Good morning! Healings play a central role in today’s passage, Luke 7-8, as do parables that we’ve read before. What also strikes me are the roles played by various women, whom Luke gives larger roles than is characteristic in Christian scriptures.
At the beginning of chapter 7, we read a more fully developed version of a story common to other gospels: healing of a centurion’s slave. The centurion’s relationship with his slave is described with unusually close terms. Some biblical scholars have discussed this as a potential same-gender, loving relationship. I’m not certain of that, but the text does give witness to the centurion’s positive role in Hebrew society, and of harmonious relations between Jew and Gentile. Jesus praises the centurion for his remarkable faith, and the slave returns to health.
The lens of current events influences how I experience the next story of a young man who has died, carried in procession by the crowd of townspeople. How many other young men, their mothers’ treasured sons, die of gang violence or police zeal today? How many processions and marches have we born witness to, with cries for life in place of death? How many mothers yearn to hear Jesus give their dead sons back to them? A sermon might be preached here on the work of the Jesus community, restoring sons to community *before* they die, rather than after.
The visit from John the Baptist’s disciples has me in the same mood. The proof of faith, Jesus tells them, comes in what you see. Would that more human beings lived in such a way that sharing the news of God at work in the world was as easy as “go and tell…what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, [and] the poor have good news brought to them.” Jesus praises John as doing the work of a herald and prophet, then meditates further on how he and John are both rejected by Jewish leaders for different reasons. John fasted and abstained as part of his religious practice, and the ways of Jesus offend the wealthy, as we see in the next story. Jesus praises a sinful woman whose character is a combination of the woman who anoints at Bethany, and the judgment on an adulteress in other gospels. Her narrative emphasizes the woman’s devotion, Jesus’ mercy, the Pharisees’ insincerity, and the power of faith to set things right.
Before reading the familiar parables and miracle accounts that form the bulk of Luke 8, notice what’s said as the chapter opens about the women accompanying Jesus. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others experienced relief in Jesus from whatever ailed them, and so followed him around with the other disciples. But they do more than we hear about any male disciple, in that they provide for the movement out of their resources. We see this elsewhere in Luke-Acts as well, and in the travels of Paul. Women with cash gave it to the Jesus movement, and their resources are perhaps one of the only reasons the Christian story made it from Palestine to every part of the world today. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Luke 9-10. Thanks for reading!