. That Jesus Himself believed in Satan ‘the Adversary’ (the Devil, ‘the Accuser’) there can be no doubt (Luke 4:1-13; Luke 10:18; Luke 13:16; Luke 22:31; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 12:26; Matthew 13:39; Matthew 25:41; Mark 3:23; Mark 3:26; Mark 4:15; John 8:44). Indeed it was to destroy the works of the Devil that Jesus came (1 John 3:8). He constantly overcame him. And if Satan exists we can be sure that other evil spirits exist also.
The growth of monotheism hindered the ability of these evil spirits to affect mankind for when men ceased seeking to worship them through the worship of the gods (Deuteronomy 32:16-17; 1 Corinthians 10:20), or to seek to influence them or to contact them through the occult, their effectiveness was largely nullified. But their readiness, when given the opportunity, to enter and control men is evidenced throughout history. The twentieth century saw a rise of spirit possession in Western countries precisely because men and women once more opened themselves to such evil influences in their search for new (and dangerous) ‘amusements’, and the twenty first century may yet see further growth as people indulge in the occult in various ways, but in Africa and the East such possession has always been well known and evidenced. There they do not scoff at the idea of evil spirits, even the educated.
Such activity must not be over-exaggerated. The Gospels distinguish sickness and lunacy from spirit possession (Luke 4:40; Luke 7:21-22; Matthew 4:23-24; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 10:8; Mark 6:13), and Jesus only casts out evil spirits in clear cut cases. He did not believe that they affected every man, or even most men, by entry and possession, nor did He see them as the prime cause of disease except in rare cases, although it is made clear that Christians do ‘wrestle’ with evil powers in heavenly places, often without knowing it for they triumph through Christ (Ephesians 6:12). There did appear to be a rise in spirit possession in the days of Jesus, but this may well rather be because His presence drew them out and brought them to the fore. At other times they could carry on undisturbed, preferring not to be brought to notice. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not lay hands on men possessed by evil spirits. He dealt with them by a word of command. (A lesson to be well learned by any who deal in such things).
Men possessed by evil spirits may behave in strange, extreme ways and the spirits can to some extent control their actions and even speak through them in different voices. But not all who behave in strange ways do so because they are demon possessed. Mental problems can produce what appear to be similar reactions and a distinction was in fact made between the ‘lunatic’ and the ‘spirit-possessed’ (Matthew 4:24). Nor do all demon possessed people obviously behave outwardly in strange ways.
The fact that such evil spirits were personal comes out in that they recognised Jesus for Whom He was, showed fear, were aware of God’s purpose for them, and spoke and cried out. They can probably, however, only enter people when they in some way open themselves to them. This can especially occur when people dabble in fortune telling, astrological influences, seeking the spirit world, witchcraft, idol worship, blanking the mind, attending gatherings where spirits are to be engaged and so on. These things are constantly condemned in the Bible. See for example Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Isaiah 8:19. While large numbers who indulge in such things do not become possessed, it is an ever present danger. Medical science cannot deal with such cases, which require exorcism through the power of Christ.
End of note.
Having this in view we now move on to look at an extreme case of spirit possession dealt with by Jesus which revealed His total mastery over the spirit world.
We may analyse this passage as follows:
a They arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is over against Galilee (Luke 8:26).
b When He was come forth on the land, there met Him a certain man out of the city, who had demons, and for a long time he had worn no clothes, and abode not in any house, but in the tombs (Luke 8:27).
c When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, torment me not” (Luke 8:28).
d For He was commanding the unclean spirit to come out from the man (Luke 8:29 a).
e For oftentimes it had seized him, and he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters, and breaking the bands asunder, he was driven of the demon into the deserts (Luke 8:29 b).
f Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”, for many demons were entered into him, and they entreated Him that He would not command them to depart into the abyss (Luke 8:30-31)
g There was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountain, and they entreated him that He would give them leave to enter into them. And He gave them leave. (Luke 8:32)
f And the demons came out from the man, and entered into the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep into the lake, and were drowned (Luke 8:33).
e When those who fed them saw what had come about, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man, from whom the demons were gone out, sitting, clothed and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus, and they were afraid (Luke 8:34-35).
d Those who saw it told them how he who was possessed with demons was made whole (Luke 8:36).
c And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes round about asked him to depart from them, for they were gripped with great fear, and he entered into a boat, and returned (Luke 8:37).
b But the man from whom the demons were gone out prayed him that he might be with him. But he sent him away, saying, “Return to your house, and declare how great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:38-39 a).
a He went his way, publishing throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done for him (Luke 8:39 b).
