A Compendium Of Jesus’ Interactions With Outsiders In the Synoptic Gospels: Part One

Yesterday at church services my pastor, after mentioning the fact that believers should be willing to give an answer for the hope that lies within us to those who were in the range between interested and ambivalent to our message, who were at least receptive in some sense to hearing us out, giving the specific example of demonstrating the observance of the Holy Days in the life of the early church after the resurrection of Jesus Christ [1], gave a challenge to the congregation to do a study in the communication of Jesus Christ with outsiders. In particular, he thought it worthwhile to examine the nature of the interactions including what view these outsiders had of Jesus Christ, and the nature of Jesus’ response, or lack thereof. As my pastor is a person for whom communication is a deep personal interest, it is not surprising that he would issue such a challenge.

Since communication is a deep personal interest of my own, it is not a surprise that I would accept such a challenge. This particular compendium is selected between Jesus Christ’s interactions with those who are not part of his circle of disciples. Part of the purpose of such an exercise as this is to show the raw material from which insight and conclusions can be gathered, to see patterns as well as the range of acceptable responses in a given situation based on the context. The scope is limited here to the synoptic Gospels, namely Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In terms of the structure of this particular entry, the passage that describes the interaction, or passages if more than one Gospel includes the interaction, will be given, then the type of interaction and the type of response that Jesus gives will be briefly given, and then a short commentary on the insights of the passage as far as communication is concerned will be provided as well. All passages will be taken from the New King James Version for convenience and the sake of uniformity. As with anything I write, this is intended not only for my own use to read and re-read, but also for anyone else who wishes to engage in the same study. As there are so many passages in this particular compendium, it will be divided into three parts. With that said, let us begin.

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Luke 2:41-51:

“His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. ”

Type of Interaction: With teachers, curious to interested. With parents: questioning, ambivalent.
Jesus’ Response: With teachers, listening and asking questions. With parents, listening and asking questions.

In this particular example we see Jesus interact with two groups of outsiders. The first group of people Jesus interacts with are the teachers of the temple, who are somewhat surprised at such a well-spoken young man, given that he was not yet thirteen, the age of responsible adulthood in that society. With this group of people Jesus Christ listens to them, asks questions, and shows off his understanding and divinely provided knowledge. Given his youth, he is seen as precocious but nonthreatening to the teachers, which would change when he would return to the temple in years to come. When his parents find him, they ask questions and express their anxiety, and he replies with questions they do not understand. Nevertheless, he listened to them as well and returned home with them. In both cases, there is a lack of understanding, even at this young age, as to what Jesus is about, but while the priests are amazed and astonished, his parents seem merely confused and upset, as would be natural if one had lost one’s child for several days, I suppose. Nevertheless, even though she did not understand what Jesus had said, she kept the matter in her heart and puzzled over it.

***

Matthew 4:1-11:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

Mark 1:12:

Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

Luke 4:1-13:

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

Type of Interaction: Hostile.
Jesus’ Response: Dismissive and commanding.

This passage, recorded in at least some form in all of the synoptic gospels, gives an account of the noted temptation of Christ by Satan. Satan is about as adversarial a conversation partner as can be imagined. It is noteworthy, in comparing this passage to the first few verses of Genesis 3, which amount to the temptation and fall of mankind, that Jesus Christ does not reason with Satan, attempt to persuade him, or grant him any sort of legitimacy in the conversation. Satan provides a temptation, and Jesus Christ rebuts it with scripture, points to the authority of God the Father over both Jesus Christ and Satan, and tells the devil to begone. Satan even attempts to quote scripture, to which Jesus replies that God’s creatures, including demons, are forbidden from tempting God, at which point Satan departs, at least for the moment. Sometimes giving an answer for one’s behavior does not include any prospect of conversion, and therefore can be done bluntly and directly, with a minimum of interaction at all to minimize the risk every such interaction brings.

***

Luke 4:16-30:

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’” Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

Type of interaction: Initially curious and receptive, and then hostile.
Jesus’ response: Challenging, then dismissive.

