This is a rich and full chapter. Women of Galilee support Jesus and travel with him. He tells the Parable of the Sower and then the purpose of parables. (I also offer an alternative free translation of the Parable of the Sower, based on some interesting grammar.) Do not hide a lamp under a container. Jesus’s mother and brothers are the ones who do the will of God. He calms a storm. He delivers a man with a legion of demons. He heals a woman with an issue of blood and heals Jairus’s daughter.
As I write in every chapter:
This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.
The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
The translation is mine. It is not better than the published ones. I offer it only to learn what the Greek really says. If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at biblehub.com. However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.
Women Travel and Support Men (Luke 8:1-3)
1 And so it happened afterwards that he was traveling around towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, and the twelve were with him 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons went out, 3 and Joanna, wife of Chuza, estate manager of Herod, and Susanna. And many other women were supporting them from their resources.
Jesus was an itinerant. He had a home base in Capernaum (Mark 2:1). But he had to travel because that is why he was sent (Mark 1:38-39). Everywhere he went, he proclaimed and “preached the good news.” That quoted clause is one Greek word euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard): Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. Greeks could add the –iz suffix and turn words into verbs. Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
Here the object of both verbs is “the kingdom of God.” Jesus did not just preach empty platitudes and interesting stories of the past, but he was ushering in the new kingdom. Some elements of the past were to be taken from the old order (universal moral laws, truths about God’s character, wisdom literature and devotional literature, prophecies, and so on), but more things are left behind (e.g. sacrifices, festivals, Sabbath keeping, harsh punishments and so on).
But this is a brief digression. Let’s get back to this passage.
“kingdom of God”: What is it? As noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5).
It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were bringing to the world. The powerful and people of high status are to be brought low, while the humble and those of low status are to be raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.
Here it is the already and not-yet. The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
If you want to know what he was preaching, just look at the teachings that Luke wrote down, as we just saw in Luke 6, and we are about to see here in this chapter and in future chapters. So preaching and “good-news-izing” the “kingdom of God” in this verse is a summary of what is to come in his teachings (foreshadowing), and a backwards look at what he has already taught. For me, there is no need to debate what was the content of his preaching and proclaiming the kingdom. The Gospel of Luke is clear but omits much (John 21:25).
“proclaiming the good news”: as noted in previous verses in Luke, the phrase is one verb in Greek: euangelizō (pronounced eu-ahn-geh-lee-zoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). Eu– means “good,” and angel means “announcement” or “news”; and izō is the verb form. (Greek adds the suffix -iz- and changes the noun to the verb and we do too, as in “modern” to “modernize”). Awkwardly but literally it means “good-news-ize,” as in “Let’s ‘good-news-ize’ them!”
This is a wonderful image of women traveling with Jesus and the twelve. They probably kept apart from the men, unless Peter’s wife and other wives of the twelve and male disciples were with them close by. No, they did not keep apart from the men because of Jesus’s kingdom, but the customs of Judaism and the larger culture. They listened to Jesus intently and kept an eye on the men. It is easy to imagine they observed needs that men just didn’t spot. Twelve men wandering around the countryside from village to town and bumping into each other needed help from women!
One Rabbi advised, “Talk not much with womankind. They said this of a man’s own wife: how much more of his fellow’s wife! Hence the sages have said: He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna (m. ‘Abot 1:15)” (Garland, p. 347).
The fact that Jesus associated with women, in these circumstances, is remarkable. He was breaking down the barriers.
“healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” It is surprising that the verb is used for deliverance from demonic oppression, but so be it. We have to learn something from it. Maybe it is deliverance is part of healing too.
“evil spirits”: See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
“diseases”: it is the plural of the noun astheneia (pronounced ah-stheh-nay-ah), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” It means, depending on the context, primarily “weakness”; and secondarily “sickness, disease.” The NIV translates it throughout the NT: weakness (most often), weaknesses, weak, crippled, diseases, illness, illnesses, infirmities, infirmity, invalid, sick, sickness, sicknesses. Here in v. 2 it means illnesses or sicknesses.
Some intellectual feminist interpreters claim that Luke insults the women when he brings up their former needs. But their claim is not true. Anyone who associates with the Renewal Movements knows how wonderful it is to be healed and delivered. (I myself had to chase away a few demonic attacks in my own life, and I still need healing in two areas of my body.) The Gospel of Luke is Charismatic. Luke 5:41 says demons came out of many, men and women, included, and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” Recall that in Luke 7:36-50, the last story just before this one, an unnamed “sinful” woman was invited into God’s house, though she had to push in uninvited into Simon the Pharisee’s house. Luke’s report about the women in vv. 2-3 is designed to encourage women of his day (and ours) that nothing disqualifies them from the kingdom.
Mary Magdalene: her name here is Maria in Greek, so Luke did not feel the requirement to keep the Hebrew name Miriam (in other places he does write “Mariam”). He intended his Gospel to go out to the provinces in a language the people could understand. That’s the way it should be when the Bible is translated into various languages around the globe today. Use names and words that people understand. There is nothing “extra-pure” about Hebrew roots, as if Gentile believers around the world are unfulfilled if they do not have these Hebrew names and fulfilled if they do in their translations. She was from Magdala, a fishing village on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee.
Short digression: why the big push towards Hebrew roots? Americans are very trendy because, probably, they have extra-leisure time. Also, many Jews live here (all right by me), and a certain percentage of them convert to the Messiah Jesus (as all of them should). When they read the Gospels, they see that Jesus was a Jew and spoke Hebrew and Aramaic (all true). But let’s not exaggerate any of this, but instead focus on bringing the gospel to the entire world, beyond the Hebrew roots. That’s the whole thrust of the New Covenant Scriptures, written as it is in a language that most people of the first century could understand—Greek—and trimming away ancient customs in the Old Testament and the massive traditions of Judaism. Slow down, Hebrew Roots Movement!
Once again see my post
Seven is the number of completion, so you can interpret the seven demons as a deep need for deliverance or there really were seven demons. In v. 30, below, Jesus will cast out an entire legion of demons. I take the number literally.
In any case, Luke is not interested in insulting women, but in promoting them; he did not have to mention them here, as the other synoptic Gospels do not. Most importantly, he is interested in promoting the kingdom of God as Jesus preached it, which is also for women.
Luke included their names probably because he interviewed the ones who were still alive. In Acts 21:17 Paul and his team, including Luke, since he used the pronoun “we,” arrived in Jerusalem. Luke with his writing kit followed Paul around, but he must have gone off on his own to investigate and interview the Messianic Jews in the capital and those living in Judea, who could supply him with information about Jesus’s ministry. Why not interview Susanna and Joanna and Mary Magdalene and the many others? He named them because he probably met them. In contrast, Mark did not include their names (15:41). He may have known of them through his mother Mary (Acts 12:12), but never interviewed them about their following Jesus from Galilee. However, to repeat, Mary herself told Luke about her deliverance and Joanna and Susanna and the others told them that they were the ones who there at his death.
Specifically, the women from Galilee will reappear in Luke 23:49, and they stood at a distance while he was on the cross and died. Then in 23:55 they followed the soldiers to find out where he was buried. In Luke 24:1-11, where Joanna was again named, they are the ones who brought the spices to put on his body, but when they got to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away and no body, the tomb empty. Two men in dazzling apparel frightened them, so they bowed with their faces to the ground. The men proclaimed the resurrection and sent them on a mission to tell the men, who didn’t believe them. So it is easy to imagine that as they stayed together at a distance from the men at his death, burial and resurrection, so in Luke 8:2-3 they traveled and stayed together at a distance in Galilee—but not at a spiritual distance from Jesus. They were grateful he healed and delivered them.
“estate manager”: it comes from the noun epitropos (pronounced eh-pea-tro-poss), and it is used in contemporary Greek writings and inscriptions for a household and estate manager. Older translations have “steward.” Chuza managed the estates of Herod, who was tetrarch of Galilee and who was also Herod the Great’s son and was co-named Antipas. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 30 (see Luke 3:1 for others in the ruling class, and you can google his name). So Chuza’s job was a big deal. Was he a slave? Maybe, but if he were, then he had a lot of freedom. He had access to a lot of power and money. Often slaves were more powerful and richer than free farm laborers or other free servants.
However, he probably was not a slave.
Richard Bauckham in his Gospel Women: Studies in the Named Women in the Gospels (Eerdmans, 2002), offers this summary of his extensive research on Chuza:
This rather extensive treatment of Joanna’s husband may seem to have distracted us from Joanna herself, but it has been important for establishing and confirming Joanna’s social status and affiliations against the claim that as ‘a steward or manager of an estate [Chuza] would still be a slave or freedman … Such a person would still be deprived of real status’ [quoting Corley, Private Woman, p. 11 n. 13]. On the contrary Chuza and Joanna were members of the Herodian aristocracy of Tiberias [a city in Galilee], and the sheer rarity of the name Chuza, together with the plausibility of its bearer as a Nabatean at the court of Herod, assures us that Luke’s information about Joanna is reliable. (p. 161)
Now on pp. 165-88 Prof. Bauckham provides an excellent discussion on Junia. He argues that Junia is a sound-alike name for Joanna (Luke 8:2-3; 24:10). She added a Latin name to her Hebrew one, to relate to the Romans, where she was living (Rom. 16:7). Many Jews had biblical names but also adopted Greek or Latin names to relate to the large Greek and Roman cultures. Chuza had probably already died, and she remarried to Andronicus, likely also an early follower of Jesus who had (unknown) Jewish name and this Greek name. Bauckham’s idea is ingenious. Plausible. If his evidence and argument is true, then Joanna-Junia followed Christ from the beginning or close to the beginning (Luke 8:2-3), watched him die on the cross (Luke 23:49), and then proclaimed the resurrection to the eleven (24:10). So she deserved the praise “prominent among the apostles.”
So what does this mean if Junia and Joanna were the same person and she remarried to Andronicus? They were apostles of Christ (Rom. 16:7), because the Greek says they were “noteworthy” or “prominent” among the apostles. This is confirmed by the Greek-speaking church fathers who had no problem in saying Andronicus and Junia (a female name frequently attested) and not Junias (a male name never attested), were “prominent among the apostles,” and not merely “well known to the apostles.” (Rom. 16:7). I accept the opinion of these Greek fathers and their natural reading of Rom. 16:7 as decisive, for the fathers were educated native Greek speakers, and that is how they read the dative case with the Greek preposition en in Rom. 16:7 Andronicus and Junia were probably husband and wife.