Note that in ‘a’ they arrive in the country of the Gerasenes, and in the parallel the healed man publishes abroad there all that Jesus has done for him. In ‘b’ the demoniac had been naked and alone, not wanting company or dwelling in any house, and in the parallel he wants to be with Jesus, but Jesus tells him to go back and live in his house as a testimony to what God has done. In ‘c’ the man is afraid of Jesus, recognising Him as the ‘Son of the Most High God’, and in the parallel the people are afraid of Jesus and want Him to leave. In ‘d’ Jesus commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man, and in the parallel those who saw it testify as to how it happened. In ‘e’ we are told of the distraught state of the man before he is healed and in the parallel the evil spirits have gone out and the man is sitting clothed and in his right mind. In ‘f’ the evil spirits plead not to be sent to the Abyss and in the parallel they end up in the sea. In ‘g’ Jesus gives them permission to enter the swine. The central position of this last demonstrates that this is seen as important. Unclean demons are depicted as only fit for unclean pigs. The Jews looked on pigs with abhorrence. They were one of those creatures listed as ‘unclean. Thus this was a rebuke to those who kept pigs in one time ‘Jewish’ territory in open defiance against God (the territory had once been ruled by the Jews), it was an indication of God’s desire to cleanse the land by removing all uncleanness from it, and it was especially an indication of God’s opinion of evil spirits. They are only fit for ‘unclean’ pigs.
‘And when he was come forth on the land, there met him a certain man out of the city, who had demons, and for a long time he had worn no clothes, and abode not in any house, but in the tombs.’
On Jesus landing there after revealing His power on the Lake of Galilee He was met by a demon-possessed man from the town nearby. This man was a particularly bad case and was naked and living among the tombs. This would give him privacy and be undisputed territory, and the cave tombs would provide shelter. The nakedness is not unusual in cases of extreme clinical depression such as the evil spirits had caused here. Such people can have a tendency to fling their clothes off them. No one else wanted to live there apart from equally possessed people (Matthew tells us that he had at least one companion). It is stressed that he did not live in a house because later that is precisely what Jesus will tell him that he must do (Luke 8:39). It will be one of the signs that he was fully cured.
‘And when he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, torment me not.” ’
When the man saw Jesus he was forced to acknowledge Him. Crying out that he had nothing in common with Jesus he addressed Him as the Son of the Most High God and begged that he might not be tormented. He was aware of the powerful authority of Jesus and of His divine power. In what was now mainly Gentile territory this was more than an ascription of Messiahship. It was an acknowledgement of deity. By acknowledging Jesus’ supreme rank he hoped to avoid punishment. The Most High God was a title used by foreigners of the God of Israel, and it may well be that as a Gentile the man hoped that Jesus would not interfere with him on Gentile territory if properly addressed. Let Jesus return to His own territory leaving him unmolested. Compare here the almost similar approach taken by the evil spirits in Luke 4:34; Luke 4:41, the main difference being in the method of address. But there it was on Jewish territory.
‘Son of the Most High God.’ Compare Daniel 3:26; Daniel 4:2; Genesis 14:20-22; Numbers 24:16; Isaiah 14:14; Acts 16:17. The title Most High God was also used in Jewish-Hellenistic syncretistic religion. It is, however used in the Psalms nineteen times to indicate the supremacy of God, so that it may simply signify their recognition of Jesus’ total supremacy.
‘For he was commanding the unclean spirit to come out from the man. For oftentimes it had seized him, and he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters, and breaking the bands asunder, he was driven of the demon into the deserts.’
The reason for his cry was because Jesus was persistently calling on the unclean spirit to come out of the man. We are now told a little more of what the unclean spirit had done to the man. It had regularly seized him and made him violent, so that when caught he was bound and fettered and kept under guard. But through its supernatural strength he was able to break the fetters, at which the demon drove him into the wilderness so that they would be away from men. They did not like being restrained. They wanted wild freedom.
‘The unclean spirit.’ Note the equation of ‘demons’ (a Greek term) with ‘unclean spirits’. They are ‘unclean’ in contrast with the ‘cleanness’ or purity of God. An ‘unclean spirit’ is a spirit which hates God and all things to do with God, and shrinks from His presence. Its very behaviour is unclean. And it further rendered this man ‘unclean’ in Jewish eyes by his dwelling among the tombs. The man is specifically identified as demon possessed. It is probable that he was a Gentile (Consider his close proximity to pig farms, abhorrent to orthodox Jews).