This is one of the more difficult interactions in the life of Jesus Christ. After having begun his ministry elsewhere in Galilee, Jesus Christ came back to His hometown where his audience seems curious but is inwardly skeptical. Despite their initial wonderment, they are made angry when Jesus Christ tells them about God’s providential care for Gentiles, and that the lonely and brokenhearted and oppressed people whom Jesus Christ was called to save did not only include Jews but also Gentiles as well. Their wrathful response is somewhat ironic in light of the reputation that Nazereth had among other Jewish areas as a dishonorable area for its collaboration with Gentiles. Despite this collaboration in their normal business, apparently the people of the synagogue still considered themselves above the Gentiles that they dealt with regularly, which made Jesus’ citation of the behavior of the great prophets Elijah and Elisha particularly galling. The fact that the people of Nazereth looked down on Him because they thought they knew who He was made His strong words and statements of prophetic fulfillment all the more shocking because He violated their expectations.

***

Mark 1:21-28:

“Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.””

Luke 4:31-37:

“Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.”

Type of interaction: With the people, receptive. With the demons, hostile.
Jesus’ response: With the people, healing. With the demons, commanding and dismissive.

This particular scene is an inverse of the previous one in Nazereth. While in Nazereth Jesus Christ is cast out of the synagogue, here a demon is cast out and is not allowed to proclaim Jesus Christ, but is instead told to be quiet and cease tormenting the demon-possessed man. The fact that this interaction occurred in a synagogue demonstrated Jesus’ power over the demonic world and made him popular in an area where many people struggled with various kinds of illnesses and difficulties. Intriguingly enough, despite the fact that the demon was afraid that Jesus came to destroy him and his kind, neither here nor anywhere else does Jesus confirm this. He heals people, but he shows himself suprisingly gracious even to the run-of-the-mill demon, only telling them to be quiet and quit bothering people.

***

Matthew 8:16-17:

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.””

Mark 1:32-34:

“At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.”

Luke 4:40-41:

“When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ.”

Type of interaction: With the people, receptive. With the demons, commanding.
Jesus’ response: With the people, healing. With the demons, dismissive.

Here again we see the same pattern discussed previously. Jesus Christ heals those who are sick, telling the demons to be quiet because they are not to receive credit for the work of evangelism, but otherwise gentle and positive interaction. So long as Jesus’ interactions were focused on healing others, He seemed to get little grief from the common people, since He was as of yet asking little of them and was responding to their needs. Yet, even so, we should note that even though the leaders of the temple spoken of previously did not know Him and even His mother and stepfather did not fully know Him, the demons knew him, even if they did not believe in Him, a sad irony.

***

Matthew 4:23-25:

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.”

Mark 1:35-39:

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.”

Luke 4:42-44:

“Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.”

Type of interaction: Receptive.
Jesus’ Resopnse: Pleading, gracious.

It is natural that after having been healed and taken care of by Jesus Christ that the people in the region of Galilee that He had healed would want Him to stay. Yet it was not His mission to stay in one particular area, but rather to heal and make Himself known in the entire region, and eventually to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. Therefore, in light of this larger mission, Jesus Christ patiently and graciously begs leave of the people He has just healed so that He can go elsewhere. Judging from the masses that followed Him and the large amount of healing, especially with regards to spiritual warfare, that He did, it was clear that the people of the entire region from Judea past Galilee suffered greatly and were not cared for by their leaders.

***

Matthew 8:1-4:

“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.””

Mark 1:40-45:

“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.”

Luke 5:12-16:

“And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”

Type of interaction: Receptive, friendly.
Jesus’ Response: Healing and instruction.

In these passages, we see an example of healing and also an example of the wisdom that Jesus showed that was not always grasped by the people that He healed. A man with leprosy came to Jesus to be healed, and he was healed, but he was also told to go to the priests and offer the sacrifice according to the Law of Moses, and also told not to tell anyone. Reading between the lines, we can see that the diagnosis of leprosy and its cleansing was one of the responsibilities of the priests of Aaron given in Leviticus 13 and 14. Although Jesus Christ, as High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek (see Hebrews chapters 5 and 7), had the standing to perform this tasks, He wisely did not wish to provoke the priests by provocatively overstepping His boundaries within the understanding of Jews, where priestly tasks were limited to the children of Aaron. By publicly proclaiming that Jesus Christ had healed His leprosy, Jesus’ ministry was seen in increasingly threatening ways by the Jewish leadership, and so many people came to Jesus to be healed that it was impossible for Him to visit cities, but He was forced to seek wilderness places remote enough and large enough to accommodate the large crowds.