“many other women”: the Greek does not mention “women,” but the pronouns are feminine, and in English we can miss the feminine gender (compare plural ils, elles in French and just they in English). So I supplied the word “women,” to drive home the point that Jesus’s followers were not just men, and not just the named women, but many other women. I wonder how many there were. Dozens? Hundreds? We know that in Matt. 14:21 five thousand men were miraculously fed, besides women and children. But Luke singles out these women in vv. 2-3, so we should not see them numbering in the thousands in those two verses. (I wonder how their husbands felt about all this “journeying” business.) I say they numbered in the dozens, but sometimes up to the hundreds, though that’s just a guess. They were not casual followers, since they ended up in Jerusalem at his death and the aftermath.
“Susanna”: she was probably of the same class as that of Joanna, since men and women associated with those of their own class at this time and culture. Why did they associate with Mary Magdalene, who may have been poorer (or not)? The kingdom of God was breaking down class hierarchy. Following Jesus demanded it, gradually and over time.
“were supporting”: it is the verb diakoneō (pronounced dee-ah-koh-neh-oh), and we get our word deacon from it. He (or she) helps in the practical needs of the church. (Phoebe was a deacon, in Rom. 16:1.) But here it is not an official position, which comes later in early Christianity. Some translations have “provided” (NKJV, NET, MSG); “ministered” (KJV); “contributing” (NAS, NLT); “helping to support” (NIV); “used” (CEV, NCV). It could also be translated as “serving.”
“their resources”: this is material resources, not just prayer and well-wishing from a distance. The pronoun their, incidentally, is feminine. It was their resources. No doubt they used the money to buy food for their Lord and the twelve and themselves, when they went into a town or village. They may have bought or gathered combustible material to cook some food in a campout, so to speak. We don’t know, but those guesses come from the logic of first-century, Israelite culture. They make sense.
GrowApp for Luke 8:1-3
A.. The women sacrificed a domestic life to follow Jesus. What have you sacrificed to follow him in your own situation?
B.. How have you contributed to the work of the kingdom? Volunteering your time? Giving money? Mission trips? What else?
Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-8)
4 When a big crowd came together, and they came to him from the towns, he spoke through a parable:
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed, and while he was sowing, some fell along the path and were trampled on, and birds of the sky ate it up. 6 Another handful of seed fell on the rocky ground, and when it grew up, it withered because it had no moisture. 7 And another handful fell in the middle of thorn bushes, and when they grew up with it, the thorn bushes choked it. 8 Still another handful fell on good soil, when it grew up, it produced fruit, one hundredfold.” While he was speaking, he was shouting, “He who has ears to hear let him hear!”
This parable has been called the Parable of the Soils and even the Parable of the Seeds. But I stayed with tradition, though the Parable of the Soils makes sense, while the third option does not (not to me, at least).
Let’s wait to interpret the parable in vv. 11-15, where Jesus explains it.
“parable”: literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.
Luke is keen to show that Jesus could gather a crowd. This time he did not heal them but taught them. Teaching the kingdom of God is equal to or even better than healing through the power of the Spirit in the kingdom because eventually this physical body will wear out, but the teaching will last forever. His word will not pass away (Luke 21:33). Renewalists who like the sensational aspect of the kingdom of God, as it comes in full power and healing, need to remember the teaching part of ministry. They must reinforce their basic Bible knowledge and doctrine, so they can explain it to the people and so that the flashy ministers themselves won’t go astray.
A sower had a sack strapped to his shoulder, full of seed, and reached into it, grabbed a handful, and threw it, sweeping his hand back and forth. After his hand emptied out, he reached in his bag and grabbed another handful.
Some of his seed fell on the road was trampled underfoot, and the seeds that were not pushed into the dirt by sandals and bare feet were eaten by birds.
“handful of seed”: this phrase was inserted because of the agricultural context, as described in v. 5. Jesus is about to explain what the parable means, so there is no need to explain it now.
In v. 6, “withered” could be translated as “dried up.”
ALTERNATIVE FREE TRANSLATION
Professional grammarians teach us that the Greek verb tenses indicate that he was speaking his parable to a large crowd, so his voice had to be raised for them to hear . So he was shouting the quoted words even louder at intervals.
The sequence may have worked out like this:
Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-8)
4 When a big crowd came together, and they came to him from the towns, he spoke in a parable:
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed, and while he was sowing, some fell along the path and were trampled on, and birds of the sky ate it up. He who has ears to hear let him hear! 6 Another handful of seed fell on the rocky ground, and when it grew up, it withered because it had no moisture. He who has ears to hear let him hear! 7 And another handful fell in the middle of thorn bushes, and when they grew up with it, the thorn bushes choked it. He who has ears to hear let him hear!
8 Still another handful fell on good soil, when it grew up, it produced fruit, one hundredfold.” He who has ears to hear let him hear!”
While he was speaking, he was shouting, “He who has ears to hear let him hear!”
This repetitive shouting at intervals puts extra-drama and earnestness before the listeners. And this sequence prepares the next short pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section of Scripture, which explains the purpose of parables.
For a deeper commentary, scroll down to Jesus’s interpretation of the parable.
GrowApp for Luke 8:4-8
A.. Do some self-reflection. Which kind of soil is your heart made of?
B.. If it is the first three, how do you improve?
The Purpose of Parables (Luke 8:9-10)
9 His disciples were asking him what this parable might mean. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. To the rest I speak in parables, so that:
‘Seeing, they would not see,
And hearing, they would not understand’” [Is. 6:9-10].
“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, and it says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“were asking”: the Greek verb tense (imperfect) indicates continual action from the past and into the present. He was with twelve men and the women (8:2-3), so they may have surrounded him and asked their own questions in turn. They were hungry. Wouldn’t you ask about the parable, if you were there?
“to know”: The verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). It is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times). BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. In this verse, the best translation is the first definition or perhaps the third one.
The disciples, hanging out with Jesus, would come to know or should know what the mysteries of the kingdom of God are. In the NT, mysteries were never hidden away forever out of sight and out of hearing. That describes Greek mystery religions. In contrast, mysteries in the NT were meant to be revealed in Christ, but it takes spiritual insight to know their meaning. And here this parable is a mystery of the kingdom. It is about to be explicated.
Jesus’s teaching was not always direct. “Hey you! What kind of hearts do you have? Let me explain the different kinds!” Deeper followers need to dig deeper and think about the meaning of the elements in the story, like soils, seeds and birds, and so on. Then the flash might come. “Oh! I get it!” It might come—or not.
“mysteries”: modern translations say “secret.” The Greek noun is mystērion (pronounced moo-stay-ree-on or mee-stay-ree-on), and yes, we get our word mystery directly from it. It is used 28 times. Now let’s define the term.
BDAG is considered the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it says: In the Greco-Roman world, a mystērion is about mystery religions, “with their secrets teachings, religious and political in nature, concealed with many strange customs and ceremonies. The principal rites remain unknown because of a reluctance in antiquity to divulge things.” In other words, Greco-Roman mysteries were about concealment.
In contrast, in the NT, it will be about disclosure of God’s plan, revealed only in part in Bible prophecies, and now these mysteries were fulfilled and completely revealed in Christ. As God’s plan moves from one age to the next, this is called eschatology (the study or science of last things or a shift in ages that God ordains).
“kingdom of God”: see v. 1 for more comments.
“it has been given”: the verb form is in the passive, so it reflects the divine passive, which is an understated way of saying that God is behind the scenes working and revealing the mysteries. But are the disciples “pre-tuned” or predisposed in their hearts and minds to receive the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom? Is. 6:9-10 say that God withholds the mysteries because the people are resistant to hearing it. Their heart comes first; then God reveals what he can to hard heart, but the people can’t grasp it.
“The ‘mysteries’ … do not refer to conundrums that the human intellect can puzzle over and eventually figure out, as if they were akin to discovering the double helix structure of DNA. They are the heavenly truths concealed from human understanding until they are made known through divine revelation (see Dan 2:28-30; 1 Cor 2:6-16 …). The passive voice it was given’ … implies that God is the agent who gives the secret. Knowing the mysteries has eschatological implications because they have been hidden for ages and are revealed to humans in God’s timing in the last age (Rom 16:25; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26)” (Garland, comments on 8:9-10).
The reason Jesus spoke in parables was so that the “rest,” the already-blind and the already-thick eared, may not get it. How hungry were they? Were they in the audience just to get a healing? To see a miracle? Or do they really want to understand the kingdom and join it? Then they have to do some self-reflection—not self-mediation on their navels and repeating aum!—but some careful thought. What do the soils mean? What is the seed? Who is the sower? What about the birds and thorn bushes?
God reads the hearts of everyone, in a divine “soul scan.” When he sees hunger for his ways, he sends enlightenment to their minds (see 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Eph. 1:17-18), and they understand the mysteries of the kingdom—if not every detail, but fresh horizons open up to them about God.
“seeing, they might not see”: it is the same word in Greek for both verbs of “seeing.”
“seeing” … “hearing”: grammarians say this should be concessive: “Although [concession] they see, they may not see; and although [concession] they hear, they may not understand.” I like my way too, but I wanted to alert the advanced readers of what the professionals say. You can choose their translation, if you wish.
I like what Wessel and Strauss say in their commentary on Mark’s Gospel in the parallel passage: Isaiah is the background, and in his ministry he was commanded to preach, even though it would do no good. God had already pronounced his judgment on ancient Israel (Wessel and Strauss, p. 756). And so it is with Jesus’s ministry. He was called to proclaim the good news, but judgment is coming, for Jesus was destined to be rejected by the Jerusalem establishment and then judgement would fall.
I add: Only those who were hungry and perceptive would escape judgment. Many people followed him during his ministry, but would they be insightful and perceptive enough to grasp the gospel told through parables? We know that thousands converted to the Messiah after Pentecost (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7; 21:20). They were the insightful and perceptive ones.