‘And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”, for many demons were entered into him.’
Having made His first attempt at casting out ‘the evil spirit’ (‘was commanding’ confirms a continual process which suggests that He was dealing with more than one) Jesus was now made aware that He was confronting something much more powerful than just one evil spirit. So He asked its name. Basically He was asking, ‘Who are you?’ The evil spirit had no alternative but to answer for it recognised Jesus’ authority. The reply was, ‘Legion.’ Possessing the man was an army of evil spirits. The reply was part evasion. They felt that unity was strength and that they must stick together in their defiance. It was probably also an attempt at intimidation. ‘We are an army’. They were fighting for their survival, and knew it.
We note that it is at this stage that the verbs become plural. Jesus had at first supposed that He was dealing with one evil spirit. Now He finds that He is against an army. This brings out the realities of the situation which would not have arisen had this been only lunacy.
By now Jesus had recognised that He was dealing with the unusual situation of a plurality of evil spirits and His request had therefore been in order to discover exactly with whom or what He was dealing. He had directed His question to the man but it was essentially to the evil spirits.
It is not likely that Jesus was using a technique for obtaining power over them. He already had that power. For the question ‘what is your name?’ compare Genesis 32:27-29; Judges 13:17-18. It can hardly be true that God needed Jacob’s name in order to get power over him and certain that Jacob did not ask God’s name for that reason. And Manoah’s request was in order to honour his visitor. The asking of the name in the latter two cases was in order to find out who or what they were dealing with. The whole point about Jesus was that He did not need to use the usual exorcising techniques, but He did need to know what He was dealing with.
In reply they said, ‘Legion.’ Knowing, in the face of His authority, that they were forced to speak they replied evasively and probably with the aim of intimidating Jesus into leaving them alone. They wanted Him to know that they were powerful and would not be giving in without a fight. They were aware that His exertions of power were exhausting to His human frame (Luke 6:19; Mark 5:30), and they wanted Him to realise that this particular exorcism would require much power. He would do better to leave them alone. After all this was Gentile territory. Let Him get back to the Jews. Godly men who have engaged in exorcism have testified to the fact that it was very exhausting, (and they had never had to face anything like this). But the spirits were underestimating Jesus.
‘Legion.’ Was the man giving Legion as a name because he was in a state of confusion, aware of the forces possessing him? Or was he simply indicating the multiplicity of names of the evil spirits, hinting that they could not give them all for they were so many, and at the same time indicating how long it would take to deal with them? It may well have been an attempt to persuade Jesus to withdraw. We must recognise that the evil spirits were not omniscient, and probably thought that they could somehow forestall Jesus. Possibly they could see He was exhausted (He had been labouring hard and His sleep in the boat had been broken). They had no doubt been perturbed to find Him here at all so unexpectedly. The word ‘legion’ was the name given to a Roman regiment of between four thousand and six thousand men. Strictly it indicated six thousand, but it was unusual for a legion to have its full complement. Thus the indication here is of possession by ‘thousands’ of evil spirits. Note that ‘legion’ is a Latin word. It would not have been introduced unless it had actually been said, although having been said it may have been introduced so as to quietly indicate that God would in His own time deal with the legions of Rome. It was a way by which Jesus’ deliverance of His people from the power of Rome could be indicated without being treasonable.
Jesus Raises the Dead, Revealing His Power and Authority Over Death (8:30-56).
Having been rejected by His own family, and having revealed His power and authority by quelling the storm and raging sea, and by dealing with a legion of evil spirits, Jesus was now about to enter a new realm, the realm of death itself. Nature, the spirit world and death are to be seen as under His control. Only man resists Him. In what follows Jesus goes to the aid of a young twelve year old girl who has died, and raises her from the dead.
But there is a subsidiary story. This reveals a woman who was continually ceremonially ‘unclean’ because of a flow of blood from within her which she had had for twelve years. She too was dying, and she had been dying for twelve years. And she found no hope anywhere until the day when she came to Jesus and found that He could make the unclean clean.
We could head this section Two Desperate People At The End of Twelve Years. Both were connected with the number twelve, the number of Israel. The daughter had lived from conception for twelve years and was now dying. The woman had had a blood flow for twelve years and she was cut off from the Temple and the people by uncleanness. Both were in their own way representative of the people of God, dead in sin and unclean before God.
