The Jesus that Luke tells us about is cosmically powerful. He can heal at a distance, calm storms with a word, and command legions of angels. Moreover, he is a man on a mission, well aware of his historic destiny, a man with no time to spare, with only three brief years available in which to change the world forever.
We are therefore astonished at how Jesus reacts to the individuals he encounters.
(Luke 7:13-14) When the Lord saw [the grieving widow], his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
(Luke 8:30-35) Jesus asked [the demoniac], “What is your name?” … When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
(Luke 8:54-55) But he took [the dead girl] by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
In chapter 7, Jesus heals a dead boy out of compassion. He was not ready for the crowds to know the full extent of his divinity, but he couldn’t pass the funeral by without helping the crying mother. And quite unnecessarily, he touched the coffin–making himself unclean and violating cultural taboos–all to show a love that has to not only help but also touch and comfort.
In chapter 8, he meets a man possessed by thousands of demons, stark naked, and living among the tombs. Jesus greets him like any other man on the street: “What’s your name?” After healing him, Jesus sees that he’s clothed. Not content with the merely miraculous, Jesus is concerned with simplest of needs.
Upon bringing Jairus’ only daughter back from the dead, Jesus urges her parents to pause in the celebration to feed the poor girl! Rather than soak in the celebration and adulation, Jesus remains focused on the ordinary needs of person healed.
Jesus could have healed all people these at a distance. He didn’t have to touch the dead bodies to restore them to life–especially when the price of the touch was to become unclean. He didn’t need to converse with the dangerous, belligerent demoniac. And yet he did.
His time was short and mission vital. Why take the time to worry about a grieving widow, a naked man, or a hungry girl? It was all so … so inefficient.
With a word, Jesus could have healed all the sick in Palestine, done so in secret, and never had to suffer the press of the crowd or the anger of the Pharisees–and healed more people!
But Jesus’ mission was about more than healing. It was also about showing us the character and heart of God. Jesus waded into the crowds and healed until exhausted, doing things the hard way, and then still taking the time to worry about a hungry little girl because this is the nature of God.
We think of God as a distant spirit hidden behind the sky, not fully aware of our hard lives or needs. But Jesus shows us more vividly than God could tell us that God notices both the big problems and the small problems–the thousands of demons and the nakedness, the death and the hunger.
(John 8:19) Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
If we know Jesus, the Jesus so vividly portrayed in the Gospels, we know the Father–not the Father of the First Century, but the Father of the here and now. And that, I think, is a very good thing to know.