Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Jesus and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:49-56)

What would Peter want to tell us about all he had seen recently? He would also say that he had learned that Jesus had power over a cursed creation, over demon-possession, over disease and over death, and that combination is a reminder to us of what Jesus came to do, which was to deliver sinners from the various consequences of sin. Peter might also say that he learned from the incident involving the raising of the daughter of Jesus that some things should remain a secret.

Understandably, the news of the daughter’s death caused dismay and sadness. No one believed that Jesus could solve this problem, which may be one reason why, at that time, he instructed the witnesses to say nothing about it. Or it may be that he showed compassion on the child, because she would have been subjected to forms of curiosity if her resurrection became public knowledge. After all, Jesus is interested in conversion, not in a circus of objects on display.

Peter might tell us that he saw on this occasion the priorities of Jesus. First, he wanted Jairus to retain faith in him even although the circumstances were very difficult. Second, he will not work for the benefit of those who do not have a heart interest in the situation – he told the professional mourners to leave and they did not see his miracle. Third, when Jesus works, everything is calm and orderly. (Peter would say that he saw this was the case in each of the four recent incidents – calming the storm, delivering the deranged man, helping the diseased woman and raising the daughter of Jairus.) And on the fourth occasion, he was especially gentle as he spoke to the girl and gave guidance about her. Fourth, Peter would say, some disciples see what other disciples are not allowed to see, and the One who chooses to give this blessing is always Jesus.

In each of the incidents, Peter would say, the help provided by Jesus was instantaneous and complete. The storm and the sea became calm, the madman became docile and devout, the shy unnamed lady was healed and assured, and the young girl was raised to life and taken care off. In each of the situations, Jesus strengthened or created the faith of those involved, and the faith on each occasion was intelligent in that it focussed on truths about Jesus.

Concerning three of the individuals helped by Jesus we never hear about them again, although no doubt they all had their stories to tell about what Jesus did in their lives afterwards. But we will hear more about Peter and the other disciples. We can safely deduce that they learned a lot about Jesus in the space of twenty-four hours.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Jesus and the unnamed woman (Luke 8:43-48)

Peter and the disciples had a calm crossing across the sea from Geresa to Capenaum. When they landed, they saw another man falling at the feet of Jesus, but this time it was a very different kind of person from the individual in Geresa. Now it was one of the synagogue rulers called Jairus. Here was one of the religious rulers kneeling before Jesus. Before whom do such rulers kneel? In front of greater rulers! This man’s daughter needed help, but before she could get it, another incident arose. Nevertheless, he had faith that Jesus could help his daughter and probably he had heard about and seen what Jesus had done in the area before.

I suppose Peter would want to highlight the relationship between Jesus and providence. The unnamed woman and the daughter of Jairus had one thing in common, and that is the number twelve. Twelve years before, the woman’s illness had commenced, and in that year the daughter of Jairus was born. No connection, it would seem at first glance, yet it was for each a stage in their journeys to meet Jesus on the same day, even although they would not have realised it.

Peter would also want to tell us that he learned from the unnamed woman’s experience that Jesus wants open acknowledgement of his abilities to help. The woman wanted to remain a secret beneficiary of the grace of Jesus, but she discovered that Jesus would not go along with her plan. In a kind of serious way, her intention delayed the blessing coming to the family of Jairus. Still, says Peter, there she was, the third person to fall down at the feet of Jesus. It was becoming clear to Peter that that position is a very appropriate one to take.

Making a public confession was not easy for the woman. Her problem was defiling for herself and others and the requirement was that she should go to a priest, God’s spokesman, who would pronounce that she was clean. But here Jesus did that instead of the priest. He was claiming divine authority, and with that authority he gave to her great assurance and comfort. She would not have received that assurance if she had remained quiet about what had happened to her. Peter and the other disciples were discovering more and more that Jesus was very different.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Deliverance of the deranged man (Luke 8:26-38)

Peter and the other disciples were taken safely through the storm on the Sea of Galilee to the area of Geresa. On reflection, Peter would have realised that the reason they had to cross the sea on that stormy night was to deliver the deranged man from his mental chains, which would have told Peter a great deal about the priorities of Jesus. The Saviour was willing to go through a storm to find a convert.

Peter would also have realised that Jesus was taking his disciples into new situations because here they were in Gentile country – we can tell that was the case from the presence of the pigs. He was taking them out of comfort zones. Moreover, they would discover that Jesus did not need their help when dealing with a needy individual. Instead, they were given the privilege of watching the Master in action.

The main lesson that they would have learned was that Jesus is more powerful than many demons. This man was possessed by so many that he was known as Legion. He was so dominated by them that no one could control him by any means. No doubt, the disciples needed this lesson because they were going to take the gospel to the Gentile world in which demon possession would be common, but they could do so knowing that Jesus is more powerful than all demons together.

The disciples, Peter would say, heard the demon-possessed man acknowledge who Jesus was despite the fact that Jesus had not been there before. Jesus had come on a secret mission as far as humans were concerned, but it was not a secret in the kingdom of darkness. They knew who Jesus was and his coming made them apprehensive (perhaps the ferocity of the storm at sea had a connection to them because Jesus rebuked it). We can also see that they distorted the mission of Jesus in the man’s mind and suggested to him that Jesus would increase his torment.

Jesus, Peter would say, not only taught the disciples about his power over the kingdom of darkness, but he also tested the people of the area about their priorities. Which was more important to them, receiving deliverance from spiritual problems or the enjoyment of the financial benefits they received from their herd of pigs (scholars tell us that the pigs were probably sold to feed a Roman army base located near the place)? The answer is obvious – the people preferred financial security to the spiritual blessings that Jesus could give. And not much has changed since then.

Connected to the above, Peter would say, is the difficulty of removing the superstitious fears that cling to people even when they are in the presence of Jesus. Obviously the local inhabitants would have realised that Jesus was more powerful than the demons, but their superstition caused them to imagine that Jesus would be worse than the demons. So they asked Jesus to go away.

And then Peter would say that Jesus solved the situation when he told the man to go home and tell his people what had happened to him. The solution was so simple – just tell others what Jesus has done for you. I don’t think Peter would have forgotten that lesson. Evangelism on many occasions, for him and for us, is sharing with others what Jesus has done for us.