But in order to confirm the lesson lying behind this we need to go to a passage in Ezekiel 16:0. There Jerusalem was likened to a baby, cast out at birth covered in the blood flow of its mother, whom God had commanded ‘in her blood’ to live (Luke 8:6). He then betrothed her to Himself, but she remained naked (it is not a natural picture). And when she came to an age for love (i.e. about twelve years of age) He wiped the blood from her (Luke 8:9). So either the idea is that for twelve years she had been covered in vaginal blood, or that she was once again covered in blood because of her menstruation, seen as connecting back to her first condition. And now she was His to be restored by His mercy to full glory. It would seem that this is the lesson behind both the child whom God will make to live, and the woman with a flow of blood for twelve years which will be made clean. The two together reveal that Jesus (the Bridegroom - Luke 2:19) has come to make clean and give life to His people so as to betroth them to Himself.
We may analyse the passage as follows:
a Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him (Luke 8:40).
b A man named Jairus came, and he was a ruler of the synagogue, and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought Him to come to his house , for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went the crowds thronged him (Luke 8:41-42).
c And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed of any, came behind Him, and touched the border of His robe, and immediately the issue of her blood stanched (Luke 8:43-44).
d Jesus said, “Who is it who touched me?” And when all denied, Peter said, and those who were with him, “Master, the crowd press you and crush you” (Luke 8:45).
e But Jesus said, “Some one did touch me, for I perceived that power had gone forth from me” (Luke 8:46).
f And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before Him declared in the presence of all the people for what reason she touched Him, and how she was healed immediately (Luke 8:47).
g And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole, go in peace” (Luke 8:48).
f While He yet spoke, there comes one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher” (Luke 8:49).
e But Jesus hearing it, answered him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).
d ‘And when He came to the house, He did not allow any man to enter in with Him, except Peter, and John, and James, and the father of the maiden and her mother (Luke 8:51).
c And all were weeping, and bewailing her. But He said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead, but sleeps.” And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead’ (Luke 8:52-53).
b But He, taking her by the hand, called, saying, “Maiden, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately, and He commanded that something be given her to eat’ (Luke 8:54-55).
a And her parents were amazed, but He charged them to tell no man what had been done (Luke 8:56).
Note that in ‘a’ we have two attitudes towards Jesus, the crowds welcoming, and in the parallel the parents amazed. In ‘b’ Jairus pleads with Jesus because his daughter is dying, and in the parallel Jesus raises her to life. In ‘c’ the woman comes to Jesus in a hopeless condition, and in the parallel the crowds think that the case of the daughter is hopeless. In ‘d’ Peter and the others are witnesses to the fact that Jesus has not been touched, and in the parallel Peter and others are to be witnesses to what will happen to the child. In ‘e’ Jesus declares that someone has been made whole, and in the parallel that the girl will also be made whole. In ‘f’ the woman comes to Jesus and declares how she has been made whole, while in the parallel the servants come and declare that it is too late, ‘the daughter’ is dead and cannot be made whole. In ‘g’ Jesus declares that the ‘Daughter’ has been made whole because of her faith, the implication being that therefore the other daughter too will be made whole.
‘And they entreated him that he would not command them to depart into the abyss.’
Jesus’ persistence in seeking to cast them out was being effective, and now that He knew the detail of what possessed the man they knew that they could not hide themselves any longer. So they did the next best thing and pleaded that at least they might be spared ‘the Abyss’ (abusson = ‘bottomless, boundless’). This was the name of the place where evil spirits were imprisoned until the final days (Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:3; Compare 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6).
Jesus is said to have descended into the Abyss, mentioned in Romans 10:7, but there it simply referred to the boundless world of the departed. However, in Revelation the Abyss is that part of the world of the departed which is the prison of evil spirits (compare 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). ‘Abyss’ is also related to Sumerian apsu, the sea. This is confirmed by the fact that the Septuagint (LXX) translated ‘the deep’ (tehom) of Genesis 1:2; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:2 as the ‘Abyss’, paralleling the two (compare also Job 38:16; Psalms 33:7; Psalms 42:7; Psalms 77:16; Isaiah 51:10; Ezekiel 26:19; Jonah 2:5). Ironically therefore it may be that we are to see that the final end of these particular evil spirits was the Abyss after all, for they were later swallowed up by the sea. But note that they did acknowledge Jesus’ right to command what He wanted. They acknowledged it of men did not.
