Today: [Luke 7] Jesus Deals with Offense and Manipulation: In chapter 7 of Luke Jesus is confronted, and disrespected by John the Baptist, and blasphemed by Simon the Pharisee. Even in the aftermath of raising the dead to life and performing many miracles, the people around Jesus are unceasing in their manipulation and demand upon Jesus with no demonstration of humility. In studying this chapter we learn something about God’s way of handling controlling people, and also about the need for coming to God not in pompous religious expectation, but rather in the deep humility that always brings a positive response from the hand of God.
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[Luk 7:1-23 KJV] 1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. 2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. 3 And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: 5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. 6 Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth [it]. 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick. 11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare [him] stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. 17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about. 18 And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. 19 And John calling [unto him] two of his disciples sent [them] to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 21 And in that same hour he cured many of [their] infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many [that were] blind he gave sight. 22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23 And blessed is [he], whosoever shall not be offended in me.
In chapter 7 of Luke Jesus ends His sermon on the plain and returns to Capernaum. He encounters a Roman officer with a beloved servant who sick to the point of death. The centurion hears word of Jesus and asks several Jewish elders of the city to approach Jesus, asking Him to come to his ill servant’s aid. This man was unusual because he did not conduct himself as a belligerent conqueror among the people. In fact he went so far in his love for Israel that he built a synagogue in the city. Upon hearing this, Jesus agrees to meet with the man.
As Jesus is being conveyed by the elders to the house where the centurion’s servant lay, the captain sends word to Jesus that he was not worthy that Jesus should come under his roof. There is something very unusual about this man. He didn’t rise to the rank of centurion without being a forceful and commanding presence before his men, but his posture toward Jesus speaks of nothing other than deep humility and contrition before God. How different from those I have corresponded with over the years complaining and murmuring at God because they didn’t receive their healing or their answers to prayer.
In sending word to Jesus the soldier says to him through his messengers that he is a man under authority and understands issuing orders. He asks that Jesus would simply speak the word only and his servant will be healed. Verse 9 tells us that Jesus marveled at the man’s faith. Can you imagine what it would take to astound Jesus? The response was immediate. No sooner did the friends of the centurion return to his house that they found the servant was completely healed. This is a great lesson for us. God is looking for none other than our faith. In Luke 18:8 Jesus makes the statement or rather asks the question “when the Son of Man comes will He find faith in the earth”? That is what is required to receive a miracle. Many claim they indeed have faith but if they do have faith in a miracle working God why is there no deference or humility in their approach to God as this centurion? If we really believe God is more than a figment of our religious imagination, then like the centurion we will be unable to demonstrate anything but contrition and humility in our approach to Him. That is the heart that is ready to receive a miracle as this man did.
After His stay in Capernaum, Jesus travels to the city of Nain where, upon approaching the gates of the city encounters a funeral procession accompanied by a great crowd of people. Jesus sees this sad seen and tells the mother of the dead boy “weep not” for He had compassion on her. He approaches the bier on which the boy is being carried and says to the corpse “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Immediately the boy sits up and begins to speak. I wonder what he said? Whatever the case may be the people were amazed and glorified God saying that a great prophet had come among them in the person of Jesus. They didn’t really know who He was, but they were astounded at what they had seen.
It is interesting to note that in the case of the centurion it was the centurion’s faith that predicated the miracle but in the case of the dead boy there was no faith involved, neither in the boy for he was dead, nor in the grieving mother or the people with her. These are the two examples of how Jesus healed, sometimes on His own initiative and other times in response to the demand of faith expressed on the part of the person in need. That should tell us that it is wrong for us to think or to pray “if it be thy will” when it comes to a proposition of faith. People who pray and don’t get an answer are told “it wasn’t God’s will” but there is no one example anywhere in the gospels where Jesus was approached but declines to heal because “it isn’t My will…” Jesus is so willing to heal on an ongoing basis that people having faith around Him are able to exercise their own believe and receive their miracle as in the case of the woman with the issue of blood who was healed instantly before Jesus could even turn around and recognize her.