Paul quotes Is. 6:9-10 more fully in Acts 28:26-27. The gospel will go to Gentiles, Paul says, because they will listen and understand.
GrowApp for Luke 8:9-10
A.. Read 1 Cor. 2:6-16 and Eph. 1:17-18. How hungry is your heart to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God?
B.. What must you do to understand the mysteries? How do you pray, read and ask?
The Parable of the Sower Explained (Luke 8:11-15)
11 “This is the meaning of the parable:
The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path: they heard it; then the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts, so that they might not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rocky ground: they receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root; they believe for a time, but in the time of testing, they fall away. 14 The ones falling among the thorn bushes: they have heard, but as they go, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they do not produce mature fruit. 15 The ones in the good soil: after hearing the word with a truly good heart, they hold on to it and produce fruit by endurance.”
For how this parable might apply to this question, please see my post here:
For a discussion on the theological dispute about once saved, always saved and possible apostasy, see:
In this section we have to get a little more technical than I like because of the disputes.
Before we begin, here is a quick summary.
A.. First soil / heart: Packed down as hard as a footpath.
B.. Second soil / heart: rocky ground so roots don’t go down deep.
C.. Third soil / heart: thorn bushes can grow there, which choke out good growth.
D.. Fourth soil / heart: truly good heart so the word can grow and produce mature fruit.
“the meaning of”: this was inserted because it is implied in the Greek, but the sentence could read smoothly and clearly without the phrase: “This is the parable.”
“Word”: It is the noun logos (pronounced lo-goss), and it is rich in meaning. It is the same noun for word in all the verses in this section (vv. 11-15). It is used 330 times in the NT. Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.
The noun is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level!) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Luke’s Gospel has logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.
Bottom line: Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
In any case, we now know the seed is the word of God in the parable. This word explains the kingdom of God and its power to transform people’s hearts, if their hearts are receptive. There is no “done deal,” except for those who persevere (endure or hang in there).
First soil / heart: the packed-down path or road. The seeds never even got a chance to put down roots before people trampled on them and birds ate them.
“the devil”: He is the (collective) birds. He can read people’s heart well enough that he can steal the word from it. No, his reading hearts does not make him omniscient; it just means he can read hearts! He can certainly read it well enough to snatch the word from your heart.
Don’t let the devil rob you of the good word planted in you. “Is this really real? Is the word true?” You can ask those questions but go to someone who is more mature than you to get answers.
Matthew’s version says that the hearers did not understand it, so the word did not hold; therefore, the devil could steal it.
For a more developed theology about Satan, see the links at v. 2.
“heard”: this is aorist (past) tense participle, so the person heard the word. But did it enter his heart and stay there? Apparently not, for the devil stole it.
“so that they might not believe and be saved”: in the Greek syntax (sentence structure), the negation “not” applies to both “believe” and “saved.”
“believe”: the verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross. True acronym: F-A-I-T-H = Forsaking All, I Trust Him.
Here it is connected to “saved.” The negation “not” applies both to “believe” and “be saved.” So the person does not believe and is not saved.
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
“saved”: the verb is sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times in the NT), and is passive (“be saved”). Since the theology of salvation (soteriology) is so critical for our lives, let’s look more closely at the noun salvation, which is sōtēria (pronounced soh-tay-ree-ah and used 46 times) and at the verb sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times)
Greek is the language of the NT. BDAG defines the noun sōtēria as follows, depending on the context: (1) “deliverance, preservation” … (2) “salvation.”
The verb sōzō means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. BDAG says that the verb means, depending on the context: (1) “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm, preserve,” and the sub-definitions under no. 1 are as follows: save from death; bring out safely; save from disease; keep, preserve in good condition; thrive, prosper, get on well; (2) “to save or preserve from transcendent danger or destruction, save or preserve from ‘eternal’ death … “bring Messianic salvation, bring to salvation,” and in the passive voice it means “be saved, attain salvation”; (3) some passages in the NT say we fit under the first and second definition at the same time (Mark 8:5; Luke 9:24; Rom. 9:27; 1 Cor. 3:15).
Another rarer verb is diasōzō (pronounced dee-ah-soh-zoh and used 8 times), and the prefix means “through.” Here are the occurrences: Mark 14:36; Luke 7:3; Acts 23:24; 27:43-44; 28:1, 4; 2; 1 Pet. 3:20. It means what the regular verb does, but often to be rescued through and up to the very end, like Paul’s ship landing on Malta after going through the storm.
As noted throughout this commentary on Luke-Acts, the noun salvation and the verb save go a lot farther than just preparing the soul to go on to heaven. Together, they have additional benefits: keeping and preserving and rescuing from harm and dangers; saving or freeing from diseases and demonic oppression; and saving or rescuing from sin dominating us; ushering into heaven and rescuing us from final judgment. What is our response to the gift of salvation? You are grateful and then you are moved to act. When you help or rescue one man from homelessness or an orphan from his oppression, you have moved one giant step towards salvation of his soul. Sometimes feeding a hungry man and giving clothes to the naked or taking him to a medical clinic come before saving his soul.
All of it is a package called salvation and being saved.
Second soil / heart: rocky ground; it is literally “on the rock,” but the context says it is better to see it as rocky soil or ground. People can receive the word with joy when they hear it. But the rocky soil prevents the roots from going deep enough for them to soak up the moisture. What is the moisture? Jesus does not tell us, so the interpretation is open-ended: more word, fellowship, the Spirit, and water baptism. All of them?
Scorching sunlight (= trials and temptations) is implied in this verse.
“they believe for a time”: the noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos. Greek has another word for time: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
The time in this verse does not allow for a real conversion.
“believe”: see v. 12 for more comments.
So the hearers believe (present tense), but in the time (kairos again) of testing or temptation they fall away. “Fall away” could be translated more literally as “stand away” or “stand apart.” It is easy to imagine that the hearers, receivers and believers walk away or stand away from the word after they go through temptation or testing.
“testing”: it is the noun peirasmos (pronounced pay-rahss-moss), and it can be translated in one context as “test, trial” (to see what is in a person) in another context as “temptation, enticement” (to sin) in another context. As noted, scorching sunlight (peirasmos) is implied. God is not tempted with evil, nor does he tempt any one (towards evil) (Jas. 1:13). But we are tempted by our own human sin nature (Jas. 1:14). So how should we translate it here? Matthew’s and Mark’s versions have “tribulation or persecution.” So why does Luke go with peirasmos? It is more ambiguous. Maybe he chose the broader and more ambiguous term to let readers know that they will go through testing by trials and persecution and through temptation by Satan. Be prepared for trials and temptations.
Third soil / heart: the thorn bushes grow there. In v. 7 the thorn bushes grow with the seed and choke it. Here the thorn bushes are explained as the anxieties, riches and pleasure of life—and these things choke the word. The people heard it, and they produce fruit, but it does not mature. No, money and certain pleasure are not bad in themselves, but too often they do choke out our relationship with God.
“produce mature (fruit)”: it is one verb in Greek: telesphoreō (pronounced teh-less-foh-reh-oh), and it is used only here in the entire NT. “Fruit” is implied in the context of the parable because of the grain and v. 15. The verb is in the present tense, implying that if the word had not been choked out, the fruit would have grown to maturity; one has to keep going to maturity (v. 15). Being a compound word, the tel– stem means “completion” or “maturity” or “end” (as an end zone or goal in football). And the phor– stem means “to produce” or more literally “to bear” or “to carry.” So the picture is that the hearer produces some fruit, but then the entire plant gets choked out by the anxieties, riches, and pleasures of life. Those three things can be modified by the word life, or only pleasures is modified by it. It is better to see the entire package as modified by life.
“life”: it is the noun bios (pronounced bee-oss), and, yes, we get our nouns biology and biosphere from it. In NT Greek the noun meant “life, everyday life, livelihood, property, worldly goods.” (In ancient Greek science, it could mean biological life.) In the NT, it has the connotation of a moral or immoral lifestyle built into it, since the authors were deeply concerned with our relationship with God and then how that works out in our morals and behavior.
Fourth soil / heart: “truly good heart”; it is literally “fine and good heart,” but the grammarians teach us that the combination of words is a doublet, used to intensify one idea. So it just means “truly good heart.” However, many translations have separated the one idea as two different adjectives: “honest and good heart” (KJV, NAS, NET); “good and honest heart” (CEV, NCV); “noble and good heart” (NIV, NKJV); “good-hearted” (NLT); “good-hearts” (MSG). You can interpret the one-idea doublet in that way, if you wish.
“after they heard”: this another past participle (aorist), and it is temporal (“after they heard”), say the grammarians.
Matthew’s version says that the hearers understand the word, so it can take hold in their hearts.
“hold on”: it is the verb katecho (pronounced kah-teh-khoh), and it is in the present tense, so you keep holding on firmly to the word, implying that it is possible to let it go, as the other three soils-hearts imply. It means in this context “to hold on (tight).”
“produce fruit”: it is one verb karpophoreō (pronounced kahr-poh-foh-reh-oh), and it is in the present tense—you keep producing fruit. It is a compound verb. The karp– stem means “fruit,” and the phor– stem means “to produce,” or more literally “to bear” or “to carry.” Here it is in contrast to the ones who do not produce mature fruit (v. 14).
“endurance”: it is the noun hupomonē (pronounced hoo-poh-moh-nay), and it literally means to “stay under.” When you go through times of testing or temptation (peirasmos in v. 13), you have to stay under the Lord’s guidance and strength. It takes “perseverance, endurance, patience, fortitude, steadfastness” (all translations of the noun) to live life in Christ, all the way to the end, until the day you die. The Lord is looking for those who will keeping going, even when life is difficult and full of trials, persecutions and testing or temptations.
For the quarrel between professional theologians over “once save, always saved” and the possibility of walking away from salvation, again see my posts:
For how this parable might apply to this question, please see my post here:
GrowApp for Luke 8:11-15
A.. After an honest assessment of your own soul, which soil best describes you? Are you willing to pray for grace to be good soil, where the word of God can take root and grow?
Things in the Light, Things Given (Luke 8:16-18)
16 No one lighting a lamp hides it under a container or places it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so those who come in may see the light. 17 For there is no hidden thing which shall not be manifest, neither a secret thing which shall not be known and come into the open. 18 Pay attention therefore how you hear. For whoever has, it shall be given him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he “has” shall be taken from him.