‘Now there was there a herd of many swine feeding on the mountain, and they entreated him that he would give them leave to enter into them. And he gave them leave.’
Nearby was a large herd of pigs. The evil spirits would be aware that to One connected with the God of Israel pigs were ‘unclean’ creatures. Thus they sought permission to enter the pigs, and Jesus gave them permission. Perhaps they felt that once there they would be relatively safe from the God of Israel to Whom pigs were unclean. We must consider it quite possible that they thought that they had now tricked Jesus into leaving them alone. They were out of His territory.
But Jesus was perfectly satisfied. This would prevent them entering some other human being (something those who grumbled about it overlooked). It would also be evidence to the man and to eyewitnesses that the man himself had been released. It is also possible that Jesus in His manhood did not actually know what the final reaction would be. There was no outward indication of what would happen, and it is doubtful if the evil spirits were expecting it.
Or perhaps it was done with the deliberate intention (without their realising it) of consigning the evil spirits to the Abyss. It would be to be rid of the evil spirits without them causing trouble elsewhere (when they left the man they would necessarily seek to go somewhere, compare Luke 11:24).
‘And the demons came out from the man, and entered into the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep into the lake, and were drowned.’
The reaction was instantaneous. The evil spirits entered the swine. But animals are more conscious of such evil influences than people are (compare Balaam’s ass, and the fact that dogs are often said to whimper in the presence of mysterious influences). Thus the pigs, seeking to escape the evil influences, immediately raced down a slope into the sea and were drowned. Even the unclean pigs could not stand the evil spirits. The idea may be that the evil spirits had gone to the Abyss after all. But at least they were no longer around in order to possess men.
The evil spirits had thus failed in their attempts to save themselves, but the progression of their campaign is interesting. Firstly, on His commanding them to go they had indicated that they had nothing in common with Him. He was the Son of the Most High God, Lord of another world. It was not yet time for Him to come and torment them. Let Him leave them alone. Perhaps also they thought that the exposure of His name, which He sought to keep from the people, would ‘frighten Him off’. Then they informed Him that they were an army, a Legion. There were many of them and they were ready to resist. Then as they recognised His insistence and their helplessness they pleaded not to be sent to the Abyss. Then they suggested that they could enter the pigs. Once there they would be ‘out of His territory’ in an unclean place. And finally they went to the Abyss, still struggling. Their defeat was total.
We have already considered why Jesus allowed the evil spirits to go into the pigs. It was a rebuke to those who kept pigs in what was once ‘Jewish’ territory in open disobedience against God (it had once been ruled by the Jews), it was an indication of God’s desire to cleanse the land by removing all uncleanness, it consigned the evil spirits to the sea, and it was especially an indication of God’s opinion of evil spirits. They were only fit for ‘unclean’ pigs.
Some have asked whether this slaughter of the swine could be justified. But to One Who had such authority anything was surely justified that He decided was best and necessary for the delivery of the man (it is a position where the arguer cannot win. If Jesus was in a position to give this permission to evil spirits then He is above our criticism, if He did not then the question does not arise). And we should note that it was not Jesus but the pigs possessed by the evil spirits who were responsible for the damage. And they had not intended the pigs to drown. Besides being such a large herd He would know that they belonged to a wealthy man who, while he would suffer financially, would not be unduly harmed. (And in the end as Lord of creation they were His anyway).
‘And when those who fed them saw what had come about, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country.’
When those who were watching over the pigs saw what had happened they ‘fled’. What they had seen had been too much for them. And, as they no doubt went to inform the owners, they told everyone around what had happened.
‘And they went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man, from whom the demons were gone out, sitting, clothed and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus, and they were afraid.’
Then many came out to see for themselves what had happened, and they came to Jesus and, recognising that the raging demoniac of whom they had been so afraid was now sitting quietly listening to Jesus’ teaching, clothed and in his right mind, they were filled with awe and dread. Who was this Jewish prophet Who could do such things? And why was He here?
‘Clothed.’ He had been home, the first time for a long time, and was now wearing his own clothes. Or it may be that someone had lent him a robe. He was now acceptable. We are reminded how God clothed the sinful pair in Eden. There too God had come to their aid.
‘And those who saw it told them how he who was possessed with demons was made whole.’
