Jesus' Authority

Luke 5 begins at the Lake of Gennesaret where Jesus enters a fishing boat from which to better speak to the crowds and a miracle follows. We began our Wednesday night considering the symbolic nature of the lake — an uncontrollable space where in this story human endeavor is tested to reveal that God is in control.


We were reminded that still waters run deep, but equally likely is that beneath a calm surface an expansive unknown may be roiling. Simon's boat was on the water, much like we create constructs to keep the depths at bay. But our constructions have nothing on the natural expanse.

Question 1: Have you ever seen Jesus' authority over all of life as Simon did?

  • Joel knows that it's true but probably hasn't seen it, although hearing the word 'come follow me' in response to school anxiety may have been such a moment.
  • Bev remembers hearing this call in '91. She can't imagine responding to God's call in a normal state. God parted the water and allowed clear sight.
  • Erik wrote of his experience in his Lord's Prayer article, reflecting how his crazy life was addressed by the Lord's Prayer and he heard God's invitation to submission. He felt like all was in God's hands.
  • Linda witnessed in the firmness of a loving parent, God's commitment to relationship. You don't know what's happening or why but God always stays connected. Likewise, Jesus' authority illustrates how he is rooted in relationship with God.
  • Paul recalled the experience of standing at the edge of liminality when he dreamed his fish dream. It came out of the unconscious and resulted in Paul acting in an uncharacteristic way, setting his life on a completely different course. Paul has seen that God has consistently provided.

To respond to these experiences is important. If Peter had said no to Jesus it would have forever curtailed his life. Always the call asks that we let go of control and give it over to God. C.S. Lewis' writing reflects this experience of the Holy in the norm that completely changes direction.

However, there is a problem in our attempt to interpret these experiences. We minimize it, saying it wasn't real and reducing its significance. In this sense, in tasting the old wine, we ignore the in-breaking. But it's not as if God has not said come and follow me. We have reconstructed it away. We need to move out of the way and let the Spirit work.

Jesus' authoritative word reaches all levels of reality. Even the fish listen to his authority. Creational moments like this happen all the time. With Christ life is expansive. But when life becomes more, we become smaller. As Peter says, go away from me. We're threatened; this will make me disappear. Anything that appears out of whack makes us feel smaller. We are not in control of what happens in reality. We're afraid, but Jesus says, don't be afraid. You will not disappear because you're forgiven and given ontological substance in God. Our lives are contingent whether we're here or not, God holds all things. God is perpetually creating and holding reality. When we're called to follow, we don't have to turn away because we're afraid. We're forgiven not only for our sins but for being who we are, for being limited. Peter had to recognize his fear, see who he was and repent for the desire to control the world as a great fisherman. He accepted Jesus' forgiveness.

Question 2: What did Jesus' willingness to actually touch the leper show about Jesus' character?

Leprosy meant being unclean, marked for life, having physical pain, but also being branded an outcast. It included disfiguration of many sorts. Jesus confirms leprosy's relation to the sin of slander by forgiving those afflicted of their sins.

For Jesus, healing is about restoring people back into community. His touch dispels shame. Jesus has a strange relationship to the law. He illustrates how he's apart from the law in healing the leper outside of the rules, yet he instructs the man to return to the priest thus getting the system to confirm his authority while insuring the man's inclusion back into the community. Also in touching the leper, Jesus shows that he is free. Even if the disease is contagious, he purpose is beyond the risk. In this way he is untouchable. God is bigger than what might happen. Jesus' character is oriented toward God. He was in the world but not of the world.

Question 3: Jesus had a second reason for forgiving and healing the paralytic. What did his deeds prove and how did they prove it?

The Pharisees and Jesus shared the Kingdom of God as their cause. As the most spiritual of the religious leaders, they came to check out Jesus whose teachings were identical to theirs in this Kingdom focus. Jesus however, goes against the norms and rules in the name of the Kingdom of God, emphasizing forgiveness and healing rather than the purity rites valued by the Pharisees. The focus is internal vs. external.

This healing shows the part we play in forgiveness. The faith of the friends evokes Jesus, not the purity rules and thus normal channels of authority are undercut. The discipleship implications are clear: just as community can obstruct healing, we can facilitate bringing a person to Christ. We are called to have faith for our friends.

How are we to understand the absence of healing in our era? Luke shows that miracles can only take place when the forgiveness of Jesus is present. Rather than starting with the miracle, he forgives. Healing is the secondary issue. During Jesus' time sensitivity to the state of the soul was heightened. We've lost the language to talk about this. A statement like God saves us by grace has been trivialized.

The Party

Inclusion to the party is through repentance. Healing is understood as restoration with Yahweh. When we recognize Jesus' presence it's time to feast. With the absence of Jesus it's time to fast. It's the Spirit that creates the party take notice of the Spirit. The Pharisees used fasting to create boundaries rather than devotion.

Broken Nets and Spilled Wine

Luke 5 begins and ends with a container. Luke is asking how does the new relate to the old. Just as the Judaizers were destroying the new wine of Jesus' gospel, we're out of whack needing old structures to affirm us. The old and the new cannot mix. We can't have a bit of each message. We must leave and follow Jesus. Throughout the chapter, everyone has chosen the old except those who have nothing. They leave everything to follow Jesus. We're called to leave behind our ability to control ourselves so we can be controlled by the Spirit.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

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