This is a short parable. Please see v. 4 for a working definition of a parable.
Verses 16-18 relate to this passage later in Luke:
33 “No one lights a lamp and places it in a hidden place or under a basket, but upon a lampstand, so that everyone who comes in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is healthy, the whole body is also light. When it is evil, your body is dark. 35 Watch therefore that the ‘light’ which is in you is not dark. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is light, not having any part of darkness, it shall be completely light, as when a lamp shines brightly on you.” (Luke 11:33-36)
This style of illustration is designed to startle the reader with the obvious truths—no one does those absurd things. We must use objects for their right purpose. Jesus often used startling images to wake up his listeners.
In our case, redeemed humanity who has come to the light lets it shine out for those who have not seen the light. How? Just talking? That may be the last method to shine the light. In the day of social media, writing comments is a dime a dozen. Anyone can blurt. It is best to earn the right to be heard or read. You earn the right by being consistent in your deeds and (few) words. Do good to people. Then when they trust you, you can share your faith. They may even ask you why you are so friendly and caring. Then it’s your turn to speak.
Beware that your good deeds and your bad deeds will be made manifest. There are two sides of life—your public self and your private self. (Some add a third side, a secret self). If they do not match up, your private self will eventually be made known. If your private self is unfriendly and unkind, then that will be advertised for the public. They won’t like what they see. Then whatever good and honored reputation you thought you had will be taken from you. Appearances can be deceiving to you. You thought one way (all good), but then reality clobbered you over the head. People saw the real you. On the positive side, if your private self and public self match up, and both are virtuous, then your private self will be made manifest, and what every you have—you will be given more. You have developed a good and virtuous private life, and you shall receive more of it.
“be known”: The verb is ginōskō, and see v. 10 for more comments.
“Pay attention”: it could be translated as “watch!” or “watch out!” It is the standard verb for seeing (compare v. 10). But then it says “how you hear.” I thought it would be clever to translate it “watch how you hear!” A seeing verb and a hearing verb! But I looked at other translations, and I got scared off. I went with “pay attention!” But maybe Jesus wanted the seeing and hearing combination. You can decide which is best.
The more you have of the light, he will give you even more of the light; then your light will shine. The less you have of the light, even what you think you have (a phrase omitted in Matt. 13:11) will dim or diminish. So be careful! Pay attention! Ask God for more light.
GrowApp for Luke 8:16-18
A.. Has your private self ever been exposed? How did you respond?
B.. How has God worked in you so that your light shines to bless people?
The Mother and Brothers of Jesus (Luke 8:19-21)
19 His mother and his brothers came to him, but they were unable to meet him because of the crowd. 20 It was announced to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to see you.” 21 But in reply, he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are the ones who hear and do the word of God!”
Liefeld and Pao in their summary of this pericope: “On the ecclesiological [church] level, this passage points to the redefinition of the people of God. Those who belong to Jesus are not limited to those who are related him by flesh. Obedience to Jesus’ words becomes the criterion for one to be included in this new community. The theme of redefinition finds its fulfillment to Luke’s second volume, where the inclusion of the Gentiles is at the very center of Luke’s concern” (comment on vv. 1921).
These five verses can be looked at in the context of the Gospel of Mark, which places these two verses nearby:
20 “He came home, and again a crowd gathered together, so that they were unable even to eat a meal. 21 When his family heard this, they went out to take him into custody, for they were saying, ‘He was out of his mind’” (Mark 3:20-21).
Jesus has to make a break with his family. In John 7:3-9 his unbelieving (v. 5) brothers tried to micro-manage Jesus’s ministry. They told him to go to Judea so that the disciples there could see the works he was doing. He replied that his time had not yet come, but their time was always here, because they belonged to the world, which does not hate them, but it hates him because he testifies that its works are evil. That passage cannot get any clearer. There was a deep misunderstanding and gulf between him and his brothers. However, the epistles of James and Jude were written by his two brothers (Jude is a variation on Judas). So they must have surrendered to his Lordship, after his resurrection.
Sometimes making a clean break from your own family needs to be done. The fact that his mother and brothers wanted to take him into custody is the part of the story that Luke doesn’t tell, but it fills in the picture a lot more. For all we know, they were standing outside, looking for him, in order to take custody of him.
In Luke 12:49-53 Jesus taught family division may arise, yet in Matt. 15:4-9 he upholds the OT command to honor one’s father and mother. So in comparison between the kingdom and the family, the kingdom comes first, but if the family supports the kingdom citizen or disciple, then we should be grateful. These are general rules, like Proverbs, which admit exceptions.
In Islamic and strict Jewish cultures, converting to Christ—becoming a Christian—is very offensive. Muslim girls who convert are especially vulnerable. They may be “honor-killed.” Jewish children may be disowned. But those who reject their own family for these decisions for Christ are not hearing and doing the word of God. They are outside of right standing with God. Judaism is incomplete, and Islam is off the tracks. Those are strong criticisms, but I believe, after much study, that they are right.
So the bottom line is that people are right to leave those two religions behind and follow Jesus. And people may have to leave a dysfunctional family behind. “Why are you doing this?” You’re weak!” When they leave, let’s gather them in our “church arms” and welcome them into the new church family.
“word”: this is the same noun logos, and see v. 11 for extended comments. This is the teaching about living in the kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed it.
GrowApp for Luke 8:16-18
A.. Have you had to make a clean break from your family or a side of your family to follow Jesus? If so, how did that go? Do you know someone who did?
Jesus Calms the Storm (Luke 8:22-25)
22 And so it happened on one of those days, he got into a boat, and his disciples too, and he said to them, “Let’s go across to the opposite side of the lake.” And they set sail. 23 While they were sailing, he fell asleep. And a fierce burst of wind came down on the lake, and they were being swamped and were in danger. 24 They approached him and woke him up, saying, “Master, Master! We are dying!” He woke up and rebuked the wind and rough water, and they stopped, and it became calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and stunned, saying to each other, “Who then is this man that commands the winds and water, and they obey him?
He promised them that they would go to the opposite side. Once a promise from God comes, he won’t go back on it, if people follow his ways. Jesus was following God and doing his will, so the promise would be fulfilled. They would reach the other side. But apparently for the disciples his words were just casual. Of course he would say that. Regular guys did. But he was no regular guy. It was his mission. Do you have a mission—God’s mission—and must get there? Nothing will stop you, except yourself.
“disciples”: see v. 9 for deeper comments.
You can google the so-called “Jesus boat” which was found recently. It was active around the time that Jesus was alive. It is impressive to see, for it gives a good idea what boats were like back then. However, this boat on which Jesus boarded seems to be bigger than that one. But who know? When he taught, he sometimes launched out on to a boat just offshore, and he could have used that very boat.
Mark says other boats were with him (4:36), so a small “fleet” had launched out. Therefore the “Jesus boat” may indeed have been one in the small fleet. Who knows?
Garland is open to the idea that the storm could have had a demonic backing: “The sea had religious significance as the abode of demonic powers that God will ultimately destroy (Rev. 21:1). Jesus’ sleep also can have religious significance and should not attributed to physical exhaustion, to God granting ‘sleep to those he loves’ (Ps. 127:2) or to his trust on God (Pss 3:5; 4:8). Sleep is a symbol of divine rule in ancient Near Eastern literature (see Isa 51:9-10. In this context where Jesus demonstrates his power to command the sea, his sleep is a sign of divine sovereignty” (comments on 8:22-23).
A man at peace can go to sleep. It would have been something to observe him so peaceful that he can sleep during the watery ride even before the storm kicked up.
Then the burst of wind came down. The Lake of Galilee sits in a bowl, and a fierce gust or storm can swoop down and put sailing people in mortal danger.
One gets the impression that the boat was big, but it wasn’t. He went to one end and put his head down and went to sleep. Mark says he slept on a cushion in the stern (4:37). They approached him and woke him up. His faith was so deep and powerful that he slept during the storm and while the boat was being swamped! We don’t need fictional super-heroes when we have the real Jesus! Honestly!
“Master”: it is the noun epistatēs (pronounced eh-pea-stah-tayss), and it literally means “over-stander” or “he who stands over” (think of our “overseer” or “he who watches over”). Luke alone uses this word: 5:5, 8:24 (twice), 8:45, 9:33, 9:49, 17:13. The NIV always translates it as “master.” It denotes a person of high status and leadership.
“dying”: some translations have “drowning,” but that is an interpretation. The word comes from the verb apollumi (pronounced ah-poh-loo-mee), and it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.” Here it can mean “perish,” or “die” works too.
“rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō (pronounced eh-pea-tee-mah-oh), and it means, depending on the context, “rebuke, censure, warn … punish” (see Jude 9 for the last term). Here it means that Jesus rebuked the wind. How did he word the rebuke exactly? Mark says Jesus ordered the storm, “Peace! Be still!” Here Luke says that the disciples say he ordered or commanded the elements (v. 25). So the verb epitimaō here was in the command form.
They ask who this man is, and that’s a good question, but in 9:20, he will ask them who they believe he is. Peter, speaking for the others, will answer correctly.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the noun, faith, more deeply. These comments apply to the verb, as well: pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh or pih-stew-oh). It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
Stein says that Jesus was not rebuking them for having no faith at all, but for having insufficient faith (comment on v. 25). Maybe, but the rebuke seems very strong.
In any case, let’s look at the human side of the nature miracle.
When the wind and water stopped and a great calm happened, the disciples responded appropriately. They were frightened and stunned. Wouldn’t you be too, if you were there? I would.
“afraid”: This is the standard Greek verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-oh-my), and you can see phob– in it. It means a wide range of things, like “filled with awe,” but “afraid” is also correct. Mark says they literally “feared a great fear,” which works out to “greatly, doubly feared” (Mark 4:41)
Let’s be a little more definite. BDAG defines the verb as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.
The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”
There is everything right with having a reverential fear of God. Don’t let the Happy Highlight teachers on TV or elsewhere tell you otherwise.
