Sat, 12 January 2008
In Luke 4:31 Jesus teaches at the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath. For the first time, Jesus publicly commands an unclean spirit to listen to Him, and instantly it comes out of the man. This very important event along with the healing of Peter's mother-in-law are the first episodes that bring Jesus into the public eye as a healer and miracle-worker. These form a turning point Jesus' ministry, for He is now unable to travel anywhere without large crowds following Him.
In Chapter 5, Luke opens with the catching of a multitude of fishes and Peter's confession on the Sea of Galilee where, amidst a tremendous haul of flopping fish, Peter becomes convicted, kneels down and asks Jesus to leave the boat (without realizing that there is no place to go). John's Gospel tells us that Jesus knows Peter before this event, but Luke here highlights the moment where Jesus first breaks through to the man who would become the Rock.
In verse 12, Jesus heals a man with leprosy, an event which compels "great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed." Because the recipients of Jesus' miracles do not heed his words to "tell no one," the crowds that follow Him become increasingly burdensome.
The healing of the paralytic is the dramatic moment that turns the Pharisees against Jesus. Luke says "the power of the Lord was with him to heal," a subtle reminder that Jesus did not even do miracles unless they were in accord with the will of the Father (v. 17). The room being full of dignitaries and scholars, earnest men creatively carry a paralytic up to the roof, seeking to bring him in through it and lay him before Jesus. One must note that Jesus "saw their faith," the faith of the majority in the crowd, before saying, "Man, your sins are forgiven you." Because God alone can forgive sins, this miracle forces all to decide whether He is God's chosen one or a blasphemer.
Luke then describes the call of Levi the tax collector, commanding him to "follow me" (v. 27). The Pharisees and scribes murmur at this, and Jesus responds, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (v. 31-32). His indictment of their maligned form of religion truth brings to mind the words of Fulton Sheen, "those who deny the disease make the cure impossible."
We close with the incident of verse 33, when they question "the disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink."
And Jesus said to them, "Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days." He told them a parable also: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good...'" (36-39)
Jesus makes it clear that He has not come to fit inside ordinary Judaism, but to transform the establishment entirely in accord with the Father's will. All too often, those who are the most invested in traditional ways are the most unwilling to give up their old wine and accept God's challenging invitation to new wine.
As we read of Jesus coming into Galilee, we must digest these verses and examine where we stand with God, asking Him what we must to do follow Him. We must be like Levi, a man undoubtedly engrossed in the world who left everything to follow Him. Will we be among those religious that don't leave their comfortable lifestyle to follow Him, or will we respond to Jesus in a credible way and amend our lives?