A Serious Question
So I’m doing an overview-style reading of Luke last week, before diving into a full-blown open-ended examination of the good doctor’s Gospel. I’ve read Mark and John many, many times, with Matthew not too far behind simply because of his primacy of place within the established canon. Luke, I’ve neglected. I’m trying to encounter his Gospel as a first-century reader would. I know that, without help, I won’t catch all the subtle allusions and assumptions than a first-century writer would expect his audience to comprehend without explanation. But that’s not my main concern. I think there is great value in hearing what LUKE has to say, BEFORE letting his words get explained away, redacted, or harmonized by the other three writers. I don’t believe your average first century congregation would even have copies of all 4 gospels. Please don’t misunderstand… I’m not trying in any way to suggest that any one gospel is more valuable than the others. I am simply trying to respect the author within his own context, before my brain forces Matthew, Mark, and John to chime in and say, “Well, I know Luke SAYS that, but what he MEANS is…” I want to HEAR him before I interpret him, I guess.
All that, to get to my question. While overviewing, I was caught for several moments on Luke 7:11-23. This is a very human scene, and I found it intriguing.
Luke 7:11-23 (NLT) Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, with a great crowd following him.  A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The boy who had died was the only son of a widow, and many mourners from the village were with her.  When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said.  Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “get up.”  Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk to those around him! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.  Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “We have seen the hand of God at work today.”  The report of what Jesus had done that day spread all over Judea and even out across its borders.  The disciples of John the Baptist told John about everything Jesus was doing. So John called for two of his disciples,  and he sent them to the Lord to ask him, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”  John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ ”  At that very time, he cured many people of their various diseases, and he cast out evil spirits and restored sight to the blind.  Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.  And tell him, ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me.’ “
John gets the message about Jesus RAISING THE DEAD. This is a huge signal for a faithful Jew that THE END IS NEAR. John knows he is a faithful prophet of God. He has done his duty, and his conscience is clean. “Why then, O cousin dear, am I still languishing in prison while the kingdom is bursting into the world? Are these reports real? Are you really the one sent by God?” I’ve sometimes been strengthened by this passage, because if JOHN struggles with doubt during persecution, then my struggles are understandable, if unacceptable.
This time, though, I’ve been haunted for several days by a different question. When Jesus is asked, basically, “How do I know you are who you say you are?” Jesus does not point to faithful synagogue attendance, faithful participation in Temple worship, or even exhaustive doctrinal understanding, even though he has exemplary marks in all three. He points to the Isaianic markers of kingdom activity that Luke has already brought to our mind in chapter 4. Is Jesus’ example here normative?
If I go to work tonight, and someone asks me, “How do I know you are a Christian?” how will I respond?
If you meet someone this week who asks you, “How do I know you are a Christian? How do I know that your claims that God knows you are true?” how would you respond? To what would you point?
in HIS love,