“commands”: it is the verb epitassō (pronounced eh-pea-tahs-soh), and it means “order” or “command.” It combines the prefix preposition epi– (on or upon) and tassō, which means, depending on the context, to “place or station, appoint to an office, put in charge of, assign, belong to, fix, determine, appoint.” Adding the prefix means you stand over the problem and command it. Notice how Jesus did not pray a flowery prayer. “O thou great God, if it be thy will, I prithee to still this storm!” No, he commanded.
The issue of rebuking a storm brings up a theology lesson for us today: Did Jesus work this miracle by his divine nature and the Father’s will, or by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Father’s will? If it was done through his divine nature, then we cannot repeat this miracle. Yes, we partake of the divine nature (1 Pet. 1:4), but we are not fully God. If he did this miracle by the power of the Spirit, then we can do the same, according to the Father’s will, because we too have the power of the Spirit. Some theologians say it was by his divine nature; other Bible interpreters say it was accomplished by the Spirit. The testimony of Scripture says that Jesus was anointed by the Spirit and worked all of his miracles by the Spirit. However, this nature miracle may be the exception. As his divine nature flashed out from behind his humanity, he spoke the command, and there was a great calm. The dominant image is that Jesus worked his miracles by the power of the Spirit (Acts 10:38), but you can choose which possibility you prefer.
But all of his prayers and commands were done by the Father’s will.
In the 1970s, during the Charismatic Renewal, leaders on TV–brand-new channels and networks–were either very brave and faith-filled or very foolish. They prayed against storms.
Should we pray for a nature miracle, against hurricanes and tornados? Of course. Pray for your need. However, before anyone starts proclaiming a nature miracle or rebuking a storm before it happens, he better be clear that he got a word of knowledge that God wants to answer his prayer. The man who prays may be listening to his own “mighty thoughts of faith” which do not always equal God’s thoughts. And so if he prays “a prayer of faith” and broadcasts the nature miracle on TV before it happens, it might not come to pass, and so he will subject the church to mockery. One may object that a man of faith prayed against a hurricane coming to shore, and it did not come to shore. But the problem is that hurricanes often veer off from the shore and go due north (Hurricane Dorian), while others slam into cities and wreak damage despite the prayers (Hurricane Katrina). Be careful, Renewalists of the fiery and showy variety! Don’t be presumptuous and put the Lord to the test. We learned the opposite from Jesus, who said he would not jump off a building and force God’s hand (Matt. 4:5-7). Truly hear from God before you strut around in your own strength.
Remember, it was Jesus’s mission to go over to the opposite side of the lake. He was a perfect follower of his Father. You or I may not be such a perfect follower. We may be imperfect. And we may be speaking presumptuously, from our own thoughts, not God’s thoughts.
Now for those of us who are not fiery revivalists, yes, you can certainly pray that God will enable you to survive during a natural disaster. And you can even pray that a hurricane veers off into the Atlantic or a tornado lifts before it hits your house. But God answers this prayer; don’t be so self-centered that you believe you had anything to do with it.
Best of all, we regular people can prepare for storms. Jesus embarked in the boat with four experienced fishermen: Peter, his brother Andrew, and the other two brothers, James and John. They were experienced authorities. We should listen to the authorities when they tell us to evacuate before a hurricane hits or build an underground storm shelter in the backyard if tornadoes might come your way. Even a hole in the ground with proper support and storm doors can save your life. In California, authorities are retrofitting key buildings and other structures to prepare for earthquakes. That’s the right idea.
Don’t be caught off guard. Prepare and pray and run, if you have to!
Here are Scriptures about God rebuking the sea (all from the ESV):
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. (Ps. 18:15)
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they fled;
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. (Ps. 104:6-7)
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert. (Ps. 106:9)
Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a desert (Is. 50:2)
He rebukes the sea and makes it dry;
he dries up all the rivers (Nah. 1:4)
In light of those verses, you can certainly try to rebuke nature in Jesus’s name, but depend on the Father. It is by his will that this must be done. Be careful about arrogating too much power to yourself. And just because you string word together (“I give glory to God; this is his work”) does not mean you are not concentrating too much power in yourself. In any case, when Jesus rebuked the winds and the lake of Galilee, he did so in his own authority. Jesus’s followers have to do so in his name. And he controls how his name is used and which prayers to answer.
One other theological point: If Jesus rebuked the storm by his divine nature, then this is one more indication that he was God in the flesh because in those OT verses, only God could rebuke storms.
GrowApp for Luke 8:22-25
A.. Have you ever seen a powerful miracle? Heard of one? How did you respond?
B.. If you survived a storm in nature, tell your story.
Jesus Delivers the Gerasene Demoniac (Luke 8:26-39)
26 So they sailed down into the region of Gerasene, which is opposite of Galilee. 27 A particular man having demons from the town met him as Jesus was getting out on land. For a long time, the man wore no clothes and did not remain at home but was among the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he screamed and fell down before him, and with a loud voice he said, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you not to torment me!” 29 He commanded the unclean spirit to leave the man. (For a long time it had seized him, and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, but he broke the chains and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.)
30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion!” because many demons entered him. 31 And they began to implore him that he would not command them to depart into the abyss. 32 And right there was a herd of numerous pigs feeding on the hillside. And the demons begged him that he would permit them to go into them. And he allowed them to do that. 33 The demons went out of the man and went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned. 34 When the herdsmen saw what happened, they fled and reported it to the town and the countryside.
35 They went out to see what happened and came towards Jesus and found the man from whom the demons went out clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. They became frightened. 36 The ones who saw reported to them how the demonized man was rescued. 37 The whole crowd from the region of Gerasene asked him to leave them because they were seized with a great fear. He got in the boat and left.
38 But before then the man from whom the demons went out was asking him to remain with him. But he released him, saying, “Return to your household and recount how much God did for you.” 39 And he returned, preaching in the entire town how much Jesus did for him.
In this pericope (section or unit), the sequence appears to be out of order. For example, the demonized man met Jesus (v. 27), but then he saw Jesus and screamed (v. 28). Jesus left the area (v. 37), but then the formerly demonized man asked Jesus if he could go with him (v. 38). What do we make of these out-of-sequence events? The grammarians tell us that by verb tenses and verb functions in some verses are background material that fill in the details of the foreground material. For instance, the demonized man met Jesus (background), and then when the demonized man saw Jesus, he screamed (foreground detail to fill out the background picture). Such is the way of the storyteller. He can order events as he wants and expects the reader to quickly sort out the sequence. Luke (and Matthew and Mark) are writing excitedly.
Luke may have borrowed from the foreground-background technique of the OT histories. In 2 Kings 13:10-25, the author describes the reign of King Jehoash. He did evil in the sight of the Lord and died and rested with his ancestors, buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel (vv. 10-13). Then the author describes a long interaction between the king and the prophet Elisha, as if the king had risen from the dead (vv. 14-25). However, the first four verses served as a background summary, and the other numerous verses were put in the foreground.
In Luke’s Gospel, therefore, the sequence only shows the excitement in the story and storyteller and his art.
One last comment: Luke switches back and forth from demon (singular) to demons (plural). It will turn out as the story unfolds that the man had a legion of demons.
Luke says he did research (1:1-4), and he learned that Jesus crossed the lake to the opposite side of Galilee, which had fewer Jews. Luke was being careful in his research.
In contrast, the Gnostic Gospels were written many decades and even centuries after the Gospels, and the Gnostic writers were not concerned about the historical details, though they now and again do talk about Jerusalem and Galilee. Yet one of them wrote that Jerusalem was in Galilee, a serious error, similar to saying New York City is in Kansas!
Mark 5:1 says that Jesus was in the region of the Gerasenes. Matt. 8:28 says he was in the region of the Gadarenes. Luke here agrees with Mark, but the manuscripts are all over the place. Bock offers a resolution: The difference is similar to an event that happened in a small town outside a big city (e.g. Cairo, Los Angeles, Baghdad, New York). One writer describes the event happening in the small nearby town (specific location), and another writer describes the event in the larger town (Bock, p. 783).
With the geographical details out of the way, spiritual warfare is about to begin in earnest.
“meet”: it is the verb hupantaō (pronounced hoo-pahn-tah-oh), and it is used 10 times. The appearance of the verb surprised me at first, but on further study it should not have surprised me. It combines the prefix hup– and the verb antaō (related to anti-), as if to say “meet up with.” A clearer picture comes into focus. The word means (1) “to come opposite to, meet face to face, meet with”; (2) “to meet in battle” (Liddell and Scott). So the demonized man met up with Jesus, and a battle was about to take place.
But first Luke has to describe the man’s great need—no clothes and not at home, but living among the tombs, an unclean place. He was being driven mad.
“having demons”: the phrase is translated simply. The standard verb for have is used. However, in v. 36, the man is said to have been “demonized” or daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –izo, a very convenient quality about Greek (English has that ability too: modern to modernize). Just add that suffix to a word, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. Don’t make a big difference between the two.
Verse 27 was background material, and now Luke fills in the details in v. 28. What did the demonized man do when he saw Jesus? Of course he screamed. The demons’ number one enemy just got on shore. The demons were preparing to resist Jesus’s command to leave their poor victim. The man through the demons, however, fell down before the Son of the Most High.
“why are you interfering with us?”: As noted in Luke 4:34, it is an idiom that can be translated literally, “What to us and to you?” It may point to an expression in the Septuagint (pronounced sep-too-ah-gent and is the third-to-second century B.C. Greek translation of the OT), which could be rendered as I have it here: “Why are you interfering with us?” (Josh. 22:24; Judg. 13:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13). And that’s what I chose, because the more I thought about it, the more I believe the Septuagint should be authoritative and decisive in this verse. Alternatively, however, the phrase may emphasize the distance between Jesus and the demon. Therefore, it can also be translated, “What do we have to do with you?” Or “What do we have in common?” Or “leave us alone!” (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 144). Or I could add: “Why would you cross over into our jurisdiction, from you to us?” You can decide which translation works best.
The demon believed Jesus had the authority to torment him. But would he do it? Only partially, because he sent them into a herd of pigs. It’s a demotion.