***

Matthew 9:1-8:

“So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”

Mark 2:1-12:

“And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!””

Luke 5:17-26:

“Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!””

Type of Interaction: Mixed.
Jesus’ Response: Gracious to some, challenging to others.

In this particular interaction we see Jesus dealing with two groups of people. On the one hand, we see the people with different kind of illnesses and sicknesses coming to Jesus Christ to be healed. One of the people had such loyal friends that, being unable to enter into the house where Jesus was staying because it was so crowded, tore the tiles off the roof so that they could bring the man into Jesus’ presence. Their immense faith in Jesus’ power and their loyalty to their paralyzed friend was such that Jesus Christ healed the man and also forgave him of his sins. This prompted the unfriendly part of the interaction with the scribes and the Pharisees, who rightly understood that Jesus Christ was making a claim of divinity, one which was bolstered by His obvious and manifest ability to heal all kinds of sicknesses and diseases, demonstrating that He was indeed the Son of God, a claim that they were unwilling to accept in the hearts of theirs that were not hidden from the One they doubted in His presence. Again, though, Jesus does not force the issue by claiming divinity directly, but He clearly does so implicitly by affirming His ability to forgive sins and leaving the implications silent.

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Matthew 9:14-17:

“Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.””

Mark 2:18-22:

“The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.””

Luke 5:33-39:

“Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?” And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’””

Type of Interaction: Questioning, curious.
Jesus’ Response: Instructive, challenging.

The distinction between the happiness and lack of fasting on the part of Jesus’ disciples and the fasting of the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples was apparently the occasion for both John’s disciples and other observant onlookers to ask Jesus Christ why His disciples did not fast. His response is enigmatic, with a challenging parable. On the one hand, He tells his interlocutors that his disciples and the learning that they are gaining from Him is like new wine that requires new wineskins that are able to grow and expand as the wine ferments. Yet those who are impatient with the natural growth and maturation that takes place in a new belief system like that which Jesus Christ was teaching prefer the old wine, which has already shown its potential and is as mature as it is going to get. In this passage, Jesus’ seeming mildness in dealing with those questioning Him is a subtle judgment upon the Pharisees in particular–they have done all the maturing that they are going to do, and cannot handle the truths that Jesus Christ has come to bring, while Jesus’ disciples will fast and will mature and eventually become far more precious than the Pharisees ever were, despite their current immaturity. And so it was.

***

Matthew 12:1-8:

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28:

“Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.””

Luke 6:1-5:

“Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.””

Type of Interaction: Questioning, challenging
Jesus’ Response: Instructive, challenging.

Although a fuller discussion of these passages can be found elsewhere [2], this passage gives an example of the kind of biblical retort that Jesus gave on behalf of His disciples to the increasingly hostile Jewish leadership. To their accusations that the disciples broke the law forbidding harvesting on the Sabbath by picking up a few grains to eat in their hunger during the time between the Passover and Pentecost, Jesus cites two precedents. One of them is the fact that the priests, those who serve God in worship, have a different responsibility to the Sabbath because of the physical duties required of them in order to serve that would be profane if done by others in their earthly labors. This line of reasoning, recorded only by Matthew, would indicate that even though the Sabbath is a day of rest, those who serve God in various ways, such as teaching or performing music or other similar duties, may strenuously work on the Sabbath as a result of their duties, yet they are still blameless. Similarly, Jesus appeals to the example of David and the showbread (see 1 Samuel 21) to demonstrate that the purpose of the law is not to make life difficult for believers, but rather to serve their well-being, and that God does not desire pitiless justice but rather mercy and compassion for others, something often forgotten.

***

Matthew 12:9-14:

“Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.”

Mark 3:1-6:

“And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.””

Luke 6:6-11:

“Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

Type of Interaction: Challenging
Jesus’ Response: Mixed: To the sick man, merciful, but to the Pharisees, provocative.