They were then informed by eyewitnesses of the whole story of what had happened. Note how it is stressed that the man was made whole (‘was saved’). He was a new man.
‘And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes round about asked him to depart from them, for they were gripped with great fear, and he entered into a boat, and returned.’
The inhabitants of the country of the Gerasenes, who were largely Gentiles, were unanimous in pleading with the Jewish prophet to leave their country, for they were awestricken and fearful. This was not something that they either understood or were used to. He was a Jewish prophet. He had no message for them. And they feared what He might do next. Furthermore they probably blamed Jesus for what had happened to the pigs. They would know that to a Jewish prophet pigs would be unclean. Possibly they were afraid that He was about to carry out a campaign against their other pigs in an attempt to cleanse the whole area.
We have become used to the crowds welcoming Jesus but this is a warning that it will not always be so if He goes against their self-interests. We can compare how all His home town rejected Him and cast Him out (Luke 4:28-30), and how in Luke 9:53 the Samaritans would not receive Him because He was fixedly going to Jerusalem. Here then is rejection by Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans when they did not like the way that He chose.
‘But the man from whom the demons were gone out prayed him that he might be with him. But he sent him away, saying, “Return to your house, and declare how great things God has done for you.” ’
There was one, however, who did not reject Him. The man who had been released from the evil spirits then requested Jesus that he might come with Him and His disciples, and follow Him. But Jesus told him rather to go back to his home and there be a witness to what great things the God of Israel had done for him. His presence, living in his own home which once he had shunned, would be a continual reminder to all there of the power of the God of Israel to deliver. While they would not listen to Jesus as a Jewish prophet, they would listen to this man whose background they knew, and more so once Jesus was gone. It would be a preparation of the area for when Jesus had risen and the Good News came to them.
Why Jesus would not allow him to accompany Him we are not told. Perhaps it was because he was a Gentile and it was not yet time for an open welcoming of Gentiles who had had no connection with Judaism, among the people of God. (Consider what a problem the conversion of Cornelius caused in Acts 1:11). Perhaps because he was not seen as having the background which would enable him to be a teacher. The preparation by Jesus of His disciples demanded a certain amount of pre-knowledge gained in Jewish teaching and knowledge of the Scriptures. And besides the man had had a few blank years in his life. It would take time for him to make them up. Perhaps Jesus knew that he needed time to sort himself out, and that meanwhile he could do better work for God in his homeland. Perhaps it was out of consideration of his family who had been without their son for so long. And perhaps Jesus had in mind preparation of Decapolis for when the Gospel came to them. We do not know the answer but we can be sure that Jesus had a good reason for His decision.
But He did give him a ministry and a mission. He was to go back to his home in Decapolis and tell men about what God had done for him and how He had had compassion on him. And his message would be that the God of Israel was merciful and all-powerful, even to a Gentile such as he, and that it was Jesus, the famed prophet of Galilee Who had made him whole. What had happened here brings to mind what Jesus had said to the people of Nazareth, about a prophet of God going among the Gentiles to heal (Luke 4:25-27). So when Jewish Christian preachers later arrived with the message of the Gospel they would no doubt find a welcome from this man and his hearers, and ready ground prepared for their message.
He could allow this man to speak freely because there was no danger here in his spreading the message, for it would be among Gentiles where there were no excited crowds ever ready to cause an insurrection. There was no expectation of a Messiah here which could result in the message being wrongly interpreted. Nor would it draw crowds around Jesus seeking the spectacular, for Jesus was moving on.
Later, before the siege of Jerusalem, the Christians in Jerusalem would flee to Pella. That also was one of the Ten Towns (Decapolis). And perhaps they too would find a more welcome reception because of this man’s words.
‘And he went his way, publishing throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done for him.’
The man obediently went on his way, and told everywhere what Jesus had done for him. So the spread of the Good News among the Gentiles was already commencing in seed form. Note the paralleling of the command ‘tell what God has done’ with the fulfilment ‘what Jesus had done’. Luke intends us to recognise that they indicated the same.
‘And as Jesus returned, the crowds welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.’
Jesus arrives back from His rejection among the Gerasenes and find Himself welcomed by the crowds in Galilee, for they were all there waiting for Him.