“Son of the Most High God”: Neither the crowds nor the disciples knew fully what this title meant, but demons knew who he was better than the humans did at this moment. So now let’s briefly look into systematic theology. Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
Here in this verse Luke reverses the order of background and foreground details. Jesus had commanded the demon (foreground details), and then Luke interrupts the results of the command with background material. The demon was powerful and moved the man’s muscles to break the chains. The demon used to drive him out into the uninhabited places. The possession went deep. The story is startling and scary to Luke’s ordinary readers. How would it end? We know Jesus will handle things, but how? And how do his methods relate to us?
And what about the command at the beginning of the verse? Why didn’t it seem to work? The tension in this real-life, spiritual confrontation story is building in the audience.
As just noted, the demon possession ran deep, and Jesus had to find out more information. Why did he have to do that? There was a jurisdiction matter to clear up. Recall the idiom, “Why are you interfering with us?” The clause could be translated as “Why would you cross over to our jurisdiction?” The point is that Jesus learned the name of the demons, so he could have authority in this demonic jurisdiction. Some commentators say that learning the name was not to gain authority over the demons, while other commentators think otherwise. I think this case was exceptional, not an ordinary possession, because no other passage about deliverance shows a man snapping chains. Jesus found out quickly that the case was unique when he commanded the demons and got no results—at first. He learned the name to get more authority over this unique case.
A little Renewal theology: Yes, Jesus was God incarnate, but his unique divinity that he took with him to earth was hidden (not lost) behind his humanity. As he lived and moved on earth, he was subject to the everyday human limitations of life—hunger, sleep, fatigue and thirst, for instance. He was also anointed by the Spirit. He was the Anointed One. So the Father and the Spirit worked in Jesus of Nazareth—the Trinity together, but we will never be able to figure out in detail how the three cooperated together. Here the Father willed that his Son—the Son of the Most High—cast out a demon. We too are anointed by the Spirit, and through this lesson in vv. 28-33, the kingdom citizens also learn how to cast out demons, after Jesus ascended to heaven.
It is amazing to me how calm Jesus was in asking for the name of the demons. Authority and calm go together. Flashy Renewalists who shriek during deliverances are probably just insecure.
“Legion”: many demons entered him. A Roman legion was 3000-6000 foot soldiers with a cavalry. And Mark says the herd of pigs numbered about 2000 (5:13). However, the number in the word legion should not be taken overly literally. Many demons had overtaken him.
Luke informs the audience that the demons believed Jesus had authority to command them to go into the abyss. Apparently, demons are assigned territories. When the demon begs Jesus not to send him into the abyss to await judgment (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). That is, to leave an assigned area means defeat (Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26), so the demons implore Jesus to let them enter the pigs, who are part of the local area. Little did they know what was about to happen! One thing is for certain, to command the demons to leave the human is a sure sign that Satan and his kingdom is being pushed back.
So this truth reinforces the belief that the Father willed to teach later disciples how to cast out a particularly stubborn cluster of demons. Luke used the verb parakaleō (pronounced pah-rah-kah-leh-oh), and it can mean to “beg” or even “exhort” (strongly urge).
Jesus gave them permission—showing his authority—to lunge headlong into the lake. I translate the word as “cliff,” but most other translations have “bank.” It’s hard to believe that the pigs just waded out into the water, so I envision a crest or cliff, and they were thrown out—leaped out—into the deep. As noted, Mark’s Gospel says there were 2,000 pigs (5:13). So a legion of demons would match up with those numbers, more or less, without demanding literal numbers with the name Legion. This loss was costly to the swineherds.
In some ancient thought, the deep water was considered an Abyss. But at this time, the cosmology is not clear. (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 33). Whatever the case, the demons left the man.
They fled out of fear. Some of the people who saw the original event stayed around and then reported to the townsmen who came out to see what had happened. The man was delivered, clothed, and in his right mind.
The Greek verb for “in his right mind” is sōphroneō (soh-fro-neh-oh), and it can be translated, depending on the context, as “in right mind,” “clear minded,” “self-controlled,” “sober judgment” (NIV); “be of sound mind, be in one’s right mind, be reasonable, sensible, serious” (Shorter Lexicon).
“they became frightened”: it is the Greek verb phobeomai, and see v. 25 for comments. Wonderous miracles can scare unprepared people. There is nothing wrong with the reverential fear and awe of God, but let’s not be scared off from him. However, some people, not knowing how to relate to God, need to be instructed that God loves them and worked a miracle to help people and draw them to himself.
“rescued”: this is the verb sōzō, and see v. 12 for deeper comments. Salvation includes deliverance from demons. Jesus rescued the man.
“demonized”: the one verb is translated simply. There are two main ways in the Greek NT to express demonic attacks to varying degrees, from full possession to just attacks: “have a demon” and “demonized.” The latter term is used often in Matthew: 4:24; 8:16, 28, 35; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22, but only once in Luke (8:36), and Mark four times (132; 5:15, 16, 18). John uses the term once (10:21). In Luke 8:26-39, Luke uses both “have a demon” and “demonized,” so he sees the terms synonymously. “Demonized” comes from the verb daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –izo to the noun daimōn (pronounced dy-moan). It is a very convenient quality about Greek (English has this ability too: modern to modernize). Just add this suffix to a noun, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. The context determines how severe the possession was.
In these two verses Luke goes out of sequence. In v. 37, he completes the picture of the crowd’s reactions. They asked him to leave because they “were seized” with a great fear. Once again, people are unprepared for mighty acts of salvation. Then Jesus got back in the boat and left. In v. 38, however, now the “camera” (so to speak) or point of view swings back to the earlier discussion between Jesus and the healed man.
“before then”: It was inserted for ease of narrative flow. Now Luke finishes off the wonderful aftermath of the man’s story. So which part of the story is the foreground and which the background? The man is always in the foreground, because of the miracle worked out for him, while the crowd is in the background. He has to end the story, in the foreground. That’s why Luke switches back to him in the last verse in this pericope. In these short, true stories or parables, the Gospel writers often end with the most important lesson, the punch line.
The healed man wanted to remain with Jesus, but Jesus told him to go back home and narrate his story of what God did for him. Meanwhile, the man told the people what great things Jesus did for him. Jesus worked through God and by God and for God. This switch by Luke shows the wonderful ministry connection between the Son and the Father.
Why does Jesus tell this man to broadcast to everyone what had happened, but in v. 56, he tells the people who witnessed Jairus’s daughter’s resuscitation to remain quiet? Here, Jesus was in Gentile territory, where feverous Messianism would not arise, but in v. 56 he was back in Jewish territory where Messianism could reach an unwanted, high pitch.
“Perhaps they [the local people] fear further economic loss, but they are clearly more at home with the presence of the demonic in their midst than the presence of the power that can drive it away. Their rejection of Jesus is similar to what happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi when they exorcised a demon from a female soothsayer (Acts 16:16-22)” (Garland, comments on 8:36-37). Great assessment of the whole scene.
To end this pericope, once again I invite you to see my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology under v. 2, above:
GrowApp for Luke 8:26-39
A.. God through Christ has set you free from something. Tell your story.
Jairus and His Daughter, Part One (Luke 8:40-42a)
40 While Jesus was returning, the crowd welcomed him, for all of them were waiting for him. 41 And look! a man whose name was Jairus came, and he was a synagogue ruler! He fell before the feet of Jesus and began to beg him to come into his house, 42a because his only daughter, about twelve years old, was dying.
From here to the end of the chapter, Luke is about to interlock the stories of two very different people. On the one side stands Jairus the synagogue ruler, who was rich and powerful, but his daughter is dying. And on the one side stands an unnamed, unclean woman, who was socially degraded and rejected in her unclean status. This fulfills Luke’s theme introduced in 2:34 of the falling and raising of many. Jairus has to fall at the feet of Jesus, and he has his plea answered. He was raised up. Even the rich can be accepted if they humble themselves. A real lesson there. The unclean woman was already very humble and needy and also fell at the feet of Jesus. She too was healed and raised up.
The Jews of Galilee were suspicious of the folk on the other side of the lake. Less Jewish. They lived in a slow-moving world, without the worldwide web, so prejudices could form more easily (and prejudices can form even on the web!). A large welcoming “committee” were expecting him to return home.
“look!”: this has often been translated as the older “behold!” I like “behold!” but I updated it. It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follows. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! A man named Jairus interrupts the flow of Jesus’s progress to his next stop!” Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope. (That’s the case here.) Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21).
A synagogue ruler was important in this society. He was rich, but what is wealth when your only daughter is dying? Mark’s version preserves the name of the synagogue ruler, and Luke follows him.
“fell before”: this one verb in Greek can often be translated as “worship,” but here he fell before him. He prostrated himself. The ruler was desperate.
“only”: Luke likes to mention this fact, because it adds drama and it was true (see 7:12 and 9:48). The listener of his story would feel the suspense rising. “We already heard that Jesus can raise the dead. Remarkable! But will Jesus heal the girl? He has to, because she’s the ruler’s only daughter! What will happen next?”
“about twelve years old”: Mark also preserves this small tidbit, indicating that Peter (and Mark) knew the story through Jairus or his daughter, or he could have simply looked at the girl when he was there. But do we have any doubt that Jairus and the girl joined the earliest Messianic community and told their story? I don’t doubt it.
GrowApp for Luke 8:40-42a
A.. Jairus expressed great need, falling before the feet of Jesus. How have you humbled yourself before the Lord, in your desperation?
Jesus Heals a Woman with an Issue of Blood (Luke 8:42b-48)
42b While he was leading the way, the crowd was smothering him. 43 And a woman having a flow of blood for twelve years, who, although spending excessively all her living on doctors, was unable to be healed by anyone. 44 When she came up from behind, she touched the edge of his garment, and instantly her flow of blood stopped. 45 And Jesus said, “Who touched me?” While everyone was denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowd presses in on you and crowds you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive power has gone out from me.” 47 When the woman saw that she did not escape notice, she came trembling and fell before him and announced in front of all the people the reason she touched him, and how she was instantly healed. 48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This half of v. 42 carries on from before. This half of the verse should have started v. 43 here, but oh well. So be it.
“the way”: it was added for clarity.
“smothering him”: I could have added the modifier “nearly.” In any case, add a different prefix to the verb, and it could be translated as “drowning” him. Luke shows the background to the woman’s act of faith. Everyone is touching him, but only one person, out of her desperation, exercised her faith and got her miracle.