Here we see one of the many miracles that Jesus Christ performed on the Sabbath, demonstrating the high view of it He had by making it the occasion of so many miracles of healing, setting others free from their burdens just as the Sabbath as a whole symbolizes the temporary rest that believers have from their burdens on the seventh day, or the freedom from the burdens of sin and slavery that the Holy Days symbolize, or the freedom from debt and generational mistakes symbolized by the Sabbath year and the Jubilee, respectively. Just as Jesus Christ affirmed the legitimacy of healing on the Sabbath, doing so in the presence of His enemies, those who hated Him were placed in the difficult bind of trying to rebuke Jesus for healing on the Sabbath while committing sin, plotting His murder, on the Sabbath, showing themselves not only to be hard-hearted and lacking compassion for their brethren but immensely hypocritical as well. Here Jesus politely contrasts the self-serving attitude of the Pharisees with His own love and compassion through His gracious act of mercy towards the suffering man with the withered hand.

***

Matthew 12:15-21:

“But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust.””

Mark 3:7-12:

“But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.”

Luke 6:17-19:

“And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.”

Type of interaction: Curious.
Jesus’ Response: Merciful, gracious.

Here again, after having seen Jesus’ compassion in the synagogue, we see His gracious compassion for the suffering of the people who continually followed Him, seeking healing. In this passage we see that Jesus was concerned for His own safety among the crowds, but all the same He healed those who came to Him, and fulfilled a prophecy spoken of by Isaiah that demonstrates His justice and His compassion for the broken and for those who were outsiders.

***

Matthew 8:5-13:

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

Luke 7:1-10:

“Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

Type of interaction: Receptive
Jesus’ Response: Gracious, healing.

This particular passage is one of a set that deals with Jesus’ positive interactions with centurions [3] of the Roman army who were stationed in Judea and Galilee. In this passage we see a Roman officer coming to Jesus Christ on behalf of his servant. As if Jesus Christ shared the prejudices of His fellow Jews of His time, the people of the city appeal for Jesus to respond to the centurion’s request because of his generosity to the people, namely by helping them build a synagogue, a highly meritorious deed for any community of religious Jews, regardless of one’s background. Although Jesus did not need this urging, He responded to the request anyway, showing appreciation for the centurion’s accurate understanding of the relative similarity between Jesus’ position and that of the centurion himself, namely that both were men who had authority and expected obedience from their servants and who were also under the authority of others. For this faith and accurate understanding, Jesus Christ not only healed the servant, but also praised him for his rare insight, given most of His Jewish audience did not understand and respond to the expectation of obedience that Jesus Christ had from them.

***

Luke 7:11-17:

“Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.”

Type of Interaction: Receptive.
Jesus’ Resopnse: Gracious, healing.

Here is a miracle of a kind recorded several times in the Bible and echoing the work of Elisha as recorded in 2 Kings 4, where the only son of a woman is raised from the dead. As might be expected, showing compassion in such a fashion brought Jesus Christ a great deal of attention, and the report of it went out widely. As Jesus Christ hoped, the miracle of raising up the dead was dramatic enough that others saw Him as a prophet even if they did not always understand the message that He brought to them. Nevertheless, here is an example of Jesus Christ meeting needs and showing compassion, one of many such interactions recorded in the Gospels.

***

Luke 7:36-50:

“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.””

Type of Interaction: Mixed.
Jesus’ Resopnse: Gracious, challenging.

Here we see an example of a mixed interaction that puts the Pharisees in a bad light. Simon, one of the Pharisees, invited Jesus Christ to his home but did not provide either the common sort of respect one would give to a guest, namely having his feet washed from the dirt and dust of the road, nor the respect due to Jesus Christ as Lord and King, namely being anointed with oil. Yet despite this lack of honor and respect, Simon looked down on the sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her repentant tears, and who anointed His head with oil as befitted His proper rank and station as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In that light, Jesus’ parable to the Pharisee is instructive, in that Jesus came into the house to give mercy and forgiveness and gracious pardon to both Simon the Pharisee and to the sinful woman, but only the woman realized she was a sinner and was appreciative for the gift of forgiveness, while the Pharisee did not see himself as a sinner at all, and so did not appreciate what Jesus Christ was doing for him.

***

Matthew 11:1-30:

“Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’ “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.””

Luke 7:18-35:

“Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’ For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.””

