Luke 9:37-50

 Faith - Impeded by Culture

Luke 9:37-43  -  Jesus Heals a Possessed Boy

37 On the next day
as they were coming down from the hills,
a large crowd came up to him.
38 A man in the crowd called out,
“Teacher, I beg you look upon my son.
He is my only one,
39 and a spirit takes hold of him.
It makes him scream out unexpectedly
and, foaming at the mouth,convulses him
and hardly leaves off without exhausting him. 
40 I begged your disciples to cast it out,
but they could not.”

As with the previous detailed accounts of exorcisms, so too this exorcism was symbolic of the evil embedded in Israel – yet not only in Israel but also in the group of the disciples themselves. It was an evil beyond their power to cast out.

41 Jesus said in answer, “O faithless and perverted generation.
For how long must I be with you
and put up with you!
Bring your son here.”

The evil in question was the evil of lack of faith and consequent missing of the point. Mark’s account had emphasised remorselessly the disciples’ lack of faith, as well as Israel’s. Luke was gentler towards the disciples and passed over Mark’s censure.

42 As he got close, the spirit convulsed him
and threw him to the ground.
Jesus warned the unclean spirit,
and healed the lad,
and gave him back to his father.
43 Everyone was astounded at the majesty of God.

Precisely what Luke intended by everyone’s astonishment at the greatness of God is not clear.

Luke 9:44-47  -  Jesus Foretells His Death

With everyone in admiration at all he was doing,
he said to his disciples,
44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to say.
The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of certain people.”
45 They failed to understand what he was saying.
It was hidden from them
so that they did not get its meaning,
and they were frightened to ask him about his statement.

To the earlier reference to his death Jesus added the detail that he would be betrayed. Luke gave no indication of the reasons for the disciples’ fear of asking Jesus. Were they frightened of Jesus? or of the pending prospect of his death?


Faith – Impeded by Expectations

Luke 9:46-48  -  The Least is the Greatest

46 A discussion started among them
which of them was the greatest.
47 Aware of the discussion going on in their hearts,
Jesus took hold of a child
and placed it beside him,
48 and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name
welcomes me.
And whoever welcomes me
welcomes the one who sent me.
The least among you is the greatest.”

Luke was following at this stage the order of Mark’s Gospel.

To be at peace with the fact that the least was in fact the greatest was one expression of Jesus’ earlier comment about dying to self.

The starkness of the message can easily be lost on the modern reader. In the culture of the time, whilst a child was generally treasured in its family, it had no legal rights of any kind. It was totally under the control of its father. Along with women, it had no honour in a rigidly oriented honour-based culture. Effectively Jesus was stating that considerations of relative honour were totally out of place within the Christian community.


Faith – Open to Outsiders

Luke 9:49-50  -  Another Exorcist

49 John said in reply,
“Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,
and we told him not to
because he does not get around with us.” 
50 But Jesus said to him,
“Do not stop him,
for anyone who is not against you is for you.”

Jesus’ message about the importance of disregarding honour in an honour-based culture had apparently made little impression on John. For him it appeared that being one of the inner group was a privilege and an honour to be jealously guarded.

Jesus’ comment that anyone who is not against you is for you. seemed to speak of a situation where contempt was so strong and general that anyone not caught up in the collective mindset must have made a previous conscious decision not to be so. Perhaps the situation mirrored the reality during the life of Jesus. More probably it reflected the experience of Luke’s own small Christian community.

Next >> Luke 9:51-56