“blood”: what caused her inability to stop the blood flow? A cyst? A lesion? We don’t know, but God did. Read the laws in Lev. 15:19-30.
19 “‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.
20 “‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.
24 “‘If a man has sexual relations with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.
25 “‘When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. 26 Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. 27 Anyone who touches them will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.
28 “‘When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge. (Lev. 15:19-30, NIV)
She herself was unclean. Anything she sat on was unclean. Anyone who touched her was unclean. If anyone touches her or anything she touched, then he shall have to rinse his hands, but if he does not, then he has to take a bath and wash his clothes. The rituals go on. I can understand the law from a sanitation point of view. Bodily fluids from a man (Lev. 15:3-6, 16-17) or woman can spread disease, without proper washing. Good law. Yet it is still remarkable that he did not mind one bit about her touching him. He was clean, and she was unclean. When the story finishes, she was made clean.
Grammarians teach us that spending “excessively” is implied in the verb. So Luke adds the further bit that she spent her entire living on doctors. Yes, there were doctors back then, but all they could prescribe is herbal remedies and purges and straighten out broken bones, and so on. Internal problems like this were beyond their abilities.
For your information, in Mark’s version (5:26), the woman spent everything she had, as in Luke’s version, but Mark adds that she was suffering by many doctors and was getting worse at their hands. Dr. Luke omits those tiny tidbits.
“healed”: see v. 2 for more comments.
She must have squeezed and forced her way through the crowd. But would she, an unclean woman, allow people to touch her and themselves become unclean? Was she that desperate to withhold this information from them? Or did she wait until an opening came up in the people? Then she must have knelt down behind him and reached out her hand to touch the edge of his garment. The edge probably refers to the four tassels that hung from the garment, two in front and two in back, to remember God’s command (Num. 15:37-40; Deut. 22:12). Or it may refer to the edge of his garment, as it literally says in Greek. She sneaked up behind him because she was afraid, in her own mind, that he would not heal or touch her in her unclean condition. Then she withdrew from his presence and was absorbed back in the crowd. She may have been walking away by now.
She got her healing, instantly. Healings can come instantly, and we all celebrate that. But sometimes they come gradually. And let’s support people who have to go through gradual healings and celebrate when they get a positive doctor’s report.
One interesting side note: Neither Jesus nor Luke the storyteller denounced her for going to doctors. She spent too much because she was desperate, but that doesn’t mean visiting doctors was wrong then or now.
Additional sidebar comment: I wonder where she got her money. She must have come from a well-to-do family. Was she married to a wealthy man? Maybe, but if she had her uncleanness when she reached puberty, then no man would marry her.
Jesus’s question withholds vital clues, and Peter does not catch on. The only reason Jesus would ask such a question is not that he wanted to know why everyone was pressing in on him, but because something extraordinary happened. The deliberate ambiguity lies in the verb “touch.” Peter took it in the ordinary sense, but Jesus meant it in the extraordinary sense, as the next verse explains.
It is interesting that the crowd misinterpreted what he meant and lied. “Not me! I didn’t do it!” Little kids. But they were nearly smothering him.
“Master”: see my comments at v. 24.
Renewalists believe that the healing power of God can flow out of a person. Jesus was walking through another crowd, and when they touched him, healing came from him, and the people were healed (Luke 6:19). That is a remarkable phenomenon. Here the people do not seem to have the same level of faith in him. But she did.
“perceived”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). We already covered this verb in v. 10, but let’s review, since this pericope is about a healing miracle and Jesus’s perception and God’s power flowing out of the anointed man. Renewalists love this pericope. The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh; the “g” is hard as in “get” and is used 44 times). BDAG has numerous definitions of the verb, depending on the context: (1) “to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something, know, know about, make acquaintance of”; (2) “to acquire information through some means, learn (of), ascertain, find out”; (3) “grasp the significance or meaning of something, understand, comprehend”; (4) “to be aware of something, perceive, notice, realize”; (5) to have sexual intercourse with, sex / marital relations with”; (6) “to have come to the knowledge of, have come to know, know.” (7) “to indicate that one does know, acknowledge, recognize.” So we can know a person, a thing, a fact, an abstract thing like pure math. We can even know God personally or know about him from a distance, like a theological truth. It is best to know him personally. We can know all these things deeply or shallowly. In this verse, the best translation is perceive or recognize.
“power”: it is the noun dunamis (pronounced doo-nah-mees): It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul.
For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on my post here:
Here Luke compresses her story, because he told it already. She simply repeats what Luke wrote, so he omits it here. Based on what he had already recounted, she probably said something like this in front of all the people: “Pardon me, my Lord. I couldn’t stop an issue of blood!” (One can imagine some in the crowd backing away from her. Did Jairus, or was he so needy that he no longer cared about such quibbles?) She continues: “I spent all I had on doctors, and I couldn’t get healed. Pardon me, my Lord, but I was desperate, and I was afraid you wouldn’t touch an unclean woman like myself. So I reached out my hand, and touched the edge of your garment—just the edge. I broke purity laws, but I meant no harm. I was that desperate!” She pauses. “But now I am healed! I can sense it! I felt something! Thank you, my Lord. Thank you!”
Jesus stopped her with the word “daughter” in the next verse.
No doubt the women who followed Jesus (vv. 2-3) intervened and helped her.
“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” The noun, incidentally, is iasis (pronounced ee-ah-seess), and it means “healing, cure.” The noun is used three times: Luke 13:22; Acts 4:22, 30. In other words, only Luke uses the noun.
“daughter”: Jesus used a kind term here. He was only in his early thirties. Let’s say she reached puberty at age twelve. When did she get her blood flow that did not stop for twelve years? At fourteen or fifteen years old? Twenty? Whatever her age, we have to add twelve years on to it. So she was at least in her mid-twenties, maybe in her thirties. So when Jesus called her “daughter,” he was showing, yes, authority, but also compassion. He sees himself as a minister-Rabbi, not an older brother. To be frank, he was her spiritual father of sorts. Further, he calls her “daughter” to invite her into his new family of the kingdom. “To address an older person as ‘daughter’ reflects the practice of Jewish teachers, but it may also function to highlight the authority of Jesus as the Messiah … In light of the discussion of Jesus’ true family in 8:19-21, this address may also point to the creation of the new family based on a person’s response of faith. The one who is not allowed to worship in the temple because of her ‘impurity’ can now worship and praise the Son of God” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 48)
“has healed”: the verb is sōzō (pronounced soh-zoh and used 106 times in the NT), which means “save, rescue, heal” in a variety of contexts, but mostly it is used of saving the soul. Here it means saving or healing the body. See v. 12 for more comments.
“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace), and see v. 25 for more comments. In this verse she had faith to be healed, directed at Jesus.
“peace”: It speaks of more than just the absence of war. It can mean prosperity and well-being. It can mean peace in your heart and peace with your neighbor. Best of all, it means peace with God, because he reconciled us to him.
Let’s explore more deeply the peace that God brings.
This word in Hebrew is shalom and means well being, both in the soul and in circumstances, and it means, yes, prosperity, because the farm in an agricultural society would experience well being and harmony and growth. The crops would not fail and the livestock would reproduce. Society and the individual would live in peace and contentment and harmony. Deut. 28:1-14 describes the blessings for obedience, a man and his family and business enjoying divine goodness and benefits and material benefits.
With that background, let’s explore the Greek word, which overlaps with shalom. It is the noun eirēnē (pronounced ay-ray-nay, used 92 times, and we get the name Irene from it). One specialist defines it: “Peace is a state of being that lacks nothing and has no fear of being troubled in its tranquility; it is euphoria coupled with security. … This peace is God’s favor bestowed on his people.” (Mounce, p. 503).
BDAG has this definition for the noun: (2) It is “a state of well-being, peace.” Through salvation we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). We have peace that has been brought through Christ (Col. 3:15). We are to run towards the goal of peace (2 Pet. 3:14; Rom. 8:6). It is the essential characteristic of the Messianic Age (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:15). An angel greeted and promised the shepherds peace on earth for those in whom God is well pleased, at the birth of the Messiah (Luke 2:29). In the entire Gospel of Luke, Jesus was ushering in the kingdom of God.
In this pericope, both physical and spiritual healing or salvation is in mind. Her affliction excluded her from participation in Israel’s worship, but not in God’s new family. Further, for all we know, she either had been married but her husband divorced her, or she was never married because of her affliction. The text is silent, but let’s face it. She was not marriageable or worthy to remain happily married, by the standards of society back then. But Jesus made her “undamaged” goods.
GrowApp for Luke 8:42b-48
A.. This particular woman was also desperate, as Jairus was. Tell your story of desperation and how God met your need.
B.. Jesus said to her to go in peace. Study John 16:33. When has he spoken that word to you, either through Scripture or in your heart? How did you respond?
Jairus and His Daughter, Part Two (Luke 8:49-56)
49 While he was speaking, someone from the synagogue ruler’s household said, “Your daughter has died. Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” 50 When Jesus heard, he responded to Jairus, “Don’t fear! Only believe, and she shall be saved! 51 After he got to the house, he did not permit anyone to go in with him, except Peter, John, and James and the child’s father and mother. 52 Everyone was weeping and mourning for her. But he said, “Don’t cry, for she has not died, but she is sleeping!” 53 Knowing she was dead, they began to laugh at him. 54 But he took her hand and called out, saying, “Child, get up!” 55 And her spirit returned and she instantly got up. He ordered something be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were stunned. But he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.
In the NT, a resurrection takes place after someone has died, and he is raised to new life with a transformed and glorified body which will never die. Here, the girl was dead, but on her being made alive again, her body was not transformed. So it is more accurate to call it a resuscitation and not a resurrection.
The timing is that while Jesus was speaking to the healed woman, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace,” the messenger interrupted that scene and yanked them back to the original mission.
A bad report came. A worse report than before, because she had been dying. She wasn’t dead yet. There was still hope. Then the ultimate bad report arrived. She was dead. Stop the whole plea and procession. He no longer needs to come to Jairus’s house. No more hope.
Maybe Jairus said to himself that if that unclean woman had not interfered, then Jesus would have been to his house already. But Jesus had a call and mission. He was going to his house to heal her (v. 42b).