Type of Interaction: Mixed
Jesus’ Response: Mixed

As John the Baptist was imprisoned, he sent out a couple of his disciples to query Jesus if He was the promised Messiah. Jesus responds to this question by pointing to the prophecy in Isaiah that He pointed out to the synagogue in Nazereth was being fulfilled in their hearing, in the form of a reemez, or hint [4]. The response Jesus gave to the disciples of John the Baptist was that He was the Messiah, but that John the Baptist was not going to be released from prison. After this very implicit and indirect form of communication, Jesus Christ turns to the larger audience that was around and then praises John the Baptist and his work and its importance, which pleased those who had followed John the Baptist and paid attention to his preaching. Those who had rejected John the Baptist and not been baptized to repentance, like the lawyers and Pharisees, rejected Jesus’ message because it did not come in the right packaging. Not surprisingly, it is to this concern that Jesus turns next, pointing out that while He and John the Baptist had different approaches, one of them a friendly and cheerful fellow who enjoyed eating and drinking and socializing with others, while John the Baptist was more ascetic in his lifestyle, both preached the same message, and no matter what packaging it had come with, the Jewish leaders had rejected it. It is that this point, ominously, that Jesus Christ turns (from the account of the Gospel of Matthew) to judge those cities that had not turned to repentance, comparing them unfavorably with the Gentiles (as He had done with the people of Nazereth earlier, in Luke 4), while calling on those who were burdened by life to come and seek freedom in Him, closing where He began with compassion for the broken that marked Isaiah 61:1-2, while not negating the reality of judgment for those who rejected Him.

***

Matthew 12:22-45:

“Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.””

Mark 3:20-30:

“Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.””

Luke 11:14-23:

“And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven. But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.””

Type of Interaction: Challenging to hostile.
Jesus’ Response: Challenging.

In this complicated interaction, we see Jesus speak in a hinting way about Satan’s house being divided [5], and we see Him respond back to the Pharisees with criticism that they were possibly entirely unprepared to deal with and that have caused a lot of believers grief in their own reflections. After performing one of his many healings of someone who was demon-possessed, some of the scribes who were visiting from Jerusalem dismissed Jesus’ casting out demons as being from Satan. It is here that Jesus speaks of the unpardonable sin [6], as ascribing the power of God through the Holy Spirit to that of Satan and his realm of demons. In this passage, Jesus Christ describes His power, defends His legitimacy, and reminds His critics that if one falsely calls that which comes from God evil and Satanic that such a sin cannot be pardoned, largely because one is cut off from recognizing what God is doing, and so one cannot be reached by the demonstration of God’s power.

***

Matthew 8:18-22:

“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.””

Luke 9:57-62:

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”   And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”  But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”   Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”  And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Type of Interaction: Receptive, curious.
Jesus’ Response: Challenging.

Here in this brief series of interactions we see that there were many who said with their lips that they wished to follow Jesus Christ but had not counted the cost. Here two examples suffice as instances of the larger pattern. A scribe, a member of the elite of Second Temple Judaism, is told that following Christ means sleeping outside far from the comforts of civilization. A man who is waiting for his father to die, presumably so that he can secure his inheritance, is told to let the dead bury their own dead–in other words, that the rewards of following Christ preclude the sort of mercenarial thinking that leads people to seek to corner earthly riches before committing to a life of following God’s ways. These similar examples demonstrate the mixed motives in the hearts of those who were attracted to Christ’s message but who were affected, as many people are, by a love of riches and comfort that hinder them from truly achieving righteousness.

***

To be continued…

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/a-compendium-of-passages-regarding-the-high-holy-days-in-the-new-testament/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/matthew-12-1-8-mark-2-23-28-luke-6-1-5-the-lord-of-the-sabbath-and-the-lord-of-sabaoth/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/have-you-not-read-in-the-law-that-on-the-sabbath-the-priests-profane-the-sabbath-and-are-blameless/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/the-savior-and-the-centurions-civil-military-relations-in-the-renewed-covenant-scriptures/

[4] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/if-you-dont-know-the-text-you-cant-play/

[5] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/mark-3-20-27-matthew-12-22-30-luke-11-14-23-satans-house-divided/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/an-introduction-to-satans-house-divided/

[6] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/whats-so-unpardonable-about-the-unpardonable-sin/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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