Abounding Boundless Love
Genesis 9, Luke 8
If I am brave enough to do so, I will take Luke chapter 8 at face value. I realize that this might get me in trouble with some Christians who are more cutting-edge than I, but I’m willing to take that risk. At face value, Jesus talks about things that are not altogether great topics for discussions. I don’t happen to recall the last time I told a sermon about dirt. I haven’t spent any time at all talking with anyone about lamps. And just to be on the safe side, I have used zero of my life expectancy driving out demons, raising the dead, calming storms, or healing anyone of any kind of disease let alone a woman with a bleeding issue. But here’s Jesus, in Luke 8, attempting to win a crowd by talking about, of all things, dirt, seeds, and lamps.
After the initial teaching section of Luke 8, there are three stories tied together by one common theme: In them, Jesus did something that no one else could do. In the first story, he rebuked a storm that was threatening the small boat he was on with his disciples; his disciples couldn’t do that and were afraid. In the second story, he rebukes a man possessed by more than one demon and calms his mind; he had been bound with chains and guarded with guards which couldn’t calm him down. In the third story, he cured a woman who had suffered for twelve years with a blood issue; no doctors had been able to heal her. The third story contains also the story of a dead girl whom Jesus raised; since she was dead, I assume no one else had the ability to do that either.
Jesus overcomes all sorts of obstacles and manifestations of devilry and restores people, humans who were suffering in one way or another. We readers see clearly the point of these stories: Jesus’ power goes out and trumps the power of evil and destruction. Jesus walks right into the territory of the enemy and takes it back for himself. He rebukes the storm. Well, who ‘rebukes’ a storm? That’s the point. The storm came upon them while they were on the sea, the abyss, the place of ultimate chaos and devilry. Jesus rebukes and takes it back for himself.
He does the same thing with the man named Legion. Jesus walks right into the place of the dead (the man had been confined to the ‘tombs’, v 27). Jesus doesn’t fear the darkness of the tombs. He doesn’t fear the place marked by a raving lunatic who, possessed as he was, couldn’t be kept bound even in chains or by an armed (?) guard. Jesus takes back this man for himself; steals him from the demons that held him in a captivity worse than the chains he so easily broke.
And the woman with the blood issue? Well, Jesus rescues her too, doesn’t he? He takes this woman who was necessarily and outcast (because of her blood issue) and restores her to the community. Mark says of this story, “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (5:29). He takes this woman and reclaims her for himself, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” He calls her daughter because she too is a child of Abraham.
Finally, the little girl who was held in the bonds of death. It’s rather easy to see how he sets her free is it not? He says, “My child, get up!” She too belongs to Jesus. Death, in other words, has no claim on this little one. Death cannot hold in bondage that which Jesus sets free. Jesus called her back, or woke her up, to himself. She is his. Death is made impotent. Death is defeated.
The abyss is now the sea. Legion is now a man again. That bleeding woman is now daughter. The dead girl is now alive.
He calms a storm and the faithless are astonished. He rebukes a herd of demons and the town-folk are terrified. He heals a bleeding woman and the disciples question him. He raises a dead child and everyone laughs at him.
The sea is calm and obeys Jesus. The man formerly known as Legion is sitting at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. The formerly bleeding woman has fallen at his feet cleansed and healed. The little girl, once lying flat and dead, stands up at his command. Who is this indeed?
The raging sea rebuked listens to Jesus. Legion running wild in the tombs falls at the feet of Jesus and begs for mercy. The woman with the blood issue knows that Jesus is talking about her and comes to him trembling. And the dead child, dead as she was, still hears the voice of Jesus and obeys his command. “Who is this that the wind and waves obey?” they asked. Who is this that the dead hear his voice and wake up!
Jesus is not afraid of the fringe elements of society. He’s not afraid of men who may as well be dead if their place of residence means anything (v 27); he’s not afraid of storms and, perhaps, is a little upset that he had to be awakened from a nap to deal with it (more an inconvenience than anything); he’s not afraid of a social outcast; he’s not afraid of dead body. These things have no power over him. He’s not afraid of the faithless (8:25), or legions, or unclean, or the dead. Not Jesus. It seems he does his best work out on the margins, on the fringes, among the weak and powerless and faithless.
Storms cannot overpower him. Demons cannot disobey him. The unclean cannot ‘infect’ him. And the dead cannot defile him. He is Jesus: Master of storms and Lord of the faithless. He is Jesus: Compassionate enough to ask the man his name before he drives out the demons. He is Jesus: Powerful enough to heal even when he is not trying to. He is Jesus: Strong enough to reverse death.
Jesus’ love knew no bounds. He saved his faithless friends. He cared more for one man than he did for a whole herd of pigs. He did not rebuke the smoldering wick of a woman who had suffered for twelve years. And he gave a young child back to her parents so great was his love. I see in these stories more than a man or a God with great power and will. I see in these stories a man and a God with such great love and compassion that it knows no bounds. He will let nothing stand in the way of taking back what is His from the one to whom it does not belong.
No, nothing stands in his way. So great is his love and compassion, that he will go anywhere, with anyone, to rescue anyone from any problem. Jesus proves his power to undo any evil and any bondage caused by evil. More, Jesus demonstrates the reason why he does so: He loves.
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