Jesus instantly countered the bad report with faith. “Don’t fear!” That’s a command with the standard verb for fear (phobeomai, pronounced foh-beh-o-my), and here it means the fear that paralyzes you and stops your faith (see. v. 25 for more comments). But Jesus told him not to fear. That’s exactly what those with the gift of healing must do. They must speak words of faith after the doctor speaks (accurate) words of science. Natural and medical facts do not have the last word. God does.
“believe”: the verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh or pih-stew-oh) and means to “believe, be convinced of something.” See v. 12 for a deeper look.
“saved”: it could be translated as healed, for it is the verb sōzō, and see v. 12 for further comments.
Jesus could not allow the whole crowd to enter the house, but only the Inner Three: Peter, John, and James. I wonder what the nine were doing. No doubt they were keeping the crowd back. “Now people! Just back away from the house. You aren’t allowed in! Let the Teacher handle this!” Crowd control is important, too. Apparently this crowd did not have much faith, unlike the one in Luke 6:19, who touched the Lord, and they were healed. This crowd on this day was a distraction. Crowds are fickle. Don’t listen to them.
The child’s mother is mentioned for the first time. She may have gone outside to greet the Lord and the twelve disciples. (I wonder if the women mentioned in vv. 2-3 were there too. Why wouldn’t they be?). But the parents have ultimate authority over the twelve-year-old, so they had to be in their own house with their only child.
Were the weepers and mourners in the house—no doubt a big house to host all the people who were there? Mark says that when they got to the house the crowd was outside weeping and wailing. Luke assumes that the readers would guess that the crowd would be outside too, in his version. It is not good to allow in doubters and skeptics.
He was about to teach the crowd a lesson by speaking words of irony, a deeper truth. Yes, the girl really was dead, but it is as if she were sleeping, as far as his limitless perspective was concerned. To them, she really was dead. To him, she was only asleep. Sleeping is a common metaphor for death (John 11:11-14; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-14). Jesus was about to interrupt the girl’s temporary pause in her mortal life. This means that Jesus gave them hope. But rather than celebrate, they laughed, because they were operating according to what they saw. The Greek word for laugh has a sharp edge to it, implying “laughed him to scorn, mocked him. They used their own eyes and tested her breath and concluded, correctly, that she was dead. But Jesus sized up the true and higher situation—he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:17-27)—and concluded that raising her from the dead was easy for him. She was merely sleeping. Now all he had to do was wake her up. So the lesson he was teaching the crowd was that nothing is impossible with God. He didn’t defend himself or give a theology lesson. He acted. He healed her. That quieted the mockery.
See your situation from a God’s-eye view. Have faith. Don’t doubt or fear. Your perspective and ability are limited. God’s perspective is infinite and his power to heal when his Son is on the scene speaking words of faith is strong.
Now Jesus initiates action because he knew the results.
First, he took her by the hand. That act takes faith in his Father, who was about to work a miracle.
Second, he did something unusual or unexpected (for me at least). Luke used the verb phōneō (pronounced foh-neh-oh, and we get our word phone from it). He called out into the Other World and commanded her to get up. This getting up implies that she had to come back from somewhere.
Even professional grammarians, so reserved in their comments, add these nuggets:
The verb here [phōneō] could either be used in the sense of ‘to speak with considerable volume or loudness’ … or ‘to communicate directly or indirectly to someone who is presumably at a distance, in order to tell such a person to come.’ On the one hand, the former fits with the notion that the girl is ‘sleeping (v. 52) and needs to be roused from her sleep’ … On the other hand, the context also suggests that Jesus is summoning the girl back from death. (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 294)
That’s profound. In other words, Jesus used a loud voice to rouse her from “sleep” or to call her back from the dead. He spoke into the Other World and ordered her back home into her body. Wow. A deep lesson there.
Third, while he took her hand and called out, her spirit returned to her. It had been absent from her body. Where was it while she was dead? We don’t know for sure, but it was probably heading towards God.
Fourth, while he took her hand, he helped her get up. He pulled her up. She “instantly” got up.
Fifth, he ordered those in the household to give her something to eat. Apparently he perceived she needed strength. She had not eaten for a time. Dying does that to someone!
In a related episode, Peter will raise Tabitha-Dorcas from the dead, and he shooed the weepers and mourners out of the room (Acts 9:36-43). He too will also command the girl to get up, and she will. Peter learned from his Lord and was in fact filled with the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 2:1-4), who empowered him to work the same miracle.
Other accounts of resuscitation are recorded in the OT. In contrast to Jesus, who moved with more authority, Elijah stretched himself over a boy and raised him from the dead (1 Kings 17:21), and Elisha touched a child with his staff and then later lay over him (2 Kings 4:31, 34-35). Jesus issued a command and took the girl by the hand to get her up.
As noted, this girl’s resuscitation is not the same as Jesus’s resurrection, for his body was transformed and glorified. Her body simply recovered from the dead and when she was older she died, like everyone else of her generation. So we should call it a resuscitation from the dead.
Jesus then gives a seemingly odd command. So many people witnessed the results—the girl was dead; now she is alive—but he orders or instructs the parents not to tell anyone what happened. He often downplayed the miracles and his Messianic title before people outside of the twelve (Luke 4:35, 41; 5:14; 8:56; Matt. 9:30; 12:16; Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He wanted to teach them, not dazzle and thrill them with signs and wonders.
This seemingly useless order meant three possible things, with the third one being the most likely:
First, Jesus had a conversation with Jairus on the way to his house, which v. 50 hints at, in compressed form. He assured him that she would live. In an expanded conversation, not recorded here, he may have even said that he was the resurrection (John 11:25). He did not want the fuller message to get out. But this possible reason draws much from the silence of the text, so let’s be cautious with this one.
Second, he did not want the parents to reveal the details of what happened, outlined in those five actions he took raise her from the dead (vv. 54-55). As noted with Peter’s story in Acts, Jesus is the one who raised this only child from the dead. No one should believe that he can also work miracles outside of the Father’s authority, much like the seven sons of Sceva thought they could cast out demons (Acts 19:14) (though Jesus didn’t mind when someone else tried to cast out demons [Luke 9:49-50], but that was when he was still ministering on earth. The man may have followed Jesus for a time and learned some things and then went out on his own).
Third, Jairus the synagogue ruler would have had enough knowledge to make the connection that raising the dead was the sign of the Messiah, and Jesus did not want this fact to be announced by an authority figure like Jairus. At this early stage in his ministry, Jesus preferred the people to just be happy with the miracle and be rebuked for laughing him to scorn.
Maybe all three reasons are possible at the same time, but the third one is the strongest.
GrowApp for Luke 8:49-56
A.. Study Eph. 2:1-10 (which would take a lifetime!) How has God raised you from the dead, spiritually speaking or even physically?
Summary and Conclusion
In this chapter, at least eight themes have opened up for us a panorama and moved Jesus’s story farther than before. We are heading towards his death, burial, resurrection and ascension in Luke 23-24.
First, Luke has a special place for women in his Gospel. He names some and then says that many women followed Jesus. They also provided resources for them out of their own supply. The leader in this material service was most likely Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s household and estate manager. She was probably in charge of the women in the household. She had access to money. Luke wanted to answer a question that Theophilus his informed reader (and others) would have asked, “But how did Jesus and his disciples eat? Who paid for all of it?” Luke also intended his readers to learn that women were part of the kingdom of God.
Second, the Parable of the Sower (or Soils) was purposed to invite the readers to stick with Jesus. They must have the fourth and good and productive soil / heart. Would they persevere (hang in there) to the very end, even if it cost their lives? Would they produce mature fruit or fall away?
Third, Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables to test their hunger level. Would they dig into God’s kingdom and ponder the new truths being expounded, or would they give up, saying, “Too hard! Let’s forget it! Game over in the first five minutes of the first quarter!”
Fourth, Jesus taught us that if we have what it takes to go deep into the kingdom, then what we have will be added to. If we don’t have what it takes to go deeper, then what we think we have will be taken away. This means that you and I must go deeper, and then the Father will reward us and give us more kingdom insight and kingdom wisdom.
Fifth, Jesus’s mother and brothers wanted to see him, possibly to take him home. Jesus had to make a break from them and expand his family to include everyone who digs deeper into the kingdom. Sometimes you, the reader, need to move away from a family that is so dysfunctional and degrading that they will kill your faith (or you) if you stay with them. Maybe in the future God will allow you to speak to them about your story of God’s redemption, and he can do the same for them. Muslims and Jews who (rightly) convert to the Messiah sometimes have to make a break from their families. They are in danger, particularly Muslims, for making a break from their family.
Sixth, Jesus very straightforwardly calms a storm. He said he had to go to the other side, and that’s what happened. Where was their faith in him and his mission? He spoke to the storm, and it calmed down. You have to speak to your storm too. If yours does not calm down, then speak to your own heart to calm your fears, while he sees you through the outside storm.
Seventh, so why did Jesus want to got the other opposite side of the lake? To deliver a man who was so oppressed that he ran around naked, snapped the shackles and chains that bound him, and lived among the tombs. It is amazing how far Jesus will go to set people free. He has authority over demons. He has authority over them when they attack you too. He has given you authority over them. Use it. Study James 4:7 to find out how to exercise your authority. Submit to God first; then resist the devil.
Eighth, Luke interlocks two stories: on the one side, Jairus the synagogue ruler and his daughter; on the other side an unnamed, permanently unclean woman with an issue of blood that could not be healed. So the pairing is the top-of-the-line religious leader and a degraded, unclean woman, a social outcast. A sharp contrast. In the rising and falling theme that Luke introduced in 2:34, Jairus the ruler fell at Jesus’s feet, and Jesus raised him up. Even a powerful man who humbles himself can be accepted. On the other side, the woman was healed of her ailment and therefore from her degraded and rejected status. She too came up behind and then fell at his feet, and she too was raised up. No more permanent uncleanness. This rising and falling reflects the Great Reversal that the kingdom of God causes when it arrives on the scene and touches lives.
I refer to a community of Bible scholars. They are excellent, but I hope I have simplified things.
Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).
—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).
Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).
—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).
Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014).
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdman’s, 1997).
Liefeld, Walter L. and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdman’s, 1978).
Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).
Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).