‘And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue, and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him to come to his house,’
As Jesus responded to their welcome a man came and fell at His feet. He was a ruler of the synagogue and He begged Jesus ‘to come to his house’. Perhaps Luke here has in mind another whose servant was dying, and whose master did not require Jesus to come to his house because of his great faith (Luke 7:1-10). There the elders of the synagogue had supported his case, but here it was the ruler of the synagogue himself. In the submission of this man to Jesus we see the important lesson that if only the Synagogue will submit to Jesus, its offspring will live. And it is also made clear to the readers that at this stage the people’s synagogues welcomed Jesus. Yet with this important man went doubting faith. He did not have the faith of the Gentile centurion.
So Jairus falls down at Jesus’ feet. The synagogue submits to the Prophet. Luke calls him the Ruler of the Synagogue, Mark calls him the official who had the charge of the arrangements for the synagogue services. It was in fact possible to combine both posts.
‘For he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as he went the crowds thronged him.’
This man came to Jesus and told Him that his daughter who was twelve years of age, and thus on the verge of adult life, was dying. So Jesus went with him. But the crowds were thronging Him and delaying Him.
‘And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his robe, and immediately the issue of her blood stanched.’
And in that crowd was a woman who ought not to have been there, for she was permanently ritually unclean (Leviticus 15:25). She had a flow of vaginal blood that never stopped flowing. She had spent a fortune on doctors, and now she was in poverty and all hope had gone. But she had heard of Jesus, and no doubt disguised, crept into the crowd around Him. She knew that what she was about to do was unforgivable. For when she touched this prophet she would be making Him ritually unclean, together with all the people around her who touched her as well. Religiously she was human dynamite. But her desperation overrode everything else and quietly and surreptitiously she made her way through the crowd and touched Him. ‘She only touched the hem of His garment, as to His side she stole, amidst the crowd that gathered around Him, and straightway she was whole.’ (She may in fact have touched one of the tassels that every Jewish man had on his garment - Numbers 15:38). And immediately she sensed the change in her. For the first time in years the flow had dried up. She was healed.
‘A woman having an issue of blood twelve years.’ Compare the previous verse, ‘an only daughter of about twelve years of age’. This suggests a deliberate emphasis on the number twelve which is a number regularly representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel was both dying like the daughter and unclean like the woman. We can compare here Ezekiel 16:6; Ezekiel 16:9 mentioned above where Jerusalem is depicted as being like a child covered with blood from conception to marriageable age, i.e. about twelve years. But Jesus was here both to cleanse and to restore to life if only she would respond.
‘And Jesus said, “Who is it that touched me?” And when all denied, Peter said, and those who were with him, “Master, the crowd press you and crush you.”
And then to her horror, for she had thought herself unnoticed, the prophet turned round and asked, “Who touched Me?’ Everyone else denied it, and Peter turned to Jesus and said, “But Master, the crowds are thronging you and crushing you. How can you ask, Who touched Me?’
‘But Jesus said, “Some one did touch me, for I perceived that power had gone forth from me.” ’
Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, but someone did touch Me, for I felt power go out from Me.’ Knowing that that was so He was not willing for the person to go away without what had happened to them being brought home. This was actually important for her. It was necessary for her to recognise that she had not been healed by a good luck charm or the equivalent, but by the personal power of Jesus because of her faith (compare Luke 6:19).
‘And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people for what reason she touched him, and how she was healed immediately.’
And the woman, recognising that this prophet knew the truth, and that she could no longer in conscience remain hidden, came and fell at His feet, trembling with fear. And she declared openly before all the people what she had done, and why she had done it, and how she had immediately been made completely whole. Perhaps she feared that in His anger He would reverse the process. But Jesus immediately set her mind at peace.
‘And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole, go in peace.” ’
And Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you whole, go in peace.” He wanted her to know that it was because of her faith in Him that her sin was forgiven (go in peace) and she was whole.
‘Your faith has made you whole.’ As she had reached out to God through Him in faith she had been made whole. She had been ‘saved’. He wanted her to know that He was not just some relic that was seen as containing special superstitious powers, but that God had reached out to her personally through Him. That is indeed how all men can be made whole. Then He assured her that her curse had been removed once for all. Once again Jesus has demonstrated that He has power to cleanse the ‘unclean’ without Himself being rendered unclean (compare on Luke 1:42). He is the Holy One of God.
‘Go in peace.’ A recognised way of giving assurance (e.g. Exo 4:18 ; 1 Samuel 1:17; 1 Samuel 29:7; 2 Samuel 15:9; Luke 7:50; Acts 16:36).
