Helping an Outsider Verses 1-10
A roman centurion was an officer who had 100 men under his command. The centurion in this Scripture had a deep respect for the Jews and their religion even as He was a Gentile. This centurion may have been a God fearing man as Cornelius in Acts 10:1-2, 28. The centurion had not become an official convert to Judaism but he did believe in many of their teachings. He had even built a synagogue for the Jewish people.
He was also a man of humility and a man of faith. He had sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof.” The centurion had heard of the work that Jesus was doing and he believed that Jesus had authority over the sickness of his servant just as he had authority over his troops.
Jesus marveled over the faith of the centurion and said to those who were with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” This act here in the Gospel of Luke has significance that in Luke’s second book Acts he tells of many Gentiles who came to have faith in Jesus.
No Need for the Funeral 11-17
There are three instances noted in the gospels were Jesus raised one from the dead. Jairus’ daughter, (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56) the son of a widow, (Luke 7:11-17) and Lazarus. (John 11:1-44) These were not resurrections but a restoration to life, as they all died later. The power of Jesus over death in their lives pointed to His own resurrection. Jesus was raised from the dead to never die again. (Romans 6:9)
Jesus brought the widows son from death because He had compassion upon her. For a woman to become a widow is a desperate situation for any woman but in the days of Jesus a widow without a son to care for her was a very desperate situation. This widow had lost her son, her means of support, protection, and companionship. Her son was her hope for the future. She now would have no grandchildren and none to carry on the family line.
Guidance for a Perplexed Friend 18-35
John the Baptist had been put into prison because he boldly spoke God’s truth. (Luke 3:19-20) The disciples of John kept him informed of all that Jesus was doing. John had a doubt and sent two of his disciples to question Jesus. “Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?”
It is puzzling how John could have asked such a question of Jesus. John spoke boldly of Jesus and even testified that He was the Messiah. Now John is asking if they should look for another. There are times that faith is expressed with boldness and other times it is expressed in a question that reveals the perplexities of doubt. The question is not the same as a skeptic whose approach to life is cynical unbelief. The question that John asked was to Jesus. His perplexity was that of a believer struggling to match a part of his experience in an affirmation of his faith.
We must keep in mind that the faith of a human at best is immature. Today we see through the glass darkly because we walk through faith and not by sight. As Paull also observed, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) John was thinking of the Messiah’s work in this world as a work of judgment upon evil. (Luke 3:9; 16-17) This view was primarily what the view of the Jewish nation was the Messiah would be a conqueror and His Kingdom will reign forever. (2 Samuel 7:16) John was perplexed because Jesus was not acting as expected.
The answer that Jesus gave John supports this interpretation of John’s perplexity. The mystery of Jesus was that of help and healing in the presence of John’s disciples. Jesus gave this answer to John though his disciples. “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Jesus’ answer was similar to Luke 4:18-19. John was familiar to the Old Testament Scriptures that spoke of a Messiah that was moved with compassion to help people with their deepest needs. John’s perplexity was because of his incomplete understanding of what the Messiah was to do.
After John’s disciple had left Jesus delivered a powerful and lyrical tribute to John the Baptist. John was a bold and powerful prophet. Outside forces had never determined his direction as the wind does a reed. (Verse 34) John did not have the power of wealth or royalty, but the power of truth. John was “more than a prophet.” John was the messenger prophesized by the prophet Malachi as the one who prepared the way for the Lord. (Malachi 3:1)
In verse 28 we see the most enigmatic part of this passage. How could Jesus say, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” And then add, “yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” John the Baptist was of the old order and not of the new. He was the bold prophet that prepared the way for the Messiah, but he was not privileged to stand in the full light of God’s new day. Only in one respect is least of the Kingdom “greater” than John. There is none judged greater that John in the light of opportunity and understanding, John stood in the last of the lingering darkness and prophesied the coming dawn. But John did not understand all that the coming light would reveal. It is we who are privileged to stand in the full light that John had prophesized.
The common people of the day and even those who were despised the tax collectors had accepted the mission of God’s work through John the Baptist. Not so for the scribes and the Pharisees as they had rejected him and his message. Jesus now tells a parable comparing the scribes and Pharisees to children at play. In the parable we see two groups of children who refused to play the games of the opposing group. John the Baptist lived a life of isolation from the rest of society and the opposing group call him demon possessed. God the Father sent His Son Jesus who associated with the people and the same people who rejected John for being distant rejected Jesus for being with the people. They went so far as to say that Jesus was a sinner because of the people He associated with. But there were some who saw the work of God in John the Baptist and in Jesus.
A friend to the Social Outcast 36-50
Only in the Gospel of Luke do we find this story which also reinforces one of the major themes of Luke in his gospel. Jesus had great compassion towards the sinners. This was a great contrast to the attitude of the Pharisees and their attitude towards the sinners. (Luke 5:27-23; Luke 19:1-10)
Just as Jesus had dined with the tax collectors and other sinners He also ate with the Pharisees. (Luke 11:37; Luke 14:1) Jesus did not show partiality towards any group of people. Jesus offered His friendship to all people. A Pharisee named Simon had invited Jesus to dine with him and Jesus had accepted the invitation.
It was not an uncommon thing for people to come in from the street and observe such festivities. Even so it was shocking for Simon the Pharisee to see this known sinful woman to come into his house and anoint the feet of Jesus.
From the act of this woman which Simon was seeing he formed two conclusions. If Jesus was a prophet, then He should have an insight into the person who was anointing His feet. And if Jesus was a prophet He would not have permitted a sinful woman to anoint His feet. Because of this Simon decided that Jesus was no prophet.
Because Jesus was a divine prophet He was able to know the thoughts of Simon and responded with a parable of two debtors. The main point of the parable is obvious by the words of Jesus in verses 44-47. But there is a more subtle point that Jesus was making that Simon may have missed.
Both of the debtors had a debt that they could not repay and the creditor forgave the debt of each of them. Each one should have been grateful to the creditor for what he had been forgiven and not in comparison to the debt of others.
In regards to our own sin we have been forgiven a debt that we cannot pay. Our love and gratitude depends upon the estimate of how much debt we have been forgiven for which is a measure of the grace that God has shown to us. If it be a large debt or a small debt still it is a debt that we cannot pay. Our appreciation of the grace and love of God should be the same no matter the size we feel that our debt is. Small or large the price that God had to pay for our forgiveness is the same.
Jesus expressed this point by the contrast of the woman’s expressions of love toward Him and Simon’s lack of courtesy as a good host. We must observe one more point in that the woman was not forgiven for her love but for her faith in Jesus. “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” It is our faith that saves us and our love is an expression of our appreciation of what God has done for us.