After the news of this resurrection reaches John the Baptist, he sends word to Jesus asking “are you he that should come, or look we for another…” It is almost as though John is exasperated that Jesus should spend so much time in Galilee, and John is goading Jesus to get on with the work that John thought Jesus, if He were indeed the Messiah, should be doing. His words of challenge echo the temptation of Satan in the wilderness who asked over and over “if you are the son of God, then do thus and such…” John is obviously offended. Jesus doesn’t answer the messengers from John immediately, but when He does, simply says “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them… and blessed is he whosever shall not be offended in Me…” What does this tell us? John has deeply erred. He has presumed as Peter eventually does, to instruct and to school Jesus on what is expected of Him. How different is the demeanor of John the Baptist at this point in speaking to Jesus than that of the Centurion who was so humble and contrite He didn’t want to disrespect Jesus by even having Him come under His roof!
[Luk 7:24-50 KJV
24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. 26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is [he], of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29 And all the people that heard [him], and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. 31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? 32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. 34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! 35 But wisdom is justified of all her children. 36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that [Jesus] sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at his feet behind [him] weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe [them] with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed [them] with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw [it], he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman [this is] that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that [he], to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped [them] with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
When the messengers of John leave, Jesus begins to speak to the people about John and his ministry. Though John has in essence challenged Jesus’ authenticity, Jesus nonetheless lauds and speaks very highly of John, saying not only is he a prophet but much more than a prophet. Jesus understands that John is the Messenger that Isaiah spoke of in Isa. 40:3 as the forerunner of the Messiah. This, in Jesus estimation makes John literally the greatest man ever born up to this point, unique in the annals of human history. The people listening to Jesus receive what He says for the deeply respected John the Baptist as well, but the Pharisees rejected His endorsement of John the Baptist and the baptism by which John had commanded all the people to be baptized.
Here we see Jesus dealing with the political and social pressures that were put to Him. John the Baptist is pressuring Him to declare Himself openly as the Messiah. The people are trying to make up their minds if they believe John’s witness of who Jesus is or not. The Pharisees are maintaining close proximity to Jesus, trying to decide how they can best either suppress Jesus, or use Him to satisfy their wicked, self-serving agenda. If you are ever going to be used by God in anything other than a perfunctory way, these are lessons that you must learn.
Jesus realizing the manipulation compelling Him on every side declares in verses 31-35 that he will not dance to their tune and will not agree with their agenda. It is no different today. Christianity is more partisan and agenda laden than it has ever been in history. To speak the truth without fear or favor constitutes a veritable minefield of potential offense and resistance among God’s people who are more interested in their partisan causes than they are in actually fulfilling and submitting themselves to the mandates of the kingdom of God. Whatever be the case of what forces of manipulation are around you let your commitment be as Jesus, that you will not dance simply because others are piping a particular tune they expect you to be joyful about, neither will you lament just because a modern day Pharisee is demanding you to be upset about something that has nothing to do with the mandates of the kingdom of God.
How do the Pharisees react to Jesus words? Do they repent? No, they simply regroup and ask Jesus to come to dinner, perhaps to entrap Him in an environment they have more control of. While Jesus sits at the table, a woman comes in with an alabaster box of ointment, very costly to pour upon His feet and proceeds to wash them with her tears and cover them with her kisses and the costly ointment. What a scandal this would be in today’s world. What accusations of impropriety would be lodged against Jesus if this scene played out in today’s world. How do you think you are! The Pharisees were offended because they knew the reputation of this woman (we might wonder just how they were so acquainted with her character). Jesus perceives the offense in the room and speaks to the Pharisee, Simon by name regarding the depth of forgiveness being the metric of the woman’s adoration. Simon on the other hand was so full of himself that he didn’t even provide Jesus with the customary washing of feet that every guest in anyone’s home would have been afforded. What about us? Jesus says in another place, as much as we have done unto the least among us we have so done to Christ. Have you ever been slighted by another believer? Have you ever done so yourself? The lesson is clear, that our treatment of each other is a reflection not only of our high opinion of ourselves, but also our disdain for God Himself. The Pharisee Jesus is speaking to makes no apology, can you imagine it! To the woman Jesus turns however saying, thy faith has saved thee… go in peace!
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