So this woman who had been unclean for twelve years, can be seen as a picture of God’s people of whom Isaiah says, ‘we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like menstrual rags’ (Isaiah 64:6), whom the Bridegroom has come to claim for Himself as depicted in Ezekiel 16:0. God’s people are being offered another chance as Ezekiel promised would happen in the last days (Ezekiel 16:60-63). We can compare here the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. She too had been a picture of adulterous Israel.
‘While he yet spoke, there comes one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.”
But with the climax came the anticlimax. In the midst of the joy which followed the healing a messenger came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house to inform them that it was too late. One ‘Daughter’ had been wonderfully healed. The other daughter was dead.
‘But Jesus hearing it, answered him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she shall be made whole.” ’
But Jesus turned to Jairus and told him, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she shall be made whole.” Jairus had just seen an example of this, a ‘Daughter’ who had believed and had been made whole (Luke 8:48). Let him recognise that this was also a symbol of what was intended for his daughter too. It is clear from what is said below that he only partially believed (the centurion had not been amazed when his servant was healed, only grateful, but he was amazed). But he had at least had sufficient faith to come to Jesus in the first place. Jesus always saw that as sufficient faith. He does not measure our faith, He responds to it.
‘And when he came to the house, he did not allow any man to enter in with him, except Peter, and John, and James, and the father of the maiden and her mother.’
When they came to the house Jesus excluded from it all but Peter, John and James, and the parents. He did not want what He was about to do to be in the public domain. The selection of the three was a clear indication that something quite remarkable was going to happen. They were the three that He always chose at such times (compare Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33). They shared His most intimate moments when something unique about Himself was to be revealed. (Note how Luke has switched James and John around and paired Peter and John ready for Acts).
‘And all were weeping, and bewailing her. But he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead, but sleeps.” ’
Meanwhile the professional mourners were going about their business, and all the relatives were joining in. It was in fact polite to make grief public and noisy. It was seen as expressing their love and concern for those who remained and for the one who died. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead, but sleeps.” Compare here John 11:11-14. But had she really only been asleep He would not have excluded all but the three chosen disciples. His point here was rather that when He was present that was all death was, a sleep. Death is often spoken of in the New Testament as sleep for this reason. For those who die in Christ do not die, they only sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
‘And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.’
But all knew that He was wrong. They knew that there was no doubt about her condition. And they laughed scornfully. Some prophet, this one, they may have thought.
‘But he, taking her by the hand, called, saying, “Maiden, arise.” ’
But Jesus took her hand and called to her, saying “Maiden, arise.” The taking of the hand was in order to enable her to sit up. She was given life by the command. By the graciousness of God this young child on the verge of womanhood was restored to life. As Ezekiel 16:0, mentioned above, demonstrates, she was a picture of God’s people being given another opportunity of receiving life.
‘And her spirit returned, and she rose up immediately, and he commanded that something be given her to eat.’
And her life came back into her. Notice the wording. Jesus summoned back her spirit and her life returned. And she immediately rose up, and Jesus then commanded that she be given something to eat. In front of the father’s startled and hopeless gaze the impossible had taken place. His daughter had been dead, and now she was alive again. He could hardly believe it for joy. The command to give something to eat was evidence that she was really alive. Jesus would give similar evidence to prove His own resurrection (Luke 24:41-43). It also gave them something to concentrate their minds on so as to relieve the tensions.
‘And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no man what had been done.’
Indeed both parents were amazed. They had not really expected Jesus to raise her. But they had had faith enough to let Him come. These two are a message to us all. Not all of us can have the centurion’s faith, but we may find the doubting faith of these two a little easier to achieve. And Jesus then told them to tell no one what had been done. Jesus did not want to start an insurrection, caused as a result of what He had done by the arousing the volatile crowds (Jewish crowds were usually volatile where religion was concerned), nor did He want crowds gathering to see signs and wonders (anymore than already did). This silence is implicit in the way that He had restricted those present to the parents and the three disciples. But the fact that He did include the three demonstrates that it was intended that they would be able to witness to it eventually.
It may, of course, be that He simply meant ‘do not tell anyone immediately’ so that He could slip away without a fuss, but similar occurrences elsewhere suggest that He hated such publicity. He wanted people to seek Him because of the word which He preached, not because of ‘signs’.
In this quiet way did Jesus reveal that He was the Lord of life, and illustrate how one day He will say, “Arise”, so that those who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will arise, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done wrong to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 8". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany